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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






Tuesday, March 25, 2014

 

-- A Voice From the Past --

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Most emails I get these days are fairly lame claims of Ivory-bill sightings, or else simple questions; occasionally I get some sort of story from someone's past which is a bit more interesting, but also lacking in details and/or credibility… but today I received an unexpected treat of sorts from someone who was actually there 70 years ago to see an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the Singer Tract (some writers claimed, when Nancy Tanner died, that she was the last living person to definitively have seen an Ivory-bill in the U.S.… but apparently NOT). So this is sorta coool!! (even if it adds nothing to current-day discussion).

Painter Donald Eckelberry was famous for sketching/painting a lone IBWO in the Singer Tract in 1944, that some take as the very last legitimate sighting in the U.S.  One time, several years ago, when I mentioned Eckelberry's experience on the blog, a few commenters actually took issue that he more likely saw a Pileated and faked the eventual painting(!)… anyway, today I received an email from one of the then-young boys who lived in the local John's Bayou log camp from 1943 to 1949, and was with Eckelberry on that fateful day, who'd stumbled upon that blogpost and felt compelled to respond. I post his reply here for sheer historical interest:
"I am the Bobby Fought [Faught] that was with my brother Billy when Don Eckelberry sketched the Ivory-bill near the Sharkey Road log camp in Madison Parish in 1944. I happened to be looking through the internet at the hoop-lah caused by the recent 'sightings' and can understand why someone on your blog questioned the validity of Don Eckelberry's sketch.
"Don did in fact see and sketch an Ivory-bill that day. I may now be an old man, however, I still remember my time in the log camp like it was yesterday. Our mother had recently died in Tallulah and dad was transferred from the Chicago Mill switch engine to one of the log camp's Heislers. The two oldest children, Billy and I, were old enough to go with him. I loved the woods and was sorry to see them cut down, but never thought in my wildest dreams they would be turned into soy bean fields. If I had been older and more experienced, I would have realized when the Corps of Engineers dredged out and ruined the scenic beauty and good fishing in the Tensas River, changes were under way. I roamed the Alligator Bayou area hunting and fishing south of the camp pretty openly; but was wary about hunting at all in the Singer Preserve on the north side of Sharkey Road. Mr Jesse Laird the game warden, kept a close watch there. I did explore the woods on the north side of Shakley Road, sometimes along Johns Bayou and crossed it when I went to Little Bear Lake deep in the woods, to fish. I found wild hogs and wolves were plentiful on Johns Bayou. For that reason, I always carried my little .22 rifle, but kept a low profile because of Mr. Laird.
"Any knowledge about the local Ivory-bills didn't come until we met Don Eckelberry and Mr Jessee Laird on the Johns Bayou Bridge, and were told we could go with him. The bottom line: My brother and I did go with Don, and Don did sketch the Johns Bayou Ivory- bill."  
Thanks so much for writing, Mr. Faught. I truly enjoyed hearing from you. [Mr. Faught also mentioned having been given a photo of the Cuban Ivory-bill back in those days, and said he would send that along if he could find it amongst his papers.]

And below, once again, the wonderful description Eckelberry gave of that fleeting moment in time, in April, in the Louisiana swamp, 70 years past:
"She came trumpeting in to the roost, her big wings cleaving the air in strong, direct flight, and she alighted with one magnificent upward swoop. Looking about wildly with her hysterical pale eyes, tossing her head from side to side, her black crest erect to the point of leaning forward, she hitched up the tree at a gallop, trumpeting all the way. Near the top she became suddenly quiet and began preening herself. With a few disordered feathers properly and vigorously rearranged, she gave her distinctive double rap, the second blow following so closely the first that it was almost like an echo -- an astonishingly loud, hollow, drumlike Bam-bam! Then she hitched down the tree and sidled around to the roost hole, looked in, looked around, hitched down beneath the entrance, double-rapped, and went in."
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