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Trees dancing in the wind

Ranger Steve

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Karen finds greater joy in watching violent storms than me. I am a nervous sort who worries about the dangers. Trees waving branches every which way with some cast away gives me safety concerns. 

Once when camping, we heard a train roaring straight down a stretch of river toward our camp in wild country. We were the only campers in that campground. Friends were meeting us there the next day. 

When the roaring train reached us, it ripped the rainfly from the tent and flattened the fiberglass poles against us in our sleeping bags momentarily pinning us to the ground. It was a thrilling experience for both Karen and me. Her thrill was positive and mine full of fear. We did not anticipate a violent wind or storm in the middle of the night. Before erecting the tent, I had not checked the area to make sure no trees were unstable that might fall on us. Having our friends find us squashed under a heavy tree was not how we wanted them to greet us. 

When the wind passed, I sprang from the tent and ran through the pouring rain to capture our rainfly that had blown into the woods. Though ripped, we were able to secure it over our tent. The sudden straight-line windstorm came and passed quickly. Afterwards, we laid wet visiting in our sleeping bags and soon drifted back to sleep. 

Morning brought calm with bright sun. The following nights were peacefully quiet with friends. Karen shared the joyous excitement about the storm, and I shared anxiety. Wildlife seek protection during storms and at times experience disaster. 

A friend rescued flying squirrels from a hollow tree that blew down and killed the mother. Another friend found a nest of dead Baltimore Orioles whose pendulous nest crashed to the ground in heavy wind. Many stories are told about the trial’s wildlife experience during storms. Most of us never learn about them. What we hear about are the impacts of storms and power outages affecting our lives. News broadcasters make sure we hear about homes being washed away in Tennessee floods, communities destroyed by hurricanes, and towns burned to the ground in western wildfires. 

It is no wonder I am fearful of storm violence. They can be beautiful to watch but are frightening. This week a brief storm disturbed our lives. Power was lost with refrigerator/freezer items put in danger. We prefer power outages in winter when we can maintain home heat with the fireplace and relocate refrigerator items outside. Freezer items are still in jeopardy because it rarely is cold enough outdoors to match freezer temperatures. 

Wildlife work their best to find adequate shelter to wait out a storm, fire, or flood. Survivors pick up where they left off and continue life. We are devastated by losing our past when possessions are destroyed. We have friends that lost all pictures and family heirlooms in fires. Thankfully, they lost no family members. 

The most recent storm toppled a dead ash tree in the back yard where a hummingbird maintained a favored perch. Eastern Wood Peewees used the bare tree branches as scouting roosts to fly from to capture insects. It has been several years since emerald ash borers killed the tree. A friend asked if I wanted him to cut it down. I said no because I knew it would become a wonderful place for birds to land and for me to easily observe them from the back porch. It was far enough from the house that I did not need to worry about it falling and damaging our residence. 

A dead black cherry served a similar purpose for almost twenty years before it fell. Living trees are flexible and dance in the wind. Listening to the breeze rustle leaves is stimulating. Even after death the trees continue to brighten our lives by providing places for wildlife on their branches or in hollow trunks. Not enough dead trees stand for cavity nesting animals. Hollow live trees generally provide greater tree strength and serve as neighborhood residences. Allow as many live and dead trees to stand as possible. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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