The McDougal Lake
Snags are an important component of the forest community to many different types of breeding birds. Woodpeckers and nuthatches, which are primary excavators, carve nest sites in snags. Other birds, like swallows, chickadees, hawks, and owls use abandoned nest holes as their own. Song birds use snags as song perches from which they proclaim the surrounding territory theirs for breeding and foraging purposes.
Snags are also important to birds in procuring food. Besides the woodpeckers that drill into tree trunks looking for beetle larvae and other forms of insects, there are the bark gleaners, like chickadees and nuthatches, that probe under flaking bark and into crevices for food. Other birds may use the snags as perches from which they fly out to snatch insects out of the air and then return to the snags to resume scanning the air for more tiny morsels. Raptors, such as hawks and owls, also use snags as hunting perches. They search the ground for prey, pouncing quickly on unsuspecting quarry.
At the site of a second bench about two-thirds of the way through this hike, I watched adult yellow-shafted Northern Flickers bring food to nestlings in a cavity excavated in a dead aspen snag. The hungry cries of the youngsters drew my attention to the nest as they began screeching each time an adult arrived with a beak filled with caterpillars and other insects.
When you prepare for this hike, add a guidebook to flowers, birds, trees, or other wildlife to your pack, and spend an hour or two making your way slowly along this almost-one-mile trail. You may be astonished at what you discover.
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