Broken Branches and Watering Holes

Ever think to yourself, I’d better take that photo before something happens and it (subject of photo) is no longer there – or is somehow changed?

About a month ago, I was sitting on the front steps enjoying early morning coffee, when a blue jay flew to a noticeable knot in one of the nearby sugar maples. At first, I thought it was about to raid a nest, but as the jay dipped its head into the hole, no parent birds came to attack. I watched the jay repeatedly dip its head into the knot-hole, and realized it was drinking.


The knot-hole is angled upward – probably where a branch once grew from the trunk. The angle is such that it must catch rain water and runoff from the leaves and branches above it. I had never observed birds using such a natural watering hole before, but as I sat there that morning, a white-breasted nuthatch, a red-bellied woodpecker, several more jays, and a phoebe all stopped by for a drink.

Did I photograph any of the birds drinking? Nope. Did I even get a clear shot of the knot-hole? Nope. What’s the hurry? It’s not like it was going anywhere…

Last night, in the quiet and pitch dark of late evening, as I lay awake listening to the night sounds outside the window, I suddenly heard the distinct and very loud sound of branches breaking. Though I got up and looked out the window, I couldn’t see a thing in the dark. I assumed there was a bear in the woods across the driveway, breaking branches to get to the insects.

Next morning, I immediately noticed that a large, healthy branch above the watering hole had broken and was hanging down along the trunk.


Curious. The branch was obviously healthy – it was full of leaves. There had been no wind, no storms. Why would a branch break like that?

Closer inspection of the trunk told the story. Bear claw marks on the trunks, and tiny bits of bark chipped off where claws had grabbed hold. My guess is a bear climbed this tree for some reason, but the branch, which was part of a fork in the tree, could not support its weight and broke. The bear had plenty of other branches and the trunk to hold on to, so the bear itself would not have fallen out of the tree (I would have heard the thud!)

There’s plenty of water around for a bear, so I doubt it was interested in the ‘water hole’ in the tree…unless it smells strongly of maple sugar! Most likely one or more cubs playing and practicing tree-climbing, while Mom poked around the yard looking for something to eat.

In any case, we’ll need to cut the branch loose, because now it’s covering the watering hole. And obscuring my view of the visiting birds. Can’t have that!

I just love making little discoveries and unraveling natural mysteries that happen in my own back yard. Life is good.


3 Responses to “Broken Branches and Watering Holes”

  1. KGMom Says:

    Just another lesson on carpe diem!
    My specialty is literature–and there are so many poems with that theme–carpe diem, carpe diem!
    You learned it with trees, I learned it with poems.

  2. KGMom Says:

    On the subject of bears–we have a sad situation here. About a week ago, a 250 lb bear was spotted in our general area. We are VERY suburbanized. The bear was eventually tranquilized and moved.
    Well, he or she turned up in Luzerne Co. (PA) where it had been moved. Turns out, this bear has done this several times.
    Now the word is it will be euthanized if it goes into human inhabited areas again. It has become too acclimated to human areas and the food goodies it can find.
    I hate things like this–I hate our endless expansion, I hate our encroaching on bear habitat.
    I vote for bears having “the right of way.”!

  3. obi4240 Says:

    That’s probably a better solution than what happened here recently – which I still for the life of me can’t figure out. Apparently a bear ‘tried to break into someone’s house’ in a developed area next to a state forest in Vernon township. There were two bears actually – both moms with cubs. (both tried breaking and entering?? I sincerely doubt it).

    They were both shot dead by the police and the Fish and Game officers, and the now-orphaned cubs ‘taken away.’ I wonder why they weren’t tranquilized and moved – especially since there is now the burden of raising five orphaned cubs. Where is the logic in that? Unless they killed the cubs too. The news never said where the cubs were taken. A zoo? Are they doomed to a life in captivity?

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