A Good Snag and our New Neighbors

10 04 2010

It was to be either one very, very looooonng post or a series of smaller ones all in a row. I chose to break it up, so that you can skip past any (or all) that don’t interest you.

We moved to this lot because it had some nice trees and lots of shade. Then something began happening to the hickory trees throughout the park. We had one in the front. It was the base for my first gardening attempt (the fern bed). Well, it died right away. AJ and I went round and round about that dead tree. I wanted to save it for the critters, he wanted to chop it down before it toppled over and smashed the RV. We had hit a snag about a snag. Fortunately, as we are usually prone to do, we arrived at a compromise.

AJ cut the tree back, leaving most of the stump, but not enough to pose danger to any structures. It isn’t very attractive, so we planted a large wild bromeliad in its crook and hung a bird feeder on one arm and wind chimes on the other. As the tree has gradually decayed, it has developed a nice patina of lichens on the trunk and sprouted a spectacular crop of shelf mushrooms. I especially love the mushrooms because the lizards use them for basking and the squirrels use them as a staircase. I believe that the old tree has never been more full of life than after its death.

Doomsayer that he is, AJ frequently comments upon the increasing instability of the rotting snag. “One of these days that think is going to fall over. It’s already so loose that you could push it down.” Then he threatens to cut it down. I resist and point out that the poor woodpeckers depend upon these dead trees for their food; and that there are so few already, because everyone cuts them down. Sure enough, the woodpeckers began to take notice and often visited for a meal. They are so shy and skittish that they could see us inside and would flit off if we moved around.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed a pair of Downy Woodpeckers carving a perfect circle right on the branch closest to the window.  As the days passed and the hole got deeper they became more bold. Eventually they got so brave as to keep working even if we went outside and walked around. This only confirms for me the scarcity of suitable nesting sites.

Meet our new neighbors who live in the snag next door. Can’t wait for the babies to arrive!