These large, greenish, pointed buds belong to Necklace Poplar (Populus deltoides), also known as Eastern Cottonwood. This species is typically found along rivers, but has also been planted widely as a fast-growing shade tree. Large trees have deeply furrowed, gray bark and, often, spreading lower branches.
In the short time I've been back in Maine, I've grown quite fond of a couple of Necklace Poplars who live behind my home. Over the past few months, I've noticed that countless birds also appear to be fond of the trees. A Northern Shrike perched on an upper branch one morning this winter, a Rusty Blackbird made a tree-top visit last week, and the neighborhood American Crows, who prefer perching on dead middle-to-upper branches, visit the trees often. Downy, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpeckers also frequent the massive trees, where they drum on resonant branches. Small flocks of Eastern Bluebirds, American Goldfinches, and American Robins have rested in their branches, and nearly every morning I watch at least one Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped Chickadee, and White-breasted Nuthatch searching for sustenance. I'm astounded by the life that these trees attract, even in the depths of winter. As leaf-out approaches, I can only imagine what other encounters will take place in and around these special trees.