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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)

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-- 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, November 09, 2005


-- Another Look Back: John Dennis --

...some more ivory-bill history to re-live: Ornithologist and writer John Dennis's reports of Ivory-bills in the Big Thicket area of Texas gained him notoriety and then discredit back in the 1960's. Below is part of the memorable account he wrote for Audubon Magazine in Dec. 1967. Others discounted his claims (which were never corroborated) and later he himself admitted to being overly-optimistic in his estimates of Ivory-bill numbers in Texas though he still believed they were present... as many others still do :
"... toward dusk I heard the tin trumpet-like sound that could only come from one source. I had last heard these notes in the swamps of the Chipola River in northwestern Florida in 1951...
Rain and impassable roads delayed my return to the locale until December 8th, when I made another discovery. Not far from where I had heard the call notes I found a living overcup oak with two fresh, squarish holes -- each about four inches in diameter -- penetrating a hollow trunk. Since the pileated woodpecker does not normally make square roost or nest holes or use living oak trees, I had good reason to believe that this was the work of an ivory-bill.
But when I returned two days later my crest of optimism was diminished. I could not even find the oak with the two squarish holes. All morning I took one compass bearing after another near the spot where I thought the roost tree should be. Then toward noon I wandered along the edge of a cypress-filled bayou. I had walked only a few yards when I was almost paralyzed with excitement by a sight that few have seen.
The bird had apparently been feeding near the ground. Effortlessly and almost gliding, it seemed, it rose from its feeding place, disappeared behind some trees, then reappeared for an instant on the trunk of a big dead cypress tree standing in the nearby bayou. Then before I could fully comprehend what I had seen, the bird vanished in the forest.
The wide white border at the rear edge of the upper wing convinced me beyond doubt that this was an ivory-billed woodpecker. A half-hour later I spotted the bird again. This time I saw what looked like a giant red-headed woodpecker perched on a stump, wings outspread in an attitude that suggested a threat display...
...on February 19th I was able to show Armand Yramategui an ivory-bill at almost the same spot. He saw the same features I did -- the the upper wing pattern, the long pointed tail, and the straight rather than undulating flight. He thought his bird had a black crest.
As I continued my search in this area through early winter, I found evidence of only one bird and this, in all probablility, was a female. My early elation gave way to apprehension. Was this the last ivory-bill in Texas? The last one anywhere?...
... looking back on the history of the ivory-bills’ tenuous survival through this century, I was comforted by the fact that the bird has always reappeared after long absences....

As I searched the Neches River valley during the winter of 1967, evidence began to point to a sizable ivory-bill population. Talking with hunters, fishermen, cattle raisers, lumbermen and oil company workers I found a few persons who had unquestionably seen ivory-bills. The details they gave me could not have come from any book. I also talked to the few hardy birdwatchers who, braving the mosquitoes, water moccasins and difficult terrain, had penetrated the swamps...
In February I found evidence of ivory-bills at still a third location. From a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plane, not only did I spot what was almost certainly an ivory-bill in flight, but the very location had been pinpointed by a woodsman as the place where he had seen one of the birds.
In April, May, and early June, I was again in Texas, this time under the auspices of the Endangered Species Research Station of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. Again my assignment was to search for ivory-bills, to interview people -- and to try to determine just how many birds there were and to locate their territories....
By the end of May, taking into account my own observations and the most trustworthy of those made by others, I made a rough estimate of the ivory-bill population in the Neches Valley. Instead of one forlorn bird, I could speak confidently of between five and ten pairs. This was most encouraging. But uppermost was the question of what could be done at this late date not only to save the ivory-bill from extinction, but to bring its numbers back to a safer level.
The situation is not at all hopeless. I am encouraged, first of all, by the birds’ ability to remain out of sight -- even to the extent of having “disappeared” in Texas for 62 years..."

-- John Dennis, R.I.P. (1916 - 2002)


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