Have you ever noticed how dead and decaying trees are actually teaming with life? There are several dead trees standing on our property. The forestry term for this is snag but a more deserving term is wildlife tree. This dead wood brings a lot of life to our garden, attracting wildlife that use them as nesting places, storage areas, for foraging, roosting and perching.
It usually starts with cavities excavated by woodpeckers, as they rarely use nesting boxes. Woodpeckers are made to dig. They have thick-walled skulls, powerful neck muscles, chisel like beaks and sharp feet with curved nails, which they use to skillfully construct holes for nesting.
|Red headed woodpecker on a snag|
|Downy woodpecker investigating an empty cavity|
They typically create several holes each season and rarely nest in the same one twice. We have 7 different species of woodpeckers in our garden, some are year-round residence and others seasonal.
|fallen snag showing two nesting cavities|
|dead bark nurtures insects which attract insect-loving birds|
The top of one of our snags came tumbling down in the wind the other day. The moss and fungi blanketing the trunk was already a clear sign that this snag was severely weakened and ripe for its next purpose. Think about it, these decaying trees and fallen logs may just actually be creating and influencing more organisms than the living trees.
|soft snag covered in fungi and lacks limbs|
Skinks, fence lizards and tree frogs will take up residence in the soft wood, enjoying the cool wet temperatures found in these logs. Carpenter ants, wood-boring beetles and termites assist in breaking down the wood.
Squirrels and mice will hide nuts in the loose fibers. As the log continues to decay by fungus, microbes and insects it will eventually become humus providing a nutrient rich environment for seedlings to grow.
|tree cavities providing shelter for animals in our woods|