|The snag in 2016|
Snags are dead trees that are still standing. I had a dead pine tree next to the driveway for 6 years. Over the years it provided food for several birds in the form of bugs that lived under the bark. I have photographed brown-headed nuthatches and pileated woodpeckers using this tree. When it fell down this winter, I was sad to think its usefulness was done.
I have been pleasantly surprised to learn that it has one more service to render. It broke about 2 feet above the ground. The stump had several carved areas courtesy of the pileated woodpeckers. I heard the soft calls of the brown-headed nuthatch and watched as one checked out the stump. It returned day after day, and I decided that it was actively working the area, perhaps searching for bugs.
In between hollowing out their nest hole, I could see them foraging for bugs in the needles of living pine trees nearby. I also put out a few dried mealworms for them to snack on. It’s always amazing to see how hard working birds are when it comes to the business of making a family.
|Nuthatch works on the second tree|
Later they abandoned that nest and moved several feet over to a taller (and skinnier) snag. Once again the sounds of their gentle tapping and their squeaky conversations filled the air.
We look forward to hosting a new family of baby nuthatches. Research shows that brown-headed nuthatches have one clutch per year and that the number of eggs could be 4-7. Brown-headed nuthatches are not rare but they are not common either. They rely on southeastern pine forests so loss of habitat affects their population.
|Male pileated woodpecker excavating for grubs|
Leave those trees when you can, but even if you have to drop them for safety reasons, on the ground they continue to feed other things. A tree that has been on the ground for several years was "grub city" for a pileated woodpecker pair this spring.
I don't often cheer for dead trees, but you can see that there's reason to celebrate them too.