Sunday, April 12, 2009
Cavity dwellers thank Pileated Woodpecker
John Muir, America's most famous naturalist, made what I believe to be the most far-reaching
observation of all time when he said: "Whenever you tug on a single thing in Nature, you find it attached to the entire universe."
I think of that line every time I hear someone rant about how "progress" is being unnecessarily halted because of environmental regulations that protect the spotted owl, or some obscure minnow or frog or even woodland caribou -- creatures that are not seen as having any importance compared to parking lots or roads or pulp that can make toilet paper.
So what's that got to do with the pileated woodpecker in the photo above?
The pileated, North America's largest woodpecker, is solely responsible for providing the homes to all kinds of creatures.
Each year this bird which was the model for Woody the Woodpecker cartoons, whacks out a new hole in a sound, living tree to use as a nest. Those holes continue to exist for dozens of years afterwards.
They subsequently become the nesting site for a bunch of cavity nesters including all species of merganser ducks and goldeneye ducks which you can observe whizzing through the trees at camp as they come and go from their nest holes in large quaking aspens. Ducks, you see, can't make their own hole, their beaks and heads aren't made for the job.
The same thing goes for kestrels and merlins (small hawks), flying squirrels, red squirrels, pine martens and many other mammals.
When you tug on the string connected to the pileated woodpecker, a whole lot of creatures are attached to it.
The same can be said of everything else.
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