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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Old Snag - Nuthatch Haven

Snags are valuable wildlife habitat.  
Dead trees bring life to the forest.

A Red-Breasted Nuthatch is spotted in a dead tree "snag".
Bird Web from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has some
nuthatch facts - 

Cool Facts

  • The Red-breasted Nuthatch collects resin globules from coniferous trees and plasters them around the entrance of its nest hole. It may carry the resin in its bill or on pieces of bark that it uses as an applicator. The male puts the resin primarily around the outside of the hole while the female puts it around the inside. The resin may help to keep out predators or competitors. The nuthatch avoids the resin by diving directly through the hole.
  • During nest building, the Red-breasted Nuthatch is aggressive, chasing away other hole-nesting birds such as the House Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Downy Woodpecker. A particularly feisty nuthatch may go after Yellow-rumped Warblers, House Finches, Violet-Green Swallows, and Cordilleran Flycatchers.
  • Red-breasted Nuthatches migrate southward earlier than many irruptive species. They may begin in early July and may reach their southernmost point by September or October.
This report and photos from Shoreline resident, Claudia Turner -
 (Look  closely and you'll see a little "red-breasted nuthatch peaking out of a hole in a "snag") 

Photo credit - Claudia Turner

"The snag & nuthatch pic was taken in March '10. They raised their babies & hung out as a family until Sept or so" said Turner.  
Photo credit - Claudia Turner
The National Wildlife Federation recommends leaving "snags" in your yard to garden for wildlife.
Dead trees used to be considered "unsightly", but what could be more fascinating than seeing wildlife using these old trees to provide life giving food and shelter.  

Their slogan for this issue is "Dead Wood Good"! 

Attracting Wildlife With Dead Trees

Pileated woodpecker in a tree snag
Dead trees provide vital habitat for more than 1,000 species of wildlife nationwide. They also count as cover and places for wildlife to raise young in the requirements for Certified Wildlife Habitat designation.
Snags—The name for dead trees that are left upright to decompose naturally.
Logs—When a snag (or part of a snag) falls on the ground, it becomes a log—also very useful for wildlife habitat.
By some estimates, the removal of dead material from forests can mean a loss of habitat for up to one-fifth of the animals in the ecosystem.

Dead Wood Good? How Dead Trees Help Wildlife

Wildlife species use nearly every part of a dead tree in every stage of its decay for things such as: 
  • A Place to Live—Many animals, including birds, bats, squirrels and raccoons make nests in hollow cavities and crevices in standing deadwood.
  • A Food Source—By attracting insects, mosses, lichens and fungi, deadwood becomes a gourmet restaurant for wildlife looking for a snack.
  • A "Crow's Nest"—Higher branches of snags serve as excellent look-outs from which wildlife such as raptors spot potential prey.
  • A Hiding Place—The nooks and crannies of deadwood are put to good use by squirrels and other wildlife looking to store food.
  • A Soil Refresher—Mosses, lichens and fungi all grow on snags and aid in the return of vital nutrients to the soil through the nitrogen cycle. Decaying logs on the forest floor also act as "nurse logs" for new seedlings.

Incorporating Dead Trees into Your Habitat

You can create a refuge for hundreds of woodland creatures by keeping snags in your yard (or constructing artificial snags if no natural ones are present).
Despite the importance of snags to wildlife, many modern forestry practices encourage the removal of deadwood from the forest floor in an attempt to control pests and fungi, as well as for aesthetic reasons.
  • When should I remove a snag? Never allow dead wood to rest against your home. Also any trees that may fall on your home (or a neighbor's home) should be removed. In both these cases, however, consider moving the wood to another safer area of your yard.
  • What about termites? As long as the snags are a reasonable distance from your home, termites and other pests won't find their way into your home.
  • How do I create artificial snags? If there are no natural snags in your yard, you can create artificial ones by trimming branches on live trees of varying sizes and types. Hardwood trees tend to make better nesting habitats while softer wood is better for food foraging. If you do not wish to create snags from living trees, the use of nesting boxescan be a good alternative.
  • How many snags should I have? Three snags per acre is a good estimate for most areas, but you should check with your local wildlife management authority to get specific recommendations for your region.

In an interesting coincidence, a workshop program is coming up next week at the NW Stream Center
in south Everett.
Date: Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Tickets: $5 Members / $7 Non-members. Advance Purchase Necessary.
Minimum Class Size: 20
Age Recommendation: Adult...this class is geared for serious gardeners,  property owners who manage trees, arborists, foresters, and parks/public works staff 

Wildlife Trees: The Importance of Snags in Your Neighborhood
It may be hard to believe, but trees can actually create more habitats for various species after they die than when they are alive! Dead trees are important for wildlife in both natural and landscaped settings. Such trees are given many names, including "snags" and "wildlife trees." Snags enhance local natural areas by providing for the needs of many wildlife species that may not be commonly found there otherwise. Snags can "live on" as excellent wildlife trees for all to enjoy!

oin instructor Chris Anderson, a wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, for a lively presentation.  Come learn about the role snags play as "wildlife trees" and their importance to sustaining local biodiversity of various wildlife species.
he class will cover some examples of local wildlife species that depend on snags and dying trees for their life needs, as well as how snags are an integral habitat feature that allows for a whole web of wildlife species to persist in areas where they would largely not be found in the absence of available snag habitat. Management considerations that assist in the retention of snags and similar dying trees on your property will be discussed. Find out what steps to take to find the best help to assess and manage perceived hazard tree situations, while considering wildlife value.

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