Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Birchview Nursery

The 30 foot birch in our backyard may be dead but it's full of life!
Our first summer here in the North Thompson, five trees, including the birch, had a date with the power saw.
When I pointed out the woodpecker holes up & down the trunk, my husband reluctantly agreed to leave it standing until Fall.
By late July, the fate of the tree was decided. It would remain until it fell on its own.
There were thirteen cavities in the birch & almost all were used at some point for nests or shelter. That summer it was used as nesting sites for six species of birds, a family of squirrels & believe it or not....a family of bats too!
The "Birchview Apartments" were on a first come basis with mother squirrel & her babies claiming the penthouse suite.
The seventh floor was occupied by starlings.
We were a little concerned when they moved in as we'd seen them the summer before robbing the flicker's fourth floor home not only of eggs but hatchlings as well.
We need not have worried though. Once the starlings laid their eggs they seemed to leave everyone else's nests alone. In fact, because of harrassment from the flickers, the starlings seldom had the chance to even enter their own nest hole.
The clever, little Red-breasted Nuthatches in apartment six had a particularily ingenious method for keeping predators out, they smeared pitch all around their nest opening.
When I first spotted the pitch oozing out of the long dead tree I quickly scanned its limbs for signs of new growth. While pondering the unlikely, a nuthatch zipped staight into the hole with out even stopping to perch at the entrance.
Further reading on this subject revealed that other birds attempting to enlarge the hole would get their feathers covered with messy pitch & give up.
Rarely have there been reports of the nuthatches themselves becoming entrapped in their own device & perishing.
I wonder if this is where the idea for sticky fly strips came from?
A little lower on the tree, Mountain Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers & Red-naped Sapsuckers also maintained nest holes.
The bats moved in in mid July after the birds & squirrels left.
Not once did the bats cooperate in proving to my husband that they really were there! I was the only witness. Believe me, baby bats are not cute.
Our gnarled birch wasn't the only nursery in our yard that year. There were swallows in the barn, robins in the lilac, blackbirds in a pine, Chipping Sparrows in the gooseberry bush (she raised two of her own & one cowbird), more starlings in the side of our shop & Hairy Woodpeckers in another poplar.
Several other species nested near by & while we never actually saw their nests, dozens of fledglings showed up at our feeders.
A very prolific yard indeed!

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