Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Generation Passing

hairy woodpecker & northern flicker photos from Cornell's
We have been blessed to hear the percussion of woodpeckers in recent years, and occasional sightings of the striking black and white plumage with red accent of (most likely) the hairy woodpecker.  (We've also several times hosted northern flickers, a ground-feeding relative.)   The downside of their frequency is the reason for it: we have lost a number of our trees.
 A pair of big red oaks died on their feet about six or seven years ago, the second coming down in a blizzard only last winter. (Enjoying the blizzard in Thoreauvian fashion at the time, I dodged it by noticing how alarmingly it swayed in the wind.) A pretty little scarlet oak in the backyard died about the same time. I am embarrassed to say I didn't realize these had died until a year or more had passed. These three were apparently in the prime of life, and may have succumbed to the winter moth caterpillars that infested us around that time.

The big old three-stemmed black cherry that supported the kids' tree fort has been dying gradually. One stem came down in a rainstorm last spring: the break was twenty feet up, in an area weakened (unbeknownst to us) by insects.

And a small elm in the narrow space between us and a neighbor--a bit of a weed, really--has been leafless for several years, and without bark for the last year.

Most of these are reason to be a little sad, especially without their children waiting in an understory to spring up to take their place, as would be typical in a more natural setting. But the little oak in the backyard threatened our garage, while the elm could not be felled at all in usual way without taking off part of our roof and maybe the neighbor's as well. It was time to call in the professionals, and to figure out how to pay the bill.

    Once a strapping young adult scarlet oak.                  Worldly remains of a young elm.

Now then, how will I get the woodpeckers back?


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