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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Habitat

My journey into the gully began with a visit to The Pool of Tranquility. If you have been reading my blog since last fall, then you know that The Pool of Tranquility is the lofty name we have given to a water feature that Jeff built out of an existing spring.  The Pool is a nice place to sit and read, meditate or just listen to a songbird serenade.

Right now there was no time for sitting.  I had places to go and nature to see.


I found a tree with a couple great pileated woodpecker holes.  It was surprising at first because the tree looked perfectly heathy except for the gaping holes in its side.  Once I took the time to turn my head straight up, I could see, though, that the there was dead wood at the very top of the main trunk.  Bugs had moved in to colonize the tree. I walked on down the hill a few feet then looked back at the tree. 
It was then that I realized the extent of the damage. The other side of the tree was completely riddled with woodpecker holes.

This segregated ecosystem is home to trees in various states of decay. One long-ago broken stump gave me the opportunity to see what morning may have looked like from a nest inside the tree. It was probably a cozy place to be hatched and fledged. A home with cool dark walls providing some protection from the elements but also with a nice view.

 I've always felt lucky to have so many pileated and other wood peckers around our home, but this is a case where luck is not the main determining factor.  The woods surrounding our home are diverse with all species of trees.  Many, like this one have been left in place to mature as nature wills it, some dying young while some lift to be huged gnarled specimens. Both provide life, as nesting sights, or as bug food which, in turn, provide good pickings for the woodpeckers.  The sky around our home recently has been the flyway for many woodpeckers as they make their way across open spaces between woodlots where they are harvesting bugs. 
As I made my way down the hill, some spots were steeper than others making me glad for the numerous grape vines that hung from high branches. It was not quite tarzan-esque but I did make use of the vines to keep from tumbling perhaps to my death or at the very least to a muddy bottom. (mine). The tangle of vines and fallen branches are a great combination for songbirds who need plentiful perches from which to seek out seeds and insects close to the ground.  The damp thick leaf litter harbors a multitude of life forms from mice to worms to insects and other bugs. 

The scratching of a towhee or the constant peck-peck-pecking of a downie woodpecker are a pleasant backdrop of sound as I countinue my outing.  I look forward to discoveries that await.

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