News broke last week that county commissioner Phil Mitchell saw fit to kill several cottonwood trees in a county park near his home. Not sure exactly what his motive was. Maybe all those pesky birds that live in cottonwood communities were irritating him.
A study of a black cottonwood community in Grand Teton National Park back in the 1980s found a whopping 33 different species of birds living in a cottonwood patch in that park.
So I can understand Phil’s frustration.
I mean, the ruby crowned kinglet, a cool little bird with a bright red crest and a song that goes on forever could get really bothersome if you’re sitting on your deck trying to read your newspaper while you drink your morning coffee.
“Hey, keep that racket down!”
Ditto for the red-naped sapsucker. That pesky species has the gall to not only call early in the morning, it also rap-rap-raps on the wood with its beak during mating season.
Sounds almost like a jackhammer to any God-fearing bird hater. Why, I bet Phil is just grinding his teeth thinking about those sapsuckers.
Never mind that they eat their weight in nasty bugs each day. Ditto for the kinglets.
Black cottonwoods were coveted by Native Americans and settlers alike. The Arbor Day foundation has suggested they be named a national tree. For early settlers, the cottonwoods were the only trees on the plains and were used as gathering places and a respite from the heat of the long journey West.
But heritage shmeritage. Black cottonwoods have those pesky seed pods that float in the air and gasp! Land on things, like expensive cars and decks.
This will not do.
So Phil went over and killed the trees. Apparently girdled some, maybe used some herbicide on others.
He says he’s sorry.
The trees are good and dead. Of course, a dead cottonwood is not actually dead. For years, if the county doesn’t cut them down, they still host a variety of cool bird species. See, a woodpecker like that sapsucker will make a hole and build a nest, and then the next year a family of swallows will move into that old nest, or if the hole is big enough, a kestrel will take over.
Kestrels are also known as chicken hawks. They have a high pitched call and talk to each other all the time in the spring when they’re raising their young.
Phil ought to love that.
Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.