For insect-eating birds like woodpeckers, snags are a buffet! The birds hammer into the wood with their beak, pulling out beetles and ants that thrive in the wood and create small cavities. The insects that live within the tree are usually feasting upon the dead wood, preventing the insects from instead turning to live trees as a food source. The exterior of the tree provides food too - lichens that grow on the dead trees also are a food source for plant-eating animals.
Woodpeckers will also create cavities in snags for roosting. Other birds, such as wood ducks and screech owls, can use these holes when the woodpeckers leave. Woodpeckers are primary cavity nesters, animals that can create their own holes in snags. Secondary cavity nesters are those which use old abandoned holes that were created by primary cavity nesters. Wood ducks, screech owls, kestrels, swallows, and flycatchers are all local secondary cavity nesters. The bark of the tree itself can be a home. Bats may live in the spaces under bark in standing dead trees or a careful observer might find an insect or a frog under the bark. Larger birds of prey, such as bald eagles and ospreys, often utilize snags as a nest site by constructing their home in the upper branches of the dead tree.
The snags at Neal Preserve were intentionally left at the site by land managers in order to provide habitat and serve the local wildlife community. You can save a snag too! If you have a dead tree in your yard or on your property consider leaving it in order to benefit the local wildlife. If you have to take it down, you can install nest boxes for cavity-nesting birds. Just remember that while these boxes will provide more nesting options they cannot totally replace the wildlife value of an intact snag. To learn more about incorporating snags into your home, please visit the National Wildlife's site
Anyone can claim this cache, but to be eligible for the Taking Flight Geo Tag you must examine the habitat at the cache site. In addition to finding the cache and logging your visit, you will need to become a land manager and survey the habitat to determine its suitability for red-bellied woodpeckers, a medium sized woodpecker common to the area. Find the cache, log your visit, make your observations and collect the following data for your passport:
- Date/time of visit
- How many snags are at the site?
- How many birds are at the site?
- Are there any nesting cavities, water resources, or food resources?
- Do you think this is good, viable habitat for birds?
Remember to write your data down in your passport.
Visit the sites along the Taking Flight GeoTour (TFGT) and learn about Manatee County’s wild spaces and the amazing feathered friends that live in them. Along the way, you will be challenged to become a citizen scientist, a preserve ranger, a detective, a historian, and of course an excellent geocacher in order to find all of the caches in the trail. Caches are located in birding “hot spots” throughout Manatee County’s publicly accessible conservation preserves. Each one highlights a specific bird species or aspect of bird life providing you with opportunities to learn more about these creatures and what we can do to help them survive. Caches also focus on protecting the region's waterways, bays, and natural watersheds, and habitat areas for many of our area’s feathered fliers.
The Taking Flight GeoTour includes 15 caches within Manatee County. A custom Taking Flight Geo Tour trackable geo tag will be awarded to the first 300 geocachers, while supplies last, for locating at least 12 TFGT caches. To be eligible for the tag, geocachers must download a passport
from the TFGT Website or pick one up at the Manatee County Natural Parks & Natural Resources Department office at GT Bray Park 5502 33 rd
Ave. Dr. W., Bradenton, FL., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Geocachers must log at least 12 finds, answer the question from each cache on their passport, and complete any additional requirements for specific caches (such as posting photos for earth caches). After finding a minimum of 12 caches, participants can have their passports validated in person or via mail at the Manatee County Natural Parks & Natural Resources Department office at GT Bray Park 5502 33 rd
Ave. Dr. W., Bradenton, FL 34209, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. News and updates on tag availability and validation hours can be found online at the Parks & Natural Resources Department's website
Thank you for assisting with the Taking Flight GeoTour: