Tree Snags for Wildlife

This is a story about the management of a landscape tree in decline, management with an underlying theme of benign neglect.

Last summer I heard the unmistakable sound of a Pileated Woodpecker hammering on a large old white pine tree near the edge of the lawn. I was thrilled to see our largest woodpecker so close to home, but also knew that its presence was a sign of a tree in trouble. Sure enough, there was advanced decay at the base of the tree and the Pileated was foraging on carpenter ants. The probability of tree failure and subsequent damage to nearby targets was high. The White Pine was a “hazard tree” and had to be removed.

My contract with a professional arborist for removal included an unusual request. I wanted to minimize the hazard – but leave a large snag for wildlife.

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The decision to create a snag payed dividends almost immediately. A Pileated Woodpecker is a frequent visitor, foraging around new wounds as well as old ones.

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Pitch oozing from the fresh wounds on a warm day provided an unplanned photo opportunity and aesthetic experience. The fascinating world of magnified pitch droplets kept me busy long after the woodpecker had left the scene!

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Pine pitch droplet, fly and spider; the droplet is about 1/8th inch across

 

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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6 thoughts on “Tree Snags for Wildlife

  1. Can’t mistake the sound of a pileated woodpecker whacking away at a snag. Love the idea of leaving as much of the wounded tree for the bird as possible! I’ve heard some woodpecker action at the new house, but haven’t caught a glimpse of what sounds like a much smaller bird. Yet!

  2. Pileated woodpeckers are a treat to watch. I saw one working an old deadfall one January— wood chips flying in all directions. He kept at it for several days. When I finally went to see the results it looked like a small tree had exploded. There sure wasn’t much left of it (or, I presume, the ants.)

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