We have two trail cams set up at Turtle Hill. One of them is in the Beaver Sculpture Park. This time of year the marsh is frozen over and the beavers stay in their lodge. But we were curious about who else might be enjoying their artistic efforts. Other than a family of raccoons that strolled by, it’s been quiet. Then, just a couple of days ago, another artist appeared and got to work. It seems that the Turtle Hill sculptures are a community effort!
This is a pileated woodpecker, one of the largest birds in these woods. They’re as big as crows and can be long-lived. They require old wood which harbors carpenter ants. Beavers help with that. In weakening and killing trees, they give a place for the insects to live, which in turn provides food for the pileated woodpeckers. Whereas the beaver sculptures are free-form, the woodpeckers like geometry. Rectangular holes.
Once these cavities are created, other creatures make use of them, both for food and for nesting. Speaking of nesting, pileated woodpeckers require very large old trees to raise their young in. When forests are harvested down to the last stump, there’s no place for the pileated. Even as the trees grown back, it can be decades before there’s a tree big enough for them to use for nesting. If a few trees are left for these birds, that helps somewhat. However, they’re susceptible to lightning strikes. What’s best for the pileated (and for everyone else in their community) is the sort of mixed forest that we have here at Turtle Hill. The beavers keep the growth varied, the old trees are left to stand or rot, and everyone benefits.
Here’s a video from the cam. Hear the high-pitched birdsong in the background? I think that those are kinglets. As small as the pileated are huge. Also insect eaters. (There are caterpillars hiding in the forest in winter!) Please let me know if I’m right, or what you hear.
For more about pileated woodpeckers, read what the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has to say.
For more videos and photos from Turtle Hill, follow Steve’s Instagram page. He’s the keeper of the cams, knows how to use a camera, and posts a lot more than I do about the nature all around us.