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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.
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"....The truth is out there."

-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

-- Hamlet

"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer






Wednesday, February 15, 2012

 

-- And, Back To Georgia --


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It's dif
ficult to truly say "back to" in the case of Georgia, since the state has never been as much a focus of IBWO searches as some other southern states. According to the officially-recognized original distribution of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the U.S., only a slim southern and eastern margin of Georgia was ever home to Ivory-billed Woodpeckers.

An employee of the large Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia recently posted on the Ivory-bill Researchers' Forum about his ongoing interest in the species, and in turn that jogged my memory about a quirky email I received from a friend over 10 years ago (…yes, I save most all IBWO emails!). It tells an undetailed story, not unlike a jillion others many of us have heard over the years, and I doubted at the time it had any significance… but, of course one always wonders… I posted the relevant part of the email at the Forum just in case it had meaning for anyone else, and I'll post it here as well:

"I spent the holidays at my sister's house in Savannah, GA. Three of us went into the Wild Birds Unlimited on Waters Avenue late on the 27th… We were all writing checks and looking at the photos of various birds that were at the counter. We looked at a picture of Pileateds and I mentioned it was too bad we didn't see as many as we saw when my sister first moved to Skidaway Island twenty-some yrs ago. The woman behind the counter very casually commented that her son-in-law has been watching a pair of Ivory-bills on his farm in Ellabell. She said, "he is an expert, well, almost a master birder" and that he was keeping it quiet because he didn't want hordes to descend on his place. She made it sound as if he has been watching this pair for some time."
This was written to me in January, 2002, well-before Cornell's Big Woods announcement (2006), but around the time that the Remsen/Zeiss search in the La. Pearl River region was taking place as the final major followup to David Kulivan's 1999 claims. My correspondent, by the way, sent the same information along to Van Remsen, but I don't know if he ever pursued it (and I can't recall, but I may have sent it along to some other folks, as well -- in any event, I never heard anything more of it). I truly doubt that this essentially third-hand story means much of anything, but throw it out at this late date just in case it does ring a bell or have significance for someone else out there.

Ellabell is in Bryan County near Savannah, Georgia, and interestingly, a serious IBWO claim (noted by Jackson and others) did come from that general area back in 1973. The Ogeechee/Savannah river basin is nearby, and is also considered, by some to be potential IBWO habitat. Having said that, most IBWO interest in Georgia has been focused farther south at the Okefenokee Refuge (where IBWOs did reside in the distant past) -- the refuge has been scoured so often I'm doubtful IBWOs are there… though once again, it is an area so expansive that it can never truly be scoured.
Parts of the Altamaha River basin (falling between Savannah and Okefenokee) are another area of significant interest, and Herb Stoddard's famous (and credible) claims from the 1940s/50s, came mainly from the Thomas County area over 100 miles to the west of Okefenokee. [Additionally, over the years one of my most persistent correspondents has made claims for the upper Savannah/Broad River basin, but has never been able to send me anything I could find persuasive.]


Here is a link to a 2005 post by Georgia birder Sheila Willis covering a little more of the IBWO history at the Okefenokee in Georgia:

http://www.listserv.uga.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind0510&L=gabo-l&F=&S=&P=16051

Finally, when Bill Pulliam did his own 2006 (Web/TerraServer) survey of promising southern habitat, he listed his conclusions for Georgia here:

http://bbill.blogspot.com/2006/03/georgia.html

IBWO sighting tales for the Apalachicola (FL.), the Atchafalaya (LA.), the Congaree (S.C.), the Big Thicket (TX.), and some other areas are almost a dime-a-dozen, and yet follow-ups never confirm. If Ivory-bills are actually encountered in these areas it almost seems as if they must be young, dispersing birds (passing through), and NOT resident breeding birds (which could be 100 miles away), to account for the lack of results. And thus, I'm always at least a tad intrigued by these claims from off-the-beaten-track locales paid little attention, that are near, but not directly in, traditional IBWO search areas.

The bottom-line question is, has Georgia very largely been overlooked (as far as large-scale searches go) in recent times for good reason... or is that neglect all the more reason to perhaps afford it yet another look?
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Comments:
You noted the 1973 GA claim. In June 1970, 2 biologists in the GA swamps recorded woodpecker sounds; no visual confirmation. The recordings were sent to Penn State where they were tentatively identified as Ivory Bill.
NOTE: I am not a robot, but I am very methodical.
 
If you are reading this I can tell you 100% Me and My Mother and Niece saw one of these rare gems today at Mid Day in a dead pine shredding its bark with awesome power. It was huge, had a very odd call, and had a red Mohawk style hair. It's head was much larger on my binoculars than these photos. It's wing span was that of a hawk and it's stripes were not as visible. This bird is extremely smart and aware of it's surroundings. As I moved it moved around the tree to stay out of sight. I will continue to watch this rare gem and post video online soon as I have it on surveillance with hd cameras now. I had an extra camera out of use and I'm setting it up to watch that tree daily now. I will never give my location. I want this bird to continue to live here as I have heard them for years but never laid eyes on it til today. I was very pleased to see I am one of very few to find and watch this bird. He was in my own back yard. Sincerely, Georgia Resident of 30 plus years.
 
The bird you saw was almost certainly a Pileated Woodpecker and not an Ivory-bill, unfortunately. Without giving a specific location, can you say what county you are in? And by all means do send along, or post, any video (or even still photos) that you're able to get and we can nail down an identification.
 
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