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Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Pileated Pine Project

white pineThis story is actually from the day I hiked with Irene at Letchworth State Park in New York. I've been saving it till we finished the flower show. But after yesterday's adventures it fits here perfectly.

We were walking along beside a line of mid-sized white pines. This was the end one, and it looks pretty much like all the others.

wood chips under tree

Not! First we noticed all these big wood chips at the base of the tree. If you live in the northwoods, this says one of two things to you. Pileated woodpecker or porcupine, and the porcupine doesn't leave this many chips or this shape. It's more likely to gnaw off chunks or shred things, although the pileated will shred things too... well, it's like a puzzle... so what's the next piece?

pileated woodpecker hole

So we looked closer, and sure enough, the trunk has some very large holes. The pileated woodpecker, and you can understand this better now that you've seen how big it is, knocks large elliptical holes in trees. Usually in dead trees. It is looking for insects.

pileated woodpecker hole

We walked around to the other side of the tree, and the project was even bigger! I bothered to take pictures of this for a couple of reasons. The first one is that these were exceptionally large holes, even for these big birds that sound like someone in the woods with a hatchet when they get to pounding on a tree. This tree is about 8 inches in diameter where those holes are. Most pileated holes are about 2 inches wide and 3-4 inches long. You can see that many of these were larger than that.

pileated woodpecker hole

Finally, these are closeups of the holes from two sides of the tree, and now you can see why the bird (birds?) were working so hard on this tree. And that's the other reason I took the pictures. Even though this tree looks fine from a distance, its heart is dead. When you look closely at the holes you can see that they both end in empty blackness. The pileated has cut this tree right through to its dead and hollow core. Next big storm, I wager this tree will break.

Tomorrow, "A Bony Mystery"

See A Diversity of Wildlife for the pileated woodpecker
See The Flicker for a different woodpecker


VanillaSeven said...

Interesting, my first time saw a dead tree like this :)

Auntie E said...

I find this interesting Indeed. it is amazing how nature takes care of it's self.

Secondary Roads said...

That some serious carpentry . . .

Ann said...

wow that is just amazing. I've never seen anything like that before. How interesting that they know that it's dead.

Sharkbytes said...

Vanilla- The large woodpeckers are very good at returning them to the soil.

Auntie E- its all part of the cycle!

Chuck- they carry their tool kit with them!

Ann- they sense the insects somehow.

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