The mission of the Center for Northern
Woodlands Education is to advance
a culture of forest stewardship in the
Northeast and to increase understanding
of and appreciation for the natural
wonders, economic productivity, and
ecological integrity of the region’s forests.
Last March, I kept company with a red-breasted nuthatch who hunted insects
on a dying sugar maple outside the Northern Woodlands office. My second
floor window provided a close-up view of the trunk, so in between phone
calls, screen time, and interference with other people’s work, I had the privilege
of watching this funny, twitchy little bird.
As spring progressed, other birds shared in the bug buffet, and the tree
deteriorated from their attentions. I’m not sure who began excavating a hole in
the trunk – I suspect a downy woodpecker – but it grew steadily. For pure one-day destruction,
the prize went, improbably, to a European starling, who sat inside the by-then-bird-sized cavity
and tossed beakfulls of wood pulp into the air.
Our landlords took the tree down this past winter – a necessary safety precaution, but a
diminishment of my view. Recent office wildlife observations have been limited to the occasional
cluster fly banging on the window panes.
It turns out, there’s not much in the Northern Woodlands archive about how to identify
different birds’ tree excavations. This absence (let’s call it the “hole gap”) is good news editorially,
because it would make a fun future topic for The Outside Story. This is our weekly ecology
article series, supported by the Wellborn Ecology Fund, which also appears on a regular basis
in the magazine. Around the office, The Outside Story is fondly known as “The Hungry Beast,”
both because, as a weekly feature, it requires constant attention, and because it presents a
continuous challenge to come up with new, seasonally relevant topics.
Inspiration for the series came from Marguerite Wellborn, a writer, naturalist, and philanthropist, who penned a regular nature column in her hometown of Schenectady, New York. In
her will, she left a generous bequest to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to create a
fund dedicated to promoting public awareness of environmental and ecological issues in the
Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont. The Wellborn Ecology Fund has been the sole
supporter of The Outside Story since its first article in 2002, and this year is supporting the
publication of a second book compilation of articles from the series, due out in September.
We’ll include an official announcement of this new publication in our Autumn issue, but
for now, I encourage you to scroll through the full Outside Story archive, available on our
website: northernwoodlands.org/outside_story. There you’ll find a treasure trove of topics,
from the differences in how deer and people perceive color to the fleeting lives of fairy shrimp.
Not much there on bird holes, but that may change soon.
Congratulations to William and Lynn Fitzhugh and Patricia Liddle, winners of our fall quiz!
For a full list of answers, please see the editor’s blog on our website, published February 5.
Elise Tillinghast, Executive Director, Publisher
Center for Northern
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Richard G. Carbonetti
Wood Creek Capital Management
Starling Childs MFS
Ecological and Environmental
David J. Colligan
Colligan Law, LLP
Fernwood Consulting, LLC
Holiday Brook Farm
Julia S. Emlen Associates
Writer, Vermont Poet Laureate
Newbury, V T
Peter S. Paine, Jr.
Champlain National Bank
Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department
Dartmouth Medical School
The Center for Northern Woodlands
Education, Inc., is a 501(c)( 3) public
benefit educational organization.
Programs include Northern Woodlands
magazine, Northern Woodlands Goes
to School, The Outside Story, The
Place You Call Home series, and