Randy Bayne

Of Worms, Trees, and a Pileated Woodpecker

Of Worms, Trees, and a Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated WoodpeckerA couple weeks ago a storm took the top off one of the trees in my backyard. The tree is about 15 feet shorter now. That’s about one-third shorter than it was. It has been a candidate for removal for a while, but since it is hidden behind other trees and mostly out of sight I thought why not let the Creator of the tree decide its fate.

The Lord seems to have determined that the tree should come down a little at a time and in a way that takes care of other parts of His creation. First by feeding wood-boring beetle larvae, and now by feeding at least one Pileated Woodpecker.

Eaten from Within

When we first moved in almost three years ago the tree was growing beautifully and was full of leaves. Then, last year I noticed it was beginning to look a little bare at the top, but not bad enough to do anything. There was no apparent damage. Nothing that could be seen on the outside. Leaves on the lower branches were full and it looked like it would be just fine.

What couldn’t be seen was the wood-boring beetles laying eggs inside the tree.

Apparently, the Lord had chosen this tree to provide nourishment to a colony of thick ugly worm. I doubt the tree saw this as a blessing. Few of us see the blessing of being called to sacrifice.

Eaten from within, the tree became weak. At least in that one spot about 15 feet from the top.

More wood for the fire-pit

When the early spring storm hit, the high winds snapped the top off the tree like it was a twig. It went unnoticed until I looked out the window and thought, “Hmmm, that tree looks shorter.

“Cool. More wood for the fire-pit.”

With each storm or windy day we seem to gain more firewood. River birch are prolific branch droppers, but the middling they drop is nothing compared to the top one-third of a whatever tree.

And so, by His grace the Lord has also used this tree’s sacrifice to provide to me.

Woody the Pileated Woodpecker pays a visit

All this to say that I finally got a picture of one of my so-called “life birds.” I’m not sure where the term originated, but a life-bird is one that a bird photographer doesn’t have a picture of yet, but desperately wants. I have named him Woody because the Pileated Woodpecker was the model for Woody Woodpecker of cartoon fame. Remember him?

He flew into the yard and headed straight for the broken top of that tree and started pounding his beak like a jackhammer.

woodpecker with larvae

Pileated Woodpeckers have questionable food taste. They eat mostly ants and other insects, fruits and nuts, termites, and larvae of wood-boring beetles. The fruits and nuts seem okay, and I have heard of people eating chocolate covered ants, but the larvae of wood-boring beetles seems just a bit out there.

It does, however, confirm my suspicion that the tree’s demise was due to the weakening of the trunk caused by the voracious appetite of wood-boring beetle larvae.

Thanks for reading.

Stuff at the bottom

You can see more pictures of Woody in my Flickr gallery.

Learn more about Pileated Woodpeckers here.

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