in the 8 years i have thrived/floundered/reveled/hidden in my little house nestled beneath the eroded dome of mount oberg, i have watched my prized stand of aspen become less and less of a presence. most of the big, 20+ inch diameter trees are gone, leaving a center-rot infested collection of skinny, canopy-poor trees in their place. on the ground, balsam fir is well on its way to choking out all vegetation beneath them.
decadent aspen are an amazing resource. they serve as both home and dinner plate to pileated, downy, and hairy woodpeckers, flickers and sapsuckers. last year, three of those five species nested within close proximity to one another and at fledging time, my back yard was noisier than an auction house. two years ago, a pair of pileateds decided the cavity selection was substandard and so, created a new home and weeks later, pushed out 3 youngsters into the boreal forest. the year before, a male and female saw-whet set up shop for several nights, but left when they realized they would likely need a restraining order against the owl biologist living below them.
last night, i was sitting and wondering if a survey was in my best interests when the winds picked up and made my decision for me. i am not a decider so, thank you gods of low pressure for the more-than subtle free pass from surveys.
i went to bed at a reasonable hour and was just about to sleep, when my eardrums picked up sound: monotonous toots of a truck backing up at the tops of my aspen. i scrambled to the deck and sure enough, in the same cavity the pileateds had used to raise their young in 2009, a male saw-whet sang his song of surging testosterone.
it’s nice that when i can’t go to the owls, they sometimes come to me.