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Monday, September 12, 2011

The old apple tree

The old apple tree is dying.  We planted it after we moved here more than 20 years ago and throughout its productive life, it has been a favorite of birds, squirrels, and, in spring when it is in bloom, of bees.  But never has it been more popular with the birds than now, when it is dying.  Plants under stress attract insects and insects attract birds and so the tree is almost never without its visitors these days.

It's especially popular with the little Downy Woodpeckers that live in my backyard.  Sometimes I'll see the whole family, the adults and two juveniles, there at once.  This is the adult female.

If this were the male bird, it would have a red spot just at the base of that black cap in back.  All of the males of the species of woodpeckers that live in our area have at least some red on the head.

Here, you can see many of the holes left in the bark by woodpeckers checking for insects.

But it's not just the woodpeckers that favor the dying tree.

Northern Mockingbirds hunt here and squabble over ownership of the tree.  Of course, mockingbirds tend to squabble over just about anything!

White-winged Doves like to rest among its branches.

And lately, the little female Rufous Hummingbird has adopted it as her vantage point from which to guard and protect "her" section of the backyard.   She launches herself furiously into the air whenever another of the several hummers now in the yard invades her space.

Northern Cardinals, Carolina Chickadees, Blue Jays, Carolina Wrens, and Tufted Titmice pass through the branches of the old tree throughout the day in a continual colorful parade.  It was there a few days ago where I saw the first year Baltimore Oriole that was visiting my yard.  This fall or winter, the apple tree will have to come down before it becomes in danger of falling.  Then I'll have to find a worthy replacement for this long-time resident of my backyard.  The birds will demand it.

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