Dateline: January 7, 2011*
I’ve struggled with a decision to remove one of my Pine snags. It was uncomfortably close to the house yet provided such a wealth of entertainment with the wildlife that partakes in its demise from a lightening bolt in 2008. I remember that day vividly because I felt my hair stand on end and I was sure the house had been struck, but that tall pine gave its life to protect my home. The dead tree swayed in recent 50 mph winds and the weight at the top seemed to lean it toward the house rather than away, so I knew it had to go.
When I bought the property another snag was standing and I opted to leave it up since it was housing Pileated Woodpeckers at the time. They had a family of two fledglings and I was hooked on keeping snags in my wildlife garden. That tree fell down in tropical storm Fay yet pieces of the debris still provide habitat for my many critters. I cut it up and stacked it and it is slowly returning to soil, dwindling slowly, beetles breaking down the wood structures, birds eating the beetles for protein, snakes finding a safe haven, lizards playfully dancing between the cracks.
Back to my current dilemma. The tree was clearly rotting and ants had taken up residence in the lower section. When oak firewood was delivered from a local guy, I inquired if he could fell the snag and lamented how I would miss it. He said he could top it. A deal was made and he came back a week later chain saw in hand!
He cut it about 15 feet from the ground and had it land in the wrong direction (scaring the bajesus out of me…so dangerously close to his truck). Judging from the look on his face, perhaps the delivery guy wasn’t a smart choice to cut it, but it is a good height and no one got hurt, so the results are good. It still stands proud and the balance will be put to some use as soon as I think up all that it can be used for. I know the outer layers will be raked up and used to help form the basis for natural pathways through my growing restoration areas or mulch where needed.
The birds seem unconcerned that part of it is on its side and still visit. Bringing it down to my level is intriguing….I’ve got a close-up view of where the redbellied woodpeckers were making a hole under the protection of a large branch. The hole is perfectly round. I can see the core is solid…perhaps it will be the base for a new water dish or will help by being the base for the cedar bench that recently had it’s legs give out.
I only know that the nuthatches are still thrilled and have already begun digging feverishly into its side making a deep hole. Perhaps a nest area? They’ve teased me before and I hold out hope that one of these times they will actually complete the nest. They are cagey sorts….but I have faith. Faith in those little birds and faith in my lovely half-tree as it continues to give pleasure.
*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on January 7, 2011 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.