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Old 06-18-2011, 02:07 PM   #1
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Default Snags & how to create them

After watching a couple Pileated woodpeckers this morning, thought I'd take a break from afternoon chores and see what I could find out about their nesting habits. In the process I found this great page about Snags, the wildlife benefits of them and how to create them from living trees!

Snags - The Wildlife Tree | Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

I think my favorite is the photograph of the 'burned out' snag created by the homeowner that "adds an interesting and striking feature to the backyard landscape." (We had a dead poplar cut down last year and the tree people thought I was mad when I told them to just cut off enough of the top so that it wouldn't fall on the nearest outbuilding.)
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Old 06-19-2011, 12:22 AM   #2
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Very informative article on snags! It was also nice to see that snags were addressed in the sense of being a desirable landscape feature. You know, I think this natural landscaping thing might just catch on!
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Old 06-19-2011, 09:13 AM   #3
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Interesting! In a nearby wild bird sanctuary there are piles of branches and logs in areas. Are these providing shelter? food? for certain birds? are they as beneficial as the standing trees? I was surprised at how dense the area is, closed off, dark, cool inside. It is in a part of a much larger park with trees walking paths and picnic areas.
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Old 06-19-2011, 09:15 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teresa View Post
After watching a couple Pileated woodpeckers this morning, thought I'd take a break from afternoon chores and see what I could find out about their nesting habits. In the process I found this great page about Snags, the wildlife benefits of them and how to create them from living trees!

Snags - The Wildlife Tree | Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife

I think my favorite is the photograph of the 'burned out' snag created by the homeowner that "adds an interesting and striking feature to the backyard landscape." (We had a dead poplar cut down last year and the tree people thought I was mad when I told them to just cut off enough of the top so that it wouldn't fall on the nearest outbuilding.)
I really enjoyed the article on the all=important snags. Out at the New England Wildflower Societies "Garden in the Woods," I was surprised at the grounds keepers diligence in totally eliminating the standing dead trees and questioned them about it. They claimed their number one concern was the safety of their visitors, which I could readily understand. I suggested then that perhaps they could just cut off the tree to about the ten foot level and leave a ten foot snag for wildlife and the various mosses and plant life that would call the snag their home. I got no commitment that they would begin to do it, but I planted the seed, at least.

In my own yard I corrected two mistakes from my planting past by girdling a couple of big "Heartnut" trees that I purchased from Oikos Nurseries many years ago. One of the two is now completely dead while the other managed to send up leaves again this year, as I missed a small area that the tree has been utilizing for a nutrient avenue to the soil. That has been recently corrected, and I'm confident that next year both will be standing dead wood.

This year I took a hatchet to the trunk of a big-leaved aspen that was insisting upon sending up young progeny all over my property. I just did it last week, but I made sure there would be standing dead aspen wood rather than a live tree there next year.

I love snags, and they make for fascinating objects of study.
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Old 06-19-2011, 09:33 AM   #5
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Welcome to the site GardenGirl99
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Interesting! In a nearby wild bird sanctuary there are piles of branches and logs in areas. Are these providing shelter? food? for certain birds? are they as beneficial as the standing trees? I was surprised at how dense the area is, closed off, dark, cool inside.
Oh most definitely ALL of the above!
You will be most abundantly enlightened in reading all about the "PILES" in this link: 'WG's Pile Appreciation Program' (PAP).
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Old 06-19-2011, 01:13 PM   #6
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Great find, Teresa!

Thank you so much for sharing. I think I will link to that article and help spread the word.
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Old 06-19-2011, 01:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GardenGirl99 View Post
Interesting! In a nearby wild bird sanctuary there are piles of branches and logs in areas. Are these providing shelter? food? for certain birds? are they as beneficial as the standing trees? I was surprised at how dense the area is, closed off, dark, cool inside. It is in a part of a much larger park with trees walking paths and picnic areas.
GardenGirl,

Welcome aboard. Explore. I think you will really love it here.

Looks like havalotta beat me to it--both in welcoming you and in providing a link for you to learn more about brush piles.

Between snags and brush piles, wildlife should be drawn more and more to our property. I'm trying to increase my brush piles both in size and number. I have a couple of naturally occurring snags and some that I plan to create.

I hope you will share more here...observations, experiences, planned projects, and pictures--lots of pictures if you have them.
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Old 06-19-2011, 01:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jack View Post
I really enjoyed the article on the all=important snags. Out at the New England Wildflower Societies "Garden in the Woods," I was surprised at the grounds keepers diligence in totally eliminating the standing dead trees and questioned them about it. They claimed their number one concern was the safety of their visitors, which I could readily understand. I suggested then that perhaps they could just cut off the tree to about the ten foot level and leave a ten foot snag for wildlife and the various mosses and plant life that would call the snag their home. I got no commitment that they would begin to do it, but I planted the seed, at least.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jack View Post
In my own yard I corrected two mistakes from my planting past by girdling a couple of big "Heartnut" trees that I purchased from Oikos Nurseries many years ago. One of the two is now completely dead while the other managed to send up leaves again this year, as I missed a small area that the tree has been utilizing for a nutrient avenue to the soil. That has been recently corrected, and I'm confident that next year both will be standing dead wood.
I girdled one of the blue spruce (a rather short one unfortunately), our first year here (or maybe the second). I plan to girdle the larger one beside it after the white pine(s) I've added get bigger to provide some privacy--and shelter for the birds. I think it will make a handsome snag, and if I have to wait a couple of years, that will just make it taller with a larger diameter.

Somehow a snag sticking out of a grove of white pines seems beautiful in my minds eye. I hope it turns out as well as I imagine.

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This year I took a hatchet to the trunk of a big-leaved aspen that was insisting upon sending up young progeny all over my property. I just did it last week, but I made sure there would be standing dead aspen wood rather than a live tree there next year.

I love snags, and they make for fascinating objects of study.
My guess is that killing the main trunk will only send more energy into the shoots. I'm more familiar with the quaking aspen--which I know tend to form large colonies through suckering.

I planted my quaking aspen out in the second acre--hopefully far enough away from the house to cause any problems. There is one that planted itself near our barn/garage that is still a single trunk though it has only reached about 12 ft or so this year. I'm assuming the suckers are still to come. I'm okay with two groves...I figure I can mow down any shoots that get into the paths.

The one that came up on its own is underplanted with blueberries (well...it came up in the blueberry patch planted by a previous owner)...and I added a sassafras in the same vicinity. I think it is prone to suckering too. With a (currently tiny) blackgum as a backdrop, I'm expecting a rather attractive fall display. (Gee, I'm getting a bit away from the snag topic.)

At least aspen seem to create nesting sites/holes even while still alive. jack, maybe you can provide us with pictures--before and (eventually) after. You could even create a thread: "The Making of a Snag" show it from year to year and in different seasons...and pictures of what it supports...(boy, I'm making a lot of work for you!)
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Old 06-19-2011, 04:47 PM   #9
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As I'm reading about how to create snags (I took a break to be outside), CNN has a segment called Restoring Nature Build a backyard habitat!

The man interviewed mentioned creating a brush pile, how mowed grass is like a dessert to wildlife*, and the anchors mentioned doing research to see what is native to your area.


*I've used that analogy myself, but now I'm thinking that a dessert is a unique habitat that supports a lot of life...but to the general public, I bet it is still a good analogy.
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Old 06-19-2011, 04:49 PM   #10
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I really love the jagged look done with a chainsaw in the one picture.

I didn't realize girdling the tree near the base was the least ideal way to create a snag--I did that with the small blue spruce. I'll probably attack the large one with a better method.

Thanks, again, Teresa for the great link!
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