"....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.”
"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer
Sunday, April 30, 2006
-- More Commentary From J. Jackson --
Readers will be interested in the following recent comments from Jerry Jackson (pers. communication) now that the winter IBWO search is largely over. (Not everyone will agree with everything he has to say here, but always worth hearing his latest take on matters.) Dr. Jackson continues to straddle a delicate position between cautious and fading hope. Further updated commentary and analysis is included in the new paperback version of his book soon to be out (which, by the way, he warns me still has several typos in it, caught too late, though many errors from the first edition have now been corrected):
"In March, Dr. Peter Pechacek, a German woodpecker specialist, and I spent time in Bayou DeView, White River, the Singer Tract, and the Pearl River Swamp. We were interested in getting a close juxtaposition of those habitats in mind.... same season, etc. Bayou DeView (where I've been several times since October 2005) simply doesn't offer much of the right kind of habitat. White River has some wonderful habitat, but lots and lots of human visitors... Interestingly, Some of the habitat at White River is very much like that at the Singer Tract. Both were cut over at about the same time in the late 1930s and both have been more or less protected (some commercial logging) ever since. Species composition and presence of some nice large old trees are similar. If the birds are anywhere, they could be in either area. A key question is "What happened to the birds from the Singer Tract?" They could have just died, but I doubt it. Life is too resilient ... the will and urge to survive, too strong. The Singer Tract birds could have moved north along the Mississippi, ending up in White River, or they could even have remained in the "wings" at Singer Tract.... just to the south along the Tensas or elsewhere nearby. There's no evidence of Ivory-bills in recent decades in the Singer Tract, but I wouldn't discount the possibility. The habitat has been improving for more than 60 years and I believe they easily could survive there now. A pilgrimage to search for Ivory-bills should include time in that area.
We went into the Pearl River Swamp with the generous help and company of Mike Collins. The area was simply devastated by Hurricane Katrina... most large trees are on the ground. We kayaked up the Pearl River and into the swamp and I saw nothing that looked very promising, although habitat might be better in a few pockets deeper in.... not to say that they couldn't have been there or that they might not still be hanging on and trying to survive... but I'm not optimistic.
The bottom line is that we simply don't know and that the odds of there being Ivory-bills anywhere are rapidly fading as more and better search efforts come up empty-handed.
The Fakahatchee Strand area was cut over in the 1950s, although there are still a few bigger trees in there. It and the adjacent Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Big Cypress National Preserve, and some good private lands offer some hope.
I feel that the Congaree is possible too, but perhaps less of a possibility than more southern areas... don't know. I haven't been back there in nearly 20 years, though I'd love to get back there.
The Big Bend Area of north Florida (Aucilla, Wacissa, Apalachicola, Chipola, lower Suwannee rivers) was once the IB capitol so too speak.... more specimens from there than anywhere else. It still has some remote, more or less suitable habitat and offers possibilities as good as anywhere. But a lot of that land is owned by St. Joe Paper Company and is currently being sold off for "ranchettes."
I would be hard-pressed to say that any one of the sites I've mentioned stands above any of the others in terms of hope for the Ivory-bill.... they're all slim possibilities that deserve the search efforts going on. The efforts are needed now because habitat is being destroyed or isolated rapidly in many areas.
I'm also not discounting a few areas in Mississippi and eastern Georgia.
I want to believe.... and I'll keep searching and following leads."