I live just north of Newark. My trees (pines, pin oaks and dogwoods) all seem to be dying. They are dropping branches like mad. Many of these branches have lichens and some a strange giant raisin like fungus on them. My neighbors trees are affected as well. I would like to know what might be causing this and if it can be halted.
Usually a fungus will only attack either a conifer or a deciduous species, not both ... sounds like an environmental stress situation, especially since this encompasses a large area and numerous trees. Lichens will not kill a tree, they are there as a result of either cool/damp living conditions or taking advantage of a declining tree specimen. Is it possible to send me some photos (via. email) of the trees-in-question? If not, call me and we'll arrange for a site visit (302-730-4000). ~DOT
The tree limbs on the ground in your photos are experiencing a fungus that attacks dead and dying woody tissue. This is a normal decomposition process. Check the main trunk of the tree to see if there is damage to the root collar - a 'canker' or other bark blemish that is causing internal decline directly below the dead branch. You mentioned "latest windfall" ... it is very possible that the damage in the upper crown was caused by a wind or ice event a year ago or longer and you are now noticing the results. A recent wind event may have been just enough to bring down weakened branches.
I would suggest contacting a 'certified' arborist to have them come on site and evaluate the tree for a possible sanitation pruning. The only certification program in the US for arborists is through the International Society of Arboriculture: http://www.isa-arbor.com/findanarborist/findanarborist.aspx. Many local companies are promoting that they are certified arborist, when, in fact, they are definitely not qualified or trained to conduct proper work on a tree. Ask to see the person's ISA card. If they can not produce it or give you their ISA number to verify their credibility ... then do not hire them.
For a sanitation pruning, the arborist will climb your tree using a rope & saddle or a bucket truck and carefully remove only the dead limbs. Never allow someone to climb your 'live' tree using spurs attached to their legs - this will definitely kill the entire tree - as the spurs 'spike' the tree's living tissue. ~DOT