On the north side of Church Street, just west of John, there’s a big old sugar maple tree. Perhaps it was one of the trees planted in 1878. The then mayor of Orangeville, Joseph Patullo, decided the town needed more shade, so he and the Council offered 20 cents for each tree planted. I don’t think it’s as old as that but at some time in its history, the tree’s main trunk broke off, in an ice storm, perhaps.
Today the lower branches are thicker and sturdier than usual, having taken over the energy that would have otherwise gone into pushing the main trunk
higher. Near the top of the foreshortened trunk, there is one sturdy branch, still green and thriving and on the opposite side there is a hole, a deep rectangular cavern, the mark of a pileated woodpecker.
The pileated is a large woodpecker – about the size of a crow. If you’ve never seen one, the bird looks a lot like the creation of Walter Lantz – Woody Woodpecker.
Regardless of its size, the bird’s ability to dig such a deep hole in a maple is amazing. I’ve often seen the same sized holes in pines and other softwood trees, but this is hard maple. If you’ve ever set a screw or hammer a nail into maple wood, you know how hard it is. I’ll grant you, the top part of the trunk has likely deteriorated, may even be a bit rotten, and it was (I hope) full of larvae of some sort, gnawing away, but it still seems quite a feat. Just think about bashing your head against a maple tree how many hundreds of times to dig a hole that deep and wide. Would he get a headache?
I just hope he had a good feed to make the effort worthwhile.