Black Oaks are beautiful trees. And this shot, if I do say so myself, is a rather crisp image of the dark, deeply fissured and rugged bark of Quercus velutina. This is a tree that withstands the ages. Black Oaks favor rough, nutrient-deficient soils, and often occur in habitats where scorched earth policies rule, at least in the olden days. Prairie wildfires were essential in maintaining midwestern savanna habitats that this this thick-barked oak thrives in. Its outer husk is tough enough to ward off the conflagrations that would kill lesser timber, thus perpetuating oak dominance. A Black Oak of this size has been around a long time, and seen a lot. Who knows how many species of birds have graced its boughs. How many pounds of lichens have lived and died on the robust trunk. Kilos and kilos of acorns have fed dozens and dozens of squirrels, deer, and other critters. Yep, untold scores of other plants and animals have consorted with this giant over the decades; it has played a vital role in the ecological web of the sand prairie where we found it growing.
But look at the bark closely. Another animal is right before our eyes.
Coming into focus a bit better now that we've moved in? Gotta look close - we are viewing one of the masters of camouflage, a critter far easier heard than seen.
There. I'm sure you see the Gray Treefrog now. Oaks. They aren't just for squirrels.