Thursday, January 20, 2011


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Photo #1: A Black-capped Chickadee pair occupied this nest during the summer 2010. Photo taken 1/20/10 on Wolf Creek Park Nature Trail
Yesterday I hiked the Nature Trail at Wolf Creek Park in Sandusky Co., Ohio. I was amazed at the numbers of open notches, snags, cavities, large cracks and holes the trees contained. A few such “cavity trees” are useful to have in your wildlife-friendly yard. They offer mini-sanctuaries to many birds and mammals, especially during freezing weather. Any dead or dying tree will most likely have holes in the trunk or larger branches. They are also found in some healthy trees as well. Photo #2 shows a dead trunk with mucho space for birds and larger mammals, probably split open by lightening.

Photo #2: Along Wolf Creek Park Nature Trail
I’ve seen Red-breasted, Downey and Hairy Woodpeckers enlarge pre-existing cavities in trees, making cavity nests or simply mining for insects. At home, White-breasted Nuthatches cram sun flower seeds from my feeder into them. Squirrels store corn and nuts in them, which birds often steal. Note the enlarged hole in Photo #3, formed by the tree growing a protective covering around an old scar.

Photo #3: Wolf Creek Park Nature TrailAccording to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the birds and mammals that utilize tree cavities are of two groups. Primary cavity-users, such as woodpeckers, chickadees and the red-breasted nuthatch, make their own cavities. Secondary cavity-users are unable to excavate their own cavities. They rely on cavities excavated by other birds and on naturally occurring cavities.

Secondary cavity users include saw-whet owls, barred owls and kestrels. Common goldeneyes, wood ducks and other duck species are members of this group. Many songbirds, including eastern bluebirds, great-crested flycatchers and white-breasted nuthatches are secondary cavity users.

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Mammals also rely on cavities made by excavating birds. They include deer mice, martens, fishers, raccoons, porcupines, weasels and black bears.

As illustrated by the photos I took along the Wolf Creek Nature Trial, not all cavities are the same. The size, shape and location of cavities determine how wildlife species use them. You can tell by looking at the photos the cavities that are used as nests or dens, for escape or roosting cavities, or for feeding. In Photo #4 below, the hallow fallen trunks contained eaten acorns and other seeds. A Cottontail Rabbit scurried out from underneath the pile shortly after I took this picture. Look at the third standing tree from the left, by the Sandusky River bank. See what's peeking at me from behind it? The neck of a Canada Goose! It paddled out into the river when it sensed I recognized it.

Photo #4: Wolf Creek Nature Trail along Sandusky River

Photo #5: This trunk cavity had Walnuts and acorn shells below it. solar power contractors

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. writes about the natural world and promotes converting America's 25,000,000 lawns into wildlife-friendly lawn at a time! Do you have a Website, WebBlog, personal story or project, photos or articles to share on this site about how you created or protected a wildlife-friendly space? Please contact us at the secure Bpath Mail Form. We'd enjoy hearing from you!