As a fairly dedicated “patch” birder (read more about that here), I don’t travel specifically to look for birds, though I will take advantage of errands and longer trips to bird whenever I can. During the winter, especially, I enjoy just seeing what shows up at the feeders.
I was delighted when Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers stopped at our suet feeder in October 2006 and again in 2007, most likely migrating birds. None came by in 2008, but in January 2009, a male Sapsucker came and stayed for the winter. You can read about its interesting behavior here (no photos from that long-ago era). A couple of juveniles stopped by briefly in October 2009 and in January 2010, the same male that had been our guest the previous year returned and took up residence. You can read about its encounter with a localmockingbird.
The same Sapsucker has returned each January since then, staying for a few months until the weather warms and the sap runs again. (D and I have noticed that the Sapsucker doesn’t show up in the yard until the weather gets really cold, say below 20°F. That makes sense, of course, given its preferred diet of sap and sap-attracted insects.)
How do I know it’s the same bird? Well, photos are telling, of course, and I have many, dating back to 2012. But birders, especially patch birders and back-yard birders, are able to identify individual birds; we are close observers of plumage and behavior. In the case of this Sapsucker, it has followed the same route into our yard every day that I have seen it over the years: from the neighbor’s yard to the west, stopping in the dead elm (where an old bittersweet vine provides fruit snacks) before winging into the suet. And its behavior on the suet is the same from day to day and year to year.
Anyway – the point of all that is to establish that I know this particular bird very well. Now to the interesting part.