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.