Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Snags and Swallows

Beaver ponds are superb places to see and photograph wildlife, the ponds and the large rodents that build them have a soft place in this naturalist’s heart. I have a few favorite ponds that I visit regularly and each of them has provided rewards larger than their relatively small size.

One of the finest stands of red oak I’ve ever seen occupied a few acres surrounding a couple of spring seeps – until the tornado of May 1985 blew through and knocked down or broke off most of the trees. The spring seeps had drained through a culvert under a little-used road; shortly after the tornado struck beavers moved in and blocked the culvert in what became a ready-made dam. Over the years the culvert was replaced, and the beavers have come and gone several times, but the new culvert was higher than the old one and the pond has remained.

The few trees that survived the tornado were drowned in the pond, now after 38 years only a few snags and a handful of old stumps remain. Those snags are an important resource for the wildlife that uses the pond. Woodpeckers have excavated holes in which to nest, and there are decayed knotholes that serve the same function.

In spring tree swallows adopt the snags as places to rest between feeding forays over the pond and they nest in cavities in the snags.

Male tree swallows arrive before the females, find suitable habitat and nest cavities and defend them from other males –


At about the same time, a pair of Canada geese arrived at the pond –

And male red-winged blackbirds began to stake out territories in the narrow band of cattails along one side of the pond. They often call and display from the snags or stumps –

As I sat beside the pond a male pileated woodpecker landed on a snag and proceeded to explore the long-dead tree in search of a meal –


What a treasure these beaver ponds are: for wildlife and naturalists.


Jenn Jilks said...

What a great spot!

eileeninmd said...

Great series on the Swallows. I love the Pileated Woodie too.

Sorry, I am late commenting! Thanks so much for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a great day and the rest of the week!

Barbara Rogers said...

Love the woodpecker, just like the cartoon character who shared your name!

Yvonne said...

Beautiful photos and interesting post. Nature is always very resilient.

eileeninmd said...

Great photos and critter post. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a great weekend.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

What neat sightings. We have a lot of tree swallows here but they rarely light anywhere to get good photos. They are overhead soaring! Love your big Pileated Woodpecker too! We see his cousins here in Florida! lol

Shiju Sugunan said...

Love the Swallows series. The Pileated Woodie is amazing.

Kim S. said...

The first paragraph prompted this comment - a favorite book from my youth was Paddy: A Naturalist's Story of an Orphan Beaver by R.D. Lawrence. I think I still have my copy from the 1970s. I see the book is on now - I think I can still recommend it! It was one of those books that impacted my life at an impresionable time. And not to go search my bookshelves.... Kim in PA

David M. Gascoigne, said...

It's wonderful to see Tree Swallows nesting in natural cavities. So often these days they have to resort to nest boxes - all well and good, but lacking the charm of a gnarled old snag.