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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, December 05, 2007


-- Passages --


Just some passages today quoted from Cornell's recent summary report:

"We have long hypothesized that the WRNWR was the likely “source” for the bird(s) documented in 2004 and early 2005, justifying continued searching in this large area."

"Throughout the 5-month field season, the official search team logged 24 possible IBWO encounters that included sufficient detail to warrant the completion of field observation forms and entry into our database. The search team followed up on all of these encounters by reviewing all reports and evidence and redirecting specific search efforts when appropriate. Thirteen encounters were acoustic and eleven were visual. Cornell volunteers reported 10 encounters, 8 were reported by search team staff, and 6 visual encounters were reported by the public."

"Most of the encounters reported by our staff and volunteers in 2006–07 consisted of short visual or audio detections. A few encounters, involving longer periods of observation, have been reported by members of the public, but in these cases the observer’s lack of bird-identification experience has clouded definitive identification of the bird. Nonetheless, each year a handful of detections stand out above the dozens that we review.
In 2006–07, there was a concentration of potential detections at the Wattensaw WMA. These included seven visual and eight acoustic encounters. Although none were definitive, two sightings by R. Everett (a hunter) and one by A. Mueller (AR TNC) were particularly notable. On 31 December Everett described watching a perched bird for 7–8 minutes. During his observation he reported seeing a white “saddle” on the bird’s back consistent with IBWO. Mueller’s sighting is notable because of his extensive bird-identification experience and familiarity with bottomland hardwood forest ecosystems."

"Although no single detection was definitive, the concentration of potential encounters during a short period of time in the relatively small Wattensaw WMA justifies follow-up search efforts. In 2007–08 we plan to conduct thorough searches of Wattensaw WMA and surrounding private lands, including cavity inventories and associated deployments of Reconyx cameras."

"In 2006–07 we searched 5,269 ha that had been previously unsearched, bringing the total search coverage to 36,732 ha or about 16.5% of the total forested area of the Big Woods. Much of the new area added was a result of searching Wattensaw WMA, which previously received very little search activity. With the exception of Jack’s Bay, Prairie Lakes, and the BDV/Dagmar complex, a high proportion of our search area (74%) received coverage in only one of three years. Furthermore, our spatial analyses of cumulative search effort and habitat suitability reveal that the North Unit of the WRNWR has the largest remaining area of unsearched and potentially suitable habitat for IBWOs."

"A primary goal for the 2007–08 field season will be to complete thorough searches of identified areas of suitable habitat in the North Unit of WRNWR and make repeat visits to prioritized patches previously receiving only one visit. Accomplishing this goal will require a change in strategy. As opposed to large teams of staff and volunteers working from permanent housing in St. Charles, we plan to establish a team of four to six field biologists who will use Cook’s Lake as a base camp. The team will camp in the forest near potential search areas in the North Unit to facilitate early morning and late day coverage."

"The central Pascagoula basin is excellent habitat and ranks second only to Congaree National Park as an area of high quality hardwood habitat for IBWOs."

"Several of the search areas explored by the Mobile Search Team stand out as high quality habitat with the potential to support IBWOs. Areas that best match Tanner’s description of habitats occupied by the species in the Singer Tract in the 1930s are Congaree National Park (SC) and the Big Swamp in the Pascagoula drainage (MS). Areas with old cypress-tupelo forest resembling the woodpeckerrich forests of Bayou de View are found at Duck Lake and Upper Flat Lake in the Atchafalaya basin (LA). In the Cutoff Island region of the Apalachicola drainage (FL) a mix occurs of maturing hardwoods and old cypress-tupelo stands. The Pascagoula (MS), Escambia (FL), and Big Thicket/ Steinhagen Lake (TX) areas have increased numbers of standing dead trees in the wake of recent hurricanes. With the exception of Congaree, all of these areas have now been searched or scouted for less than 30 person-days, and they include large or fairly large areas of potential habitat. More search effort is needed in these areas of high quality habitat. Areas that have not yet been explored and may have potential include the Mobil River (AL), the Savannah River on the GA-SC border, and several additional rivers in Florida."

....and we'll finish with the words of Roger Tory Peterson upon seeing Ivorybills in the Singer Tract in 1942 (from his "Birds Over America" volume):

"By noon, we were back at the spot, down the road, where we had seen so many diggings the day before. We would make another sortie before throwing in the sponge. Hardly had we gone a hundred yards when a startling new sound came from our right --- an indescribable tooting note, musical in a staccato sort of way. For a moment it did not click, but then I knew --- it was the Ivory-bill ! I had expected it to sound more like a nuthatch; it was much more like the 'toy tin trumpet' described by Alexander Wilson or the 'clarinet' of Audubon. Breathlessly we stalked the insistent toots, stepping carefully, stealthily, so that no twig would crack. With our hearts pounding we tried to keep cool, hardly daring to believe that this was it --- that this was what we had come fifteen hundred miles to see. We were dead certain this was no squirrel or lesser woodpecker, for an occasional blow would land -- whop! -- like the sound of an axe. Straining our eyes, we discovered the first bird, half hidden by the leafage, and in a moment it leaped upward into full sunlight. This was no puny pileated; this was a whacking big bird, with great white patches on its wings and a gleaming white bill. By its long recurved crest of blackish jet we knew it was a female. We were even close enough to see its pale yellow eyes. Tossing its hammer-like head to the right and left, it tested the diseased trunk with a whack or two as it jerked upward. Lurching out to the end of a broken-off branch, it pitched off on a straight line, like a duck, its wings making a wooden sound."

Good luck to all the 2007-8 searchers as a new season gets underway.


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