We have an ash tree in our backyard. When we looked out the window the other day, some of the bark on either side was badly scraped. At first, we thought maybe a bear had been climbing it.
Then, a piece of bark dropped down from higher up the trunk and we saw a pileated woodpecker, pecking assiduously and creating more places with almost no bark left. Although the pileated woodpeckers are far and away the largest, there are hairy and downy woodpeckers joining the party, too, creating an ever-growing patch of stripped bark on the ground.
Obviously, the tree is very sick. The wood underneath is spongy instead of hard and woodpeckers generally can’t strip bark like they have been here. We have called a tree service to evaluate, but it seems to fit the signs of infestation by emerald ash borer.
We had hoped the tree would be spared because the immediately surrounding trees are not ash, but adult insects can travel about half a mile from their source, so it was probably inevitable.
Ironically, we were getting ready to call the tree service to look at one of our maples, which seems to be dying back and may have verticillium wilt, which is caused by a soil fungus. There is a second maple that is very close to the ash tree which may need to be removed as well. It’s possible that all three of the mature trees closest to our house on the south side may be cut down, which is not good news on the air conditioning front, although our new heat pump will decrease our cooling costs a lot compared to our old central air unit. It may mean though, that we can get enough sun to grow small trees, shrubs, and flowers. We used to have a vegetable garden in the backyard, but it became too shaded. (It also got eaten by groundhogs who could easily climb the fence around the garden, but that is another story.) We may also have less moss in the yard, although I prefer more wildflowers instead of more grass.
It could also mean that we have to re-landscape on all sides of our house, given that our front and side yards are torn up from the drilling and burying of the outdoor part of our geothermal system. Given that we have had cold weather earlier than usual this year, we may have to wait for spring.