Saturday morning we hiked out to the road to go to town. On the way, we found a tree fallen across the trail. The rotten section of log shattered into several large chunks when it hit, so we easily pushed and pulled the pieces out of the way. When Michelle pushed one section off the trail, it rolled, and we heard gurgling as water drained out of a hollow in the log. I guessed that the water had collected in a woodpecker nest.
When we came back home, we stopped to look at that section of the log. When we turned it over, we found not just one, but two woodpecker nests, two nearly perfect holes cut in the log—a couple of high rise apartments.
We don’t know if the holes filled with water while the tree stood. It had already rotted and broken off higher up on the tree—it could even be the tree top that fell on the trail back in 2009 (see Zeigers Emerge from Burrow, See Shadow, Hurry Back Home). The rotten wood may have absorbed rain water, filling the caviities over time. On the other hand, we certainly have gotten enough rain lately that the tree, which fell in the night after Michelle came home, could have filled up by the time we found it in the morning.
We decided the nest holes must be very old, as we never heard birds in them in all the time we’ve lived on or visited the “homestead.” Fledgling woodpeckers set up a racket like a car alarm shortly before they leave the nest (see “Murder” in the Forest). In season, we hear them throughout the woods. There’s no way we would have missed an active nest in that tree!
Michelle woke up Monday morning with a plan: she wanted to cut out the nest section and bring it home. She hoped to mount it somewhere and attract chickadees. Chickadees are voracious bug eaters, so we try to make them feel at home on the property (see New Tenants and Location, Location, Location). I like that idea, but I have higher ambitions. Many different birds and animals move into woodpecker nests after the single season woodpeckers use them. Among those: small owls. I’d love to have a northern pigmy, northern saw whet, or western screech owl come to stay. Besides the fact that I adore them, they would help keep the garden pests in line.
We hiked up and cut the log above and below the two nest holes. As the lower part of the log fell away, we found a third hole in the log. We then checked the other pieces of the broken tree and found where a fourth hole had been started and abandoned. This particular tree really was an avian apartment high rise in its day.