The Answer is Yes!

Reporting and photography Derek Stoner, Education Program Assistant

The Question:  If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? 

Now, of course, the well-known caveat is if no one is around, does it still make a sound?

On Memorial Day evening at 7:07pm, I was walking through the Ashland Covered Bridge when I heard a loud popping sound, followed by much snapping,  then  a loud whoosh, followed by a resounding splash!  The entire noisy episode lasted about 5 seconds.

The fallen oak lays across(and in) the Red Clay Creek.
The fallen oak lays across(and in) the Red Clay Creek.

I immediately followed my ears to the scene of the dendrologic disaster,  knowing what I’d find.  Two hundred yards downstream from the bridge, an old Red Oak(Quercus rubra) lay astride the creek.  The tree’s trunk bore the signs of its ultimate demise:  jagged orange splinters of cambium layer with a black heartwood.  The inside of the tree is mostly hollow.

The Red Oak, snapped and splintered, nows lays at rest.
The Red Oak, snapped and splintered, nows lays at rest.

The oak, probably at least 125 years old, had rotted from the inside out.  On this day, the old giant lost its grip on the earth, and came crashing down.  During its descent, the oak took out the top of a young American Beech(Fagus grandifolia) tree.  

The bird nest, very much askew after the crash of a neighboring tree.
The bird nest, very much askew after the crash of a neighboring tree.

I noticed something interesting in the beech tree, which turned out to be an unusual bird nest.  I saw a mix of coarse twigs and strips of white plastic tucked against the trunk of the tree.  What have we here?

The pieces of the puzzle came into place:  since the beech tree was struck squarely by the falling oak (shearing off the top of the beech), the entire beech shook with the force of the impact. The bird nest jostled and fell apart.  At the base of the tree were more twigs from the nest, and a tell-tale feather. 

So who made the bird nest?  I know the answer.  Do you?  Please share your thoughts and comments. 

Enjoy unraveling the mysteries of nature.  And beware of falling trees!

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