Friday, February 5, 2010

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers

This is the famous painting of 1 male and 2 female Ivory-billed Woodpeckers from John James Audubon's Birds of America.

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Specimen at Harvard

Originally posted 2/28/11 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, originally uploaded by hyperion327

This impressive looking, male Ivory-billed Woodpecker specimen is on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge, Massachusetts. According to the Onithology Information System (ORNIS) database, a total of 260 North American and 9 Cuban ivorybill specimens collected from March 7, 1844 to December 6, 1935 are housed in North American collections (not including any specimens that are housed in museums in Cuba). Most specimens were collected in Florida in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

The Top 5 holders of ivorybill specimens, according to ORNIS are:

Harvard, MA - 72
The Field Museum, IL - 38
The Smithsonian, DC - 35
American Museum of Natural History, NY - 27
The Academy of Natural Sciences, PA - 20

With regard to collecting any animal that has become endangered or worse, we'll probably never know how many were enough to collect, and how many were excessive.

From the ORNIS site:  

Over 5 million bird specimens are housed in North American collections, documenting the composition, distribution, ecology, and systematics of the world's estimated 10,000-16,000 bird species. Millions of additional observational records are held in diverse data sets. ORNIS addresses the urgent call for increased access to these data in an open and collaborative manner.

Photo by hyperion327, posted here under Creative Commons License.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker: Tim Gallagher Interview, plus a Lament from the Past

Originally posted 3/30/11 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

Tim Gallagher, ornithologist and author of The Grail Bird, relates his famed sighting of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the Big Woods of Arkansas, seven years ago, in a brief portion of this recent podcast by CBC Radio. The interview begins about 6 mins into the podcast.

The illustration at right is from an article entitled The Passing of Birds by Eugene Strong Rolfe which appeared in The Bay State monthly (1900), now in the public domain.  Rolfe's piece contemplates extinct and endangered wildlife at a time of rampant specimen collecting in the USA stating that:  

It is with keen regret that the mind contemplates the total extirpation of types that have heretofore ministered to our necessities or pleasures.  

This interesting albeit sad read can be found starting on page 413 of the monthly (page 430 of the pdf document), available for browsing or free download at Google books. 

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Search - Project Coyote Update

Originally posted 3/18/11 - backdated to organize posts by topic.
In February, I spent just over a week in east-central Louisiana with a couple of good friends in our ongoing search effort (dubbed Project Coyote) for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.  Our trip report includes several images of trees of interest and habitat, and a sound file of two possible double knocks that I heard in the field, but which are rather soft in volume on the recording.

Follow this link to find the update posted on March 17, 2011:  Project Coyote Updates

Photo taken in Singer Tract, Louisiana by Arthur A. Allen (April 1935).

Visiting Louisiana in the wintertime usually gives this New Yorker a welcomed break from the cold!  This time, the first half of the trip was frigid, with overnight temperatures in the 20s before it warmed up considerably for the rest of our days there.  I enjoyed meeting a few fellow searchers for the first time over dinner.  Of course, I always feel fortunate to spend time exploring and enjoying the wildlife and scenery of the Louisiana forests.  

On this trip, I saw dozens of armadillos roaming around the forest, rifling through the leaf litter with their long snouts looking for bugs and worms.  They got me curious, and upon returning home, I was surprised to learn that there are around 20 species of armadillos in the Americas!  The Nine-banded Armadillo you see here is the sole species that inhabits the USA.

Nine-banded Armadillo originally uploaded by billy3001

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Photos by Arthur A. Allen

Originally posted 1/16/11 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

Post updated on 2/1/2011 

Wikimedia Commons has posted this photo and a few others of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers at the Singer Tract in Louisiana that were taken by Arthur A. Allen of Cornell University.  This photo is accompanied with the following information at Wikimedia:

...Female Ivory-Bill returning to nest. Photo taken in Singer Tract, Louisiana by Arthur A. Allen (April 1935). From Recent observations of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (Auk) Volume 54, Number 2, April, 1937.
  This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 with a copyright notice, and its copyright was not renewed. 

The full-text of the aforementioned article by Arthur A. Allen is easy to find (search using his name in the author field) at the Searchable Ornithological Research Archive (SORA).  The image above and several other interesting images appear in the article.  You can find it here:

Cornell offers more images of the Singer Tract in Louisiana and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in its digital collections.  Some are in color and the images are definitely worth a look.  The entire collection of these images is not easy to retrieve with a single search, so try various keywords like ivorybill, woodpecker, and singer tract and a few searches if you want to find them.

Visit the Cornell University images here.

From past to present, Cornell shares details about a new book being written by leaders of the Cornell Lab’s Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Project and partner organizations in the Autumn 2010 edition of Living Bird Magazine.

Find the Living Bird article here.

Also, Don Ware of the Choctawatchee Audubon Society has conveyed several reports of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers along the Choctawatchee River in Florida.

Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpecker Photo by John Dennis

Originally posted 1/16/11 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

Wikipedia has posted this photo by John Dennis with the following information:

...showing a male Cuban Ivory-Bill from a last remnant of Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers in Cuba (Auk) Volume 65, Number 4, October, 1948.  This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 with a copyright notice, and its copyright was not renewed. 

On a related note, a post entitled Valle de Vinales at another blog says that Dr. Giraldo Alayon is currently working on a book about the Cuban ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers - A Podcast Interview with Ron Rohrbaugh from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Originally posted 2/2/11 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

Many people find the history and biology of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker to be nothing short of fascinating.  You'll either learn or be reminded why this is so by listening to this podcast interview with Ron Rohrbaugh, Acting Director of the Conservation Science Program at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.   Brought to you by The Wilderness Center, part one of the interview is about 20 minutes long, and is available now at about 26 1/2 minutes into Episode 95.  Part two in Episode 96 will be available on Thursday, February 3, 2011.

Click the logo below to find the podcasts.

The photo above by Arthur A. Allen is in the public domain according to Wikimedia Commons.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker - Project Coyote Update

Originally posted 12/15/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

Cassell's Book of Birds (1873)

My friend Mark Michaels recently returned from a trip to the Ivory-billed Woodpecker search area in east-central Louisiana that he and other Project Coyote team members have been focusing on over the past year.  

He's posted a trip report on the Project Coyote site, accompanied by several interesting photos, that details his further study of bark scaling characteristics and habitat quality assessments of nearby Wildlife Management Areas.  Follow the link below for the full report.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker - Podcast Discussion

Originally posted 10/15/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

Mark Bonta of Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi delivers very interesting commentary on the continuing search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker along with the Delta blues in a new podcast discussion.  Ivorybill comments begin just after 14 minutes into this podcast:

Geography of the Delta Blues and the Ivory-billed Woodpecker 

I was pleased to discover this illustration, new to me, amid an extensive collection of antique bird illustrations and bird photos.  The collection is available in a web album belonging to Avigraphicon at this link:
Avigraphicon's Public Gallery

Avigraphicon provides these notes on the book that this plate belongs to:

Captain Thomas Brown's illustrations following Alexander Wilson and Lucien Bonaparte's seminal text, originally published in the three-volume Jameson edition of the American Ornithology. These plates are from the later "Illustrations" volumes published between 1831 and 1835... Brown expanded the works of Wilson and Bonaparte to include 161 additional birds, and enlarged the illustrations of 87 others. 

Ghost Birds, by Stephen Lynn Bales

Originally posted 11/17/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

If you're at all curious to know what it's like to successfully search for, find and study the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, then you will enjoy the new book Ghost Birds: Jim Tanner and the Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, 1935–1941 by Stephen Lynn Bales.  I found it to be a truly fantastic read on so many levels.  

The author has set up a site for the book here:

And, Cyberthrush has written a nice review of the book at Ivory-bills Live.

If you read this at a later date and do not link directly to the review, you can find it in the post dated November 14, 2010 at Ivory-bills Live.

A Pair of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers - Specimens Photo

Originally posted 10/1/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

ivory bills, originally uploaded by slider5.
This pair of Ivory-billed Woodpecker specimens can be found at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. I've been mentioning raised crests frequently, and so I felt intrigued to see the raised crest on the male bird at right in this photo. It's something that you almost never see in ivorybill photos or specimens. I wonder what taxidermy technique was involved in raising the crest.

Many thanks to slider5 for granting permission to post this photo here.

Even more intriguing is a new report from Arkansas of a sighting of a pair of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers by Jackson Roe and his dad reported on Jackson's blog!  UPDATE: In a later post, Jackson Roe conveyed that the birds he and his dad saw were Red-headed Woodpeckers, not ivorybills.  Both types of woodpeckers have white patches on their backs.  Their search continues.

Let's all wish them the very best of luck in their future efforts to further document living ivorybills!

The Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpecker

It was nice to find this photo of a Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpecker specimen recently on Flickr, which was taken and posted there by Jim Forrest.  Jim wrote about this photo:

Found this specimen in a small Natural History Museum in Gibara, Cuba during a recent visit. Could not get info except that it was donated by Joaquin de la Vara a Naturalist from the area who donated many specimens to the museum. 

Quite a while ago, Jim also shared this photo of a pair of Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpeckers specimens with the related group I run on Flickr.   Jim wrote:

In Holguin, Cuba there are 2 specimens of Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpeckers at the Carlos Torres Natural History Museum in Holguin, Cuba which I have photos of also.

Both photos are posted here with his kind permission.

For 4 additional photos of this bird, see Tim Gallagher's article from 2007 here at Cornell''s site:

Four previously unpublished photographs of Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpeckers

Also, Wikipedia has a fairly substantial entry on this bird with an array of reference links here:

Recovery Plan for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker by USFWS

Originally posted 7/18/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

Recovery Plan
I thought I'd edit this recent post to announce the release of the Recovery Plan for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.   The direct link to the report is here:

At 168 pages, the report should make for very interesting reading to Ivory-billed Woodpecker, bird and wildlife enthusiasts.  Apparently, you can obtain a hard copy of the report by requesting one from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

You can find an interesting and thorough discussion of the Recovery Plan over at Ivory-bills Live.  Be sure to read the comments associated with the post at this link, entitled as follows (it's dated July 22, 2010, in case you need that info to find the post):

About the Illustration
The head and bill of a male Ivory-billed Woodpecker appear in this reproduction of a watercolor. The illustration is within the public domain, and it appears in Key to North American Birds, 1903 (5th Edition).  Here is a curious excerpt from that book on the Imperial Woodpecker, and another excerpt on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker:

CAMPE'PHILUS.  IVORY-BILLS.  Containing the largest and most magnificent known Woodpeckers, of several species, peculiar to America.  The Imperial Woodpecker, C. Imperialis, comes in Chihuahua within 50 miles of our border, and will no doubt be found in the mountains of S. Arizona or New Mexico.  It is larger than the Ivory-bill, with no white stripe on the next, and black nasal tufts.  It has been attributed to the U.S., but I have never felt at liberty to use the Key on the lock of futurity. 

IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER.  WHITE-BILLED LOGCOCK.  A large powerful bird of the S. Atlantic and Gulf States, formerly N. to No. Carolina along the coast, to the Ohio river in the interior; range restricted of late years, almost coincident with maritime regions, N. and W. only to portions of S. Car., Ga., Ala., Miss., Ark., and very small part of Texas; still locally common in the dark heavily-wooded swamps, but very wild and wary, difficult to secure.  Nests high in the most inaccessible trees; hole deeps, with oval opening; eggs 3-4, 1.35 X 1.00, in an average, varying moderately, somewhat pointed, highly porcellanous; they are laid early, sometimes even in February, oftenest in March, April, and early in May.

 To find the full book, Key to North American Birds, at Google Books, click here.

A New Book
And from that old book to one that's new and upcoming, we have Ghost Birds: Jim Tanner and the Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, 1935–1941 by Stephen Lynn Bales due out in mid-November.

Here's an excerpt from the book description available at UT Press's site:

Drawing on Tanner’s personal journals and written with the cooperation of his widow, Nancy, Ghost Birds recounts, in fascinating detail, the scientist’s dogged quest for the ivory-bill as he chased down leads in eight southern states.

Newly Found Photos of a Young Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Originally posted 8/23/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

If you'd like to see several newly found photos of a young Ivory-billed Woodpecker, check out a very interesting article by Stephen Lyn Bales at the Smithsonian Magazine site:   

Be sure go to the Photo Gallery at the link below to see the photos! 

Stephen Lyn Bales is the author of the upcoming book:

Woodpeckers of the World

Originally posted 10/15/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

Gerard Gorman, recently launched Woodpeckers of the World, a blog "focusing on the wrynecks, piculets, sapsuckers, flickers, flamebacks and woodpeckers (Picidae) of the world" that is already an attractive and remarkable resource.  It aims to deliver photographs, sounds, habitats, data & discussion on the world's Picidae.  Here's the link:

Woodpeckers of the World

Gerard G. is the author of Woodpeckers of Europe: A Study of the European Picidae, and runs a wonderful blog that goes by the same name "dedicated to the 10 species of woodpecker (Picidae) that breed in Europe: 9 resident species and the migratory Wryneck."

Here's a link to his blog:

Woodpeckers of Europe

Notes:  The illustration above is within the public domain.  It comes from Volume 2, Plate 4 of the 9 volume American Ornithology (1808-1814) by Alexander Wilson and depicts Pileated, Ivory-billed and Red-headed Woodpeckers. 

Ivory-billed Woodpeckers - 3D View at Naturalis

Naturalis is the website of the National Museum of Natural History in the Netherlands.  At Naturalis, you can find 3D images of specimens from the Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam including an Imperial Woodpecker, a Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpecker and a US Ivory-billed Woodpecker .  See these birds, for example:


Early Audubon Drawings & Project Coyote Update

Originally posted 5/13/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

This post may be old news to some of you.  But only recently, I was excited to discover an 1812 illustration of a male and female Ivory-billed Woodpecker by John James Audubon.  The image you see below is one of 116 drawings that appear in Audubon: Early Drawings by Harvard University Press published in 2008.  For more information about the book:

Also, check out a pleasing arrangement of several drawings from the book:

Incidentally, Wikipedia Commons has a large file version of Audubon's more renowned, later drawing of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker from Birds of America.

And in case you haven't heard yet...

On a related note, the Project Coyote site that details the ongoing search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in east central Louisiana was recently updated.  It's a very interesting read.  The update by Mark Michaels focuses on woodpecker anatomy and what it may imply in terms of foraging sign.

Why does it matter? 

Distinguishing Ivory-billed Woodpecker foraging sign from that of other woodpeckers could go a long way toward locating extant populations of this elusive bird.

There are also several photos, including scaling on a live tree, from an earlier update at the Project Coyote site (it's on the same page as the latest update) where Mark M. writes:

This update includes an image of scaling on a live tree (a Nutall oak, we suspect) in our search area.  We've had several requests for close-ups of scaled trees, showing evidence of insect infestation and are providing a number of examples.

And so the search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker continues in Louisiana.

Two Accounts of Ivory-billed Woodpecker Sightings

Originally posted 4/8/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

From present to past, you can hear two accounts of Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings in this brief video.  Gene Sparling is up first, describing his 2004 sighting while kayaking in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.  Next, Fred Carney relates his 1938 sighting of three Ivory-billed Woodpeckers at the famed Singer Tract in Louisiana.

The video comes from a Memphis PBS station.  Thanks to Cyberthrush over at
Ivory-bills Live, where I found it.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Search - Update

 Originally posted 3/27/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

Two weeks ago, I posted news about Project Coyote, an ongoing Ivory-billed Woodpecker search effort in east central Louisiana.  We've added an updates page to the Project Coyote website.  This week's update focuses upon foraging sign, including several close-up photos in response to requests we've had for additional information.  We will keep you posted as the search continues.

New Book on Jim Tanner's Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Originally posted 5/30/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

 Illustration © Stephen Lyn Bales

Here is an exciting update from author Stephen Lyn Bales about his upcoming book:

I hold in my hands the proof pages of “Ghost Birds: Jim Tanner and 
the Quest for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, 1935-1941.”

The book will detail the story of Dr. James T. Tanner, his study of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and his extensive quest for the bird that involved a journey over eight southern US states.  It's due out in early fall.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Search in East-Central Louisiana

Originally posted 3/12/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

So much has been written about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker that I created this site, in part, to give its fantastic relatives more exposure!  After all, aside from the Ivory-bill and the largest woodpecker in the world, the Imperial Woodpecker, the other 9 species of Campephilus woodpeckers are all undoubtedly alive and well.   All 11 species of these large Campephilus woodpeckers are splendid creatures who warrant our deep admiration.

So what of the Ivory-bill?  Some people, including yours truly, believe that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has persisted into the 21st Century.  Others disagree.  This winter, I participated in my 6th and most eventful search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the southeastern U.S.  For details about what my team saw and heard in Louisiana in late January:

Letters from Alabama (1859)

This public domain image of a pair of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers is from Letters from Alabama by Phillip Henry Gosse, published in 1859.  I first came across this book through a post at the Ivory-bill Rsearcher's Forum.  The author's account details the fact that he found cherries in the stomach contents of the birds.  It's an interesting read.

Reimagining Alexander Wilson's Ivory-billed Woodpecker

Originally posted 3/18/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

If you are familiar with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, then you've probably read Alexander Wilson's  amazing account of capturing a live Ivory-bill in North Carolina in the early 1800s. As he arrived at his hotel with the bird under cover, people were "alarmed at what they heard" because the Ivory-bill's cries resembled "the violent cries of a young child." They laughed with relief when Wilson revealed the bird to them!
Wilson said:

In less than an hour I returned, and, on opening the door, he set up the same distressing shout, which now appeared to proceed from grief that he had been discovered in his attempts at escape. He had mounted along the side of the window, nearly as high as the ceiling, a little below which he had begun to break through. The bed was covered with large pieces of plaster; the lath was exposed for at least fifteen inches square, and a hole, large enough to admit the fist, opened to the weather-boards; so that, in less than another hour he would certainly have succeeded in making his way through.

If you know the story, then you'll recall the mahogany table that this unconquerable bird shattered to bits when Wilson left the room again! Ultimately, the story is heartbreaking, and especially so to Ivory-bill admirers.  The bird died within just 3 days in captivity.

Read Reiko Goto’s‘re-imagination’ of Wilson’s tragic conclusion…

The artwork above is one part of an illustrated text by the artist Reiko Goto. The drawing is a reproduction of Wilson’s Ivory-billed Woodpecker from American Ornithology, volume 4 (1811). To read Reiko’s re-imagined story click here:

Reiko Goto is an ecological artist living and working in Scotland. She is currently a PhD researcher at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. Previously she has been a research fellow at Carnegie Mellon University (1997-2005). Goto’s current research “Empathetic Relationship with Ecological Art” involves a sound-based experimental approach to human interaction and empathy with trees. The work is informed by readings such as ‘On the Problem of Empathy’ by Edith Stein (3rd Edition 1989). The text was originally published in German in 1917.

The Lord God Bird

Originally posted 4/3/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

The Lord God Bird from $10productions on Vimeo.
Thought I'd post this curious video about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker It's accompanied by interesting visuals and described as follows on Vimeo.

sung by Sufjan Stevens

a story retold by tim and john
about a bird that decides to come back
even if only for a glimpse

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Classification

There are either 11 or 12 Campephilus species depending on how the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is classified.  Scientists who analyzed mitochondrial DNA of museum specimens reported in 2006 that their data suggested that the Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpecker and the US Ivory-billed Woodpecker should be considered as separate species in Mid-Pleistocene divergence of Cuban and North American ivory-billed woodpeckers by Robert C. Fleischer, et al., Biol Lett. 2006 September 22; 2(3): 466–469.  Published online 2006 May 16. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2006.0490.  

Historically, they had been considered to be the same species. 

The American Ornithologists' Union Committee on Classification and Nomenclature is the ultimate authority on the issue, according to the issue of BirdWatch at this link.

Ivorybill Art by Matt Adrian

Thanks to Matt Adrian for granting permission to post his extraordinary 
Ivory-billed Woodpecker paintings here!

To see more of the artist's work,
 visit his blog, The Mincing Mockingbird.

Matt Adrian. Acrylic on canvas. 2008

Fame Is Nice and All, but I'd Rather Be Alive.  
Matt Adrian. Acrylic on canvas. 2008.

I Have Migrated Back Beyond The River Styx, And I Would Like A Word
Matt Adrian. 18" x 24" acrylic on panel

Ghost Birds: Jim Tanner and the Ivory-bill 1935 - 1941

Originally posted 3/31/10 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

 Artwork illustration © Stephen Lyn Bales

If you're in the vicinity of Knoxville, Tennessee on April 15th, visit Ijams Nature Center at 5:30 p.m. when naturalist and author Stephen Lyn Bales will host a Science Café event and talk about his upcoming book Ghost Birds: Jim Tanner and the Ivory-bill 1935 - 1941.  The book is due to be published by the University of Tennessee Press this fall.  The Ijams Nature Center is a 175-acre wildlife sanctuary and environmental learning center located along the banks of the Tennessee River just 5 minutes by car from downtown Knoxville.

The Woodpecker by Samuel Brett Williams

Originally posted 2/20/11 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

The famed Ivory-billed Woodpecker continues to inspire artists, like playwright Samuel Brett Williams, whose new play The Woodpecker premieres soon at The Mutineer Theatre Company in Los Angeles California.  Here is a bit more about the play, and you can click the image above for more details.

“Believin’ ain’t hard when believin’s all ya’ got.”  It's Jimmy's last day before going to war, he's addicted to glue, his mom is seeing visions in the sweet potato casserole, and his wheelchair-bound dad can kick his ass. Oppressed by his father’s abusive expectations, his mother’s delusional addiction, and the sweltering heat of the Arkansas summer, Jimmy turns to the only friend he has and pleads for help. God answers him with the rare and elusive Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Lured by aspirations of heroism and his father’s insistence that he’s nothing more than a freak, Jimmy embarks beyond his family’s trailer park on an embattled exploration of faith and freedom. Trapped in a land where the line between right and wrong is easily blurred, Jimmy must decide for himself if he has what it takes to be a hero.

Running March 5, 2011 - April 3, 2011, with performances,
 Fridays & Saturdays @8pm, Sundays @7pm. 

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Illustration

Originally posted 7/30/11 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

From Mark Yuhina, we have this splendid illustration of a male Ivory-billed Woodpecker, posted here with the artist's permission.   Mark recently posted it on his blog where you can see more of his work.  Here's the link:

When I inquired about this illustration,  Mark mentioned that he "examined some specimens from a museum to get a more accurate morphology.  In the future, I am planning to illustrate more birds in this genus." Let's hope he does!

Ghost Bird Movie

 Originally posted 4/17/2010 - backdated to organize posts by topic.

Ghost Bird is a documentary film by Scott Crocker about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker search in Arkansas that began in 2004.  The film makes its theatrical premiere in New York City, playing at 7:00 pm nightly from April 28 - May 4 at Anthology Film Archives as part of their For the Birds series of notable bird films.  Producer/Director Scott Crocker will be present for the Friday and Saturday screenings in NYC.

By far, my favorite element of the film was the interview footage with Mrs. Nancy Tanner, the wife of renowned Ivory-billed Woodpecker researcher Jim Tanner.  Mrs. Tanner comments on her experience observing Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the Singer Track in Louisiana before that magnificent old growth forest got transformed into a soybean field.  Her fascinating commentary is accompanied by old, black-and-white video footage of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in slow motion and scenes of Mrs. Tanner flipping through large-sized prints of photographs that are now familiar to many from her husband's study on the bird.  This part of the film best conveys the sheer sense of wonder in contemplating the largest woodpecker of the USA.

As the film progresses, the tension builds between believers of the bird's continued existence and the skeptics.  And then Ghost Bird quickly comes across as unbalanced.  To a degree uncertain, by sheer virtue of who did and who did not participate in the film, the skeptics have the stronger voice 

I would have liked to hear a few convincing Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings straight from the source.  Earlier this week, the Ghost Bird site had two clips available that detail Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings.  The clips do not appear in the film, nor are they available at the site anymore.  The first clip was an interview with Mary Scott timed at 6 mins 50 secs long.  Mary Scott has a site called Birding America where she details the same 2003 Arkansas sighting that she described in the clip.  David Sibley is quoted in this clip as saying that:
"Just as a written description, I found her sighting most compelling of all of these.  She describes more than just he standard field guide description.  She adds a couple of details that really makes me think she saw it."  

The other clip is shorter and shows Timothy R. Barksdale, cameraman for Cornell's search effort and research associate, conveying a convincing sounding story to schoolchildren of his sighting of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker flying down the main channel of the river that he was canoeing on before it veered off through the forest.  

Two other films on the same topic are Woodpecker (to me like a mini-Ghost Bird with a fun comedic, fictional twist) and The Lord God Bird (that I have not seen yet, and including participation by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Nature Conservancy).

There is a lot to enjoy in Ghost Bird.   It's got a cool soundtrack too.  If you've got the slightest interest in the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, go see it when you have the chance!

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