Saturday, October 30, 2010

And Then It Was Gone.

Jean and I moved into our house 10 years ago. It is in an older neighbourhood, close to the downtown, with many mature trees lining the boulevards. Within a few years of moving in, 4 large city-maintained maple trees were cut down. The nuthatches we used to see out front soon left after the removal of the remaining maple. Two young trees were soon put in place but the nuthatches still remain absent.

From the back yard we observe a variety of birds, mostly due in part to the trees on the neighbouring properties. To the south, a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees attract a few migrants including one species of woodpecker I look forward to observing every spring. Like clockwork, a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has appeared for approximately two weeks in April the last three years. It has become a reliable and almost effortless tick for the year list.

To the east, tall pine trees attract both species of accipiters and a large walnut tree that towers over the parking lot behind our yard provides many perches for birds. There is no shortage of room in this tree. That is until last week.

On the 20th, Jean picked me up from work and informed me that the 40+ foot tree was being cut down. What greeted me when we arrived home was shocking.

Sadly, the tree that attracted Blue Jays, crows, 3 species of woodpecker, starlings and a Peregrine Falcon would soon be gone. In less than a week, a tree that took a number of years to grow was gone.

Unlike the maple trees, the walnut was on private property and was not near any hydro lines. Why was it cut down? I'm not exactly sure, though one of the upper limbs snapped and fell to the ground in the late summer. I was in the back yard when it happened and remember hearing a loud crack and looking up to see the limb dangling. It left a gap in the tree but otherwise it appeared healthy. Perhaps the owners feared the tree would cause severe damage to their house if additional limbs were to fall. For whatever reason, it is sad to see such a large tree removed from the neighbourhood.

All is not lost though. I was discussing the tree's demise with a coworker last week and mentioned the disappearance of the nuthatches after the maple trees were removed. While standing in the back yard the following morning I heard the call, make that calls, of 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches. One of the small birds stood atop a hydro pole out front. It continued to call and jump excitedly while on top of the pole. I ran to get my binoculars but when I returned the bird was gone and no longer calling. That was OK. I heard its call and viewed it long enough to tick the 46th species for the yard list. To ensure a repeat visit we'll keep the feeders filled and add a suet feeder for good measure. Who knows, maybe #47, a White-breasted Nuthatch, will return to the neighbourhood.

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