"extinct" ivory billed woodpecker found |shearluck|lewisoll@yahoo.co.uk|04/28/05 at 22:38:07|shearluck|thumbup|0|62.253.64.24 62.255.32.17|[quote]'Extinct' woodpecker found alive

The spectacular ivory-billed woodpecker, which was declared extinct in 1920, has been found alive in North America, Science magazine reports.
The news has stunned ornithologists worldwide, with some comparing the discovery to finding the dodo.

Researchers began an intense year-long search after a tip-off before finally capturing the bird on video.

The find has ignited hope that other "extinct" birds may be clinging on to survival in isolated places.

'Finding Elvis'

"This find is so significant that it is really difficult to describe," Alistair Gammell of the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds (RSPB) told BBC News. "We sadly won't rediscover the dodo, but it is almost on that level."

Frank Gill of the National Audubon Society added: "This is huge, just huge. It is kind of like finding Elvis."

The "stunning" red, white and black woodpecker was formerly distributed across the south-eastern United States and Cuba.


It's like a funeral shroud has been pulled back
Tim Gallagher,
editor of Living Bird magazine  

The bird carves out a narrow niche for itself by drilling in mature trees, and logging and forest clearance for agriculture began to impinge on its environment.

By 1920 it was assumed extinct, although there was one more confirmed sighting in North America of a lonely unpaired female, above the remnants of an over-cut forest.

Since then, decades of searches yielded nothing and hope gradually faded away.

Now, finally, the bird has been seen again in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas.

The discovery was first made on 11 February 2004 by Gene Sparling of Hot Springs, Arkansas, who was kayaking in a reserve in Big Woods. He saw an unusually large red-crested woodpecker fly towards him and land on a nearby tree.

He said the creature did not look quite like anything he had seen before, so he contacted Cornell University's Living Bird magazine.

After a team of experts interviewed him, they felt they might be onto something special.

A second chance

John Fitzpatrick, of Cornell University in the US, headed the search party, which included Tim Gallagher, editor of Living Bird.

Within a month, Dr Gallagher had seen the ivory-billed woodpecker for himself.

Describing the moment he first set eyes on it, he said: "Just to think this bird made it into the 21st Century gives me chills.

"It's like a funeral shroud has been pulled back, giving us a glimpse of a living bird, rising Lazarus-like from the grave."

The team finally went on to capture the bird on video, which allowed them to confirm its identity.

Among the world's largest woodpeckers, the ivory-bill is one of six North American bird species suspected or known to have gone extinct since 1880.

"This provides hope for [other] species classified as potentially extinct," said Stuart Butchart of BirdLife International.

It also offers an extra incentive to protect the habit of the ivory-bill, as well as other birds.

"Amazingly America may have another chance to protect the future of this spectacular bird and the awesome forests in which it lives," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

"It is the most beautiful bird we could imagine rediscovering. It is a magical bird.

"For those of us who tenaciously cling to the idea that man can live alongside fellow species, this is the most incredible ray of hope."

[img]http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/41086000/jpg/_41086929_woodpecker250.jpg[/img]

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/sci/tech/4493825.stm

Published: 2005/04/28 18:59:37 GMT

© BBC MMV
[/quote]

Fantastic News :D
A story like that gives real hope that other animals may have clung on by the skin of their teath too. (did I hear someone mentioning tazzie tigers? ;) )||04/29/05 at 15:07:16|shearluck Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:38:08|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|Birdwatchers sob as 'extinct' woodpecker found after 60 years
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
(Filed: 29/04/2005)

A giant woodpecker thought extinct for more than half a century has been found in a swamp forest in America, ornithologists reported yesterday.

The ivory-billed woodpecker has been seen in the Big Woods of Arkansas, a "landmark discovery" that caused excitement among ornithologists.

The first of them to confirm the sightings was reduced to tears.

The striking bird, which is the largest woodpecker in North America, and valued for its magical powers by Indians, vanished after millions of acres of forest were cleared from the 1880s.

The last conclusive sighting was in 1944. Now it seems that at least one male survives. No one knows how many of the elusive birds, which can live for about 15 years, are left.

Detailed findings, published today in the journal Science, include 15 sightings and video footage.

The evidence was gathered during a secret year-long search in the Cache River and White River wildlife refuges involving more than 50 experts and field biologists led by Cornell University and the Nature Conservancy.

"America may have another chance to protect the future of this spectacular bird," said Dr John Fitzpatrick, the lead author of the report. "I can't express how thrilling it is for a bird guy to be involved in the rediscovery," he said.

"This is not any old bird. This is a really special creature."

The breakthrough came with a possible sighting by a kayaker, Gene Sparling, in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge on Feb 11 last year.

Tim Gallagher, editor of Living Bird magazine, and Bobby Harrison of Oakwood College, Huntsville, Alabama, interviewed Sparling and they were so convinced that they went back to the same bayou.

On Feb 27 a large bird flew less than 70ft in front of Gallagher and Harrison, who together cried "ivory-bill!"

"When we finished our notes," Gallagher said, "Bobby sat on a log and began to sob, saying, 'I saw an ivory-bill. I saw an ivory-bill.'"

Gallagher said he was too choked with emotion to speak. "Just to think this bird made it into the 21st century gives me chills. It's like a funeral shroud has been pulled back, giving us a glimpse of a living bird, rising Lazarus-like from the grave."

Yesterday, US Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced an initiative to identify funds "to recover this magnificent bird."

Alistair Gammell, International Director of the RSPB, said: "This bird's rediscovery is not quite like finding a dodo, but it comes very, very close."


|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:38:37|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|Woodpecker Thought Extinct Rediscovered In Eastern Arkansas


WASHINGTON -- The ivory-billed woodpecker, a striking bird that once flourished in the forests of the Southeast but was thought to have become extinct, has reportedly been sighted in eastern Arkansas, a Cornell University researcher says in a paper released Thursday.

John W. Fitzpatrick said there have been several independent sightings of a bird that appears to be an ivory-billed woodpecker.

A video clip of one bird, though blurry, shows key features, including the size and markings, Fitzpatrick reported.


"The bird captured on video is clearly an ivory-billed woodpecker. Amazingly, America may have another chance to protect the future of this spectacular bird and the awesome forests in which it lives," Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, said in a statement.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton called the find an "exciting opportunity.

"Second chances to save wildlife once thought to be extinct are rare .. we will take advantage of this opporunity," she said at a news conference.

Norton and Agriculture Secretary Mikle Johanns promised federal assistance to work with the state and local residents to protect this bird.

"Don't love this bird to death," Norton added, saying there has not been time to make plans for public access to view the bird.

Once prized by Indians who believed that its bill possessed magical powers, the ivory bill was also hunted in the late 19th and 20th centuries for its feathers, popular on ladies hats. Loss of habitat was its main threat, however.

Fitzpatrick's report was released by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which is publishing it in the journal Science, and also announced by the Nature Conservancy.

The ivory-billed woodpecker, one of the largest such birds in the world, is one of six North American bird species thought to have become extinct since 1880. While somewhat rare, the bird ranged widely across the southeastern United States until logging eliminated many forests between 1880 and the 1940s.

Sometimes called the white-back, pearly bill, poule de bois and even Lord God bird, the ivory bill was known for the two-note rap of its bill as it ripped into tree bark in search of edible grubs and beetle larvae.

There have been anecdotal reports of the birds, but the last conclusive sighting in continental North America was in 1944 in northern Louisiana. A subspecies of the bird has been reported in Cuba.

The new sightings have been in the Big Woods region of Arkansas and each involved a different person or group, Fitzpatrick said.

About 40 percent of the forest in this region is approaching maturity, and nearby land has been reforested in the last decade.

Fitzpatrick identified the bird by magnifying and analyzing individual frames of the video clip.

With a three-foot wingspan the bird is larger than a pileated woodpecker, which is similar in appearance, and has the black-and-while markings of the ivory-billed bird.

The Nature Conservancy, which has protected a large segment of land in the area, reported that the first sighting came on Feb. 11, 2004, by George Sparling of Hot Springs, Ark.

After learning of the sighting, Tim Gallagher of Cornell and Bobby Harrison of Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., traveled to the area with Sparling and also sighted the bird. Other sightings followed, including one on April 25, 2004, in which David Luneau of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock videotaped the bird taking off from the trunk of a tree.

The Nature Conservancy reported 15 sightings of the bird in 7,000 hours of search time concentrating on a 16-square-mile area.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:39:02|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|Bird that flew back from the dead
By Mark Henderson

Sightings of a bird that was believed extinct has excited ornithologists the world over

A SPECTACULAR American woodpecker long believed to be extinct has been rediscovered more than 60 years after it was last seen. The ivory-billed woodpecker, also known as the Lord God woodpecker after the reaction that its magnificent plumage provokes in observers, has been spotted and filmed deep in the Big Woods forest of eastern Arkansas, where the last reliable sighting was made in 1944.

Scientists hailed the find yesterday as the “ornithological highlight of the millennium”, marking the return from the dead of an emblematic bird that was feared to have gone the way of the dodo.

“This is huge, just huge,” said Frank Gill of the Audubon Society, the American bird conservation group. “It is kind of like finding Elvis.”

Alistair Gammell, the international director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: “This bird’s rediscovery is not quite like finding a dodo, but it comes very, very close. Thrillingly, we now have a chance to save this magnificent species.”

John Fitzpatrick, of Cornell University, who led the research team that confirmed the woodpecker’s survival, said: “I can’t speak the proper words to tell how thrilling it is to be involved in the rediscovery of a bird like this. This is not any old bird. This is a really spectacular creature, the largest woodpecker in America and the third largest in the world, a major symbol of the forests of the American South. There is no birder who doesn’t feel the hairs on the back of the neck stand up to the idea this bird has been found.”

The ivory-billed woodpecker, Campephilus principalis, stands up to 20in tall and has a wingspan of up to 31in. Its black and white plumage has a distinctive red crest.

It was the favourite bird of the great 19th-century naturalist John James Audubon, after whom the Audubon Society is named. Audubon painted it and nicknamed it the “Van Dyke bird” because its colours reminded him of the 17th-century painter.

The species was once widespread in the forests of the lower Mississippi valley, but numbers began to decline in the late 19th century as its habitat was destroyed by logging and forest clearance for agriculture. The last reliable sighting was in 1944 in eastern Arkansas, and it has since been considered one of six North American bird species to have become extinct since 1880.

Ornithologists, however, renewed the search last February after Gene Sparling, a birdwatcher, saw an unusually large, red-crested woodpecker in the Cache River National Wildife Refuge in Arkansas. He noticed markings that suggested it might be an ivory-bill, and reported it to Tim Gallagher, the editor of Cornell’s Living Bird magazine.

Dr Gallagher and Bobby Harrison, of Oakwood College in Alabama, then interviewed Mr Sparling and were so convinced by his account that they joined him on a second trip to the bayou where he had spotted the bird.

On February 27 last year, an ivory-billed woodpecker flew 70ft in front of them. Both ornithologists instantly shouted “ivory-bill”, and sketched the bird independently. On a further expedition last April, David Luneau, of the University of Arkansas, captured the bird on video.

The bird has now been spotted at least 15 times, and details of eight of the sightings were published yesterday in the online version of the journal Science. The paper has been refereed by independent experts, who agreed that the bird is indeed an ivory-bill.

Because only a single male bird was observed on each occasion, the researchers cannot be certain how many survive. Since the species rarely lives longer than 15 years, however, it is certain that a pair must have bred in the recent past. The team will next assess whether there are more, and whether breeding pairs survive.

Scott Simon, Arkansas director of the US Nature Conservancy, said: “Now we must work even harder to conserve this critical habitat — not just for the ivory-billed woodpecker, but for the many other species of these unique woods.”

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:39:24|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|Discovery vindicates politician who used the bird to save a swamp

BY LAUREN MARKOE

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - The ivory-billed woodpecker lives!

So maybe the tall tale that saved tens of thousands of acres of Carolina swamp from the timber barons wasn't so tall after all. Maybe Alex Sanders - credited with the boldest ruse in modern South Carolina political history - didn't make it all up.

Sanders, 66, now teaches political science in South Carolina after a long career as a circus performer, college president, chief justice of the South Carolina appeals court and Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate.

But in 1971, Sanders was a maverick state legislator, desperate to stop the clear-cutting of 10,000 acres of the Santee Swamp, a pristine, wildlife-filled expanse about an hour northwest of Charleston.

The ivory-billed woodpecker, declared extinct decades before, would help him.

Sanders called a local television reporter and the South Atlantic regional director of the Audubon Society, who happened to have a recording of the defunct bird. He put them both in a boat and floated into the swamp, to play the call of the ivory-billed woodpecker into the mist.

The ivory-billed woodpecker called back.

Or at least that's what they said.

Sanders' story spread around the nation. Life magazine sent a team in search of the bird. An environmental movement ignited. The legislature banned logging in the Santee swamp. Congress later appropriated $50 million for the creation of the Congaree Swamp National Monument - South Carolina's first national park.

But was the bird there?

No one is quite sure. For years afterward, when asked whether the woodpecker really called back, Sanders would say: "He was there when we needed him."

Today, the ivory-billed woodpecker really is in Arkansas. There are pictures, video and many expert witnesses. The Department of the Interior announced Thursday a "multiyear, multimillion-dollar partnership effort to aid the rare bird's survival."

"It was no news to me," Sanders said from his Charleston office Thursday. " I knew it wasn't extinct all along."

Sanders - known as "Judge Sanders" in South Carolina - says this in his matter-of-fact drawl, as if the nation's top ornithologists and the secretary of the Interior are merely late to the woodpecker party.

But then - irrepressible storyteller that he is - Sanders reveals that he had a backup strategy in 1971, just in case the woodpecker plan didn't work.

"We were going to discover a train wreck in the swamp that took place during the Civil War," he said. "It was derailed taking munitions to the Confederate Army, which was trying to stave off the invasion by General Sherman."

Is that so, Judge Sanders?

"We had the cannonballs all ready," he assured. "But we never needed them."

---

(Markoe reports for The State of Columbia, S.C.)

---

© 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:40:11|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|Sightings of rare bird discounted

Experts say residents are likely seeing a woodpecker that resembles the ivory-bill

REX SPRINGSTON
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Apr 30, 2005

The big news in the feathered world is the discovery in Arkansas of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a majestic bird considered extinct for decades.
So imagine the surprise of Betty Adkins of western Henrico County yesterday when, she said, she glanced outside her kitchen window and saw one.

"I was eating lunch, and there was one on my tree. He flew away before I could take his picture, but I have never seen such a huge bird."

Similar ivory-bill sightings are making their way to The Times-Dispatch and the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Despite these reports, the ivory-billed woodpecker does not inhabit this state.

Experts says most people are surely seeing the pileated woodpecker, which resembles the ivory-bill but is widespread in the eastern half of the U.S.

The ivory-bill is so large and regal it was called the "Lord God" bird -- as in, "Lord God, did you see that bird?"

The pileated woodpecker -- some say PILL-ee-ate-ed, some say PILE-ee-ate-ed is also big and beautiful. If you see one, you remember it.

"It is a very impressive bird," said Ray Fernald, a bird expert with the state's game department. "It certainly is much larger than any other woodpecker you are likely to see."

The word "pileated" is derived from Latin for crest. All pileated woodpeckers have blood-red crests. If you think you saw Woody Woodpecker, you saw this bird.

For the ivory-bill, the male has a red crest, the female a black one.

Both birds have black-and-white feathers. But when perched, the back of the pileated is almost entirely black. The bottom half or so of the ivory-bill's back is white.

Slightly larger than a crow, the ivory-bill stands about 21 inches, head to tail, with a wingspan approaching 3 feet. The pileated woodpecker is roughly the size of a crow.

The "Lord God" bird has an ivory-colored bill the size of a small dagger. The bill of the pileated woodpecker is darker, but in bad light it can appear white-ish.

The two birds "are similar enough that it would really be confusing to someone who didn't know them apart," Fernald said.

Experts announced Thursday they had seen an ivory-bill in an Arkansas swamp in 2004 and early 2005. Before that, the last confirmed sighting was in 1944 in Louisiana.

The bird, which inhabited lowland, old-growth forests in the South, died out as logging took those trees. The pileated woodpecker survived because it can live in more diverse habitats, occasionally showing up even in urban parks.

The ivory-bill originally ranged as far north as southern North Carolina. It has never been confirmed in Virginia, but one expert said there is no good reason it shouldn't have been here.

Betty Adkins, a retired child-care provider, reacted in good humor when told she had not seen the near-extinct creature.

"If it's not the bird that's in the paper, I'll just wait for him to come along."

http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD/MGArticle/RTD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031782444982
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|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:40:44|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|http://sports.tbo.com/sports/MGB6JFDH68E.html
 
May 1, 2005
Ivory-Bill Sighting A Reality Check
FRANK SARGEANT

When it comes to ``reports of my death have been somewhat
exaggerated´´ moments, how about the ivory-billed woodpecker?

The giant bird was declared extinct some 60 years ago, but for the past
year at least one survivor has been flickering in and out of the cypress
swamps of Arkansas and Louisiana. There have been six sightings,
according to a report in The Washington Post, and a kayaker's video of a
flying ivory-bill in Cache River National Wildlife Refuge was aired on
national television last week.
While extinct species are reported to be sighted on an almost daily
basis, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and various state
biologists, nearly all the reports are wrong. They turn out to be
animals that are only similar to the extinct creature.

The pileated woodpecker, a common bird throughout the Southeast, is
often mistaken for the ivory-bill, but is slightly smaller and lacks the
distinctive white bill. The pileated has no white markings on its back
like the ivory-bill, but does sport the red crest that stands out
sharply in the woods.
But the current reports were not pileated sightings, according to
wildlife experts. The sightings of the ivory-bill have been confirmed by
officials of the Interior Department and a team of researchers from
Cornell University. The ivory-bill is not gone. For those in the world
of birding, it's almost as amazing as if a few living mastodons had been
discovered on the back side of Greenland.

The question is how many of the birds are left. Biologists say the birds
live only about 15 years, so as recently as 15 years ago there had to be
at least one breeding pair left. And could this bird that has been seen
in Louisiana and Arkansas be the same one? Only males have been
reported.
It's not impossible, but it's highly unlikely given the density of the
woods throughout the Mississippi River bottomlands in both states.
Though deer, turkey hunters and forestry workers are in those woods
regularly, the odds of a half-dozen sightings of a single animal in
close cover and in areas hundreds of miles apart are astronomical. Of
course the only ``confirmed´´ sightings have been around the Cache
River Refuge, but until last year there were no confirmed sightings
anywhere.
What biologists are hoping is that there is a surviving colony of the
birds up and down the bottom country. If there are females, then it's
not impossible that a pair can be captured, and perhaps with enough time
and care, like the whooping crane, these birds can be brought back.

Some might wonder about the federal government accompanying the
announcement of the existence of the ivory-bill with a promise to spend
some $15 million preserving the old-growth forest that it needs as
habitat. Should we spend that kind of money on a woodpecker when so much
of our infrastructure is falling apart, our borders are Swiss cheese and
our Social Security system totters on octogenarian legs? In a word, yes.
A bird such as the ivory-bill is a symbol, like the bald eagle is a
symbol. It is a remnant of what America once was, and a reminder of our
duty to preserve wild places and wild creatures. Those are reasons to do
what's needed to keep the species going.

And the fact that the bird was there, all along, when we thought it was
so far gone gives us all pause. Does nature have other secrets, hidden
in the deep woods and the remote mountains, that she might be waiting to
reveal to watchful and appreciative eyes?


This story can be found at:
http://sports.tbo.com/sports/MGB6JFDH68E.html
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:41:05|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/30/opinion/30sat4.html?incamp=article_popular_5&oref=login

April 30, 2005
New York Times
EDITORIAL  
The Lord God Bird

Here are the reasons to be impressed by the ivory-billed woodpecker,
which has emerged like a feathered ghost from the Big Woods of eastern
Arkansas more than a half-century after its presumed extinction.

It's huge and beautiful. "A whacking big bird," Roger Tory Peterson
wrote, nearly two feet long with a three-foot wingspan, black and white
with a streak of red on the male's pterodactyl crest and a fearsome
glint in its yellow eyes. To see an ivory-bill left people
thunderstruck; their exclamations inspired its nickname: the Lord God
bird.
It's alive. The word miracle is overused, but what else explains the
survival in the 21st century of an animal considered lost to history so
long ago? The ivory-bill was mourned as a mythologized victim of intense
predation and habitat loss, of hunters and collectors, of the leveling
of millions of acres of Southern forests into pulp and sawdust. Somehow
it has endured.

It is an environmental wonder worker. The ivory-bill has had an awesome
hold on people's imaginations, to the immense benefit of the
environment. In the 1970's, after an Audubon official reported merely
hearing the bird in a South Carolina swamp, the state spared 10,000
acres from clear-cutting. More recently, an unconfirmed sighting led to
a logging moratorium in Louisiana. The ivory-bill's return is especially
sweet to conservationists in Arkansas, where it could help protect the
rivers and swamps in the Big Woods, a poor but lush part of Arkansas
that one local environmentalist calls "our Everglades, our Yellowstone."

The struggle to preserve the natural environment is one of crushed hopes
and excruciating wistfulness. But not always. The ivory-billed
woodpecker is a living monument to the stubbornness of all creatures
that refuse to be erased, despite all our blundering and destructive
habits. Its odd nickname is a fitting tribute: not "Wow," "Geez" or
"Check it out," but "Lord God," two words that capture the moment when
the eyes widen, the muscles go slack and the mind reels at the wondrous
things with which we share the world.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company



|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:42:38|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|
The Nature of Things
Tom Palmer

Rediscovery of Species Spurs More Questions
May 4, 2005

The ivory-billed woodpecker isn't the first species to be rediscovered by scientists long after the last of its kind was thought to have vanished from the planet.

We had a local example: the Florida ziziphus.

This woody shrub is found only on the Lake Wales Ridge in Polk and Highlands counties. An amateur botanist collected a specimen in 1948 and sent it to an herbarium. When scientists finally examined the specimen years later, they concluded it was a new species. They published the formal description of the plant in 1984 as part of the process of naming new species.

However, at the time they assumed it was extinct -- there had been no further reports since 1948 and a search in the field turned up no plants -- because 90 percent of the scrub habitat on the Lake Wales Ridge has been bulldozed for development or agriculture.

But in 1987, a botanist rediscovered the plant near Frostproof, and it is being propagated at Historic Bok Sanctuary as part of a recovery plan to restore the species to its historic range on protected public lands.

There are other examples around the world, particularly in the tropics as well as in remote mountainous regions, where species were rediscovered, sometimes more than a century after they were were first described by European scientists.

I use the term described rather than discovered because indigenous people in these areas often know these species exist. It becomes news only when outsiders encounter the species and report their findings to the outside world in scientific journals.

In addition to reconfirmation of old reports of species, scientists have found species previously unknown to science.

The other day I read a report that 361 new species of plants and animals had been reported in the past 10 years from the Indonesian island of Borneo.

Of course, the identification of a new species is only the first step in a long journey toward understanding.

Basic questions for animals include what they eat, what eats them, where do they lay their eggs or rear their young and how do they fit into the ecology of whatever place they inhabit.

Answering questions is at the heart of the continuing search through the Arkansas swamps where the ivory-billed woodpecker was found and future searches in other places where it's possible more birds may survive.

No one knows if there's a healthy population in Arkansas or if this species is near its end. It may be some time before that information is in hand.

For now, knowing one bird survived may be enough.

IVORY-BILLED VS. PILEATED

The inevitable result of the news that the ivory-billed woodpecker had been rediscovered has been a flurry of calls from people who claimed to have seen one in such unlikely places as their back yards or local parks.

I received several calls like this. So have offices of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission around the state.

What people are actually seeing is another large and impressive woodpecker called the pileated woodpecker. Pileated is a fancy word for crested. Both the pileated and the ivory-billed have prominent crests and black and white markings.

Some of the newer bird guides do not even include illustrations of ivory-billed woodpeckers, so the confusion is understandable.

Ivory-billed woodpeckers live exclusively in bottomland forests -- extensive, remote bottomland forests. The fact that it took a dedicated group of experienced observers a year to catch a few glimpses and a few seconds of videotape illustrate how rare and elusive this woodpecker is.

These are not birds you will see from your kitchen window or driving down a country road.

Dealing with the reports presents a dilemma because it is not impossible that there is another group of these woodpeckers remaining deep in some remote swamp somewhere in the Southeast.

Nevertheless, observations must be well documented.

The best advice I can offer is to study all of the traits of these two species or any other species before setting out so that you can make more confident identifications.

I expect to deal with this more extensively in a future column.

DISCOVERY'S `DOWN SIDE'

While people in the environmental community were celebrating the rediscovery of the ivorybilled woodpecker, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, used the news as an opening to bash the Endangered Species Act.

The institute issued a warning that landowners could be in for more troubles if the woodpecker wanders into their property. That would allow federal agents to seize private property as a wildlife refuge, they claimed.

The reality is that landowners, whether they're developers or farmers, bulldoze protected species habitat all the time and have for years. That's why a lot of the species are rare to begin with.

The truth is that the ivory-billed woodpecker is a lot more endangered than the Fifth Amendment.

http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050504/COLUMNISTS0503/505040375/1106/NEWS|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:43:13|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/viewpoints/mvoice/050504woody.shtml

Wednesday, May 4, 2005
MAINE VOICES: Phil Hoose
Let's help keep the 'woods' in 'woodpecker'
Copyright © 2005 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

About the Author Phil Hoose is a conservation planner with The Nature
Conservancy and author of the recently published "The Race To Save the
Lord God Bird."


Like everyone else, I am elated and stunned by the news that the
Ivory-bill woodpecker has aparently been among us all along.
As someone who has written a recently published book about the
Ivory-bill, I have been asked repeatedly in the past days to say whether
I think this is the last one, or is it part of a breeding population?
Wouldn't it be tragic, interviewers ask, if this were the last
individual of a doomed species?

Well, it would, but the Ivory-bill has been here before. In 1944, our
awareness of the "Lord God Bird," as it was often called (because, the
story goes, viewers would say, "Lord God, what a bird!") was reduced to
one female that returned to a single ash tree each night for a few weeks
to roost.
When the tree was blown down in a storm, the entire species was presumed
by many to have toppled with it.

However, a second chance arose when ornitholgists reclassified the Cuban
Ivory-bill, downgrading it from a separate species to status as a Cuban
"population" that had somehow become separated from the U.S. group.
Being back on the taxonomic map didn't make the Ivory-bill any easier to
find.
Carpintero real ("royal carpenter"), as the Cubans call it, offered only
decades-apart sightings until the spring of 1986, when several members
of a scientific discovery team got fleeting looks at Ivory-bills,
glimpses reminiscent of those recently achieved in Arkansas.

Then as now, the Cuban sightings led to popular celebration. There was
extensive coverage in People Magazine, The New York Times, and Natural
History Magazine, which joyfully proclaimed, "The Ivory-bill Still
Lives."
Then as now, preparations were made to find more birds and to encourage
a breeding population. Then, characteristically, after giving us one
more peek the following spring, the avian world's most accomplished
fugitive vanished from sight. It has not been credibly reported in Cuba
since.

To me, it is important to consider what conservation actions were taken
in each of these three great episodes. In 1944 authorities allowed the
Singer Tract - the last big virgin scrap of a swamp forest that once ran
from Memphis to the Gulf - to be destroyed. It amounted to one of
conservation history's great lost chances. Even if the Ivory-bill had
never been seen there again, saving the Singer Tract as a dramatic
historical landscape and a great biodiversity treasure would have been a
gift to the world.

By contrast, in 1986 Cuban authorities responded swiftly and well,
reserving from commercial exploitation hundreds of thousands of acres by
establishing Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, one of the most
biologically diverse tropical island sites on Earth.
And now, in 2005, conservationists are also responding vigorously and
well in Arkansas, working in a Nature Conservancy-led partnership to
assemble a vast forest swamp which will at least give the species a
place to recover if breeding stock remains.

Sometimes before I drop off to sleep, I try to imagine what it would be
like to be that male Ivory-bill in Arkansas. I can hear the electric
chatter of tree frogs and feel the warm southern wind sift through
curtains of Spanish moss.
And I wonder if an Ivory-bill will ever again cross the path of a camera
or give its call of "kent" within range of a microphone. Small matter,
really.

Even if we never see it again, I'm grateful that this familiar ghost has
appeared once more to focus the world's attention on the global crisis
in endangered species.

We have a desperate need to save habitat. The current resurrection of
the Lord God Bird gives us a chance to roll up our sleeves and do better
work for the creatures with whom we share the Earth than we've ever done
before.

- Special to the Press Herald



|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:43:52|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|Sat, 07 May 200

WONDERS OF NATURE
After 60 years, sighting of 'Ghost Bird' confirmed
By GARY CLARK
For the Chronicle
Houston Chronicle - Houston, TX, USA.

The "Ghost Bird" is no ghost. The ivory-billed woodpecker lives, as
announced last week by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology following a
yearlong validation of its discovery.

Before the discovery, there had been no confirmed sightings of the bird in
more than 60 years.

Ornithologists were so sure it had become extinct that it had vanished from
the pages of some bird field guides. But a few people refused to give up
hope.

Among them were friends Tim Gallagher, editor of the Cornell ornithology
lab's Living Bird magazine, and Bobby Ray Harrison, an associate professor
at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala. After years of chasing reports of the
bird, they finally saw it Feb. 27, 2004, at the Cache River National
Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.

"The bird flew right in front of Bobby and me when we were in a canoe, and
we both yelled, 'Ivory-bill!' " Gallagher said. "It was almost like an
intense religious experience."

Gallagher's quest for the bird included digging up a purported audio
recording of an ivory-billed woodpecker made in East Texas in 1968 by
researcher John Dennis along the Neches River. The Cornell lab is working to
determine if the recording is that of an ivory-bill.

The bird once ranged throughout all of East Texas, including Houston. When
John James Audubon visited Houston in 1837, he wrote, "I found ivory-bills
very abundant along the finely wooded margins of that singular stream called
Buffalo Bayou."

John Arvin, research coordinator at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in Lake
Jackson, has examined two Texas ivory-bill specimens at the U.S. National
Museum in Washington, D.C. The birds were collected in 1904 at Tarkington
Prairie east of Cleveland and represent the only documented record of the
bird in Texas in the 20th century.

Arvin hopes that the Arkansas bird will spur efforts to conserve East Texas
forests. "The implications of the discovery are enormous from a conservation
standpoint," he said. "The ivory-bill symbolized wilderness lost, and it was
always a far more poignant loss to me than were the other species that had
become extinct in recent times."

An ivory-bill could possibly still exist in East Texas. Reports abound,
almost all misidentifications of a pileated woodpecker. But a few reports
seem plausible, including one that Dawn Carrie of the U.S. Forest Service
and I tried to confirm 20 years ago in a remnant wilderness along the San
Jacinto River near Conroe.

In the end, if we or our grandchildren are ever to see the bird in Texas, we
must conserve the remaining East Texas wilderness. Fortunately, the
Conservation Fund (www.conservationfund.org) has been quarterbacking efforts
with governmental and private partners to save bottomland hardwood forests
near the Big Thicket National Preserve, an area of ideal conditions for the
ivory-billed woodpecker.

Gary Clark is a dean at North Harris College.

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:44:22|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|Delta Towns Hope Woodpecker Brings Riches

By MELISSA NELSON
.c The Associated Press

COTTON PLANT, Ark. (AP) - If the ivory-billed woodpecker was magic to early-day American Indians, perhaps it can work some magic for the modern-day residents trying to scratch out a living in this poor Delta region.

The striking bird - not extinct after all - has already attracted eager birdwatchers to the dying communities that dot the area. Rooms at a nearby Days Inn are filling up for fall - prime season for birders.

``I wish I had a place to get T-shirts made up with the woodpecker on them that say Cotton Plant,'' said Ester Hicks, who runs Nannie's Kitchen cafe.

Ornithologists announced last week that an ivory-billed woodpecker, believed extinct since 1944, was living in a swamp in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. Arkansas' prime bird-watching season ended when the trees leafed out last month, but wildlife officials still have noticed more traffic.

Gov. Mike Huckabee said Wednesday that the woodpecker's discovery will be ``a huge benefit to tourism. Look for a lot of folks to be coming to Arkansas and maybe spending their good old money.''

David Goad, deputy director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, predicted the bird, considered the Holy Grail of birdwatchers, will bring thousands of visitors. ``This will mean millions of dollars for this part of the world,'' he said.

The federal government has pledged $10 million for the preservation of the bird, described by some as a pileated woodpecker on steroids because of its nearly 3-foot wing span. Over the years it's had many nicknames, including the ``Lord God'' bird. It was sought by Indians for its bill, believed to have magical powers, and hunted for its feathers to adorn women's hats. Loss of habitat was its main threat, though.

Jim Huter, a retired forester from Tucson, Ariz., altered a cross-country trip so he and his wife could stop by the refuge with the slight hope of seeing the bird.

``It would be totally amazing,'' Huter said. ``In the first place, I would hope I was able to recognize it. It sounds like people were just getting a fleeting glimpse. If I saw one and recognized it, it would just blow me away.''

Until a kayaker from Hot Springs spotted the woodpecker in February 2004, the last known sighting was in 1944 in northern Louisiana. During that time, the communities near the Cache River also faded.

``If you look up and down this street, we don't have any stores,'' said Doris Wright, standing outside the Cotton Plant post office and surveying the length of boarded-up, vine-covered structures that line Main Street. ``We know what a hard place the Delta is.''

Cotton Plant is in Woodruff County, one of the poorest counties in one of the poorest states in the country. The town has lost nearly half its population since 1950 - down to 960 - and one out of every four people in Woodruff County lives below the poverty level.

Before the trains stopped running 40 to 50 years ago, Cotton Plant boomed with a population of 1,838 and, ``you couldn't find a place to park on a Friday or Saturday night,'' said Hicks, relaxing in a booth at Nannie's Kitchen, where frog legs is the advertised special.

Wright and others hope someone will consider opening a new store and perhaps a bed-and-breakfast catering to birders. The town is relatively easy to reach, just 10 miles off Interstate 40, between Little Rock and Memphis, Tenn.

``Instead of us always being put down as a poverty-stricken place, this is something that picks us up,'' Hicks said.

Hicks says locals dream of new jobs, but also fear environmental rules might curtail fishing and duck-hunting that currently drive much of the local economy.

Since the announcement, game and fish officials closed 5,000 acres of popular hunting and fishing areas within the Cache wildlife refuge for the bird's protection.

``I'm sure there are some commercial fishermen and some subsistence fishermen, who fish to feed their families, living there,'' said Keith Stephens, spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. ``It's a Catch-22. You want to have an area where people can go and research, but it will restrict some fishing and hunting.''

Stephens said 55,000 acres of the refuge remain open offering plenty of other fishing holes and hunting spots.

Lewis George and Curtis Stovall, who have fished the area's waterways for years, said they have been told they can no longer fish where they like. As the two men and a third friend showed off a large catch one recent afternoon, George lamented: ``They stopped us from fishing in the bayou.''

On the Net:

Cache River National Wildlife Refuge: www.fws.gov/cacheriver/



05/04/05 18:13 EDT
   

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:44:52|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|
CV grad leads search for rare woodpecker

Linda Franz, May 6, 2005

A Cumberland Valley High School graduate led the search team that rediscovered the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas.

Last week the team announced that at least one male ivory-bill still survives. Findings published on the website of the journal "Science" included multiple sightings and video footage of the bird long feared to be extinct.

Ron Rohrbaugh, a 1984 graduate of Cumberland Valley, not only led the search team but also co-managed the project in general, helping with research and conservation activities.

"This project has occupied most of my waking and, it seems, sleeping hours for the past 15 months," Rohrbaugh said in a telephone interview this week from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University, where he is the director of natural resources and visitor services.

Rohrbaugh first traveled to the Arkansas bayou in late March 2004 when the second wave of searchers hit the Big Woods. He quickly became project search leader "out of default" and his involvement grew from there.

"I actually got to see the bird on April 6, 2004," Rohrbaugh says.

He viewed the bird for about three seconds as it flew low through the forest and landed briefly on a snag. "Seeing that bird was absolutely an electric experience," Rohrbaugh says. "It was just wonderful."

The sighting was one of just two sightings where a pair of people spotted the bird. Videographer David Brown got a look at the woodpecker with Rohrbaugh. "Unfortunately, it saw our aluminum canoe, veered off and we lost sight of it," Rohrbaugh says.

Key sightings of the elusive bird in the first two weeks of April 2004 helped propel the project, he says.

Last year's search continued through mid-May. By that time, leaves had popped open, mosquitoes returned and poisonous cottonmouth snakes patrolled the bayou.

"It makes field conditions difficult," Rohrbaugh says. "The more difficult part is you just can't see."

During June, July and August, a comprehensive search plan was written. Searchers were sent back into the field from Dec. 1 through April 30 of this year.

The search area was divided into a northern and southern study area with a field supervisor in each coordinating about 10 people. "It was my role from Ithaca to oversee the whole operation," he says.

During this year's search period, he spent one to two weeks per month in the field. "It's hectic when you're managing a task that big," he says. "A lot of strategic planning is best done on site."

Rohrbaugh would get out with the crews to see exactly what they were doing and adjust protocols to maximize sightings.

The inner circle

Researchers were able to keep a tight lid on the news about sightings of the ivory-billed by limiting the number of people involved, Rohrbaugh says.

"Early on in the project we had very few people who we allowed in on the inner circle," he says.

A core inventory team of people from the Cornell Lab, the Nature Conservancy and a few others met by telephone every Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. for 14 months, planning research and conservation.

In the meantime, the Nature Conservancy was involved in an ambitious acquisition program to acquire land to add to the Big Woods. The Nature Conservancy already has helped protect 120,000 acres of the Big Woods and now hopes to conserve and restore an additional 200,000 acres of forest.

"There was no way we were going to be able to continue our research," Rohrbaugh says, if an onslaught of birders arrived.

Leak sprung

News about the ivory-billed was scheduled to be released at a May 18 press conference.

But last week a major leak occurred.

"For the first few hours after learning about the leak, we continued our stance of not acknowledging any major findings," Rohrbaugh says. "About three or four hours into our knowledge that a leak had occurred, we knew we weren't going to be able to keep our thumb in the dike any longer. We had web materials pulled together, the interpretive signs that would be placed at the refuges were already created."

The group made a decision to go public earlier than planned and scheduled last week's press conference with Department of Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

"A lot of folks were literally here all night, building websites, finishing materials so we could make sure we got good and accurate materials out to the public," Rohrbaugh adds.

He wasn't surprised at the interest the news generated.

"We knew this was going to be a huge conservation story," he says. "The ivory-billed is a species that is near and dear to the hearts of many who have ever browsed a field guide. The ivory-billed is such a noble and regal bird, it draws a lot of attention."

Elusive bird

Rohrbaugh says the bird's elusiveness and the remoteness of the area where it was found are reasons why there had been no confirmed sightings of the woodpecker for 60 years.

"It tries to avoid people and by the nature of its ecology, requires very large contiguous blocks of bottomland hardwood forest for its survival."

The only way into the forested area of the White River National Wildlife Refuge, one of the two search areas, is by canoe.

Rohrbaugh will continue with the project. With the discovery known, funding opportunities open. "We're able to raise some money for some of our work and federal funds and freed up for species recovery."

Rohrbaugh says his parents, Cassy and Ron Rohrbaugh, influenced his first interest in birding.

"My grandmother always had a bird feeder up at her house," Rohrbaugh recalls. His mother followed in her footsteps and always had a feeder too. A field guide constantly sat by the window, he says, and he remembers being scolded for wearing out the pages that showed hawks and owls.

"On the other side of that, my father was an avid hunter and I spent a lot of time in the woods with him," Rohrbaugh says.

His mother now lives in Harrisburg and both sets of grandparents live in Middletown.

He hopes the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker will galvanize the public into being stewards of the environment. "It gives a lot of inspiration and hope for conservation efforts."

http://www.cumberlink.com/articles/2005/05/06/news/news03.txt
-----
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 12:45:40|jon_downes|xx|0|217.44.226.20|From the New Orleans Times-Picayune: 7 May 2005
Birders spend $1 million finding elusive ivory-billed woodpecker

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - A house purchased quietly, for the use of visitors to an
area where outsiders are noticed - two other houses rented in another nearby
community, so there won't be a jump in motel receipts - a million dollars
spent through private channels.

It may sound like skulduggery worthy of a spy novel, but this was no novel.
The target was very real, and suspected to be lurking in a remote swamp in
eastern Arkansas.

The object of all that undercover work was, as it turned out, indeed to be
found where he was being sought. The presence of the ivory-billed woodpecker
in the Big Woods area along the Cache River in eastern Arkansas was
confirmed last month.

The Arkansas Democrat reported Saturday that conservationists and
ornithologists were bankrolled to the tune of $1 million from private donors
for their year-long search for the elusive woodpecker. There hadn't been a
confirmed sighting of an ivory-bill since 1944, and the bird was believed by
most ornithologists to be extinct.

"It was kept quiet because everyone realized we had to be sure this time,"
said Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas and
co-leader of the effort to find the bird.

"This time" as opposed to a well-publicized search in Louisiana in 2002,
ultimately unsuccessful, after a reported sighting of the bird by a hunter
in 1999.

The search in Arkansas began after kayaker Gene Sparling of Hot Springs
spotted a large woodpecker in the Cache River bottomlands in February 2004.

Sparling says he doubted the evidence of his own eyes when he first sighted
the bird, and mentioned it only on a canoe-club Web site. The reference was
enough to get the attention of serious ornithologists, and the hunt was on.

Eventually, the search involved more than 100 people who put in 20,000 hours
along the Cache and White rivers. Participants in the search were required
to sign confidentiality agreements. The Nature Conservancy bought a house at
Cotton Plant, and rented two others in St. Charles, so an unusual number of
out-of-state visitors staying at area motels wouldn't start rumors.

The result was 16 brief sightings - and a videotape.

The birdhunters say all the time and money was worth it.

"This is one of the greatest conservation comebacks of all times," Simon
said.

---------------------------------------------

From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: 7 May 2005
Finding ivory-bill bird cost $1 million
By AUSTIN GELDER

The long-sought ivory-billed woodpecker is sometimes called the "Lord God
bird" for the reaction it evokes in people who spot it. Others have
described it as looking like a common pileated woodpecker on steroids.

But perhaps the million-dollar bird would be a more apt nickname.

Private donors with deep pockets bankrolled the yearlong, top-secret search
for the elusive ivory-bill, a search that employed roughly 100 people and
cost more than $1 million.

All told, searchers put in 20,000 hours along the Cache and White rivers in
eastern Arkansas to come up with 16 brief sightings that add up to maybe one
minute of face time with the Arkansas Delta's comeback kid.

Now, with videotaped proof that a bird once thought extinct still lives in
Arkansas' Big Woods, researchers have no question that the hours and dollars
spent to prove the country's largest woodpecker still exists are well worth
it. "This is one of the greatest conservation comebacks of all times," said
Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas and co-leader of
the search.

THE SEARCH The hunt for the ivory-bill began in February 2004 after kayaker
Gene Sparling spotted the phantom bird as he floated down the Cache River
near Brinkley. The sighting kicked off a hunt that reeled in researchers
from across the country as well as the Netherlands, Indonesia and Ireland.

Unlike the unsuccessful 2002 search for ivory-bills in Louisiana that was
followed closely by the public, the Arkansas hunt dodged publicity. Search
leaders from The Nature Conservancy and the Cornell University Lab of
Ornithology in New York took great pains to keep their mission under wraps
by requiring all participants to sign confidentiality agreements. The Nature
Conservancy even bought a house in Cotton Plant and rented two more in St.
Charles for out-oftown researchers to stay in so a spike in hotel stays
wouldn't spawn rumors. "It was kept quiet because everyone realized we had
to be sure this time," Simon explained.

Searchers with binoculars, cameras or video recorders in hand worked from
sunrise to sunset, eventually covering roughly 50,000 acres of muddy,
snakefilled bottomland forest.

Wide-hipped water tupelo and cypress trees line the Cache River near where
the ivory-bill was spotted, and countless poisonous snakes slither in the
water and mud throughout the Cache River basin. Researchers frequently had
to take their eyes off the treetops to make sure water moccasins and other
swamp serpents weren't lurking underfoot.

Researchers also had to contend with a lack of hands-on experience with the
bird. The last confirmed sighting of an ivorybill was in Louisiana in 1944,
and the only study on ivory-bills was done in the 1930s.

But researchers knew that the ivory-bill stood about 20 inches tall and had
a three-foot wingspan. Pictures exist showing that the bird looks much like
the common pileated woodpecker, with a black body and white markings, and
that the male has a red crest. They knew its life expectancy was from 10-15
years.

Searchers were less sure of the bird's range, which some say is 3 square
miles and others guess is closer to 6 square miles. And none of them had
ever heard the "BAM-bam" sound the woodpeckers make as they peck into hollow
trees to call fellow ivorybills.

While most of the 18 searchers who spotted an ivory-bill described a male
bird, a few reported not seeing a crest, indicating they may have seen a
brownheaded female.

In the end, the only hard evidence of the bird's existence is in a
four-second video caught by University of Arkansas at Little Rock professor
David Luneau showing the bird being flushed from a tree and taking off into
the woods. The recording is so grainy that Luneau watched it a hundred times
before he felt confident that the bird caught on tape was an ivory-bill.

It would take hours more of expert analysis at the Cornell Lab of
Ornithology before researchers could say for sure they had their bird. No
one knows if only one bird remains or if the ivorybill on the tape is one of
many.

A MIXED BLESSING? The presence of endangered species hasn't always been
looked upon kindly by the people who must make their living in the animal's
protected habitat. Just ask loggers in the Pacific Northwest, who were
forced to curtail cutting old-growth forests in the 1980s because of the
presence of the threatened northern spotted owl. "Save a logger, eat a
spotted owl," became a popular bumper sticker slogan. As the excitement of
the ivory-bill's rediscovery begins to fade, worries are growing among some
Delta landowners that the bird's reappearance could cause them trouble.

The land surrounding the Cache River Wildlife Management Area is heavily
agricultural, a dusty collection of rice and soybean fields. Rumors that
government entities will try to take over those fields to give the
ivory-bill more room are already circulating.

Others worry that the lands they've hunted and fished for decades will be
closed off to protect the ivory-bill.

But sportsmen and landowners have no need to worry, Nature Conservancy and
U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesmen say.

It's true that a 5,000-acre section of the Cache River National Wildlife
Refuge has been closed off to the public, and wildlife officers are
stationed at the section's four access points to keep visitors away. But the
rest of the 61,000acre refuge is open.

The ivory-bill likely owes its existence to the sportsmen who have lobbied
to keep its habitat undeveloped over the years, and no plans are on the tabl
e to cut out hunting and fishing in the area, Nature Conservancy spokesman
Jay Harrod said. "The Big Woods land of Arkansas has been protected largely
because of these hunters and fishermen," he said.

Dennis Widner, manager of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, said he
doesn't expect much to change in the way the area is managed and has heard
nothing of plans to wrench land out of farmers' hands. "Rumors that we're
going to condemn land have no foundation," he said. The Arkansas Game and
Fish Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will host a series of
meetings to help allay these concerns. The meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m.
May 17 at the Brinkley Convention Center, May 18 at the Arkansas National
Guard armory in Augusta and May 19 at the Phillips Community College seminar
room in Stuttgart.

THE IVORY-BILL'S FUTURE

Bird-watchers have yet to flock to Brinkley to see the ivory-bill like some
predicted they would.

The Waffle House in town hasn't reported any extra business, and neither has
the Super 8 Motel next to Interstate 40. The town's quietness suggests that
birders are respecting the ivory-bill's habitat and are giving researchers
space and time to learn more about how best to protect it, Widner said. "We
have not had the influx of birders we thought we would. We expected to be
overrun, and it did not occur," he said. "The birding community took
ownership of this bird and said, ' Let's not all go out there and jeopardize
the existence of this bird. '"

He expects tourism in the area to eventually pick up but probably not until
fall when the dense green canopy falls, giving birders a better view.

However, since the news of the ivory-bill's survival broke, backyard birders
from across the state have flooded Game and Fish and U.S. Fish and Wildlife
offices with phone and e-mail reports of suspected sightings. So far, none
of the reports have panned out, Game and Fish spokesman Keith Stephens said.
"The ones we've seen have all been pileated," he said.

Pileated woodpeckers look much like ivory-bills but are smaller and have
different markings on their backs. Pictures of both are posted on the Game
and Fish Commission Web site, www. agfc. com, to help people differentiate
between the two.

In the meantime, members of the Big Woods Conservation Partnership are
working toward conserving an additional 200,000 acres of Arkansas Big Woods
forest in the next 20 years. The partnership includes The Nature
Conservancy, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Arkansas Natural Heritage
Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arkansas Game and Fish
Commission and other groups interested in preserving the woodpecker's
habitat.

Last week, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Agriculture Secretary Mike
Johanns pledged $10 million to conserve the ivorybill's habitat.

---------------------------------------------

From The Sentinel (Carlisle, PA): 6 May 2005
CV grad leads search for rare woodpecker
By Linda Franz

A Cumberland Valley High School graduate led the search team that
rediscovered the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods of eastern
Arkansas.

Last week the team announced that at least one male ivory-bill still
survives. Findings published on the website of the journal "Science"
included multiple sightings and video footage of the bird long feared to be
extinct.

Ron Rohrbaugh, a 1984 graduate of Cumberland Valley, not only led the search
team but also co-managed the project in general, helping with research and
conservation activities.

"This project has occupied most of my waking and, it seems, sleeping hours
for the past 15 months," Rohrbaugh said in a telephone interview this week
from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University, where he
is the director of natural resources and visitor services.

Rohrbaugh first traveled to the Arkansas bayou in late March 2004 when the
second wave of searchers hit the Big Woods. He quickly became project search
leader "out of default" and his involvement grew from there.

"I actually got to see the bird on April 6, 2004," Rohrbaugh says.

He viewed the bird for about three seconds as it flew low through the forest
and landed briefly on a snag. "Seeing that bird was absolutely an electric
experience," Rohrbaugh says. "It was just wonderful."

The sighting was one of just two sightings where a pair of people spotted
the bird. Videographer David Brown got a look at the woodpecker with
Rohrbaugh. "Unfortunately, it saw our aluminum canoe, veered off and we lost
sight of it," Rohrbaugh says.

Key sightings of the elusive bird in the first two weeks of April 2004
helped propel the project, he says.

Last year's search continued through mid-May. By that time, leaves had
popped open, mosquitoes returned and poisonous cottonmouth snakes patrolled
the bayou.

"It makes field conditions difficult," Rohrbaugh says. "The more difficult
part is you just can't see."

During June, July and August, a comprehensive search plan was written.
Searchers were sent back into the field from Dec. 1 through April 30 of this
year.

The search area was divided into a northern and southern study area with a
field supervisor in each coordinating about 10 people. "It was my role from
Ithaca to oversee the whole operation," he says.

During this year's search period, he spent one to two weeks per month in the
field. "It's hectic when you're managing a task that big," he says. "A lot
of strategic planning is best done on site."

Rohrbaugh would get out with the crews to see exactly what they were doing
and adjust protocols to maximize sightings.

The inner circle

Researchers were able to keep a tight lid on the news about sightings of the
ivory-billed by limiting the number of people involved, Rohrbaugh says.

"Early on in the project we had very few people who we allowed in on the
inner circle," he says.

A core inventory team of people from the Cornell Lab, the Nature Conservancy
and a few others met by telephone every Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. for 14
months, planning research and conservation.

In the meantime, the Nature Conservancy was involved in an ambitious
acquisition program to acquire land to add to the Big Woods. The Nature
Conservancy already has helped protect 120,000 acres of the Big Woods and
now hopes to conserve and restore an additional 200,000 acres of forest.

"There was no way we were going to be able to continue our research,"
Rohrbaugh says, if an onslaught of birders arrived.

Leak sprung

News about the ivory-billed was scheduled to be released at a May 18 press
conference.

But last week a major leak occurred.

"For the first few hours after learning about the leak, we continued our
stance of not acknowledging any major findings," Rohrbaugh says. "About
three or four hours into our knowledge that a leak had occurred, we knew we
weren't going to be able to keep our thumb in the dike any longer. We had
web materials pulled together, the interpretive signs that would be placed
at the refuges were already created."

The group made a decision to go public earlier than planned and scheduled
last week's press conference with Department of Interior Secretary Gale
Norton.

"A lot of folks were literally here all night, building websites, finishing
materials so we could make sure we got good and accurate materials out to
the public," Rohrbaugh adds.

He wasn't surprised at the interest the news generated.

"We knew this was going to be a huge conservation story," he says. "The
ivory-billed is a species that is near and dear to the hearts of many who
have ever browsed a field guide. The ivory-billed is such a noble and regal
bird, it draws a lot of attention."

Elusive bird

Rohrbaugh says the bird's elusiveness and the remoteness of the area where
it was found are reasons why there had been no confirmed sightings of the
woodpecker for 60 years.

"It tries to avoid people and by the nature of its ecology, requires very
large contiguous blocks of bottomland hardwood forest for its survival."

The only way into the forested area of the White River National Wildlife Ref
uge, one of the two search areas, is by canoe.

Rohrbaugh will continue with the project. With the discovery known, funding
opportunities open. "We're able to raise some money for some of our work and
federal funds and freed up for species recovery."

Rohrbaugh says his parents, Cassy and Ron Rohrbaugh, influenced his first
interest in birding.

"My grandmother always had a bird feeder up at her house," Rohrbaugh
recalls. His mother followed in her footsteps and always had a feeder too. A
field guide constantly sat by the window, he says, and he remembers being
scolded for wearing out the pages that showed hawks and owls.

"On the other side of that, my father was an avid hunter and I spent a lot
of time in the woods with him," Rohrbaugh says.

His mother now lives in Harrisburg and both sets of grandparents live in
Middletown.

He hopes the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker will galvanize the
public into being stewards of the environment. "It gives a lot of
inspiration and hope for conservation efforts."

--------------------------------------------------

From the Arkansas News Bureau (Little Rock): 7 May 2005
Protecting the ivory-billed woodpecker
By Joe Mosby

A few days after the ivory-billed woodpecker brought forth a tidal wave of
excitement, the backwash has begun.

Rumors are rampant, as most anyone could expect. Some may even turn out to
be true. Most won't.

To recap, a secrecy-shrouded research project of 14 months on federal and
state lands, and a little bit of private land just north of Brinkley
confirmed that at least one ivory-billed woodpecker is living there.

The news electrified the bird enthusiasts of the world, the scientific
communities and most everyday Arkansans. There had not been a confirmed -
repeat, confirmed - sighting of an ivory-billed woodpecker since 1944, and
that was in Louisiana. At this point, the question of when was the last
ivory-billed seen, and confirmed, in Arkansas is unanswered.

Muddled also are the current ivory-billed statistics on this find in the
Bayou DeView swamps near Brinkley.

Research coordinator Dr. John Fitzpatrick said of the sightings by those
involved in the scientific work, just four were definitely of male
ivory-billeds, the ones with red crests. The other sightings were "unknown
gender," and no females have been confirmed. Total sightings over the 14
months were about 15. Several were two-people sightings - same bird seen by
two researchers at the same time.

Fitzpatrick is head of Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology in
Ithaca, N.Y., the world's leading bird knowledge facility.

A couple of Arkansans had key roles, perhaps the two most significant roles,
in this ivory-billed woodpecker find.

Gene Sparling of Hot Springs saw an ivory-billed on Feb. 11, 2004, while
kayaking on Bayou DeView. What was Sparling doing kayaking in the east
Arkansas swamp in the middle of winter? He was looking for ivory-billeds.

About 10 weeks later, Dr. David Luneau of the University of Arkansas at
Little Rock, an engineering technology professor but an expert on birds,
made a short video segment of an ivory-billed. The Cornell team studied this
at length and with all sorts of computer enhancement work and concluded:
"Ivory-billed."

Why the secrecy about the ivory-billed investigation? The researchers had to
keep their operations under wraps. If word of the ivory-billed in Bayou
DeView had spread, hordes of curious people thrashing through the swamp
would have throttled the scientific efforts.

But the researchers, who were from nearby areas of Arkansas and as far away
as the Netherlands, worked undisturbed. They had automated cameras and sound
equipment set up, and many of the people spent 14-hour days in the swamp.
Fitzpatrick praised the work of Martjan Lammertink, the Dutch scientist who
is one of the world's leading woodpecker experts and who came to Arkansas
when Fitzpatrick called him. Lammertink was on hand most of the 14 months of
the search.

So what is next?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has closed the area of Cache River
National Wildlife Refuge around where the sightings took place. This is
about 5,000 acres. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has not closed its
Dagmar Wildlife Management Area, where one sighting was made. Spring
squirrel hunting season will be open in a few days on Dagmar. Cache River
NWR does not have spring squirrel hunting.

Brinkley is bracing for an onslaught of tourists - birders. Some have
already arrived. But you can imagine what the chances of seeing an
ivory-billed are. "Slim and none" is too optimistic.

Protect the habitat, buy more land and save the bottomland hardwoods will be
rallying cries, and they are laudable. Hopefully some of this will come to
reality.

But Cache River NWR manager Dennis Widner said his facility has a
long-standing policy of buying land only from willing sellers. Cache River
NWR is a checkerboard of federal land interspersed with private land.

Some evangelism is needed. More information with more distribution of it is
called for.

And we have been blessed in Arkansas with the ivory-billed woodpecker.




|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 22:05:35|jon_downes|xx|0|217.43.51.180|A phoenix rises from the mistsFeatured Advertiser

The ivory-billed woodpecker, long believed extinct, surfaces in a part of Arkansas this columnist and bird lover passed through recently. By Paul Sullivan

Date published: 5/7/2005

LAST WEEK'S announcement of the redis- covery of a creature long given up for extinct was an electric shock to millions around the world.

If only I had known.

If only I had known three weeks ago when, by sheer random chance, I drove through the heart of the eastern Arkansas wild lands where an ivory-billed woodpecker has been found, I would have stopped and stayed awhile.

Returning from Arizona, following the interstates, I caught blue-line fever. You know blue-line fever. That's when the urge to get off those clogged concrete arteries takes over and you want to see real towns and talk to real people and maybe, just maybe, get the chance to discover something unusual, something that hasn't been put in your path "for your enjoyment" (or annoyance).

Well, I did that in Arkansas, studying the map and giving the nod to a long detour eastward along U.S. 64 on a route that took me nearly 100 miles across a low-lying forested wetlands region known as the Big Woods, with no sizable towns and countless meandering waterways. One guidebook characterizes the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge here as one of the eight most important wetlands in the United States.

When the news broke last week that a lone Arkansas paddler, deep within this wilderness, had spotted the striking and unmistakable ivory-bill, I was certainly able to make the connection.

The initial discovery was made more than a year ago, but kept secret for fear of endangering this most endangered of species. While scientists from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology have since confirmed and repeated the sighting seven times, much remains to be known.

Birds that have been seen to date have all been males, leading to speculation on the existence of a viable breeding population of the ivory-bill.

Of course, I didn't see one of the fabled birds when I drove past the Big Woods, but the mere fact that I have seen where it lives is meaningful to me. And while I have never paddled in those vast lowlands of the Mississippi River basin, I have paddled extensively in swamps of the Southeast, which resemble this more westerly habitat.

A friend called this week to talk about the rediscovery of the giant woodpecker. She said some people have asked how a large, loud, brightly marked bird could escape detection for more than 60 years within these United States. And she said, answering the question herself: "They must not travel much."

Indeed, despite our rapid urbanization, despite the plowing under and paving over of such enormous tracts of land, there are still places few ever see--and where ivory-billed woodpeckers could hide in plain sight since 1944.

A couple of weeks after returning home, I joined friends at Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax to hear a Massachusetts scientist talk about the songs of birds and his lifetime learning about them. Donald Kroodsma, an authority on bird vocalizations, led us into the park's wet meadows with the large parabolic "ear" he uses to discover the secrets of avian audio.

The voice of a robin or a cardinal outside my window will never sound the same to me again.

Kroodsma, aiming his antenna at a singing bird, is able to show how its song starts on high notes and sweeps down to lower ones by shifting from one of its two voice boxes to the other. Yet the human ear detects no shift in the seamless virtuosity of its song.

People often ask, he said, whether birds learn their songs or if they are inherited. The answer, he said, is that it depends on the species. Another question he often gets is whether birds can improvise or copy their songs, and the answer, he said, is that some species seem to make it up as they sing, and many can imitate and vary their songs. What's more, individual birds of a kind are distinct in the way they sing, and careful listening often separates one from another.

Kroodsma visited Huntley Meadows in connection with the release of his new book, "The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong."

The book, which earns my highest recommendation, includes a CD to introduce readers to the intriguing world of the songs of birds. I might add that not only is Kroodsma an authority on this topic, there is absolutely nothing dry and dull about this scientist, either in person or in text. I never had any idea there was so much to discover in the realm of the songs and calls of birds.

I couldn't resist calling the professor a few days ago about the ivory-billed woodpecker.

Kroodsma, professor emeritus of biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a visiting fellow at the Cornell laboratory, said news of the discovery is tremendously exciting but he wants to hear high-quality audio recordings in order to study them.

To listen to this voice from the primeval past, by the way, visit the Web page (fws.gov/cache river) for the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge and click the link to the audio recording. It sounds like nothing I've ever heard--and is not remotely like the pileated woodpecker, with which some observers have confused it.

Resources: There are numerous good Web sites with information on the ivory-billed woodpecker and its rediscovery. Any Web search engine will provide this information. One of the best, most comprehensive and accurate of these is at the Cornell laboratory: birds.cornell.edu/ivory.

Donald Kroodsma's book "The Singing Life of Birds: The Art and Science of Listening to Birdsong" is published by Houghton Mifflin Co., 482 pages, $28.



PAUL SULLIVAN, a former reporter with The Free Lance-Star, is a freelance writer living in Spotsylvania County. Contact him by mail at The Free Lance-Star, 616 Amelia St., Fredericksburg, Va. 22401; by fax at 373-8455; or by e-mail at PBSullivan2@cs.com.

Date published: 5/7/2005

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/10/05 at 22:06:03|jon_downes|xx|0|217.43.51.180|
Protecting the ivory-billed woodpecker

Joe Mosby
Saturday, May 7, 2005

A few days after the ivory-billed woodpecker brought forth a tidal wave of excitement, the backwash has begun.

Rumors are rampant, as most anyone could expect. Some may even turn out to be true. Most won't.

To recap, a secrecy-shrouded research project of 14 months on federal and state lands, and a little bit of private land just north of Brinkley confirmed that at least one ivory-billed woodpecker is living there.

The news electrified the bird enthusiasts of the world, the scientific communities and most everyday Arkansans. There had not been a confirmed - repeat, confirmed - sighting of an ivory-billed woodpecker since 1944, and that was in Louisiana. At this point, the question of when was the last ivory-billed seen, and confirmed, in Arkansas is unanswered.

Muddled also are the current ivory-billed statistics on this find in the Bayou DeView swamps near Brinkley.

Research coordinator Dr. John Fitzpatrick said of the sightings by those involved in the scientific work, just four were definitely of male ivory-billeds, the ones with red crests. The other sightings were "unknown gender," and no females have been confirmed. Total sightings over the 14 months were about 15. Several were two-people sightings - same bird seen by two researchers at the same time.

Fitzpatrick is head of Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., the world's leading bird knowledge facility.

A couple of Arkansans had key roles, perhaps the two most significant roles, in this ivory-billed woodpecker find.

Gene Sparling of Hot Springs saw an ivory-billed on Feb. 11, 2004, while kayaking on Bayou DeView. What was Sparling doing kayaking in the east Arkansas swamp in the middle of winter? He was looking for ivory-billeds.

About 10 weeks later, Dr. David Luneau of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, an engineering technology professor but an expert on birds, made a short video segment of an ivory-billed. The Cornell team studied this at length and with all sorts of computer enhancement work and concluded: "Ivory-billed."

Why the secrecy about the ivory-billed investigation? The researchers had to keep their operations under wraps. If word of the ivory-billed in Bayou DeView had spread, hordes of curious people thrashing through the swamp would have throttled the scientific efforts.

But the researchers, who were from nearby areas of Arkansas and as far away as the Netherlands, worked undisturbed. They had automated cameras and sound equipment set up, and many of the people spent 14-hour days in the swamp. Fitzpatrick praised the work of Martjan Lammertink, the Dutch scientist who is one of the world's leading woodpecker experts and who came to Arkansas when Fitzpatrick called him. Lammertink was on hand most of the 14 months of the search.

So what is next?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has closed the area of Cache River National Wildlife Refuge around where the sightings took place. This is about 5,000 acres. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has not closed its Dagmar Wildlife Management Area, where one sighting was made. Spring squirrel hunting season will be open in a few days on Dagmar. Cache River NWR does not have spring squirrel hunting.

Brinkley is bracing for an onslaught of tourists - birders. Some have already arrived. But you can imagine what the chances of seeing an ivory-billed are. "Slim and none" is too optimistic.

Protect the habitat, buy more land and save the bottomland hardwoods will be rallying cries, and they are laudable. Hopefully some of this will come to reality.

But Cache River NWR manager Dennis Widner said his facility has a long-standing policy of buying land only from willing sellers. Cache River NWR is a checkerboard of federal land interspersed with private land.

Some evangelism is needed. More information with more distribution of it is called for.

And we have been blessed in Arkansas with the ivory-billed woodpecker.

Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas' best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock.

http://www.arkansasnews.com/archive/2005/05/07/JoeMosby/321060.html
-----
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Hellbilly|freddrybarn@yahoo.com|05/11/05 at 18:16:57|Hellbilly|xx|0|12.180.240.186| 8) side-by-side comparison of the Ivory-bill and the Pileated Woodpeckers

http://www.50birds.com/givorypileatedcompare.htm


From Cornell, the role of bioacoustics tech in the search:

Meanwhile, back in the lab: World's most advanced sound-detection tools aided human ears

By Roger Segelken
ITHACA, N.Y. -- In the bayous of Arkansas, as in other forested habitats, birds are often heard before they're seen. Recorded sounds of Campephilus principalis -- and not something else that sounds almost alike -- can be high-tech "bread crumbs," according to Russ Charif.

The biologist in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Bioacoustics Research Program, source of some of the world's most advanced natural-sounds recording and analysis tools, explained: "Think of these recorded sounds -- the signature double rap of the ivory-bill or its 'kent' call -- as bread crumbs leading a camouflaged photographer to the base of the tree for that once-in-a-lifetime photo."

Across the room in the bioacoustics lab, earphone-clad analysts watched intently as sound spectrograms -- visual representations of sounds -- scrolled across computer monitors. They paused every few seconds to listen to an "event" that the sound-analysis software had highlighted from thousands of hours of recordings.

Was that really the "kent" of the ivory-billed woodpecker? Or just a nuthatch, or even a snow goose, with a similar vocalization? Back in 1831, the ivory-bill's nasal sound reminded John James Audubon of "a high, false note on a clarinet." One 21st-century birder said an ivory-bill sounds "like a nuthatch on steroids."

Play it again: Was that the ivory-bill's "BAM-bam!" double knock? Nine other Campephilus species rap twice on wood to make their long-distance communication signal, but those woodpeckers all live in Central and South America. Was this the "BAM-bam!" that would finally lead searchers to North America's most elusive bird? Or just another gunshot?

Whatever the source, the sounds first had to be recorded:

The sound recording-and-analysis process began in the field with devices called ARUs, for autonomous recording units. A compact block of electronics gear about the size of a palm-held computer included a small hard drive and the circuitry to start and stop recording -- typically about four hours when ivory-bills awoke in the morning and four hours before they retired in the evening -- plus a processor for digital signals. The gear was concealed in a 2-foot-long piece of PVC plumbing pipe.
Outside the pipe, a furry "wind sock" covered the 16-microphone array to filter some ambient noise, although plenty of non-bird sounds -- distant train whistles and too-close-for-comfort gunshots, for example -- became part of the recordings.
Two 6-volt lantern batteries powered the unit for each weeklong recording session. Then a technician returned by canoe to retrieve the ARU and download the recording to a larger hard drive, which were shipped back to Ithaca for analysis. Equipped with fresh batteries, the ARU was then moved to another location.
The ARUs were strapped to trees -- safely above water level, it was hoped, although periodic flooding could change water levels in the search area 10 feet or more in a month.
To survey the 160,000-acre search site, ARUs were moved frequently and spaced as far apart as possible. The bird's "kent" call could be recorded up to 200 meters away, while the double-rap sound carried about 300 meters. If one unit detected a promising sound, others could be moved nearby to "triangulate" the source.
The ARU was invented at the Cornell Bioacoustics Research Program and has been used to record everything from right whales in the North Atlantic to Africa's forest elephants. The 2002 search for the ivory-bill in Louisiana's Pearl River Wildlife Management Area used 12 ARUs. The 2004-05 Arkansas search across a larger area required 24 ARUs.
In deciding where to deploy the recording units, the Cornell surveyors said they tried to think like a hungry ivory-bill or an egg-laying beetle, asking themselves: Where are the dying trees with beetle larvae under the bark, where a woodpecker might feed? They used infrared aerial photography to find what they called "pink [in infrared rendition] bathtub rings" of stressed trees around pools of water. If beetle larvae were under the bark of the stressed trees, then maybe -- just maybe -- ivory-billed woodpeckers would find the trees, tear off the bark in a process called scaling and feed.

The surveyors in the field didn't know if their think-like-a-beetle strategy was paying off until the recordings were analyzed in the Ithaca laboratory, and that was a daunting task:

Recordings from the 2004-05 survey (eight hours a day from each of 24 units) were the equivalent of nearly three years of continuous recording. Even a major university like Cornell couldn't spare enough people to listen to all that sound, so the first part of the detection process was automated.
Data from the search, when it was finally analyzed and archived, added up to a server-busting 3 or 4 terabytes. All recordings will be saved, even if nothing was found in the first analysis.
Two Cornell-developed sound visualization and measurement programs, called XBAT and Raven, were used. XBAT (for eXtensible BioAcoustic Tool) rapidly scans the digital recordings and detects sounds similar to those made by ivory-bills. Raven was used for interactive exploration of sounds that are of particular interest.
On the sound spectrograms, XBAT highlighted sounds of interest with colored boxes to catch the eye of the analyst. The analyst played and replayed each detected event, sometimes comparing the sound to reference recordings of ivory-bills, their close relatives or other species that sound almost alike. As the search neared the midpoint, analysts had already scrutinized 91,000 "detections" and set aside all but a handful.
Archival recordings of ivory-billed woodpeckers were critical to the detection software and the human analysts. Although no record of the ivory-bill's double-rap sound existed until the 2004-05 survey, the bioacoustic scientists have good-quality recordings of vocalizations from the 1935 expedition to Louisiana's Tensas River by Cornell ornithologists Peter Paul Kellogg, Arthur A. Allen, George Sutton and James T. Tanner. On the soundtrack of motion picture film, the 1935 team successfully recorded an adult pair of ivory-bills and their young at the nest. This recording -- the first ever made of the voice of the ivory-bill -- provided the "template" that the detection software attempted to match and guided the decisions of the analysts about which sounds were the most interesting.

"Automation is great," Charif said, "but the real gold standard, in the final analysis, is still the human ear."

Nevertheless, the veteran of earlier bioacoustic searches -- before XBAT and other tools became available -- wanted to save human ears for what they do best. He observed that if the ivory-bill survey relied on human ears alone, those humans would have had to remain attentive through tens of thousands of hours of recordings -- to catch the few seconds that the ivory-bill searchers were looking for. By then, the results would have been too late to be of any real use.

"With XBAT," Charif said, "we enable our trained, expert ears to concentrate on the relatively tiny percentage of the entire data set that really warrants their attention."

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/April05/Woodpecker_sound_tech.html|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/13/05 at 15:01:07|jon_downes|xx|0|172.214.84.174|Cornell University News Service
------------------------------------------------------------------------
May 12, 2005

Long search for ivory-billed woodpecker -- a Bigfoot no more -- detailed in
new book by man who sighted mysterious bird
By Krishna Ramanujan

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Until recently, the ivory-billed woodpecker was like Bigfoot
or the Loch Ness monster -- a famed creature that for years eyewitnesses
claimed to see but that science could not substantiate.

This impression runs through "The Grail Bird" (Houghton Mifflin, 2005),
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0618456937/cryptozoologi-20>
a new book by Tim Gallagher, an editor at the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell
University who played a primary role in the rediscovery of the ivory-billed
woodpecker, once considered extinct. For years, people claimed to have heard
the bird's distinct "kent, kent, kent" call and the powerful
loud-then-softer double rap of its bill. Some asserted they had witnessed
fly-bys of the large crested, black-and-white, white-billed woodpecker.

But when it comes to cryptozoology -- the search for and study of animals
that are only rumored to exist -- any claim requires strong proof. And the
scientific establishment met the smattering of sightings with skepticism.

John Dennis, an ornithologist and popular author of bird books, took the
last scientifically accepted photographs of the elusive woodpecker in Cuba
in 1948. The bird had seemingly vanished even earlier in the United States
as habitat destruction and collecting took their toll.

But last month, the Lab of Ornithology and The Nature Conservancy announced
to the world that they had video footage of the woodpecker taken in 2004.
Gallagher's book covers the 60 years between the last confirmed U.S.
sighting in 1944 and the aftermath of the author's own sighting of the bird
in Arkansas in early 2004 that led to the final proof.

Gallagher writes: "My goal was to find as many people as possible who had
taken part in these searches and sightings, and if the sightings seemed
credible, to follow up on them myself." While engaging the reader in his
mission, Gallagher immerses himself into the culture of those who have
passionately chased the ivory-bill.

He tells how in 1966, in pursuit of an ivory-bill, Dennis plunged naked into
chilly black bayou water in east Texas to get a full view of the woodpecker.
Despite Dennis' familiarity with the bird, ornithologists "laughed at" his
report, Gallagher notes.

A similar fate awaited George Lowery, head of the Museum of Natural Science
at Louisiana State University (LSU), when he showed two somewhat blurry
snapshots of an ivory-bill at a 1971 ornithology meeting. "These were shot
with a cheap Kodak Instamatic camera and have some of the typical
Bigfoot/Loch Ness monster fuzziness," Gallagher writes. In each picture, a
bird sat on a different tree but had the same stiff posture, and the bill
was hidden.

People claimed the bird was a carved decoy or a taxidermic mount. But behind
closed doors, some believed the pictures were real.

"Woodpeckers -- bark-foraging birds in general -- have pretty much a single
posture," said James Van Remsen, curator of birds at LSU's Museum of Natural
Science, in a 2004 conversation with Gallagher. When Gallagher found the man
who took the photos, a cigar- chomping septuagenarian named Fielding Lewis,
Gallagher thoroughly believed him.

Still, Lowery was ridiculed.

When David Kulivan, an undergraduate at LSU sighted two ivory-bills in 1999
in a Louisiana Wildlife Management Area, even hardened skeptics believed his
account. Still, Van Remsen warned Kulivan, "If you go public with this, a
lot of people will put you in the same category as those who claim to have
seen UFOs and Bigfoot."

When Kulivan talked publicly of his sighting, search teams scoured the area,
including a team of bioacoustic experts from Cornell's Lab of Ornithology,
but they never found an ivory-bill. Gallagher phoned Kulivan in 2004 but
received "an instant chill" from the young man. Kulivan responded, "I've
decided -- and I've been advised -- not to talk about this anymore."

On Feb. 27, 2004, Gallagher and his close friend Bobby Harrison of Alabama's
Oakwood College paddled through a bayou in northeastern Arkansas with Gene
Sparling, a kayaker who just two weeks earlier claimed to have witnessed the
legendary bird there. As Sparling paddled far ahead, an unmistakable
ivory-billed woodpecker flew past in front of their canoe at close range.
The experience was life-altering, said Gallagher, but he was immediately
concerned with how to best divulge the discovery.

"A lot of good people have been ruined because they claimed they saw an
ivory-bill," he said. Gallagher and the others decided to keep quiet about
the sighting for now, in part to avoid attracting hordes of amateur birds
descending on the Arkansas bayou.

In a series of closed-door meetings, Gallagher revealed his secret to
colleagues at Cornell. In the months ahead, teams of bird experts, including
many from the lab, took turns combing the Arkansas area by canoe. With no
woodpecker in sight, Gallagher joked to a colleague: "I feel like I'm really
hanging out alone on a limb with the Sasquatch chasers and Elvis sighters."

Eventually, the scouts caught a few sightings, and University of Arkansas
professor David Luneau finally captured the mystery bird on videotape April
25, 2004.

Gallagher ends his book by commenting that scientists should approach
questions and data with open, dispassionate minds, but "this has been
anything but the case with the ivory-billed woodpecker for almost a
century."

Perhaps, finding the ivory-bill will offer some consolation for those who
are still chasing Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.


|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/16/05 at 20:51:19|jon_downes|xx|0|172.213.176.108|From the Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette: 15 May 2005
Wildlife: Ivory-billed woodpecker making a comeback
By Scott Shalaway

Five years ago, I described the report of a pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers
in the wilds of Louisiana. At the time, I was convinced of the ivory-bill's
extinction and wrote: "Could they really have eluded detection by sharp-eyed
and sharp-eared ornithologists and birders for 50 years? I sure hope so. I'd
love to be wrong."

As I'm sure you noticed a few weeks ago, I was wrong. The "extinct" ivory
bill has been rediscovered. It's the biggest conservation story of my
lifetime. The previous confirmed sighting was in 1944.

When the story broke April 28, it was actually old news. More than a year
earlier (Feb. 11, 2004), Gene Sparlings of Hot Springs, Ark., spotted a male
ivory bill while canoeing in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. Two
weeks later, Tim Gallagher, editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's
Living Bird magazine, and his friend Bobby Harrison of Oakwood College in
Huntsville, Ala., made the trip to Arkansas to confirm the sighting. They
saw the bird again Feb. 27.

At this point, folks from the Cornell Lab and a group of prominent
ornithologists formed a committee to determine a course of action. If word
of the discovery leaked, the area would be inundated with flocks of birders.
So, they established top-secret search teams to find more birds.

In the next 12 months, observers recorded 13 more sightings. Fewer than 100
people knew of the secret search. The plan was to announce the discovery May
18, 2005, in the Nature Conservancy magazine. But the story leaked April 28.

To understand why the ivory bill is so rare requires some historical
perspective. From the 1870s through the early 20th century, old- growth
southern swamps were relentlessly timbered and drained. Habitat destruction
triggered the ivory bill's decline. But its biology also was to blame.

These magnificent woodpeckers (20 inches long with a three-foot wingspan)
require up to 6 square miles to meet their annual needs. This large area is
necessary because their primary food is the large, nutritious grubs of
wood-boring beetles that attack newly dead trees. Recently dead trees are
relatively uncommon, so it takes a large area to provide enough to satisfy
an ivory bill's appetite. This specialized diet helps to minimize
competition for food from other woodpeckers because only ivory bills are
powerful enough to remove the bark on newly dead trees. Ivory bills probably
have never been common because their diet requires specialized anatomical
adaptations that permit it to exploit an uncommon food source found in
limited old-growth habitats.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the bird has been rediscovered,
and there's hope. In hindsight, it's likely that the worst of times for the
ivory bill came in the 1930s and '40s when its habitat bottomed out.

For the past 55 years, southern swamps have been recovering slowly. Federal
and state refuges have protected large tracts of potential ivory-bill
habitat. Finding one bird suggests that more survived, and, since the
announcement several weeks ago, I've seen unconfirmed reports of ivory-bill
sightings from South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

The rediscovery of the ivory-bill suggests that given time and protection
entire ecosystems can recover from widespread destruction. Now we wait and
see if the conservation community can keep us from loving this bird to death
and if wildlife agencies permanently can rescue a species from the brink of
extinction.
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/17/05 at 15:49:15|jon_downes|xx|0|172.212.152.98|From the Detroit Free Press: 15 May 2005
Tourist visits could disturb rediscovered bird
May 15, 2005

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Opinion is divided on whether the recent rediscovery of
the ivory-billed woodpecker will -- or should -- result in a torrent of
tourists in the Arkansas Delta.
Officials confirmed last month that the bird, which was previously thought
extinct, lives in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.
Dennis Widner, a manager of the refuge, says he's not worried about an
influx of birdwatchers because the region is so remote. Its swampy habitat
is also rife with snakes and alligators.
"It's dangerous work to be out in these swamps," he said.
The remoteness might explain why the bird hadn't been seen since 1944 before
it was spotted again last year, and then verified in sightings by a
half-dozen researchers this winter.
But Sam Hamilton, the regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service's Southeast region, predicts the bird will draw thousands of
tourists.
Hamilton said the bird has proven it can coexist with human intrusion. The
area is popular for duck-hunting and fishing.
"Our concern is obviously to make sure we protect the bird, but the bird has
existed for many, many years with public land use. There are different
beliefs, there are some who say that this is the last rare woodpecker and we
need to close it all down. But this is an area that has accommodated a great
amount of public use," he said.
Federal agencies are putting up $10 million to help preserve the habitat.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officials have
limited access to many areas near the bird's habitat while they develop a
long-term plan for managing the potential influx of birdwatchers.
Meanwhile, the small city of Brinkley, Ark., population 4,000, is ready for
all those tourists. Brinkley, the biggest community near the ivory bill's
habitat, has between 400 and 500 hotel rooms.



|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/18/05 at 14:37:46|jon_downes|xx|0|172.214.199.158|From the Houston (TX) Star-Telegram: 17 May 2005
Flocking to town
The world's eyes are on a quiet corner of Arkansas after birders get a
glimpse of the ivory-billed woodpecker
By David Casstevens

BRINKLEY, Ark. -- If you cup a hand to one ear and are very, very quiet, you
almost can hear him out there among the ancient cypress and tupelo trees,
foraging in the lush floodplain forest.
Shhhh. Listen. Tap-tap.
A staccato double-rap pierces the stillness. The hollow notes echo
hauntingly in the Big Woods.
It's the sound of the great phantom bird, the ivory-billed woodpecker.
Last month, ornithologists announced that the largest woodpecker in the
United States -- which was presumed to be extinct -- is living in the Cache
River National Wildlife Refuge, a beautiful and forbidding bottomland in
eastern Arkansas where scarves of moss drape gnarled branches and swamp
waters the color of cafe au lait teem with snakes.
The long-sought bird had last been seen in Louisiana, in 1944. The
ivory-bill became a symbol of the fading American wilderness.
Naturalists rejoiced, some moved to tears, at the recent news.
Bird watchers who only could dream of adding the fowl to their life lists -- or logs of the species they have spotted -- likened the sighting to
discovering that Elvis is alive.
The largest community near the woodpecker's luxuriant habitat is Brinkley,
an old railroad town originally named Lick Skillet, midway between Little
Rock and Memphis, off Interstate 40. The median household income in Monroe
County is $22,632. To Brinkley's 4,000 residents, the tap-tapping is a
magical sound, a sound of hope, heralding the promise of economic blessing.
"There's nothin' here," said Penny Childs, owner of Penny's Hair Care on
Main Street. "When Brinkley does get publicity, it's never good. If there's
a criminal within 150 miles, they'll run out of gas here and get caught in
Brinkley. We have F4 tornadoes that blow us off the map. We make CNN.
"This bird is great news. It's wonderful."
Struck by a bolt of entrepreneurial inspiration, Childs recently nailed a
hand-painted sign to the trunk of a shade tree outside her small salon. It
reads: "Woodpecker Haircut $25."
The next day, she received 75 phone calls.
"Penny, what is it?" another hairdresser in town asked.
"What?"
"The woodpecker haircut."
"I can't say yet," Childs playfully told her competitor. "I'm gettin' a
patent on it."
Childs' 16-year-old son sports the new fashion statement. The hairdo is
spiked and dyed bright red on top, with a single black stripe down each
side.
Most bird sightings in this area are down the barrel of a shotgun. This is
duck and goose country, a hunter's paradise. Mallards floating in a marsh
are pictured on the Brinkley water tower.
Stuttgart, Ark., is host of the World's Championship Duck Calling Contest.
Clarendon, the Monroe County seat, stages the annual Big Woods Birding
Festival in May and is the home of The Nature Conservancy.
"But we've got the bird," crowed Sandra Kemmer, executive director of the
Brinkley Chamber of Commerce.
Mayor Billy Clay and other civic leaders are confident that once observation
sites in the refuge are established, bird watchers from around the world
will flock to Brinkley -- like those feathered strangers that descended on a
town in the Alfred Hitchcock movie -- and roost in the 400 motel rooms, feed
at local restaurants and shop downtown.
The town's Advertising and Promotion Commission plans to erect new
billboards along I-40 that proudly proclaim Brinkley as "Home of the
Ivory-Billed Woodpecker."
Watching and waiting
On Feb. 11, 2004, a kayaker from Hot Springs was paddling alone down the
Cache River when he glimpsed an unusual bird flying overhead.
Gene Sparling drew a breath and held it.
A longtime bird watcher and photographer, he knew that the glossy black
fowl -- which appeared to be a little larger than a crow -- wasn't an
ordinary wisecracking woodpecker, like Woody.
The bird's size, its crimson crest (a male) and black and white markings
told him that he was gazing at what John James Audubon called "the great
chieftain of the woodpecker tribe."
The bird had ranged widely across the southeastern United States at one
time. Native Americans believed that its beak possessed magical powers. The
ivory-billed woodpecker, it was thought, became extinct decades ago after
logging destroyed its habitat.
Sparling was reluctant to report his find.
He told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, "I didn't want to be lumped in with
alien abduction people and Sasquatch hunters."
Several days later, he mentioned his sighting on the Arkansas Canoe Club Web
site. Researchers from New York's Cornell University saw the report and
arranged to join conservation groups in a covert project to gather
information about the bird.
For the next year, avian experts patrolled areas of the refuge from sunup to
sundown, navigating the bayous in canoes powered by quiet electric motors.
Field researchers recorded at least 15 sightings of the bird during more
than 7,000 hours of searching.
David Luneau, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock who
has dedicated years to looking for the ghost bird, captured a four-second
video of the woodpecker on the wing.
Folks in Brinkley couldn't help noticing the strangers in town.
One day, Kemmer, the chamber of commerce director, approached a group dining
at a local Mexican restaurant and asked, flat out, "Whatch ya'll doing
here?"
They were researching in the refuge, they said. They wouldn't reveal the
nature of their work.
"They were real secretive," said Gene DePriest, owner of Gene's Barbecue,
which now offers the $5.75 "ivory-billed burger" -- two meat patties,
mozzarella cheese and pepper bacon on a sesame-seed bun. "They'd come in and
sit by theirself. I knew something was going on."
Bird experts and government agencies kept quiet for 14 months while
confirming the discovery and protecting the habitat. Last month, an hour
before the announcement about the bird's existence was made in Washington,
D.C., the head of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge telephoned
Brinkley's mayor.
Clay is familiar with the refuge. As kids, he and friends fished the nearby
river. They ventured deep into the woods, floating to places he said are so
spooky that "the trees have faces, like in the cartoons."
Clay recalled helping push their flat-bottom boat over cypress stumps,
wading waist-deep in the muddy bog. They were "too ignorant," he joked, to
be scared of snakes.
The swamp is home to plenty of them. One bird researcher reported counting
17 cottonmouth water moccasins in 20 minutes.
Dennis Widner, the refuge manager, told Clay that the sighting was
extraordinary news.
"Let me give you a little analogy," Widner told him. "Say you're sitting at
your breakfast table drinking a cup of coffee one morning and you look out
the window and a dinosaur runs across your yard, and you get a video of it.
And it is made public.
"The world would beat a path to your door to see it. Billy, that's how big
this discovery is in the bird world."
A serious subject
Clay figures that his chances of spotting the ivory-billed woodpecker are
slim, at best. He is busy operating the town's nursing home and doesn't have
the time, patience or inclination to hunker down for hours in the deep
woods, looking, listening, waiting.
"If I see that bird," Clay said, "it'll have to light on my bedpost."
But others will be coming soon.
As refuge manager, Widner is responsible for the bird's welfare. The U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service has closed access to a 5,000-acre area where the
bird was sighted. Uniformed federal refuge officers are stationed at the
Bayou de View, three miles north of town. About 55,000 acres of the refuge
are still open to the public.
"I was expecting us to be overwhelmed with people," Widner said. "So far
there haven't been that many. What we found out, from e-mail messages, is
this: Birders are saying, 'This is fantastic. Unheard of. Let's not all rush
there right now and potentially jeopardize the bird's existence. Let's go at
a later date.'
"It is so refreshing to see a group as a whole take ownership of the welfare
of the bird. My hat's off to 'em."
Researchers don't know if the ivory-billed woodpecker is part of a small
breeding population or the lone survivor, the last of its kind.
"My biggest concern is that we don't love it to death," Widner said. "By
that I mean, you don't have to kill birds to have an adverse impact. All
birds have a disturbance threshold. If that's exceeded, they'll leave.
"They don't have to be hunters. There can just be too many people in the
area. We want to be careful that the bird doesn't leave, and go to some
habitat that can't support it."
DePriest is certain of one thing. He knows better than to make sport of the
endangered species. He has been advised by the feds never to ask a birder,
in jest, things like, "Is it dark or white meat?"
"I could kill you and get off easier than I could [killing] that
woodpecker," he said. "They're serious about that bird. The man in charge
told me, 'Don't be making no jokes about killin' no woodpecker.' Said you
gotta watch which people you joke to.
"Those bird people will get on you."
IN THE KNOW
Ivory-billed woodpecker
History: The second-largest woodpecker in the world at an average of 20
inches long, it lived in swampy forests throughout the southeast United
States, ranging into eastern Texas. It was thought to be one of six extinct
bird species in North America.
Characteristics: It has a distinctive double rap on wood. In flight, it is
swift and loud.
Recent discovery: It has been sighted in an area about 120 miles long and up
to 20 miles wide in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas. The area known as the
Corridor of Hope, which includes the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge,
is home to seven endangered species and 265 species of birds.
What it means: The federal government has proposed committing more than $10
million to protect the bird's habitat. That is in addition to $10 million
raised by private groups.


|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/19/05 at 14:15:38|jon_downes|xx|0|172.213.147.83|Woodpecker sends Hartselle wildlife artist's stock flying

PAUL HUGGINS
May 17, 2005

Looks like the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker will bring a flock of green bills to the home of Hartselle wildlife artist Larry Chandler. As a longtime friend of Bobby Harrison, the former Decatur resident who helped find the large bird long thought extinct, Chandler is on the crest of a rising tidal wave of interest in the woodpecker and already finds one of his paintings in a prominent spot before birding enthusiasts worldwide.

Meanwhile, Harrison, a 1973 Austin High School graduate who found the woodpecker 14 months ago with birding colleague Tim Gallagher, hopes his newfound international fame will lead to a book deal and the lecture circuit. He could have to settle, however, for fame and a funny nickname that will be hard to shake.

"I thought it'd be big, but not as big as it's become," Chandler said of the world reaction since news of the ivory-billed woodpecker's existence broke April 28. "It opens up a new field of collectors that I haven't had. This may be a turning point in my career to slip away from dogs and do more birds."

Most of Chandler's art sales are of duck-hunting retrievers, some of which the Franklin Mint used for a series of collectors' plates. But the artist also has won national accolades for birds, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Division had commissioned him to paint its 2005 duck stamp design. It was his third duck stamp painting for Arkansas to go with two for Alabama and two for Kentucky. His talent got a boost from his 20-year friendship with Harrison, when Harrison called him shortly after finding the woodpecker and correctly predicted an ivory-billed painting would be in high demand once word gets out it truly exists.

Because Chandler did not have a photograph of the bird, he relied on Harrison's description, much like a police artist drawing a suspect from a crime victim's description. The result was so impressive, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the world's premiere birding research organization, used the image on its Web site. It also plans to buy the original from Harrison as well as commission Chandler for another ivory-billed painting for its bird museum.

"It's a great shot in the arm for my career with the notoriety I'm getting," Chandler said.

In the past two weeks, Chandler also persuaded Arkansas Game and Fish officials to let him touch up the duck stamp painting he had already submitted by adding the woodpecker in the background. Sales of special prints from the new painting will go toward protecting the bird's habitat. In addition, Arkansas officials commissioned Chandler to prepare art for billboards aimed at bird-watching tourists as well as a woodpecker license plate.

Arkansas and Cornell officials want to make collectors' stamps and prints from Chandler's painting with proceeds helping protect the bird. Wild Birds Unlimited will use that image for T-shirts and other gift items.

Harrison, 50, who teaches photography, art appreciation and computer graphics at Oakwood College, said he sees no similar fortune for himself despite seeing his name appear on television and radio network news as well as newspapers from the Chicago Tribute to the Calcutta Telegraph.

CBS's "60 Minutes" called last week to inquire about a feature story.

Harrison said he has enjoyed the recognition, and he doesn't even mind the nickname "Sobbin' Bob," which some media gave him after they learned he broke down in tears when he first saw the woodpecker and realized his 33-year dream.

Harrison found 600 hits for his name and the woodpecker on the Internet after the story broke. He hopes the fame will persuade a publisher to finance a book of his photographs.

That would become more likely, he said, if he can get a quality photo of the woodpecker when he returns to the Arkansas swamps this week and throughout the summer.

"What would a picture of Bigfoot be worth?" Harrison said, noting he only has some brief video so far.

Also likely on Harrison's horizon is a side career on the lecture circuit, where he's sure to find an audience of birdwatchers wanting to hear him recount his search. As a college teacher, he's accustomed to public speaking.

"And I love an audience. The more people I have, the more I love it," he said.

http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050517/APN/505171005&cachetime=3&template=dateline
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|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/19/05 at 14:16:37|jon_downes|xx|0|172.213.147.83|Ivory-bill Ooops

Don Hendershot
5/18/05

Mmmphh ooommmgrhp grrrmmuupp, excuse me, I know its not polite to write with my mouth full, but I’m having some warm crow (actually, since I’m vegan, it’s crowfurky.)

Last week in my Ivory-billed Doubting Thomas article I lamented the fact that I had not been able to find any images from the video capturing the alleged ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods of Arkansas. An expert videographer had reviewed the video and researchers had stated that out-takes provided definitive evidence that the bird in question was indeed an ivory-billed.

Well, I found those out-takes. You can access them too. Go to www.sciencemag.org and follow the links to the piece on the ivory-billed. You can download the PDF of the article with the out-takes in it.

The very first image is one of the bird perched on a tree. I could not even detect this from the video itself. To me this image is the most telling. It shows just a portion of the dorsal surface of a bird perched on the side of a tupelo gum. The image is of “Bigfoot” quality, but for the life of me I can’t think of anything it could be other than an ivory-billed woodpecker.

The paper goes on to describe other clips from the video. I don’t know if they could stand alone without the image of the perched bird.

I viewed the video several times before writing last week’s article (May 11) and did not find it definitive. But this “deinterlaced” clip of the perched bird has me hooked. The way I see it, it’s still not a slam-dunk but it does appear to be a break away layup.

I still don’t see how this bird could have existed for 60 years with no verifiable sightings. I’m surprised no one has shot one and brought it in for proof. That’s how Dr. Lowry found out about the ivory-billeds in the Singer tract in Louisiana.

Julie Weston is a wildlife ecologist and geneticist. She posted a short discussion on Carolina Birds listserv with a couple of possible explanations of how the ivory-billed may have survived.

According to Weston when wild populations suddenly decrease drastically, as was the case with the ivory-billed when its habitat was destroyed across the Southeast, they experience what geneticists call a bottleneck.

“When this happens, the odds of two deleterious alleles combining become much higher, these genetic problems are expressed, and individuals begin dying off because they have inherited ‘bad genes’.

“So if the [ivory-billed] did not evolve to tolerate inbreeding, and they also went through a bottleneck, how could they have survived? This is where it gets interesting. As inbreeding increases in small, bottlenecked populations, yes, many individuals die, or otherwise are compromised in their ability to reproduce (which is the equivalent of death, ecologically speaking). But in such a population, the individuals who are dying are the ones carrying those deleterious alleles. If they die, they can’t pass on those bad genes. As this continues, the only individuals who actually survive and pass on their genes are the healthy ones. So the frequency of the bad genes initially increases, but if luck is with the population and they can hold on long enough, the frequency of the bad genes will then begin to decline, leaving the survivors inbred but genetically healthy enough to survive, at least for a while. This is one scenario which may have happened with [ivory-billeds.]” Weston wrote.

Weston’s second theory is that ivory-billeds have maintained because they have been able to produce successful dispersers. “[Ivory-billeds] have been rumored to occur in Louisiana and other locations over the past few decades. If the bird is truly able to survive in both bottomland and pine forests, then the few remaining populations may be exchanging individuals and, hence, genes. Only one individual per generation needs to successfully disperse and raise offspring in order for gene flow to continue among populations. [Ivory-billeds] lifespan is up to 15 years. Even though generations overlap with each other, these birds are long-lived enough that it’s quite possible they have been able to maintain one successful disperser every 10 years or so, and thus maintain some semblance of genetic health.

If there are still ivory-billeds — and that video clip has me thinking it’s quite a distinct possibility — I believe Weston’s first hypothesis to be correct. I just can’t see small pockets of ivory-billeds maintaining and even dispersing over the past 60 years with no confirmed sightings.

And I think better confirmation is needed. Cornell and The Nature Conservancy have staked their professional reputations on the existence of the ivory-billed woodpecker. They must be pretty certain. Now they need to document that existence. I’m sure they are working very hard to do that.

http://www.smokymountainnews.com/issues/05_05/05_18_05/out_naturalist.html
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|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/19/05 at 20:38:38|jon_downes|xx|0|172.213.147.83|Woodpecker's rediscovery leads to 'sightings'

By VIRGINIA SMITH Staff Writer

Last update: May 19, 2005


Just last week, John Hicks spotted the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker eating mulberries in South Daytona's Ra-Mar mobile home park.

It had a pale bill, a red head, more white than black on its back, and a "huge wingspread," said Hicks, 75. And it was uncommonly lovely, said the amateur birder, who has watched generations of falcons and owls in the park and knows how to distinguish several kinds of woodpeckers.

It was not, he said, the similar-looking but widespread pileated woodpecker.. It was an ivory bill, "the one y'all wrote about."

"There's just something beautiful" about the ivory bill, he said. "There are very few left."

Actually, in Florida, there are none left.

Researchers recently discovered the thought-to-be-extinct bird in a remote Arkansas swamp, but the last Florida sighting of an ivory bill was in 1924, in a cypress strand west of Tallahassee, said Clay Henderson, Audubon of Florida's president emeritus. That bird was promptly shot, stuffed and sold to the University of Florida for $150.

Yet in recent weeks Henderson has been approached on the street by people claiming to have seen "that woodpecker." He's received dozens of calls to his house. He handles each caller diplomatically, congratulating them for having seen a pileated woodpecker.

Some counter that they did not. They saw an ivory bill.

All over the country, people are saying the same. Even where ivory bills are as likely to be spotted as Bigfoot.

* * *

In the weeks since Cornell University scientists published proof April 28 that the ivory bill lives, and news reports dispersed the story around the globe, scientists have received hundreds of calls and e-mails from people claiming to have seen one, many of them emotional and insistent.

Though the ivory bill cannot survive outside warm Southern swamps and old growth forests, the sightings are often at backyard feeders, or in New England.

Cornell's bird lab set up a Web site that helps people distinguish pileateds from ivory bills, a special e-mail address, ivorybill@cornell.edu, and phone line: Thank you for calling regarding the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker. We are very excited about the rediscovery and are happy to assist you. Due to the volume of calls we are receiving . . .

"People genuinely believe that they've seen this bird," said Anne Hobbs, who filters through all the lab's calls and e-mail. "People who know the distinction between the pileated and the ivory bill tend to get a little huffy" when told their sighting is unlikely or unfounded.

Hobbs said no one at Cornell had expected this rash of sightings, and the lab's staff had to brainstorm a standard, sensitive response to them. Instead of telling callers they'd seen pileateds, she said, she now requests photographs and audiotapes.

Many of the callers and e-mailers, Hobbs said, "talked about getting teary" when they learned the bird was rediscovered. "One fellow said his late mother was right -- when he was a child, she told him she'd seen an ivory bill.." That, Hobbes said, nearly made her cry.

* * *

Last week Phillip Hoose of the Nature Conservancy gave an online radio chat about the ivory-billed woodpecker, whose demise he chronicled in his book, "The Race to Save the Lord God Bird." Three hundred fifty people sent in questions.

"Lord God Bird" is one of the ivory bill's umpteen nicknames -- and an apt one for a bird that aroused quasi-religious emotions even when it was abundant.

Thomas Jefferson wrote about it, and Theodore Roosevelt was so moved by its beauty it distracted him from a bear-hunting trip.

One member of the Cornell search team cried after he saw it; Hoose said he recently cried listening to an old recording of its trumpet-like call.

"I am not one bit surprised," said Hoose when asked about the outpouring of interest and sightings in the weeks since the ivory bill's rediscovery. "This bird has been a phantom, a ghost."

Hoose described his own failed attempts to find the bird, canoeing through thick, coffee-colored waters, surrounded by cypress and tupelo trees, one eye cocked toward the sky.

The moderator asked what he thought about the hundreds of e-mails describing sightings in back yards.

"I think these reports are not to be dismissed," he said.

* * *

Tim Gallagher of Cornell University, who really did see an ivory-billed woodpecker last April, said he was led to it by reports of sightings likely and unlikely. He checked into hundreds, until one in Arkansas finally panned out.

"I went into this as a believer," he said.

Most of those who claimed to see an ivory bill were deeply moved by it, said Gallagher, who chronicled the search in his own recent book, "The Grail Bird."

One American Indian he interviewed "described a bird as big as an eagle, swooping down and ripping off chunks of bark. It was almost like a vision."

When an ivory bill swooped past Gallager's canoe last spring he dropped his paddle. He nearly fell out of the boat.

"I was so white it looked like the blood had drained out of my body, and my colleagues told me my eyes looked like silver dollars," he said. "I couldn't even talk."

A biologist from Alabama sat on a log and cried, while another member of the search team "gradually went into shock," Gallagher said. "You could see her withdraw into herself."

He was nearly as shocked, he said, when the news of the ivory bill appeared as far away as Calcutta, and new sightings began pouring in.

* * *

But what are these backyard sightings? Are they a case of mistaken identity, a mini-mass delusion, or potentially real?

"Unless you have mature, long-leaf pines and cypress trees in your back yard, you're not seeing an ivory bill," Henderson said -- no matter how good a birder you are.

In 1909, thousands of credible, responsible citizens reported a mysterious aviator circling eastern Massachusetts towns in what newspapers called a "marvelous airship" and "wonderful monoplane."

The sightings began after a wealthy local man claimed to have invented just such a plane. When he was found to be lying, the sightings ceased.

UFOs, bigfoots, angels and ghosts have all captured the American imagination at times and to sometimes extreme degrees. Could the ivory-billed woodpecker -- a real creature none the less, but shrouded in myth -- be the latest to stand in that spotlight?

"There are mass delusions based on animal sightings," University of Maryland sociologist Erich Goode said. Some are threatening; some are wishful and happy.

"People differ greatly with regard to the amount of evidence they need to verify something is so," he said. "The Lord God Bird is something people want to see. Its wingspan is nearly 3 feet across and it's a fairly dramatic sight. One can understand the motivation to want to see such a thing.

"My own father was a birdwatcher," Goode continued. "He had talked to me about the ivory bill when I was a child and it had, to me, acquired the same aura of reverence and awe. Of course I'm much more empirical. Some people are ruled more by hope."

* * *

Many observers, in recent weeks, have found in the ivory bill a handy metaphor for hope. "Hope is the thing with feathers," gushed The New York Times, quoting the poet Emily Dickinson.

"Hope on Wings," read another newspaper's headline.

And then there was the inevitable, and all too fitting, Phoenix comparison.

Lots of ancient cultures harbored legends of a fabulous bird -- one that lived alone on Earth, that flew toward the sun, that would light its nest on fire and be consumed, only to have another rise from its ashes. The Japanese Ho-oh, Arabian Anka, the Chinese Feng-Huang, the Egyptian Phoenix served for millennia as signs of hope and renewal.

Now Americans have a Phoenix, it pecks wood, and best of all it's real. Being American, it is also very accessible.

"It's beautiful, beautiful," said Marcella Neftelberg of Orange City, who said she saw an ivory bill a few weeks ago at her feeder, "maybe a day or so before" the newspaper reports came out, she said.

"I know the other woodpecker," Neftelberg said, "and it's nothing like the one I saw."



Cornell's ivory bill web site is http://birds.cornell.edu/ivory/story17.htm

TELLING THE DIFFERENCE

The ivory-billed woodpecker and the pileated woodpecker share some superficial similarities, but the following should be noted:

· The female pileated woodpecker has a white line that extends from the side of the head down the side; the ivory-billed male has a white line that extends down its back.

· The pileated woodpecker has a black back; the ivory-billed has a white patch on its wing that is visible when the bird is perched.

· The pileated woodpecker averages about 16.5 inches long; the ivory-billed is larger, about 19.5 inches long.

· The bill of the pileated woodpecker is gray to black.

SOURCE: Cornell Lab of Ornithology

http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/News/Local/03AreaEAST02ENV051905.htm
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|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|05/19/05 at 20:39:07|jon_downes|xx|0|172.213.147.83|Woodpecker sends Hartselle wildlife artist's stock flying

PAUL HUGGINS
May 17, 2005

Looks like the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker will bring a flock of green bills to the home of Hartselle wildlife artist Larry Chandler. As a longtime friend of Bobby Harrison, the former Decatur resident who helped find the large bird long thought extinct, Chandler is on the crest of a rising tidal wave of interest in the woodpecker and already finds one of his paintings in a prominent spot before birding enthusiasts worldwide.

Meanwhile, Harrison, a 1973 Austin High School graduate who found the woodpecker 14 months ago with birding colleague Tim Gallagher, hopes his newfound international fame will lead to a book deal and the lecture circuit. He could have to settle, however, for fame and a funny nickname that will be hard to shake.

"I thought it'd be big, but not as big as it's become," Chandler said of the world reaction since news of the ivory-billed woodpecker's existence broke April 28. "It opens up a new field of collectors that I haven't had. This may be a turning point in my career to slip away from dogs and do more birds."

Most of Chandler's art sales are of duck-hunting retrievers, some of which the Franklin Mint used for a series of collectors' plates. But the artist also has won national accolades for birds, and the Arkansas Game and Fish Division had commissioned him to paint its 2005 duck stamp design. It was his third duck stamp painting for Arkansas to go with two for Alabama and two for Kentucky. His talent got a boost from his 20-year friendship with Harrison, when Harrison called him shortly after finding the woodpecker and correctly predicted an ivory-billed painting would be in high demand once word gets out it truly exists.

Because Chandler did not have a photograph of the bird, he relied on Harrison's description, much like a police artist drawing a suspect from a crime victim's description. The result was so impressive, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the world's premiere birding research organization, used the image on its Web site. It also plans to buy the original from Harrison as well as commission Chandler for another ivory-billed painting for its bird museum.

"It's a great shot in the arm for my career with the notoriety I'm getting," Chandler said.

In the past two weeks, Chandler also persuaded Arkansas Game and Fish officials to let him touch up the duck stamp painting he had already submitted by adding the woodpecker in the background. Sales of special prints from the new painting will go toward protecting the bird's habitat. In addition, Arkansas officials commissioned Chandler to prepare art for billboards aimed at bird-watching tourists as well as a woodpecker license plate.

Arkansas and Cornell officials want to make collectors' stamps and prints from Chandler's painting with proceeds helping protect the bird. Wild Birds Unlimited will use that image for T-shirts and other gift items.

Harrison, 50, who teaches photography, art appreciation and computer graphics at Oakwood College, said he sees no similar fortune for himself despite seeing his name appear on television and radio network news as well as newspapers from the Chicago Tribute to the Calcutta Telegraph.

CBS's "60 Minutes" called last week to inquire about a feature story.

Harrison said he has enjoyed the recognition, and he doesn't even mind the nickname "Sobbin' Bob," which some media gave him after they learned he broke down in tears when he first saw the woodpecker and realized his 33-year dream.

Harrison found 600 hits for his name and the woodpecker on the Internet after the story broke. He hopes the fame will persuade a publisher to finance a book of his photographs.

That would become more likely, he said, if he can get a quality photo of the woodpecker when he returns to the Arkansas swamps this week and throughout the summer.

"What would a picture of Bigfoot be worth?" Harrison said, noting he only has some brief video so far.

Also likely on Harrison's horizon is a side career on the lecture circuit, where he's sure to find an audience of birdwatchers wanting to hear him recount his search. As a college teacher, he's accustomed to public speaking.

"And I love an audience. The more people I have, the more I love it," he said.

http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050517/APN/505171005&cachetime=3&template=dateline
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|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|06/07/05 at 01:20:48|richard_f|xx|0|217.43.103.146|Woodpecker tourism 'dangerous work'

Canadian Press
May 11, 2005

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Opinion is divided on whether the recent rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker will - or should - result in a torrent of tourists in the Arkansas Delta.

Officials confirmed last month that the bird, which was previously thought extinct, lives in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. Dennis Widner, a manager of the refuge, says he's not worried about an influx of birdwatchers because the region is so remote. Its swampy habitat is also rife with snakes and alligators.

"It's dangerous work to be out in these swamps," he said.

The remoteness might explain why the bird hadn't been since 1944 before it was spotted again last year, and then verified in sightings by a half-dozen researchers this winter.

But Sam Hamilton, the regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's southeast region, predicts the bird will draw thousands of tourists.

Hamilton said the bird has proven it can coexist with human intrusion. The area is popular for duck-hunting and fishing.

"Our concern is obviously to make sure we protect the bird, but the bird has existed for many, many years with public land use. There are different beliefs, there are some who say that this is the last rare woodpecker and we need to close it all down. But this is an area that has accommodated a great amount of public use," he said.

Federal agencies are putting up $10 million US to help preserve the habitat.

Officials have limited access to many areas near the bird's habitat while they develop a long-term plan for managing the potential influx of birdwatchers.

Meanwhile, the small city of Brinkley, Ark., population 4,000, is ready for all those tourists. Brinkley, the biggest community near the woodpecker's habitat, has between 400 and 500 hotel rooms.

"At this particular moment, you could probably get a room fairly easily," said Patsy Arnett, Brinkley's executive director of promotions. But once word gets out about the town's proximity to the bird's habitat, "I don't know" how easy it will be to get a room, she added.

http://www.canada.com/travel/story.html?id=7cbf2cf2-920f-4ccf-b5da-e6e231a5d5f5
-----

Federal Money for Woodpecker Greater than to Fight Delta Poverty

Wednesday May 11, 2005

Little Rock (AP) - The discovery of the once-thought-extinct ivory-billed woodpecker drew an immediate $10 million to the Arkansas Delta, and more money is likely to come.

In contrast, the Delta Regional Authority, which serves an eight-state region that encompasses some of the most impoverished areas of the country, has a  million-dollar $6 million budget for 2005. Backers of development in the Delta say people who live in the region could make more progress in creating jobs with a greater infusion of federal money.

Senator Blanche Lincoln pushed to create the Delta Regional Authority when she came to Congress in 1992. The agency received $20 million in 2001, but has seen its funding slip since then. Lincoln spokesman Drew Goesl says comparing funds for the authority and the ivory-billed woodpecker isn't necessarily fair.

He says the anti-poverty and economic development programs share federal money with conservation and other government services --all to benefit the region.The $10 million to provide short-term protection of the bird's habitat came from discretionary funding of both the Agriculture Department and the Interior Department.

http://www.katv.com/news/stories/0505/227440.html
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The Naturalist's Corner

Don Hendershot
5/11/05

Just call me Thomas - Doubting Thomas

My first reaction to the news of the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods of Arkansas was, "Sure, just like the ones that got away at Pearl River in Louisiana."

Readers may remember that I predicted an ivory-billed no-show when the Great Louisiana Ivory-billed Expedition began. Researchers could not document the bird in Louisiana.

However, news of this sighting is a bit different. Cornell and others in charge of the Big Woods search sat on information for more than a year. According to reports, between February 2004 and February 2005, single ivory-billeds were seen at least eight separate times, many in the same vicinity. Four of the sightings were of males, the others of unknown gender.

And there are a couple of other significant differences. One is a sighting made by two experienced birders, one from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and one from a college in Alabama. The second is an "accidental" video clip from a camcorder left on in a kayak.

That clip was dissected for Cornell by an expert videographer and researchers say there is no doubt the bird in the video is an ivory-billed.

But, and you knew there would be a "but" didn't you, for those of us who are dyed-in-the-wool skeptics there are questions begging for answers. The first, and one I emailed Cornell about but have received no answer, is about the video. I viewed the video online and there was no way I could discount it being a pileated woodpecker. Of course, I don't have the videographer's skill or equipment. My question is - if this video can be sliced and diced and enlarged to show definite proof of an ivory-billed, can't those sliced and diced segments be reproduced in some format that would satisfy us doubting Thomases?

There are other questions. Where have four or five generations of ivory-billeds been for the last 60 years? I wouldn't think you would have to be an ornithologist to know you had seen something special had you seen an ivory-billed. In fact a legislator from Tallulah discovered the last known population in Louisiana and a kayaker reported the Big Woods bird(s).

It is also curious that only single birds have been reported. All accounts I have seen regarding documented interactions with ivory-billeds note that they are quite pair-bonded - hardly ever seen alone and always calling back and forth and communicating with one another. This "lone bird" scenario is puzzling.

I also find it hard to believe that a coterie of experts with today's technology could not come up with anything better than a "Bigfoot" video clip after a year of searching, especially with repeated sightings from the same area. When Jim Tanner, also of Cornell, went into the Singer Tract in Louisiana in the late 1930s and early 1940s, he found ivory-billeds.

Researchers are packing it in now. They plan to renew their efforts in November. The word is that with all the trees in the Big Woods leafed out, ivory-billeds would just be too hard to see. Now if you were looking for three-inch long treetop dwelling blackburnian warblers, I would say you might have a case. But we're talking about woodpeckers the size of hawks. And we're talking about woodpeckers the size of hawks that would be foraging with this year's brood - so we're talking about ivory-billeds in family groups banging on trees, looking for food and yelling at one another in the process. This might go unnoticed in the Bronx, but if you were in the woods and this spectacle passed within earshot you would know it.

So - Dear Cornell, I'm not John Kerry, but "send me." I have a boat and a paddle and a camera. Just outfit me and pay me two months of ivory-billed experts' going wages and I will go to the Big Woods and get you some photos of ivory-billeds - if there is such a thing.

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Swan|Cygnus_rex@hotmail.com|07/21/05 at 16:24:49|Swan|xx|0|192.65.17.24|[quote][b]3 Biologists Question Evidence in Sighting of Rare Woodpecker[/b]

[i]By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: July 21, 2005[/i]

Three biologists are questioning the evidence used by a team of bird experts who made the electrifying claim in April that they had sighted an ivory-billed woodpecker, a bird presumed to have vanished from the United States more than 60 years ago, in the swampy forests of southeast Arkansas.

[img]http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2005/07/21/national/20birdf.large1.jpg[/img]
[i]A sketch from 2004 of what was believed to be an ivory-billed woodpecker. [/i]

If the challenge holds up, it would undermine not only a scientific triumph - the rediscovery of a resplendent bird that had been exhaustively sought for years - but also significant new conservation expenditures in the region.

The paper questioning the discovery has been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, which could post the analysis online within a few weeks. But the paper will be accompanied by a fierce rebuttal by the team that announced the discovery, and a response to that rebuttal by the challengers.

The expected publication of the paper and the rebuttal was confirmed in interviews and e-mail exchanges with two authors of the challenge, Richard O. Prum and Mark B. Robbins, ornithologists at Yale and the University of Kansas, as well as with two members of the team that reported finding the woodpecker.

The third author of the new paper is Jerome A. Jackson, a zoologist at Florida Gulf Coast University and the author of the book, "In Search of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker," published in 2004.

"In my opinion," Mr. Jackson wrote in an e-mail message on Wednesday, "the data presented thus far do no more than suggest the possibility of the presence of an ivory-billed woodpecker. I am most certainly not saying that ivory-billed woodpeckers are not out there. I truly hope that the birds do exist in Arkansas or elsewhere and have been championing this idea for a long time."

Both groups of scientists declined to name the journal or to discuss the details of the challenge and the response until they were published.

But they made it clear that the debate revolves around four seconds of fuzzy videotape that, by chance, captured a bird with sweeping white-and-black wings as it darted from its perch on the far side of a tupelo tree in April 2004 and flicked over swampy waters before vanishing in the trees 11 wing beats later.

That video clip was just one piece in a pile of drawings, recordings and other evidence collected in more than a year of searching and deploying cameras and listening devices across the vast swampy reaches of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.

Altogether, the original research team, led by scientists from Cornell University and the Nature Conservancy, compiled seven sightings, including the video, as well as recordings of a "double knock" sound typical of the ivory-billed bird.

But only the video was potentially solid enough to confirm for the wider ornithological community the existence of the bird, the authors said in various statements at the time.

Everyone agrees that the bird that appears on the tape is either an ivory-billed woodpecker or a pileated woodpecker, a slightly smaller bird that is relatively common. Both species have a mix of white and black plumage. However, the ivory-billed woodpecker has a white trailing edge to its wings while the pileated woodpecker has a black trailing edge.

The team that conducted the original search for the bird ran extensive tests, including recreating the scene captured in video using flapping, hand-held models of the two types of woodpecker. They concluded that the plumage patterns seen in the grainy image could only be that of the ivory-billed woodpecker.

The authors of the new paper disagree.

Only extended scientific discussion - or new pictures of the bird from additional searches - will determine whose view will prevail. Another intensive scientific search of the region is scheduled to begin in November, Cornell officials said.

"The people who originally announced this thoroughly believe they got an ivory-billed woodpecker," Dr. Robbins said in an interview. Determining if a species has crossed the threshold of extinction often requires decades of observation to ensure that no stray individuals have found a reclusive hideaway.

Supposedly extinct species have been rediscovered with some frequency over the last century. One famed example is the coelacanth, a fish known only from fossils for generations but then caught by African anglers.

In the case of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a magnificent bird with a 30-inch wingspan and a red crest, determining that it has not become extinct has proved equally daunting. Individual birds were widely dispersed, and the woodpecker shared habits and habitat with the pileated woodpecker.

Van Remsen of Louisiana State University, an expert on the woodpecker and a member of the team that reported finding the ivory-billed species, said he remained confident of the discovery.

"We can counter everything," he said. "We stick to our guns."

The announcement of the bird's apparent discovery came on April 28, when the scientists' findings were published in the online version of the journal Science.

The announcement thrilled conservationists, who saw the bird as the perfect symbol around which to build an invigorated protection plan for woodland habitat in the Southeast, which harbors a rich array of wildlife and plants.

The Bush administration used the reported sightings in Arkansas to promote its "cooperative conservation" philosophy. The day the rediscovery was publicized, the administration announced a variety of initiatives, including a plan to pay more than $13 million to landowners within the region's floodplains who plant and maintain forests.

John W. Fitzpatrick, the co-leader of the search for the bird and director of the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology, said it was normal for scientists to disagree about evidence of this sort, especially because in this case the video in question was "pretty crummy."

But he said that extensive analysis was done and redone to eliminate the possibility that the bird was a pileated woodpecker.

Dr. Fitzpatrick added that there was "significant additional evidence right now" that would be published in coming months.

He declined to comment on the challengers' assertions, saying any discussion could jeopardize publication of the exchange of papers on the video. [/quote]


[url=http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/21/science/21bird.html]Source[/url]

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|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|shearluck|lewisoll@yahoo.co.uk|07/21/05 at 23:00:58|shearluck|xx|0|62.252.192.16|Some 'scientists' (speaking from experience) are more interested in getting their names in a journal or paper than doing anthing of worth.

Thats what it looks like this challenge is about.  ::)|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Swan|Cygnus_rex@hotmail.com|07/22/05 at 20:14:41|Swan|xx|0|62.252.64.33|Agreed, but worth posting.

I'm looking forward to seeing the paper in full as well as the rebuttal which promises to be fairly vigurous|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|07/22/05 at 21:13:36|richard_f|xx|0|86.128.88.40|Ivory-billed woodpecker under scrutiny

Rex Dalton
Rediscovered species may not be out of the woods.


The ivory-billed woodpecker and the pileated variety look very similar. For a full comparison, click here.
© SPL
A team of bird experts is questioning the reported discovery of an ivory-billed woodpecker, a species that until recently was thought to be extinct.

Conservationists and bird lovers were thrilled in April by a videotape, reported in Science1, of what seemed to be an ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) in Arkansas.

No sighting of the majestic species in the United States had been confirmed since 1944; it disappeared as its dense forest habitat was chopped down, making the bird a symbol of lost heritage.

Now a team of ornithologists, led by Richard Prum of Yale University, Connecticut, plans to report a case of what it thinks is mistaken identity. The bird described in Science, the experts say, is not an ivory-billed woodpecker after all, but a non-endangered relative: a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).

 I have serious questions about the scientific support for the Science report.

Jerome Jackson
Florida Gulf Coast University
     
Questions asked

Prum's team includes a leading authority on ivory-billed woodpeckers, Jerome Jackson of Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, who for decades has been unable to document a sighting. "I have serious questions about the Science report," he told Nature in May, before the team began working on its own manuscript.

Prum and his colleagues scrutinized a video taken by a Cornell University team in the forested swamps east of Little Rock, Arkansas. Detailed studies of the bird's size and white markings suggest it could be a pileated woodpecker rather than an ivory-billed, they say. The Cornell team had considered this possibility and discounted it.

The crucial video includes a four-second section in which the bird takes off from a tupelo tree in April 2004. Because the camera was mounted on the front of a canoe, and set to a wide focus, the images are frustratingly blurry.

No comment

Prum declines to discuss details of his manuscript until it is published, in a PLoS journal. The third author of the paper is Mark Robbins, an ornithologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and member of the American Birding Association's checklist committee, which confirms species sightings.

John Fitzpatrick, the Cornell ornithologist who led the Science report, and other co-authors also declined to comment. PLoS plans to publish a response from the Cornell team, and a further rebuttal from Prum's group. All three papers are expected to go online within a month.

The Science paper also included seven reported sightings by Cornell team members between February 2004 and February 2005 around the Cache River and White River national wildlife refuges. But visual observations can be suspect, and they came amid thousands of observer hours when no other sightings were made.

Watch the birdie

Prum's analysis may have significant implications for policy as well as conservation biology. The Bush administration and congressional Republicans are leading a charge to reduce species protections under the US Endangered Species Act.

ADVERTISEMENT
Click here to find out more!
For more than 30 years this legislation has sheltered threatened plants and animals, and infuriated some business and development interests. The ivory-billed woodpecker is covered under the act.

In April, after the woodpecker's reported rediscovery, the US departments of agriculture and the interior redirected about $10 million from other projects to conserve the ivory-billed's habitat. The announcement also triggered a tourist boom for rural Arkansas, with birding enthusiasts flocking to the area for a glimpse of the creature.
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Min_Bannister|alison.ayres@gmail.com|07/24/05 at 21:18:28|min_bannister|xx|0|62.31.98.10|Hmm, the huge flashes of white on the Pileated's wings are surely a giveaway and would be spotted by anyone with even moderate experience in birdwatching? And its call is quite different too. || Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|07/25/05 at 17:31:17|jon_downes|xx|0|172.201.197.182|Georgians call for search after sightings of bird believed extinct

By S. Heather Duncan
Telegraph Staff Writer


Southeastern wildlife officials plan to gather next month to decide how far to expand their search for the recently rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker - and the path could lead to Georgia.

The largest woodpecker in the United States, the ivory-bill was believed extinct for decades. Until this spring, its last broadly accepted sighting was in 1944 in Louisiana. But the bird once lived across the Southeast, including the Altamaha and Savannah rivers and the Okefenokee Swamp.

"It would be a long shot, but if we were going to find it, it would be in places like that," said Terry Johnson, manager of the nongame endangered wildlife program for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Georgia birdwatchers were thrilled to learn the species survived. Although they hold little hope of ivory-bill populations in Georgia, many say they would like wildlife officials to search.

"I'm actually one of those that started crying when I knew it had been found," said Macon birdwatcher Terry Amerson, who with his wife, Marie, keeps a list of birds he has seen in each of Georgia's 159 counties. "Just to think they could have found a bird they thought was extinct for 60 years ... it gives you hope."

In April, Cornell Ornithology Laboratory researchers announced seven
confirmed sightings or sounds of ivory-bill calls and "knocks" in the Big Woods region of Arkansas. The find sparked a renewed interest in endangered species and bird-watching nationwide.

Ivory-billed woodpeckers once lived from Texas to North Carolina in swamp forests, where they ate beetle grubs from recently dead, old-growth trees.

The birds' wings flap loudly because of stiff feathers that allow them to fly swift and straight, unlike similar woodpeckers. The sight of the ivory-billed woodpecker in flight used to inspire onlookers to cry, "Lord God!" - gaining it the nickname "the Lord God Bird."

"It's great to know they still exist," said Chuck Hunter, regional refuge biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and a key leader in the upcoming federal effort to recover the species. "It tells us that in these other areas where we've done these little hit-and-miss searches - that doesn't mean they're not there."

Although he doesn't know whether Georgia will be included in the national search-and-recovery effort, which will be discussed next month, Hunter said states such as South Carolina and Louisiana are mounting their own searches.

Georgia has no plans to do an independent search, said Jon Ambrose,
assistant chief of the wildlife and natural heritage section of the state Department of Natural Resources.

Johnson said Georgia wildlife officials have received reports of ivory-bill sightings throughout the years. They continue to check out any credible reports, although none have yielded results.

Amerson and Ivey said the cutting of Georgia's old-growth forests and the large territory needed by the ivory-bill make it unlikely the bird is hiding in Georgia, but both would want to be involved in any search.

Ivey said although more people are bird-watching today than ever before, they are less methodical. As a result, they might miss rare birds like Bachman's warblers, another Georgia species believed extinct.

"We've gotten sloppy," he said. "We don't slog through the swamps. We're more prone to play tapes and get birds to come to us."

Jerry Payne, a local retired wildlife biologist, said the woodpeckers have "a snowball's chance in hell" of having survived in Georgia. He worked with the man who literally wrote the book on the ivory-bill: James Tanner, one of the few to ever study the birds up close. Tanner told Payne if he wanted to look for the woodpecker in Georgia, he should try the Altamaha - but Tanner didn't believe the birds were there.

"I've got a greater chance of winning the lottery than seeing an ivory-bill, and I don't play the lottery," Payne said.

He is also skeptical of the Arkansas sightings.

"I want them to be right," he said. "But why is it when anybody sees it, they're hyperventilating witnesses kissing the ground? Why, in this day of sophisticated equipment, can't somebody take a decent photograph or recording?"

Payne said he'd rather see wildlife officials spend money on buying good ivory-bill habitat instead of seeking the bird.

"Buy it a home," he said.

Ivey and Amerson say they plan to visit Arkansas to try to spot an
ivory-bill.

"When the leaves are off the trees, I'll go, and I'll go more than once if that's what it takes," said Ivey, a Macon dentist. "It is a big deal. And it may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, because who knows how many birds are out there?"

Paul Johnson, a tutor at the academic resource center of Macon State
College, went to the Big Woods area in May. Although he didn't see
ivory-bills, he thinks he heard their distinctive "kent-kent-kent" calls from a bridge near the Cache River Wildlife Refuge where they were found. Federal wildlife officials were blocking entry to the refuge itself, he said.

Johnson said he has been fascinated with ivory-billed woodpeckers from childhood. He is known in Macon as a prodigy birdwatcher who started honing his identification skills at age 10.

Johnson saw similar, but smaller, pileated woodpeckers in his back yard at age 8, and for several years believed he had seen the ivory-bill.

"I never dreamed I'd get a chance to go look for it," said Johnson, 25.

The survival of the rare woodpecker has inspired DNR biologist Nathan Klaus to search Georgia next spring for the Bachman's warbler, a songbird last seen in the 1980s.

"If an ivory-bill can make it this far undetected, maybe there are still Bachman's out there. ... I feel it's part of my duty as state bird coordinator to at least look," Klaus said. "It might easily have been dismissed as a pipe dream before the ivory-bill. "


|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|07/25/05 at 17:32:00|jon_downes|xx|0|172.201.197.182|From the New York Times: 24 July 2005
Woodpecker challenge takes flight
Claims of finding bird have history of scrutiny
By JAMES GORMAN

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - In the church of birds, where passions run high and
prophets emerge from swamps and thickets with revelations, nothing can ruin
a reputation like admitting that you have seen an ivory-billed woodpecker.

Bobby Harrison, a large, gentle man with thinning hair and a soft Alabama
drawl, knows this and can recite the casualties. Consider John V. Dennis,
one of Harrison's heroes. He took the last accepted photograph of an ivory
bill in Cuba in 1948. But when he testified to seeing one in the Big Thicket
area of southeast Texas in 1966, he was ridiculed.

Even worse, at a 1971 meeting of ornithologists, George H. Lowery Jr., head
of the Louisiana State Museum of Natural Science, presented what he was
convinced were photographs of an ivory bill, taken by an acquaintance he
would not name at a location he would not specify.

"Look at what happened to him," Harrison said, sitting in his office here at
Oakwood College, where he teaches photography. "He was just ostracized by
the ornithological community for the rest of his life."

Harrison is willing to take the risk. He has had a major part in the most
recent report that the ivory bill lives, and now, after a period of
acceptance and celebration, some scientists and birders are questioning the
strength of the evidence, a videotape of a bird and eyewitness accounts.
What the critics want is an absolutely clear photograph and a bird that can
be seen repeatedly by a variety of observers.

It is 17 months since the day - Feb. 27, 2004 - when he and Tim Gallagher of
the Cornell Lab of Ornithology were paddling a canoe in the cold waters of
the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Arkansas, searching tall
tupelos for some hint of an ivory bill.

"We knew exactly what we were looking for," Harrison said.

Then a bird appeared in the distance and he and Gallagher watched its
flight, wondering what it was. "As soon as it broke over the bayou and
tipped, I knew what it was," Harrison said.

When it flew over land, they tried to chase it through the swamp, running
over the wet ground, carrying binoculars and notebooks.

Finally they stopped, he said, and he wept. Recalling the moment in an
interview, he wept again.

Like other birders, Harrison developed his passion early in life. He has
been looking for an ivory bill since 1972, when he was 17. He is a
particular species of birder; he has always had a single-minded dedication
to one bird. It is no surprise that he picked the ivory bill. It was - or
is - the largest American woodpecker and has long haunted the imaginations
of birders because of its elegance and its disappearance.

He will be back in the swamp in Arkansas in August and next fall, and in
other swamps after that.

"I've waited all my life for this," he said. "Still haven't got that
photograph I want."

The sighting that day was the beginning of a major ? and secret ? search by
a team of experts from the Cornell lab and other groups. It culminated in
April in a public announcement and a paper by a gaggle of experts in the
June 3 issue of Science. The ivory-billed woodpecker, the group reported,
was alive.

Unlike reports of past sightings, this one seemed so solid that it provoked
only elation, a public sigh of relief and wonder. The rediscoverers floated
on the almost palpable gratitude of birders and others who treated the news
as a sign of hope.

Until now.

Three scientists have a paper in the works at the Public Library of Science
challenging the report in Science. No details have been released, but there
are other signs of doubt.

David Allen Sibley, perhaps the most prominent American birder and the
author of highly popular field guides, said in an interview Thursday that he
had concluded that in the Science paper, "the evidence they've presented
falls short of proof."

Sibley said he decided this independently of the three scientists who wrote
the rebuttal.

Kenn Kaufman, another major birding author, also said he was not satisfied
with the evidence. Although he said he believed the sighting was real, he
did not think the rediscoverers had proved their case.

"I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner," Harrison said.

Nor do the critics question his integrity or that of Gallagher or the other
authors of the Science paper.

"The people who originally announced this thoroughly believe they got an
ivory-billed woodpecker," said Mark Robbins of the University of Kansas, one
of the three scientists preparing the challenge to the Science report. "They
believe one thing, we believe another. This is how science plays out, the
fabric of science getting at the truth."

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|07/28/05 at 14:03:11|jon_downes|xx|0|172.215.97.52|Mon, Jul. 25, 2005
The Telegraph
Macon, Georgia

Georgians call for search after sightings of bird believed extinct

By S. Heather Duncan
Telegraph Staff Writer

Southeastern wildlife officials plan to gather next month to decide how far
to expand their search for the recently rediscovered ivory-billed woodpecker
- and the path could lead to Georgia.

The largest woodpecker in the United States, the ivory-bill was believed
extinct for decades. Until this spring, its last broadly accepted sighting
was in 1944 in Louisiana. But the bird once lived across the Southeast,
including the Altamaha and Savannah rivers and the Okefenokee Swamp.

"It would be a long shot, but if we were going to find it, it would be in
places like that," said Terry Johnson, manager of the nongame endangered
wildlife program for the state Department of Natural Resources.

Georgia birdwatchers were thrilled to learn the species survived. Although
they hold little hope of ivory-bill populations in Georgia, many say they
would like wildlife officials to search.

"I'm actually one of those that started crying when I knew it had been
found," said Macon birdwatcher Terry Amerson, who with his wife, Marie,
keeps a list of birds he has seen in each of Georgia's 159 counties. "Just
to think they could have found a bird they thought was extinct for 60 years
... it gives you hope."

In April, Cornell Ornithology Laboratory researchers announced seven
confirmed sightings or sounds of ivory-bill calls and "knocks" in the Big
Woods region of Arkansas. The find sparked a renewed interest in endangered
species and bird-watching nationwide.

Ivory-billed woodpeckers once lived from Texas to North Carolina in swamp
forests, where they ate beetle grubs from recently dead, old-growth trees.

The birds' wings flap loudly because of stiff feathers that allow them to
fly swift and straight, unlike similar woodpeckers. The sight of the
ivory-billed woodpecker in flight used to inspire onlookers to cry, "Lord
God!" - gaining it the nickname "the Lord God Bird."

"It's great to know they still exist," said Chuck Hunter, regional refuge
biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and a key leader in the
upcoming federal effort to recover the species. "It tells us that in these
other areas where we've done these little hit-and-miss searches - that
doesn't mean they're not there."

Although he doesn't know whether Georgia will be included in the national
search-and-recovery effort, which will be discussed next month, Hunter said
states such as South Carolina and Louisiana are mounting their own searches.

Georgia has no plans to do an independent search, said Jon Ambrose,
assistant chief of the wildlife and natural heritage section of the state
Department of Natural Resources.

Johnson said Georgia wildlife officials have received reports of ivory-bill
sightings throughout the years. They continue to check out any credible
reports, although none have yielded results.

Amerson and Ivey said the cutting of Georgia's old-growth forests and the
large territory needed by the ivory-bill make it unlikely the bird is hiding
in Georgia, but both would want to be involved in any search.

Ivey said although more people are bird-watching today than ever before,
they are less methodical. As a result, they might miss rare birds like
Bachman's warblers, another Georgia species believed extinct.

"We've gotten sloppy," he said. "We don't slog through the swamps. We're
more prone to play tapes and get birds to come to us."

Jerry Payne, a local retired wildlife biologist, said the woodpeckers have
"a snowball's chance in hell" of having survived in Georgia. He worked with
the man who literally wrote the book on the ivory-bill: James Tanner, one of
the few to ever study the birds up close. Tanner told Payne if he wanted to
look for the woodpecker in Georgia, he should try the Altamaha - but Tanner
didn't believe the birds were there.

"I've got a greater chance of winning the lottery than seeing an ivory-bill,
and I don't play the lottery," Payne said.

He is also skeptical of the Arkansas sightings.

"I want them to be right," he said. "But why is it when anybody sees it,
they're hyperventilating witnesses kissing the ground? Why, in this day of
sophisticated equipment, can't somebody take a decent photograph or
recording?"

Payne said he'd rather see wildlife officials spend money on buying good
ivory-bill habitat instead of seeking the bird.

"Buy it a home," he said.

Ivey and Amerson say they plan to visit Arkansas to try to spot an
ivory-bill.

"When the leaves are off the trees, I'll go, and I'll go more than once if
that's what it takes," said Ivey, a Macon dentist. "It is a big deal. And it
may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, because who knows how many birds are
out there?"

Paul Johnson, a tutor at the academic resource center of Macon State
College, went to the Big Woods area in May. Although he didn't see
ivory-bills, he thinks he heard their distinctive "kent-kent-kent" calls
from a bridge near the Cache River Wildlife Refuge where they were found.
Federal wildlife officials were blocking entry to the refuge itself, he
said.

Johnson said he has been fascinated with ivory-billed woodpeckers from
childhood. He is known in Macon as a prodigy birdwatcher who started honing
his identification skills at age 10.

Johnson saw similar, but smaller, pileated woodpeckers in his back yard at
age 8, and for several years believed he had seen the ivory-bill.

"I never dreamed I'd get a chance to go look for it," said Johnson, 25.

The survival of the rare woodpecker has inspired DNR biologist Nathan Klaus
to search Georgia next spring for the Bachman's warbler, a songbird last
seen in the 1980s.

"If an ivory-bill can make it this far undetected, maybe there are still
Bachman's out there. ... I feel it's part of my duty as state bird
coordinator to at least look," Klaus said. "It might easily have been
dismissed as a pipe dream before the ivory-bill. "

via Loren Coleman




|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|08/04/05 at 20:32:37|richard_f|xx|0|86.131.96.23|Ivory-billed woodpecker under scrutiny

Rex Dalton
21 July 2005

Rediscovered species may not be out of the woods.

A team of bird experts is questioning the reported discovery of an ivory-billed woodpecker, a species that until recently was thought to be extinct.

Conservationists and bird lovers were thrilled in April by a videotape, reported in Science1, of what seemed to be an ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) in Arkansas.

No sighting of the majestic species in the United States had been confirmed since 1944; it disappeared as its dense forest habitat was chopped down, making the bird a symbol of lost heritage.

Now a team of ornithologists, led by Richard Prum of Yale University, Connecticut, plans to report a case of what it thinks is mistaken identity. The bird described in Science, the experts say, is not an ivory-billed woodpecker after all, but a non-endangered relative: a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).

Questions asked

Prum's team includes a leading authority on ivory-billed woodpeckers, Jerome Jackson of Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, who for decades has been unable to document a sighting. "I have serious questions about the Science report," he told Nature in May, before the team began working on its own manuscript.

Prum and his colleagues scrutinized a video taken by a Cornell University team in the forested swamps east of Little Rock, Arkansas. Detailed studies of the bird's size and white markings suggest it could be a pileated woodpecker rather than an ivory-billed, they say. The Cornell team had considered this possibility and discounted it.

The crucial video includes a four-second section in which the bird takes off from a tupelo tree in April 2004. Because the camera was mounted on the front of a canoe, and set to a wide focus, the images are frustratingly blurry.

No comment

Prum declines to discuss details of his manuscript until it is published, in a PLoS journal. The third author of the paper is Mark Robbins, an ornithologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and member of the American Birding Association's checklist committee, which confirms species sightings.

John Fitzpatrick, the Cornell ornithologist who led the Science report, and other co-authors also declined to comment. PLoS plans to publish a response from the Cornell team, and a further rebuttal from Prum's group. All three papers are expected to go online within a month.

The Science paper also included seven reported sightings by Cornell team members between February 2004 and February 2005 around the Cache River and White River national wildlife refuges. But visual observations can be suspect, and they came amid thousands of observer hours when no other sightings were made.

Watch the birdie

Prum's analysis may have significant implications for policy as well as conservation biology. The Bush administration and congressional Republicans are leading a charge to reduce species protections under the US Endangered Species Act.

For more than 30 years this legislation has sheltered threatened plants and animals, and infuriated some business and development interests. The ivory-billed woodpecker is covered under the act.

In April, after the woodpecker's reported rediscovery, the US departments of agriculture and the interior redirected about $10 million from other projects to conserve the ivory-billed's habitat. The announcement also triggered a tourist boom for rural Arkansas, with birding enthusiasts flocking to the area for a glimpse of the creature.

References
Fitzpatrick J., et al. Science, 308. 1460 - 1462 (2005).

http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050718/full/050718-10.html
------

Rare woodpecker's identity under scrutiny
22-07-2005

The authenticity of recent sightings of one of the world's most enigmatic birds has been called into question by a group of ornithologists in a paper submitted for publication in the online science journal PLoS Biology.

In April 2005 a team of scientists led by John Fitzpatrick from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology announced in the journal Science that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Campephilus principalis had been rediscovered in Arkansas, USA. The species was widely thought to be extinct in the US, with no confirmed sightings there since 1944, and the best hope of its continued existence being focused on a remote part of Cuba.

In February 2004, a chance encounter in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, Arkansas, had changed that. Over the next 14 months, teams of experienced observers made six further sightings, all within three kilometres of one another. Brief but crucial video footage was obtained that, despite technical imperfections, seemed to show a number of diagnostic features allowing the researchers to confirm the species? identity.

However, another team led by Richard Prum of Yale University speculate that the bird in question is the similar, but much commoner, Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus.

Alison Stattersfield, BirdLife?s Head of Science went on to add, ?There are many species on the edge of extinction. Any evidence of their continuing existence must be followed up with appropriate conservation efforts. In the 1940s, Ivory-billed Woodpeckers were lost from their last-known stronghold in Louisiana because of logging. In the case of the Arkansas sightings it is vital that the possibility that the woodpecker still survives should be taken very seriously ? even though the supporting evidence of the birds? presence is not as good as the ornithological community might wish.?

Until the Prum paper and response from the Cornell team is published, BirdLife is not in a position to make a judgement on the veracity of the recent sightings. In the meantime however, the future conservation of this species would clearly be best served by all of the parties in the debate cooperating fully with each other.

http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2005/07/ivory-billed_woodpecker.html

"The key thing now is to gather incontrovertible evidence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker?s presence in Arkansas. Although the initial sightings seemed highly credible, it?s clear that further proof that this magnificent species has survived in the US would be of enormous benefit." ?Dr Stuart Butchart, Global Species Programme Coordinator, BirdLife

"A finding of this magnitude will certainly be subject to thorough review by the scientific community, as it should be in the name of good science. National Audubon Society believes that the evidence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker's presence in eastern Arkansas is very strong, and we support all efforts to preserve and protect the floodplain forests of the Southeast, which are critical habitat for many species of birds." ?National Audubon Society (BirdLife in the US)

-------

Discovery of woodpecker in Arkansas defended against challenge

KATHERINE MARKS
Friday, July 22, 2005

Researchers defended the evidence gathered since February 2004 indicating the ivory-billed woodpecker still lives in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas despite a challenge from a trio of ornithologists. "We knew when the news broke there would be some skepticism," said David Goad, deputy director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and a member of the team working to draft a recovery plan for the bird. "Really, the bird in the video, what else could it be?" Goad said Thursday, referring to four seconds of footage of a large black and white bird researchers remain convinced is the elusive ivory-billed.

Thought to have been extinct since 1944, the ivory-billed was spotted by Hot Springs kayaker Gene Sparling in February 2004 flying over the Cache River. His Web posting drew ornithologists from New York and Alabama to the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge near Brinkley.

The research team worked in secret for a year, spotting the bird 15 times, before going public in April with the news that the ivory-billed woodpecker had been found.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that a scientific peer-review journal has "provisionally accepted" a paper questioning the discovery. The name of the journal wasn?t disclosed by the ornithologists.

That analysis could be posted on the journal?s Web site in the next few weeks, accompanied by a rebuttal from the research team that announced the bird?s rediscovery and a response to the rebuttal. The controversy surrounds the video, according to the newspaper report.

The research paper was written by three ornithologists: Richard Prum of Yale University; Mark Robbins of the University of Kansas; and Jerome Jackson of Florida Gulf Coast University, who wrote a 2004 book titled In Search of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.

Robbins said Thursday that the authors of the research paper are under an embargo and will not provide any details about the article until it is published. "We don?t want something like this tried in the public," Robbins said. He said the article should be published in three to five weeks.

In an e-mail to the Associated Press on Thursday, Jackson said he challenges "the scientific strength of the evidence that has been presented." But he said, "I truly hope that the birds do exist in Arkansas."

Connie Bruce, a spokesman for the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology, said that such scrutiny was expected. If and when an article challenging the discovery is published, Cornell will release data supporting its research, she said. "We would be really disappointed if this extraordinary finding did not merit this type of scrutiny from the scientific community," Bruce said. "This is what happens all the time. We plan to go forward with the search in November."

Researchers are waiting until the foliage thins in the fall and the temperature drops to resume searches for the ivory-billed woodpecker.

Nancy DeLamar with the Nature Conservancy, part of the group that announced the bird?s rediscovery, agreed that such challenges are part and parcel of the scientific process. "I think the evidence we have in hand is so solid," said DeLamar. "It?s hard to imagine there?d be someone that would come to that conclusion" that the bird doesn?t exist.

Jeff Fleming, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Atlanta, said the yet-to-be published article will not have any effect on the development of a recovery plan for the bird.

The two-year process of developing a recovery plan for an endangered species involves protecting and studying the woodpecker?s habitat and documenting additional sightings. "I think most folks anticipated that something like this would happen," Fleming said. "We believe strongly that we?ve got an ivory-billed woodpecker out in the Cache River wildlife refuge."

http://www.nwanews.com/story.php?paper=adg&section=News&storyid=122739
-----
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Swan|Cygnus_rex@hotmail.com|08/26/05 at 09:22:14|Swan|xx|0|192.65.17.24|[quote][b]New ivory-billed woodpecker recordings to be released [/b]

Cornell researchers say double knocks may be ’soundprints’ of ivory-bills
The public is invited to join in, listen and help decipher the sounds of the ivory-billed woodpecker By Simeon Moss

Now hear this: After analyzing more than 18,000 hours of recordings from the swampy forests of eastern Arkansas, researchers at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University have released recordings offering further evidence -- including the legendary bird’s distinctive double knock -- for the existence of the ivory-billed woodpecker, once thought extinct. These sounds were recorded in the same area of Arkansas where the species was rediscovered in 2004.

The Cornell researchers announced the results at the annual meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union in Santa Barbara, Calif., Aug. 24, and they have invited the public to listen to the calls and knocks on the Web at http://www.birds.cornell.edu.

The recordings reveal sounds that, experts say, are strikingly similar to those made by ivory-billed woodpeckers and provide compelling information that can be added to evidence already gathered of the bird’s existence. One of the recordings, from Jan. 24, 2005, captured a distant double knock, "Bam bam!" followed by a similar and much closer double knock 3.5 seconds later -- possibly the drumming displays of two ivory-billed woodpeckers communicating with one another by rapping on trees.

"I immediately felt a thrill of excitement the first time I heard that recording," said Russell Charif, a bioacoustics researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "It is the best tangible evidence so far that there could be more than one ivory-bill in the area."

Only a single bird at a time was documented through sightings and video footage during a yearlong search of the area in 2004-05. Whether more than one bird exists is still a big question, Charif said, but quantitative analyses of the most promising sounds indicate a high probability that they were made by ivory-billed woodpeckers.

The sounds were recorded on autonomous recording units (ARUs) designed by the Cornell lab and strapped to trees in the swamp. More than 150 sites were monitored in the half-million-acre "Big Woods" of Arkansas.

After eliminating thousands of noises from gunshots and other sources, the researchers found about 100 double knocks that bear a strong resemblance to the display drumming of the ivory-bill’s closest relatives. The sounds were clustered around certain recording locations at certain times of day -- a pattern that would not be expected if they had been produced by random noises.

Then ARUs also recorded nasal tooting calls similar to those of ivory-billed woodpeckers. Charif said blue jays are notorious vocal mimics that sometimes utter calls like those of ivory-bills. However, he added, a sophisticated acoustic classification program categorized nearly all of the unknown calls from Arkansas as most similar to ivory-billed woodpecker recordings. None matched up with "tooting" calls of blue jays from the Cornell lab’s audio collection, but the researchers say they cannot rule out blue jays until they analyze more variants of the calls.

"We’re excited and encouraged by the acoustic analysis," said John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "These sounds give us additional hope that a few ivory-billed woodpeckers do live in the White River and Cache River region. But this species is still on the verge of extinction and huge mysteries remain to be solved. Certainly, we have a lot more work to do before we know enough to determine its population size, let alone ensure its survival."

A team led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and other partners, will renew search efforts in the Big Woods beginning Nov. 1. [/quote]


[url=http://www.innovations-report.com/html/reports/life_sciences/report-48219.html]>Source<[/url]

The sound files are [url=http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/field/listening/doubleknock_list]>Here<[/url]|| Ivory Bill's Doubters Convinced by Tapes |Mark North|darkdorset@hotmail.com|08/26/05 at 10:32:26|Mark_North|xx|0|86.131.84.100|By KELLY P. KISSEL, Associated Press Writer Tue Aug 2,11:58 AM ET

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Recordings of the ivory-billed woodpecker's distinctive double-rap sounds have convinced doubting researchers that the large bird once thought extinct is still living in an east Arkansas swamp.

Last month, a group of ornithologists had questioned the announcement made in April of the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker, last sighted in 1944. They said blurry videotape of a bird in flight wasn't enough evidence. So a Cornell University researcher who was part of the team that announced the bird's rediscovery last spring says his group sent the doubters more evidence.

"We sent them some sounds this summer from the Arkansas woods," said John W. Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell ornithology lab. "We appreciate their ability to say they are now believers."

The doubters had prepared an article for a scientific journal questioning whether the bird had really been found. They now plan to withdraw the article, according to ornithologist Richard Prum of Yale University, one of the doubters.

Prum said Tuesday he was particularly convinced by the Cornell researchers' two recordings of a series of nasally sounds that the ivory bills make and an exchange of double-rap sounds between two birds. He said the sounds matched recordings made in the 1930s in Louisiana.

"It's really on the basis of the new evidence that we've become convinced that the ivory-billed woodpecker exists," Prum said in a telephone interview.

The recordings seem to indicate that there is more than one ivory-billed woodpecker in the area.

"The bird that we saw had to have a mommy and a daddy," said Scott Simon, director of the Nature Conservancy in Arkansas. "We have solid evidence for one. We believe there are more."

Ornithologists announced in late April that an ivory-billed woodpecker was living in a swamp in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Arkansas. A Hot Springs kayaker had seen the bird a year earlier.

But Prum and fellow bird experts at Kansas and Florida Gulf Coast universities last month questioned the evidence, saying it was only strong enough only to suggest the possibility that the bird was present, not proof.

Another of those experts on Tuesday agreed with Prum.

"We were astounded. Yes, I totally believe, thank goodness, there are ivory bills," Mark Robbins of the University of Kansas said in a telephone interview. "We are ecstatic. Once everybody hears these vocalizations, you can't help but be convinced."

The Cornell ornithologists made 17,000 hours of recordings, using equipment set out in various places near the Cache and White rivers in Arkansas last winter.

One portion of the tapes has a distant double-rap, followed closely by a double-rap that is very close.

"It's communication typical of the ivory-billed. It's one of the more exciting cuts from the tape," Fitzpatrick said.

He said the audio had only recently been discovered on the tapes, which are being analyzed with computer assistance.

When the ornithologists announced in April that the bird had been found, the audio had not been reviewed closely enough, Fitzpatrick said. "We thought it was premature in April to publish the analyses."

The Cornell researchers plan to release the audio publicly at the American Ornithologists' Union in Santa Barbara, Calif., Aug. 23-27
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|shearluck|lewisoll@yahoo.co.uk|08/26/05 at 16:51:48|shearluck|xx|0|62.253.64.24|The double rap sounds can be heard on Cornell university's page here:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/field/listening/index_html

along with analysis and comparissons to other woodpecker taps and gunshot etc in order to shut up any smug sceptics.

Tidy.|| Knock knock, who's there?|Mark North|darkdorset@hotmail.com|08/27/05 at 22:42:02|Mark_North|xx|0|86.131.101.76|26-08-2005

The recent rediscovery of one of the world’s most enigmatic birds appears to stand up to scientific scrutiny after additional, vital acoustic evidence was presented by the ornithologists who made the sightings.

In April 2005, a team of scientists led by John Fitzpatrick from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology announced in the journal Science that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Campephilus principalis had been sensationally rediscovered in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, Arkansas, USA. A crucial piece of evidence was a blurry video-tape of a woodpecker flying away from the camera.

Some ornithologists had questioned their interpretation of this video, saying it was inconclusive. However, the subsequent release of tape recordings made in Arkansas of the characteristic nasal “kent” calls of the species plus two double-knocks on a tree, interpreted as being made by Ivory-billed Woodpeckers has satisfied most sceptics of the species' continuing existence.

Over 18,000 hours of sounds were recorded on autonomous recording units (ARUs) designed by the Cornell Lab and strapped to trees in the swamp. More than 150 sites were monitored in the half-million acre Big Woods of Arkansas and these have now been analysed by researchers. Most striking is a recording from 24 January 2005 which captures a distant double knock, followed by a similar and much closer double rap 3.5 seconds later – possibly the drumming displays of two Ivory-bills communicating with one another by rapping on trees.

"I immediately felt a thrill of excitement the first time I heard that recording. It is the best tangible evidence so far that there could be more than one ivory-bill in the area." —Russell Charif, Bioacoustics Researcher, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

After eliminating thousands of noises from gunshots and other sources, the researchers found about 100 double knocks that bear a strong resemblance to the display drumming of the ivory-bill's closest relatives. The sounds were clustered around certain recording locations at certain times of day – a pattern that would not be expected if they had been produced by random noises.

Then ARUs also recorded nasal tooting calls similar to those of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. However, Blue Jays Cyanocitta cristata are notorious vocal mimics that sometimes utter calls like those of ivory-bills. However, a sophisticated acoustic classification program categorised nearly all of the unknown calls from Arkansas as most similar to Ivory-billed Woodpecker recordings. None matched up with "tooting" calls of Blue Jays from the Cornell's audio collection, but researchers say they cannot rule out the jays until they analyze more variants of the calls.

"These sounds give us additional hope that a few Ivory-billed Woodpeckers do live in the White River and Cache River region. But this species is still on the verge of extinction and huge mysteries remain to be solved. Certainly, we have a lot more work to do before we know enough to determine its population size, let alone ensure its survival." —John Fitzpatrick, Director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

A team led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and other partners including Audubon (BirdLife in the US) will renew search efforts in the Big Woods in November. Hopefully the lack of leaves on the trees should hopefully prove more fruitful for searching at that time of year.

The calls are available to listen to on the Cornell Lab's web site.

[url]http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2005/08/ivory-billed_woodpecker.html[/url]|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Swan|Cygnus_rex@hotmail.com|09/21/05 at 23:40:05|Swan|xx|0|62.252.64.33|[quote][b]Gallagher Speaks On Elusive Woodpecker[/b]
[i]September 21, 2005
by Samira Chandwani
Sun Staff Writer[/i]

Eureka! Tim Gallagher, author of The Grail Bird, speaks yesterday on his recent rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker. The bird was thought to be extinct.  
Although not making as many headlines, late-night talk show appearances or magazine covers as your average celebrity, the ivory-billed woodpecker, Campephilus principalis, garnered a considerable amount of media attention last year. Tim Gallagher, editor in chief of Living Bird, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s quarterly magazine, was already in the midst of writing a book on the woodpecker when several people reported sightings of the supposedly extinct bird.
Gallagher, author of The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, published in May, gave a book talk yesterday evening at Mann Library as part of the Chats in the Stacks lecture series. He spoke both of the historical lure of the bird, as well as the current excitement surrounding the woodpecker’s “re-emergence.”

“Tim began writing about the bird several years ago,” said Janet McCue, director of Mann Library, as she introduced Gallagher to the audience. “Like a detective, he started to track the bird after sightings were reported.”

An award-winning author and photographer with a life-long interest in wilderness exploration, Gallagher’s passion has taken him to the Hinterlands of Iceland and to the swamps of Arkansas after news of the ivory-billed woodpecker’s whereabouts surfaced last year.

Gallagher explained that the original range of the ivory-billed woodpecker stretched as far north as Southern Illinois to Texas, and the birds were known to inhabit the bottomland forests of the South. The South was known for its “forests filled with wolves, bears and the ivory-billed Woodpecker,” Gallagher said. After the Civil War, however, logging companies destroyed large tracts of forest land in order to obtain wood, even after protests from conservation societies.

Gallagher noted that the president of one company at the time said outright, “we have no ethical considerations like you folks, we’re just money grubbers.”

Logging companies destroyed land vital for the survival of the ivory-billed woodpecker. In the early 1920s, museums warned ornithologists that the species was becoming rare.

“They said, ‘well, the birds are going extinct, better get your specimen,’” Gallagher said.

“Ordinarily, collecting doesn’t do any harm, but in this case, it [led to] the detriment of the species.”

In 1924, ornithologist Arthur A. Allen located a pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers, and the news made headlines in local newspapers.

“This is the high point of my life,” Allen was reported to have said. “I did what [people said] could never be done; I saw the ivory-billed woodpecker.”

“Taxidermists came out and shot the birds,” Gallagher said, “ and the birds crossed back over to extinction.”

By the 1930s a tract of land in northeast Louisiana that was owned by the Singer sewing machine company was the last known stronghold of the ivory-billed woodpecker. Gallagher gave a brief overview of the lives of various ornithologists, some of whom were from Cornell, who went on several expeditions in the region known as the Singer Tract, in the hope of finding one of the rare birds. Among those researchers who conducted painstakingly meticulous field studies in the hopes of locating the ivory-billed woodpeckers was Peter Paul Kellogg, a pioneer in sound recording technology who managed to record the first sounds of the woodpecker. Accompanying Arthur Allen, Kellogg took two huge trucks from Ithaca to Louisiana.

James Tanner, a Cornell ornithologist whose Louisiana expedition was sponsored by the National Audubon Society, wrote at the time, “…the primitiveness of the area was its greatest charm. All the animals that had ever lived there in the memory of man … still lived there.”

A campaign to rescue the Singer Tract forest was initiated by John Baker of the Audubon society, and a message was even dispatched to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but to no avail.

“The environmental movement had no muscle,” Gallagher explained.

The last universally-accepted photographs of the bird were taken in 1948 in Cuba by John V. Dennis and Davis Compton, after which the ivory-billed Woodpecker was declared extinct.

In May 1971, however, a mysterious man contacted George Lowery of Louisiana State University about photographs that he had taken in the Atchafalaya Swamp of Southern Louisiana that supposedly depicted the extinct woodpecker. Lowery went to the site and saw excavation marks that might have belonged to an ivory-bill. Lowery took the pictures to the annual meeting of the American Ornithological Union and was laughed at, while the pictures were declared to be fraudulent.

The man who took the pictures, however, “didn’t want any one to know his name … he didn’t want the Feds to impound the land,” Gallagher said. But as Gallagher set out to do his own research for the book, he couldn’t resist the thought of locating this man.

“I [wanted] to find this guy,” Gallagher said. “What a character for my book.”

Gallagher eventually located the man, Fielding Lewis, and set up a meeting with him in Louisiana. “'I’ll meet you at this Cajun restaurant,’” Gallagher recounted Lewis saying. Gallagher was “so excited, so curious at that point. I had this big fantasy [of Lewis].” With his expedition partner Bobby Harrison at his side, the two stayed “sitting in the parking lot, waiting for all the cars, for Fielding Lewis … a white Chrysler New Yorker [pulled up]” and out emerged Lewis, “a big huge guy smoking a cigar … a character out of Tennessee Williams.”

“He was a great storyteller,” Gallagher said. He said that Lewis told him that “he was out training his Labrador [in 1971] with a camera put on top of his head and started snapping pictures” of the woodpecker. Gallagher mentioned that the pictures Lewis had provided the professor almost ruined his career; the Society thought that the birds in the picture were taxidermy birds.

“‘Now where in hell would I get stuffed ivory birds?,’” Gallagher quoted Lewis as saying.

In 2003, Mary Scott, an ivory-billed woodpecker searcher, posted a note on her website about a sighting in Arkansas that seemed promising. After reading the post, Gallagher said that it “was the first time I really thought that we might be on the trail of the bird.” Around the same time Gene Sparling also sent a note to Scott’s website about a sighting that he had had of the bird; Gallagher, after hearing about the latest update, “grilled Sparling for 40 minutes.”

On February 26, 2004, Gallagher, with Harrison, “waded through the muddy Bayou de View … launched a canoe in the muddy bayou, among 1,000-year-old cypress trees.” As they were charting the muddy waters, Gallagher recounted that a “bird just buzzed across [our] side view. We both yelled ‘ivory bill!’ which scared the hell of the bird. It was like a bucket of water on a hot day; the bird was just six to eight feet away.”

Gallagher next remembered jumping out of the canoe, “knees in mud, getting scratched and clawed by branches” by the bayou in order to take the now-famous field notes of the woodpecker sighting which have been reprinted in The New York Times.

After his exhilarating expedition, Gallagher said that he “finally realized that I had to go back to Cornell and tell the Director of the Lab that I’d seen Big Foot.” John Fitzpatrick, Director of the lab of Ornithology questioned and cross-examined Gallagher, before declaring that Gallagher had finally seen something.

Gallagher mentioned that his “15 minutes of fame came last April” when he was invited to a press conference at the Department of the Interior. “It was pretty funny ... a couple senators, governors, the secretaries of the interior and agriculture both spoke … the Washington press corps was there. You think of them as cynical but they were so excited.” Gallagher then recounted how a reporter from Reuters asked, “Can’t we hear from someone who has seen the bird?” Gallagher went up to the podium and, as he described, “you could say anything and they’d be writing it down.” Gallagher and his expedition team will also appear on 60 Minutes with Ed Bradley later this year.

While the media frenzy may have died down, the expeditions will still continue. Gallagher mentioned that there may be another trip to Arkansas which will be in the beginning of November.

The sighting of the bird has also led to some progress in the effort to grant protection to the bayou area. 5,000 acres have been closed off to accommodate researchers in their further quests to see the majestic ivory-billed woodpecker.[/quote]

[url=http://www.cornellsun.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2005/09/21/4330ff275ff70]>Source<[/url]
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Mark North|darkdorset@hotmail.com|09/29/05 at 11:58:32|mark_north|xx|0|86.131.92.255|Woodpecker's Return Heartens Others On the Trail of the 'Presumed Extinct'

By David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 4, 2005; A03

TUPPER LAKE, N.Y. -- Peter O'Shea, a retired police sergeant, has spent
23 years searching the forest trails, sand deposits and snowdrifts of
the Adirondack Mountains for cougars. He has seen a grand total of none.

That could mean one of two things.

Perhaps cougars are not here to be found. That is the position taken by
government managers -- that the cougar subspecies that once roamed these
mountains and the rest of the East Coast has probably been extinct for
decades.

O'Shea prefers to think the cougars are just really, really good at hiding.

"Cats, you know . . .," he said. "There's nothing more furtive than a
feline."

This is the kind of attitude -- persistence that runs to the edge of
absurdity -- needed to look for one of nature's ghosts. It is a common
trait among the small group of scientists and environmentalists who are
still searching for the 27 creatures, including the eastern cougar, that
are classified as "presumed extinct" by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

To find them, they have braved 20-inch Hawaiian rainfalls, groped along
the bottoms of coffee-colored rivers and spent months vainly
broadcasting bird songs through snake-filled swamps. They have faced all
the tedium of normal biological research, plus the added burden of not
knowing if it is all a gigantic waste of time.

This year, one success -- the rediscovery of the presumed-extinct
ivory-billed woodpecker in Arkansas -- has improved the spirits of this
eclectic group. Maybe, some think, there is more good news out there in
the woods.

"We have not given up," said Eric Vanderwerf, a Fish and Wildlife
Service researcher in Hawaii who is looking for nine vanished bird species.

The 27 species on this list are the most hopeless among the 394 U.S.
animals now classified as endangered, but the government is not quite
ready to write them off. In most cases, it was humans that put them in
their dire straits -- a startling measure of our impact on the
environment, since their habitats are as diverse as the island of
Molokai in Hawaii and a single riffle of a single stream in central Ohio.

Some of the damage was done years ago: Hawaiian birds were decimated by
a disease-carrying mosquito, which may have arrived on the first
European ship to visit the island in the 1700s. The Eskimo curlew, a
bird that once numbered in the hundreds of thousands on western
prairies, declined sharply during a wave of hunting in the late 1800s.

Other problems are much more recent. Scientists in the Southeast blame
dams and federal water projects built as recently as the 1980s, which
slowed the flow of rivers. That killed off small freshwater mussels that
had evolved to depend on a fast current.

"The really frustrating thing is that we're losing fauna in our
lifetimes," said Paul Hartfield of the Fish and Wildlife Service office
in Jackson, Miss.

These scientists say that, while their efforts might be spent on animals
with a better chance of survival, they feel a kind of moral obligation
to the presumed extinct. Because humans' indifference drove them to
their current condition, the scientists reason, these animals deserve
every effort that might resurrect them.

Hartfield explained it by paraphrasing a quote from biologist E.O.
Wilson, a leading expert on biodiversity.

"The first rule in good tinkering," Hartfield said, "is 'Save all the
parts.' "

For his research, the "parts" in question are species such as the
southern acornshell and the black clubshell, shellfish that live (or
lived) in the gravelly bottoms of southeastern rivers.

To find them, some scientists wind up snorkeling or scuba diving with
their faces a few inches off the bottom, keeping an eye out for snapping
turtles and alligators as they search. And that is if they are lucky.

The unlucky ones have to dive in rivers now so choked with dirt that
there is not even a few inches of visibility. They have to feel their
way -- using touch to determine what is a piece of gravel and what is a
tiny shellfish the size of a piece of gravel.

"It's kind of like caving, without a light," Hartfield said.

Things are different, but not really much better, for the scientists who
look for Hawaiian birds such as the large Kauai thrush, whose only known
habitat is near the peak of Mount Waialeale, which just happens to be
the rainiest spot on Earth, with 500 inches a year.

"It's almost a constant drizzle," Vanderwerf said. The undergrowth grows
so quickly that they find themselves bushwhacking through what seems
like a solid green wall.

In the Southeast, scientists seeking the Bachman's warbler -- a
swamp-dwelling songbird last seen in 1962 -- say one serious enemy to
success is tedium.

That's because this is how you look for a Bachman's warbler: Walk 400
feet through a swamp. Stop. Play a recording of the male bird's song.
Then listen for a response from a bird out in the woods -- perhaps one
of the bird's distinctive calls that the literature describes as a "zeep
or a buzzy zip."

Then, if you don't hear anything, repeat the process.

For how long?

"Just days and days and days," said Paul B. Hamel, a biologist with the
U.S. Forest Service in Stoneville, Miss. He spent two months every year
doing this from 1975 to 1979, without seeing a single warbler.

These scientists are heartened by the story of the ivory-billed
woodpecker. This large bird with white wing patches had not been seen
since 1944 despite intensive efforts. Then a persistent searcher spotted
it in a swamp this February.

That startling find gave a special boost to the amateur biologists
looking for the eastern cougar, considered to be a particularly hopeless
case.

"If that bird could disappear for 50 years and still be present, well,
gosh, that makes it much more credible that the eastern cougar could
still be there," said Chris Bolgiano, vice president of the West
Virginia-based Eastern Cougar Foundation.

The cougars, close relatives to Florida panthers and mountain lions of
the western states, used to roam from Florida to Maine -- including the
mid-Atlantic forests that would become the District and its suburbs. But
they were hunted for bounties and lost their main prey as deer were
displaced by agriculture.

The last eastern cougars are thought to have lived in the Great Smoky
Mountains in the 1970s. Any mountain lions found in the East since then
-- and there have been a few -- have been classified as escaped zoo
animals or pets.

But some still believe the native cats hung on in the remotest areas,
and they point to scattered sightings and tracks as evidence.

Final proof, however, remains elusive. Take the case of Noah Charney,
who had been hunting for cougars in western Massachusetts recently when
he found a deposit of animal waste that bore all the marks of a cougar
dropping.

He sent it off to a lab, believing this might at last be the missing link.

"It was just a giant bobcat," he said disappointedly.

"You're certainly riding this 'Oh, we're about to get it . . .,' "
Charney said. "And then, 'Aw, no.' "

In the Adirondacks, O'Shea said he has seen five different sets of
cougar tracks in the snow over the years, with the drag marks left by a
long tail signifying that the tracks were not left by bobcats or lynx.

He feels he's due for a real sighting -- and that the East is due to
have its cougars back, actually and officially.

"If they aren't present," he said, "the ecosystem isn't whole."|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|11/25/05 at 13:12:42|Obadiah|xx|0|86.131.84.191|Search for Rare Ark. Woodpecker Resumes

By CARYN ROUSSEAU, Associated Press Writer Thu Nov 24,12:11 AM ET

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Scientists and birders will resume their search this winter for the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker to prove, once and for all, that the bird really lives in the vast eastern Arkansas wetlands.

The bird, with its massive wingspan and signature double rap, was thought to have been extinct for decades when a kayaker reported finding one in February 2004. In April, the interior secretary acknowledged the chance sighting.

But the steamy Arkansas summer conditions halted the search for the woodpecker.

"The birds are relatively silent," said Tim Gallagher of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and member of the search team. "The woods, they're like a jungle, just thick foliage, just incredibly hot, humid, buggy and snakes everywhere. Everything about it is just as bad as could be."

Now that leaves are falling off the trees, creating a clearer view, and the snakes are at bay, search conditions are perfect for woodpecker spotting, Gallagher said.

"The birds tend to be more vocal and active because they're coming into breeding season and it's much easier to see," Gallagher said.

A crew from Cornell and its partner agencies will train 100 volunteers for the six-month search of 500,000 acres, Gallagher said.

Finding a nest, or even better, a breeding pair of woodpeckers that could be nurtured, would be a major breakthrough, Gallagher said.

"It would re-energize the whole process," he said. "There are a lot of people who really want to see some more solid evidence."

The search includes stationary observers, teams in canoes on rivers and streams and recorders and video cameras set in the area to possibly catch the bird's sounds.

"We will continue to search for this bird until we find it," said Gene Sparling, the Hot Springs canoeist who spotted the woodpecker in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. "He's out there somewhere."

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|12/03/05 at 11:24:35|obadiah|xx|0|86.142.245.246|From the Chicago Tribune: 2 Dec. 2005

Arkansas county still awaits woodpecker windfall

Report of ivory-bill hasn't drawn tourists

Lianne Hart

BRINKLEY, Ark. -- This time of year, ducks flock by the hundreds to the
Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, where bands of white-tailed deer graze
under a canopy of 1,000-year-old trees. Near a cypress swamp, the sun warms
the autumn air, making this bottomland a paradise for wild turkeys, foraging
squirrels and insects.

Somewhere in the wilderness probably lives a bird--or birds--once thought
extinct: the ivory-billed woodpecker, with its 30-inch wingspan and
distinctive white stripes on a coal-black body.

When Cornell University ornithologists announced in April that the
ivory-bill, the largest woodpecker in North America, had been rediscovered,
bird lovers worldwide rejoiced.

And here in Monroe County, where one-quarter of residents live in poverty,
merchants stocked up on bird-related souvenirs and waited for tourists.

But with fresh sightings of the ivory-bill yet to be confirmed, "We're still
waiting for the tourist part," hairdresser Penny Childs said.

Outside her salon, woodpecker T-shirts hang from a tree, swinging in the
breeze. Inside, nearly half of the establishment has been taken over with
woodpecker souvenirs: candles, artwork, books. Childs has created the $25
"woodpecker" haircut--a spiked hairdo accented with red, black and white
paint.

"It's like waiting for Christmas to get here," Childs said of what residents
hope will be a big winter bird-watching season.

Folks here knew that few visitors would brave the mosquitoes, snakes and
wilting heat of an Arkansas summer to look for the bird, said Larry Mallard,
manager of the White River National Wildlife Refuge, where ornithologists
taped what is believed to be the ivory-bill's call. Better to wait until the
dead of winter, he said, when the dense foliage has dropped and there is a
better chance of spotting the skittish bird or hearing its signature rap--a
loud double-knock: BAM-bam!

The changing season has brought a second round of Cornell biologists to the
woods of eastern Arkansas, camcorders and binoculars in tow. For the next
six months, the team--aided by volunteers and possibly decoys and audiotapes
to attract the ivory-bill--will comb through 550,000 acres of forest and
swampland. One objective is to photograph the bird so there is no question
about its identity.

If, as a bonus, searchers find a roost or nest hole, "that would be
unbelievably thrilling," Cornell project spokeswoman Connie Bruce said.

The initial search for the ivory-bill, launched in March 2004, was conducted
in such secrecy that the bird was given a code name: Elvis. Participants
were asked to sign confidentiality agreements. This time, with the bird out
of the bag, most everyone in Brinkley knows the scientists are back for
another look.

Ivory-billed woodpeckers once roamed forests across the South, feeding by
peeling the bark off trees to reach insects underneath. Their numbers
dwindled as forests were cut for lumber and cleared for farming.

The last confirmed sighting, before April's announcement, was in 1944 in
Louisiana.

In February 2004, a kayaker floating down a stream in the Cache River refuge
spotted the bird. That led to an intensive, yearlong search that yielded
multiple credible sightings and a grainy four-second video of what is
believed to be the ivory-bill in flight.

Some people here wish the bird had stayed hidden.

Sam Gillam, 22, worries that curious humans will upset a delicate balance of
nature that allowed the ivory-bill to survive, unobserved, for decades.

"He was back here all those years by himself. He was doing something right,"
Gillam said. "When you get a lot of people looking for him, something might
happen to change where he lives, or people might just scare him off. I think
they should just leave him alone."
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|shearluck|lewisoll@yahoo.co.uk|12/06/05 at 19:55:20|shearluck|xx|0|62.255.32.17|Good job if tourists are staying away, the last thing a newly rediscovered endangered species needs is gum chewwing tourists leaving litter around the place, like they've done with mount kilimanjaro, mount everest and other wilderness areas.

Imagine how bad it would be if one of the few IBWs was killed by getting trapped in the plastic rings of 4 pack of beer cans.  ::)|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|01/06/06 at 18:45:31|obadiah|xx|0|86.131.95.122|Search for the ivory-billed woodpecker begins this year in Arkansas
Contact: Connie Bruce
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
(607) 254-2491

FOR RELEASE: Dec. 12, 2005

With the arrival of volunteer searchers, the 2005-2006 Ivory-billed Woodpecker Research Project is now fully staffed and going full steam ahead. The current field season continues through April 2006. The search is being led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Arkansas, with the support and cooperation of other members of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Team.

"This is an exciting opportunity to better document the existence and learn more about this magnificent bird," said Sam D. Hamilton, southeast regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Now that the leaves have fallen, conditions are much improved for seeing and hearing the birds. Finding birds is a critical part of the recovery process and we're hoping for some exciting news."

Twenty-two search team leaders, coordinators, supervisors, and field technicians have been working in eastern Arkansas since Nov. 1. More than 100 volunteers will now be joining the search and will be deployed in groups of 14 for two week periods through the remainder of the field season. The goal is to find an ivory-bill roost hole or nest hole and get additional video documentation of the bird or birds - all in the hope of learning more about the species to bring the ivory-bill back from near-extinction.

"Since the ivory-bill's rediscovery, The Nature Conservancy has acquired for protection some 18,500 acres of critical habitat and worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to add 1,440 acres to the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge - where the bird was first spotted," said Scott Simon, director of The Nature Conservancy's Arkansas chapter. "The more data gathered about the number and location of ivory bills living in Arkansas, the more we can do to protect this fragile habitat and make sure this incredible bird survives for generations to come. Because of the great cooperation of many agencies and organizations focusing on habitat conservation, we have a chance to recover the ivory bill."

Searches in Arkansas are planned for White River National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Cache River NWR, Dagmar Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Black Swamp WMA, Wattensaw WMA and Benson Creek Natural Area. Other teams are starting to organize scouting trips to follow-up on ivory-billed woodpecker sightings from across the southern United States in the former range of the bird. This may involve work in South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana and Texas, but will depend on a review of what is believed to be the best habitat, along with credible recent sightings.

"The restoration of the entire corridor of the Cache River is extremely important to the habitat of many wildlife species, not only the ivory-billed woodpecker," said Arkansas Game and Fish Commission director Scott Henderson.

Searchers will use traditional tools, such as binoculars and digital cameras, as well as high-tech methods that include Autonomous Recording Units (ARUs), sophisticated sound-analysis software, time-lapse video systems and remote cameras. Human searchers will make their way through the bayous by canoe and on foot, looking for promising tree cavities. They will also be conducting transect searches with the aid of GPS units. At other times they will be sitting quietly in blinds, observing. Scouts will be looking for suitable ivory-bill habitat, assisted by NASA satellite photos that will help them focus on promising areas more quickly.

"The volunteers are vital to the search effort," said Dr. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "Without them there's no way we could scour such a large area for ivory-bills. These folks are field biologists and avid birders - all of them giving up their time to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime recovery project."

Key to the recovery of the ivory-bill is preservation of habitat. Thanks to the efforts of local hunters and fishers, the ivory-bill, and many other species was able to survive in the depths of the Big Woods. More than 75 percent of the habitat at Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, location of the March 2004 Ivory-billed Woodpecker sighting, was purchased with $41 million in revenue generated from the sale of Duck Stamps. Hunters, birders and other lovers of the outdoors are encouraged to buy stamps to save habitat, which not only benefits the ivory-billed woodpecker, but wildlife everywhere. Ducks Stamps sell for $15 at the United States Postal Service 1-800 STAMP-24 (1-800-782-6724), and at most major sporting goods stores that sell hunting and fishing licenses.

http://www.news.cornell.edu/pressoffice1/Dec05/woodpecker.html
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|01/24/06 at 11:20:22|obadiah|xx|0|86.131.99.53|From Florida Today: 22 Jan. 2006
Ivory-bill searchers spread out

One of the biggest birding expeditions is underway in eastern Arkansas as
hundreds of birders and scientists spread out to find the ivory-billed
woodpecker.

Twenty-two search teams, each composed of 14 people and including more than
100 volunteers, will continue working through the end of April in the
Ivory-billed Woodpecker Research Project.

The goal is to find an ivory-bill roost hole or nest hole and to get
additional video documentation of the bird or birds, in hopes of learning
more about the species.

"Now that the leaves have fallen, conditions are much improved for seeing
and hearing the birds," said Sam Hamilton, southeast regional director for
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Finding birds is a critical part of the recovery process and we're hoping
for some exciting news," Hamilton said.

Last spring, more than 60 years after the last confirmed sighting of the
species, one ivory bill was re-discovered in the so-called Big Woods of
Eastern Arkansas.

The search parties are using traditional bird-watching tools like binoculars
and digital cameras, plus high-tech methods that include autonomous
recording units, sophisticated sound-analysis software, time-lapse video
systems, and remote cameras.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the
Nature Conservancy, Audubon Arkansas and the wildlife service are leading
the search. Support and cooperation also is coming from the Ivory-billed
Woodpecker Recovery Team.

Key areas for the searches include the White River National Wildlife Refuge,
the Cache River NWR, the Dagmar Wildlife Management Area, Black Swamp WMA,
Wattensaw WMA, and Benson Creek Natural Area.

"The volunteers are vital to the search effort," said Dr. John Fitzpatrick,
director of the Cornell Lab. "Without them there's no way we could scour
such a large area for ivory-bills."

He pointed out that the volunteers include field biologists and avid birders
who are donating their time for this once-in-a-lifetime recovery project.

Since the bird's rediscovery, The Nature Conservancy has acquired for
protection about 18,500 acres of critical habitat, and the organization is
working with the wildlife service to add another 1,440 acres to the Cache
River NWR, where the first bird was spotted.

"Because of the great cooperation of many agencies and organizations
focusing on habitat conservation, we have a chance to recover the ivory
bill," said Scott Simon, director of the Arkansas chapter of the
conservancy.

Wild turkeys return

Another bird, the Florida Osceola wild turkey, recently got a boost in South
Florida's Everglades National Park when 19 of the birds were released.

A team of wildlife biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission used bait and rocket nets to catch the 19 birds on
private ranches in Central and South Florida.

The turkeys were released in the Long Pine Key section of the park, where
wild turkeys once existed naturally. The turkey population in the park
dropped after the 1950s due in part to illegal hunting and habitat loss,
according to the FWC.

It is the second relocation project through a joint effort by the National
Wild Turkey Federation, the Everglades National Park and the FWC. In January
2000, three groups released 29 Osceolas, a sub species of wild turkey found
only in Florida, into the park.

No public hunting is allowed in the park.

Each bird was marked with wing tags and 10 were fitted with small radio
transmitters, which will enable biologists to monitor their movement,
behavior, habitat use and survival.

In the past two years, remote-operated digital infrared cameras, including
equipment donated by the Homestead chapter of the turkey federation, were
used to survey the population at Long Pine Key. The results showed the
population to be extremely low.
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|01/26/06 at 08:46:29|obadiah|xx|0|86.131.99.53|Editorial: Woodpecker's return is gathering doubts

January 24, 2006

Day after day, from before dawn till after dusk, nearly 150 birders are creeping around a swampy stretch of Arkansas woodland. They'll be at it till April, seeking signs of a bird they've given the unfortunate, though affectionate, nickname of Elvis.
This was or is the king of American woodpeckers, with an ivory bill and a three-foot wingspread, a personal favorite of John James Audubon that, when plentiful, was known as the "Lord God bird" for the startled exclamation it tended to provoke in people seeing it for the first time. That was before logging in the southeastern United States drove it to the brink of extinction, at least, by the 1940s.

Last spring, news of credible sightings prompted the sort of publicity that might attend the reemergence of a mastodon. Far less attention was paid the skeptics who thought announcing this resurrection on the strength of a mere seven sightings, some under challenge and none supported by hard evidence, was a bit of a stretch.

Or, in the words of ivory-bill expert Jerome Jackson, an exercise in "faith-based ornithology." In a recent journal article, he contends that a grainy bit of video from the Big Woods of Arkansas actually portrays a pileated woodpecker, and that last spring's announcement grew out of a reckless rush to publish, whose motivations were not without self-interest.

True enough, conservation organizations trumpeted the bird's alleged return as testimony to their good works in saving remnant habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, under fire from all sides of the fight over saving species, expressed thanks for a second chance at protecting the creature (which was, helpfully, far more photogenic than the typical endangered organism).

But now many months have passed without definitive further sightings, or credible recordings of the bird's distinctive double-knock pecking pattern, or discovery of even one of the huge roost holes it makes in tree trunks.

Ornithologists who have been neutral so far think the searchers have until the foliage returns to prove the ivory bill's return. As for us, we're rooting for a comeback, a fine thing in itself and also a stirring demonstration of survival. But as time goes by, this woodpecker reminds us more and more of how often that other Elvis was said to have turned up alive.

http://www.startribune.com/561/story/202955.html (MN)|| Woodpecker Racket?|davinian|cfz@davinian.co.uk|02/09/06 at 08:44:44|davinian|xx|0|82.35.173.13|[b]Woodpecker Racket?[/b]

[b]Last year’s reported sighting in eastern Arkansas of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, long thought to be extinct, raised the hopes of bird-watchers everywhere.[/b]

But now a prominent bird expert has cast serious doubt on the report, characterizing it as “faith-based” ornithology and “a disservice to science.”

Writing in the ornithology journal The Auk (January 2006), Florida Gulf Coast University ornithologist Jerome A. Jackson criticized the “evidence” put forth to support the conclusion that the Woodpecker wasn’t extinct after all — including a four-second video of an alleged sighting which garnered widespread media attention; several other anecdotal sightings; and acoustic signals purported to be vocalization and raps from the Woodpecker.

News of the alleged Woodpecker sighting caught on video was first released in late-April 2005 in ScienceExpress, an online component of Science magazine. The full report subsequently appeared in the June 3 issue of Science.

“While the world rejoiced, my elation turned to disbelief,” wrote Jackson. “I had seen the ‘confirming’ video in the news releases and recognized its poor quality, but I had believed [anyway],” he continued.

“Then I saw [a still image] and seriously doubted that this evidence was confirmation of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Even a cursory comparison of this figure with [photographs and illustrations of real Ivory-billed Woodpeckers] shows that the white on the wing of the bird… is too extensive to be that of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker,” Jackson wrote.

Jackson dismissed the other unverified sightings with, “I do not question the sincerity, integrity or passion of these observers [but] we simply cannot know what they saw.” The researchers who claimed to video the Ivory-billed Woodpecker later admitted that the acoustic information “while interesting, does not reach the level we require for proof.”

Jackson went on to conclude that, “My opinion is that the bird in the [video] is a normal Pileated Woodpecker… Others have independently come to the same conclusion, and publication of independent analyses may be forthcoming.”

Jackson isn’t some inveterate or knee-jerk skeptic with respect to the possibility of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker’s existence. In fact, in 1986 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service convened a panel to “officially” declare the Woodpecker extinct, Jackson argued that “it was unreasonable to declare the species extinct without making a serious effort to find it.”

Only time will tell whether the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is, in fact, extinct, but one thing is certain — the fanfare announcing these now-suspect sightings was way overblown. And it’s worth noting that the beneficiaries of all this hoopla were also the ones behind it.

The search to “find” the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was organized, supported and launched by the Nature Conservancy. The subsequent “find” was announced and widely publicized by the Nature Conservancy. Now, according to Jackson’s article, it seems the Nature Conservancy also stands to benefit substantially from its own “discovery,” possibly to the tune of $10.2 million federal dollars and hundreds of thousands of acres in Arkansas.

To Jackson’s dismay, this money, which had originally been designated for other ongoing endangered species projects, has now been diverted into a “recovery” effort for the apparently-still-extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker — involving none other than the Nature Conservancy, a private “nonprofit” group that uses land acquisition to advance its self-proclaimed “conservation” agenda.

But a series of Washington Post articles in May 2003 exposed the Nature Conservancy, the world’s richest environmental group with $3 billion in assets, as more than just a “land bank.” In the past it has also acted as a broker of too-sweet-to-be-true land and business deals for wealthy insiders and corporate supporters, often at taxpayer expense.

In one scheme reported by the Post, “…the Conservancy bought raw land, attached development restrictions and then resold the land to state trustees and other supporters at greatly reduced prices. Buyers then voluntarily gave the Conservancy charitable contributions roughly equivalent to the discounts, sums that were written off from the buyers' federal income taxes. The deals generally allowed the buyers to build homes on the land.”

What’s all this got to do with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker?

The Nature Conservancy says on its web site that it “has helped protect more than 120,000 acres of [eastern Arkansas forests], and is now aiming to conserve and restore an additional 200,000 acres of forest – vital habitat for the ivory-billed woodpecker…”

Given that the land acquisition is made possible with taxpayer dollars and tax breaks — for who knows what ultimate purposes - you can almost hear the Nature Conservancy laughing like that other fictional woodpecker, Woody Woodpecker, all the way to the bank.

A final note on this saga concerns the reported sightings that were rushed to publication by the journal Science — the same journal that rushed to publication last year’s faked South Korean stem cell studies, and a faked 1997 Tulane University study on environmental chemicals.

While there’s no evidence that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker study was faked, Jackson’s characterization of the report as wishful-thinking certainly doesn’t say much for Science’s peer review process — intended as a safeguard against the publication of unsubstantiated scientific claims and junk science.

Science has enjoyed the reputation of a preeminent journal. But over the last decade, it seems to have developed the print-first-ask-questions-later tendencies usually associated with tabloid publications.

It would be terrific if the Ivory-billed Woodpecker weren’t extinct — but we’ll need better evidence than just four seconds of blurry video hawked by special interests.

Steven Milloy publishes [url=http://www.junkscience.com/]JunkScience.com[/url] and [url=http://www.csrwatch.com/]CSRwatch.com[/url], and is an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

This story, [url=http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,183643,00.html]Fox News[/url].|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|02/25/06 at 12:41:50|richard_f|xx|0|86.128.156.39| Scientists try to spot elusive ivory bill

JAMIE REID, The Enterprise 02/25/2006
The "Holy Grail" of birds - the ivory-billed woodpecker, believed extinct until a possible 2004 sighting - may be alive in Southeast Texas.

A team of scientists will soon scout the Neches, Sabine and Trinity river corridors for a glimpse of the bird, which was thought to be extinct for six decades.

The woodpecker, North America's largest, was declared alive in the Big Woods of Eastern Arkansas in 2004 by a team of researchers.

They were reputable birders and had lots of evidence, including recordings of the bird's distinctive double rap when pounding wood and a blurry video of the bird, called the "Bigfoot video" by some.

It was enough. The birding world went wild.

"I thought it was the most exciting thing I had ever heard in my lifetime," said John Arvin, research coordinator for Gulf Coast Bird Observatory. "I was blown away."

It was a dinosaur discovered. Lazarus resurrected.

Soon after the announcement, people started organizing their own scouting trips in spots where the woodpecker once ranged.

People are searching for the ivory bill in the swampy forests of East Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana, said Tom MacKenzie, spokesman for the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Money is going toward finding and saving the bird.

In a 2007 budget request, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked for $2.1 billion, with about $800,000 going toward recovery and management plans for the woodpecker, according to a press release.

In Southeast Texas, a team of three people will look for the bird next winter and in the spring of 2007, when trees have lost their leaves. The search is funded by a $100,000 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant awarded to the bird observatory.

Arvin has already been approached by several people who want to be on the search team, but he has not made selections.

Southeast Texas has a rich history of ivory bill sightings.

In 1837, naturalist John James Audubon saw many birds along Buffalo Bayou in Houston, according to the Nature Conservancy.

The birds began to die out around the turn of the century as loggers took down about 90 percent of the wetland forests, which provided their homes, MacKenzie said.

They were believed to be extinct by the 1950s. Anyone who said saw the bird was ridiculed.

Ornithologist John V. Dennis reported seeing a female ivory bill in the Big Thicket in 1966 and recorded its call in 1968. The calls could be a blue jay mimicking the ivory bill, people decided.

Dennis was ridiculed by the science community.

"His honesty and sanity were questioned," Arvin said. "On his deathbed, he was a bitter person. Unfortunately, he didn't live quite long enough to see this rediscovery."

The people of Brinkley, Ark., have capitalized on the woodpecker next door.

The town of about 4,000 had an empty downtown and few employment opportunities before the ivory bill was spotted miles away. Most people worked the land, growing rice, soybeans, wheat, cotton and corn, 69-year-old Evelyn Miley said in a phone interview.

Now, new ivory-billed businesses have opened to cater to the many reporters and birders who flocked to the town.

A motel changed its name to "The Ivory-Billed Inn." A shop devoted exclusively to all things woodpecker is called "The Ivory-Billed Nest." A restaurant serves "ivory-billed burgers," and a local barbershop offers an "ivory-billed haircut."

The hairdresser spikes hair into a mohawk (without cutting hair) and colors it with red and white paint, Miley said.

Even Miley, a volunteer at the Brinkley Chamber of Commerce, has become an entrepreneur while all things woodpecker fly off the shelves. She makes her own note cards, embossed with a hand-painted ivory bill.

"It put us on a worldwide stage," said Keith Stephens, assistant chief of communications for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. "It went all over the world in the blink of an eye."

Locals were worried a huge influx would trample the Arkansas forests, but the visitors have only improved the area, Stephens said.

About 4,500 acres of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge has been closed to the public so researchers can study the woodpecker, Stephens said.

And nearby Dagmar Wildlife Management Area caters to a steady stream of visitors with portable toilets in the woods, he said.

Arvin would love to find an ivory bill here, in Southeast Texas.

Next week, Arvin will fly over Southeast Texas looking for areas the woodpecker would likely live - large forests with old, hardwood trees. The team will start looking at the end of the year.

"We are itching to get into the field," he said.

http://www.southeasttexaslive.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=16197293&BRD= 2287&PAG=461&dept_id=512588&rfi=6
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     || Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|03/17/06 at 13:10:32|richard_f|xx|0|86.128.155.101|
Doubts over 'extinct' woodpecker
Ivory-billed woodpecker (Cornell)
Some say the bird is probably a common pileated woodpecker
Scientists in the US are arguing over the identity of a bird filmed in 2004 which was heralded as the long-extinct ivory-billed woodpecker.

Researchers in Massachusetts said the interpretation of several of the bird's features was "mistaken".

However, experts at Cornell University, who identified the bird two years ago, have dismissed the new claims.

The discovery in Arkansas' Big Woods stunned ornithologists worldwide, with some comparing it to finding the dodo.

The find also ignited hope that other "extinct" birds may be clinging on to survival in isolated places.

'Kick in the stomach'

David Sibley, head of the research group in Massachusetts, said he had analysed the video, audio tapes and other sighting reports and concluded the evidence was not sufficient to prove the bird was an ivory-billed woodpecker.

Mr Sibley, a bird illustrator, said the bird's posture had been interpreted wrongly and that it was more probably a common pileated woodpecker.

He said his findings were like "a kick in the stomach".

However, John Fitzpatrick, of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, said data on the bird's wingspan and flight characteristics point to it being an ivory-billed woodpecker.

He said his critics were using inaccurate models of take-off and flight behaviour and were mistaking "video artefacts" as feather patterns.

Ornithologists in California also questioned the identification of the bird last year, prompting the Cornell University researchers to provide audio tapes of the bird's call.

The recordings included the unusual double-rap sounds that ivory-bills produce as well as distinctive nasal sounds they have been known to make.

Whatever the outcome of the row, the search for the woodpecker has boosted tourism in Arkansas by 30% - a woodpecker celebration day was even held in February.

Among the world's largest woodpeckers, the ivory-bill is one of six North American bird species suspected or known to have gone extinct since 1880.
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|shearluck|lewisoll@yahoo.co.uk|03/17/06 at 16:02:12|shearluck|xx|0|86.131.84.156|[quote]From News@nature.com: 8 March 2006
Friends of lost woodpecker hope for cash windfall
Millions may go to conservation of ivory-billed bird.

US officials are seeking $2.2 million to help conserve the 'rediscovered'
ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus principalis), even though there have
been no new confirmed sightings of the bird.

Since a group led by ornithologists at Cornell University made the first
claimed sighting for more than 50 years last spring, teams have
unsuccessfully searched the Big Woods region of Arkansas for confirmation
(see Nature¢ 437, 188-190; 2005). Over the past winter, birdwatchers
reported a halfdozen possible sightings, but there have been no photographs
or other solid evidence. Sceptics of the discovery dismiss the sighting
claims as "faith-based ornithology".

The budget request to Congress calls for $1.6 million to develop the
recovery plan for the bird; $400,000 for searching the lower Mississippi
River Valley; and $200,000 for law-enforcement support.
[/quote]|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|shearluck|lewisoll@yahoo.co.uk|03/22/06 at 12:53:30|shearluck|xx|0|86.131.91.164|[quote]Natural Acts
The Thing with Feathers
Is it a bird or a haunting memory?
Wells Tower tracks an uncertain resurrection in the big woods of Arkansas

Wells Tower
Outside Magazine
March 2006

IF YOU WERE THE LAST BIRD OF YOUR SPECIES, looking for a comfortable place to evade extinction, the view flying over northern Monroe County, Arkansas, would probably not tempt you to touch down. You'd see abandoned trailer homes with saplings growing through their windows; asbestos-shingle shacks with discarded cars and appliances sinking into their lawns; rice fields sectioned into rectangular ponds like the plastic lagoons in a TV-dinner tray; and huge, insectile central-pivot irrigators patrolling oceans of soil where thousand-year-old cypress trees once stood.

Yet Bayou de View-a spit of hardwood jungle here at the uppermost tip of Arkansas's 550,000-acre Big Woods, smack-dab between Little Rock and Memphis-is where the world's rarest avis, the ivory-billed woodpecker, has reemerged more than half a century after ornithological authorities pronounced it dead. Seen from above, Bayou de View looks about as primeval as a planter of ficus trees at a shopping mall. Below the treetops, though, the terrain looks less like eastern Arkansas and more like rural Mordor. The water, which is the color of beef au jus, flows in labyrinthine meanders boiling with toothy gar and cottonmouths as stout as a man's wrist. The forest is an endless gray weft of cypress and tupelo trunks that reduces the vista to nil. In the warmer months, when the trees haven't yet molted, trying to spot an ivorybill back here is roughly as rewarding as tracking a dust mite through the world's largest shag carpet.

"Damn close to pointless," said Gene Sparling, gently adrift in a kayak south of Bayou de View late last May, when I first met him. It was the 50-year-old Sparling-an amused, stoic Arkansan with blunt, sun-cured features-who first sighted one of the supposedly long-gone ivorybills, a red-crested male with lustrous black wings trailing a signature fringe of white, while on a solo pleasure cruise through the Big Woods in February 2004. (The embattled beauty of the place, a well-known birding destination, regularly drew him from his home in Hot Springs.) By mid-March, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Nature Conservancy, along with Sparling and other key players, had launched the top-secret Inventory Project. Sparling, a lifelong amateur naturalist who never attended college, was tapped to co-direct the subsequent quest for the bird, a 14-month, 100-person sub-rosa stakeout in the swamp.

"Here I am, a dumb, son-of-a-bitch hick from rural Arkansas, helping manage one of the most phenomenal conservation stories of the last 200 years, working with the most outstanding ornithologists on Planet Earth," said Sparling, whose name, with 16 others, appeared on the April 28, 2005, ivorybill announcement, which appeared on the journal Science's Web site prior to publication in the June 3 issue-a distinction most ornithologists would trade a finger for. "It's pretty cool."

Within four weeks of identifying the unextinct bird, Sparling had shuttered his stable, where he'd been running a horseback-riding business, and turned his attention to ivorybill stalking full-time. But the first long spate of concerted searching didn't exactly yield jaw-dropping results. Twenty-three thousand hours in the swamp turned up a mere six solid sightings, a few recordings of birdcalls and trees being bludgeoned, and a video: four blurry seconds of piebald wings flapping through the gloom, the hardest evidence going of the bird's revival. "Evidence means a photograph or, in this case, a crappy video with extensive analysis," says the video's author, David Luneau, a birder and technology professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. To certify that the footage shows an ivory-billed and not a pileated woodpecker, its closest look-alike, a battery of experts at Cornell subjected the footage to pixel-by-pixel scrutiny, concluding that, based on the bird's inordinate size and the broad trailing band of white on its wings-a pileated bears a lean white swoosh in the center of its otherwise black wings-Luneau's camera had indeed captured the genuine article.

Two dozen autonomous audio recorders, strapped to trees throughout the woods, logged a little over two years' worth of tape. Back at the Cornell Lab, in Ithaca, New York, a group of luckless people used pattern-recognition software to audition the recordings eight hours a day, ears pricked for the ivorybill's nasal, warbling tin-trumpet call ("kent, kent, kent") and the distinctive report of the bird tearing a tree trunk a new one. The mind-numbing work ultimately paid off, though. In July 2005, when a trio of rival scientists threatened to mount a challenge to the findings, the audio captures convinced the skeptics. Two months later, the Arkansas Audubon Society's Bird Records Committee amended the ivorybill's official status from "extirpated" to "present."

But two years after the rediscovery, the searching has yet to turn up signs of a breeding population or video evidence that doesn't require a team of Ph.D.'s to decipher. In the continuing quest to locate a remnant population of a bird that once flourished in the ancient forests that spanned the southern lowlands from North Carolina down to Florida and across to Texas, Ivorybill Search Team Two took to the Big Woods this winter. But it's an errand less reminiscent of the freewheeling adventures of John James Audubon than the nihilism of Samuel Beckett.

"Waiting for the Ivorybill," says Tim Gallagher, editor of Cornell's Living Bird magazine and author of 2005's woodpecker-quest narrative The Grail Bird. "It gets old pretty quick."

Despite the possibility of fame-at least among an unglamorous ghetto of bird enthusiasts-and the more slender chance of getting rich off your story, spotting an ivorybill has not always been something you would wish upon yourself. For decades, claiming to have seen one could get you lumped in with folks who swaddle their heads in tinfoil to ward off mind-control rays beamed from outer space. George Lowery, a professor of zoology at Louisiana State University, showed up at a 1971 ornithological conference with ivorybill snapshots supposedly taken in Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin. His colleagues dismissed them as photos of stuffed specimens nailed to trees. In 1999, David Kulivan, an LSU undergraduate, professed to have seen a pair of ivorybills near Louisiana's Pearl River on April Fools' Day, but later searches (one of which relied on an animal psychic) turned up nothing. Doubters assailed Kulivan's credibility, and, weary of the ordeal, he clammed up.

But when that very first bird banked in front of Gene Sparling's kayak on February 11, 2004, he knew exactly what he'd seen. "I was familiar with the legend of the ivorybill," says Sparling, who speaks with a richly seasoned raconteurial drawl. "As a young man, I fantasized at great length of traveling to the Big Thicket, in Texas, finding a lost colony of ivorybills, and photographing them." Even so, he says, his jubilation at seeing the bird was marbled with pure terror. A wayfaring, neo-beatnik entrepreneur whose résumé includes a failed Baja whale-watching concern and an abandoned shiitake mushroom operation, Sparling was wary of a public drubbing: "I thought, Oh, shit. Here I am, a guy with no education, no formal training, saying he'd seen an ivorybill. I expected everybody to say, 'Sparling, you idiot, you moron, you're delusional.' "

So Sparling didn't shout the news so much as mumble it, posting an obliquely phrased description of the sighting on the Arkansas Canoe Club's online message board. His report eventually came to the attention of two veteran ivorybill searchers: Bobby Harrison, a humanities professor at Alabama's Oakwood College, and Tim Gallagher, of Cornell. Working together, they'd spent the two previous years investigating ivorybill encounters throughout the Southeast. Two weeks after Sparling's run-

in with the woodpecker, they were in Arkansas, and Sparling guided them out into the swamp. On February 27, the second day of the trip, a large black-and-white bird with a vivid band of white on its wings sortied past their canoe.

"We both yelled, 'Ivorybill!' " says Gallagher. "Scared the hell out of the bird. We jumped out and sank to our knees in mud, scrambling over logs and branches, on the verge of cardiac arrest. Bobby, who's kind of a big redneck, just sat down and started sobbing." The bird's appearance was too brief for either man to get it on film. They spent another three days in the swamp before heading home empty-handed. "I was in shock," says Gallagher. "I went back to Ithaca looking like a ghost. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said I looked so bad, he thought I was going to tell him I had an incurable disease."

Though Gallagher and Harrison had urged Sparling to keep the sighting under wraps until they'd gotten hard proof, Sparling felt he had to alert the Nature Conservancy's Arkansas chapter, which had been working to preserve the Big Woods since the mid-eighties. "With the greatest respect to Cornell, I couldn't see leaving the discovery exclusively in the hands of people from New York-and not telling the key people in Arkansas who'd helped preserve the habitat where the bird was found," he says.

Soon the Cornell Lab and TNC scrambled their combined forces. In short order, they raised $1 million to help fund the search and took out a $10 million no-interest loan from an anonymous donor and put it toward reclaiming nearby farmlands to expand the bird's potential habitat. Cornell dispatched members of its crack birding team, the Sapsuckers. The mission was deeply classified; no one breathed a word to the press. To avoid suspicion from the locals, who were sure to cast a curious eye at out-of-towners prowling the woods without duck boots and shotguns, the searchers-between cold, wet vigils in the dense sliver of swampland-would spend the next year crashing at an unluxurious ranch house that had come with some of the newly acquired land.

OF ALL THE ENVIRONMENTAL HORRORS wrought by our destruction of the great forests of the South, the near-annihilation of the ivorybill is one of the most egregious. The largest woodpecker in North America, it stands just shy of two feet tall, talon to crest, with a three-foot wingspan and a sturdy white dagger of beak. The male wears a backswept vermilion crest radiating all the iconic power of a shark fin, and bolts of white plumage zigzag up its neck, as if poised to skewer its baleful golden eyes. The ivorybill's nickname is "the Lord God Bird." It's difficult, according to those who'd know, to behold the creature without being seized by the urge to roar, "Lord God, what a bird!"

Over the years, the creature's splendor has gotten it into trouble. Even before Columbus, Native Americans killed ivorybills in quantity, using the bird's vibrant feathers to jazz up their personal plumage. According to Phillip Hoose, author of 2004's The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, Indians also carried around little sachets of crushed ivorybill heads, hoping it might help them poke holes in their enemies. In the early 19th century, frontier tchotchke hawkers sold ivorybill heads as souvenirs. Before cameras, ornithologists didn't simply watch birds; they shot them. So a species's fondest admirers could be among its greatest threats. (In 1820, Audubon himself killed three and used them as models for one of his paintings, which shows the birds gang-harassing a black beetle.) Collectors paid top dollar for stuffed ivorybills; one Victorian naturalist cherished the birds so highly that he accumulated 61 specimens in his private inventory. Hungry backwoods philistines simply ate them.

According to one account, though, ivorybills didn't surrender without a fight. In 1809, Scottish ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in a North Carolina swamp but only grazed it, to his later regret. He brought the wounded bird back to his hotel room, where it chiseled a 15-inch hole in the wall. He then tied it to a mahogany table, which it quickly pecked to chips. When Wilson tried to restrain it, he was gored bloodily and repeatedly. The bird expired after three days on hunger strike.

The ivory-billed woodpecker's Latin title is Campephilus principalis, which translates approximately to "number-one caterpillar aficionado." The bird's fussy diet-beetles and grubs that dwell deep in the subdermis of ailing old-growth trees-depends on huge forests with enough old trees to support a healthy population of wood-boring insects. But in the aftermath of the Civil War, southern forests, their inhabitants be damned, suffered the most brutal massacre ever inflicted on an American wetland ecosystem, disappearing in the advance of metastasizing railroads, satisfying the nation's surging appetite for lumber and clear-cut farmland. Timber companies scalped mammoth tracts-some bought for as little as 12 cents an acre-and milled the ancient trees into wood for house frames, ammunition crates, automobile chassis, and coffins. Many of the bottomland forests in the upper South were razed entirely. Logging firms descended like locusts on the Big Woods, which once spanned 24 million contiguous acres across seven states. When the sawdust cleared, only 4.4 million scattered acres of habitat remained.

In the thirties, Cornell ornithologist James Tanner discovered 13 ivorybills in one of the last remaining islands of habitat, known as the Singer Tract, an 81,000-acre forest in northeastern Louisiana that the Singer company had been slowly turning into cabinets for its sewing machines. But in 1937, Singer sold the forest to the Chicago Mill and Lumber Company, which resisted conservationists' entreaties and destroyed the woods. In 1944, illustrator Don Eckelberry sketched a solitary female ivorybill roosting in an ash tree on the edge of the ruins. Outside of rumors and unconfirmed reports, the bird would not be positively identified by another person until Gene Sparling came along.

WHEN THE SEARCHERS finally revealed to the world, in April 2005, that the ivorybill had risen from the ashes, it touched off a media frenzy the likes of which the birding world had never seen. Every news organ from CNN to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch trumpeted the sighting. It hit the front page and editorial section of The New York Times; 60 Minutes sent a crew to the swamp; and NPR aired so many stories on the woodpecker, it seemed to have been adopted as the network mascot.

What fueled the furor was the ecstatic sensation that, for once, nature had pardoned our trespasses against it and returned to us a marvel we had tried our damnedest to destroy. After years of depressing portents of annihilated species, of ice caps in retreat, of the Kyoto Protocol ignored, of levee-bound rivers hurling our coastal wetlands out to sea, our mental picture of the future had begun to look like an endless desert with a single lonely species-our own-treading the sands. The ivorybill allowed us to savor the rare hope that the damage dealt our planet is not so wholly irreparable as we've feared.

One evening last May, I sat with Ron Rohrbaugh, Cornell's director of ivorybill research, on the edge of the swamp, pondering the woodpecker's resurrection. "That this bird squeezed through this bottleneck of time and habitat devastation-to think it made it through all that time . . ." Here Rohrbaugh trailed off, and his eyes grew red and moist. "It's just . . . miraculous."

And the woodpecker's odds in Arkansas are getting better, not worse. Since February 2004, the Nature Conservancy, with help from partners, has acquired or optioned more than 18,500 acres of potential habitat, with designs on a total of 200,000 acres in the next decade, half of which are to be reforested.

At the moment, no part of the forest is off-limits to the public, though access to 5,000 acres around Bayou de View is strictly managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which issues a handful of area permits each day. Duck hunters are welcomed. It may seem a bewildering policy to allow people to discharge shotguns within range of the world's rarest bird, but the folks at Cornell and TNC are quick to point out that the ivorybill wouldn't have survived if duck hunters, starting back in the thirties, hadn't led the fight to preserve the habitat, financing the state and federal purchase of 300,000 Big Woods acres and, via a six-year legal showdown in the seventies, preventing the Army Corps of Engineers from draining the swamp.

If a nest should turn up, the ivorybill effort will probably close off a half-mile cordon around the tree and maintain a cautious watch. But so far, no nest has revealed itself. Nor can the searchers say with any certainty that they've laid eyes on more than one bird; all positive sightings where sex could be determined have been of a male. (And, of course, he may have been the last of his kind, an omega man doomed to disappear beneath the bayou's coffee-colored waters.) So, right now, anything but watching and waiting is out of the question.

"Until we know we've got a viable population, captive breeding would be way too risky," says Rohrbaugh. After all, the measuring and weighing of a wild California condor chick in 1980 stressed the animal enough to kill it, and no one is eager to go down in history as the person whose well-intentioned bungling accidentally murdered the last of the ivorybills.

It's also possible that the bird's gene pool has withered so drastically that the remaining individuals are too severely inbred for long-term survival. But people like Tim Gallagher cling to a faith that the ivorybill will endure. Take the whooping crane, he says, which by the forties had dwindled to 15 creatures, and the condor, which bottomed out at just 22 wild birds in 1983; both species are now reproducing well, if only after millions upon millions of dollars spent resuscitating them. Gallagher believes the ivorybill may also still lurk in swamps in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida: "It's hard to say how many are out there, but I'm certain we didn't run into the last one in the world."

THOUGH THE BIG WOODPECKER may be hard to come by out in the swamp, you can find thousands of them 15 minutes east of Bayou de View, in Brinkley, where the bird appears on billboards, commemorative platters, mobiles, key rings, and T-shirts advertised on roadside marquees along with cut-rate suitcases of beer.

It's oddly fortunate, for both the bird and its environs, that the ivorybill resurfaced in one of the poorest places in America. Locally, hopes run high that it could help reverse the fortunes of the long-downtrodden Delta towns via an influx of ecotourism dollars. And plummeting prices for soybeans, cotton, and rice have allowed the Nature Conservancy to snap up disused cropland at bargain-basement prices.

Emblems of a desperate hope for the bird's revival, and the money sure to follow, fairly overwhelm Brinkley (pop. 3,567) these days. The town's main drag now hosts the Ivory Billed Inn; the Ivory-Bill Nest, a gewgaw shop; a hair salon specializing in "woodpecker haircuts" (black and white finger paint slathered onto the forescalp and sides of the head, finished with a gelled red crest up top); and Gene's Barbecue, where the menu includes the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Burger, Salad, and Hot Fudge Brownie.

One day last spring, I stopped in on the mayor, Billy Clay, whose head was topped with an immaculate polygon of silver hair. "The saddest day in Brinkley is graduation, because we spend all that money putting them through school, then all the kids move on," he said, adding that, like the rest of the town's citizens, he was praying that the ivorybill might help deliver the place from destitution, though the riches weren't yet flooding in.

Fifteen miles south, Clarendon (pop. 1,859) was holding its annual Big Woods Birding Festival, a sort of miniature carnival nucleating around avian motifs. According to the advance press, the star of the show, the absent-in-flesh-only ivorybill, was to be improbably feted with, among other things, something called a "mini-lawnmower tractor pull," a fishing derby, and, apropos of crackpot obsessions and contested extinctions, a performance by an Elvis impersonator.

Clarendon sits on the White River, the Big Woods' main aquatic artery. Ambient conditions there approximated those at an open-air shvitz, and the atmosphere was suffused with the thick, diarrheal odor of decaying vegetable matter, courtesy of a sawmill on the outskirts of town. The aroma mingled now and again with sweet, grease-scented siroccos of funnel-cake smell drifting up from an undersized midway a few blocks down. TNC's Jay Harrod was walking along Main Street, inspecting the rear bumpers of parked cars. "I was looking for out-of-state tags," he said. "There don't seem to be any." Far-flung ivorybill seekers, aware that there was little hope in finding the refuge's most elusive inhabitant while the trees were green, had mostly stayed home.

Children wailed and brawled inside a huffing Moonwalk. Three bullish policemen stood fingering the butts of their revolvers, as though expecting a riot to erupt any minute. On the far side of the courthouse lawn, a couple from the Little Rock Zoo gave a presentation on birds of prey. The woman wore a tropical-print visor and narrated through a treble-heavy public-address system while her husband, a man with a head of frizzy red hair that looked like a disguise, milled through the crowd with a turkey vulture named Gomez perched on his forearm, which was gloved in a sort of talon-proof mukluk. The woman described how the vultures defecate on their legs to keep cool-and deter predators with impossibly noxious vomit. A man eating a barbecue sandwich turned ashen and stopped chewing. He looked up at the vulture, back at the sandwich, then resumed miserably.

I ran into Gene Sparling, who was on his way to give a presentation on the ivorybill at the American Legion Hall. I'd heard about a catfish fry happening later that night, and I asked if he was going. He said he'd be there but reminded me that we had a swamp-patrolling date scheduled for the crack of dawn, which I pointed out was going to cramp our style at the open bar.

"I know it," Sparling replied. "I was hoping I'd be able to get dead drunk and pass out somewhere." Then, seeming to remember his new status as a respectable member of the ornithological community, he quickly added, "Just kidding. Haven't done that in years. It'd probably kill me."

The couple from the zoo departed, and the imitation Elvis took the stage. A teenager stood looking on, nodding along with "G.I. Blues" and eating a dilute snow cone the color of boiled shrimp. Strapped to his feet were what appeared to be a pair of owls, his costume, he explained, for an upcoming performance of a tribal dance. I asked if he hoped to find the ivorybill.

"I heard they already found 'em," he said. "They got a bunch of 'em locked up."
"Who do?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said.

I'VE NEVER BEEN AN AVID WATCHER of birds, but after my fruitless trip to Arkansas I began suffering from a spell of ivorybill mania myself. During idle moments driving or sitting at home in North Carolina, I caught myself scanning the sky and nearby trees. At the public library one afternoon, I saw a yellow-bellied sapsucker hammering a pine outside. I stood up and yelled, "Hey, a woodpecker!"

Midsummer, I got hold of Gene Sparling, and we planned a weeklong kayak trip in the autumn, when the leaves would be off the trees and the media swarm would have thinned-and when I might have a shot at getting a glimpse, maybe even a photograph, of the phantom bird. The morning of our trip, I breakfasted at Gene's Barbecue with Sparling. We were joined by Nancy DeLamar and Scott Simon, of the Nature Conservancy. Simon, the state director, talked about TNC's local land acquisitions, which he said had been going well. The organization had just closed on an additional 5,000 acres, and earlier in the week they'd penned a $10 million state, federal, and private commitment for new conservation easements. "But if we had more money, we'd do more," he said.

When the plates were cleared, Sparling and I headed to Bayou de View. Sparling had spent his summer on the public-relations circuit, wooing donors for TNC's habitat-expansion efforts and reciting the tale of his sighting for a relentless battery of media. "It's good to get away from all that confusion," he told me.

We drove past fields of cotton, which still had downy microcumuli clinging to their brittle branches, remnants of the autumn harvest. Where the farmland ended, the Big Woods rose in a gray-green mantle. Crossing the bridge over the bayou, Sparling slowed his truck, panning his gaze through the sky above the road. "As many times as I've been over this bridge," he said, "I do always keep my eyes peeled when I drive through." (In fact, a Fish and Wildlife employee had supposedly seen the bird there a few days earlier, though he hadn't spotted enough of the field marks-bill, plumage, etc.-for the sighting to constitute big news.)

Sparling parked on a gravel landing and we began hoisting the kayaks off the rack of his truck. A pair of search-team members emerged from the forest, carrying a canoe. One wore a Sherpa hat and a five-o'clock shadow. The other was dressed as a shrub, in a camo jacket bristling with little leaflike tatters.

"Seeing anything, gentlemen?" Sparling asked.

"Nope," said the man in the Sherpa hat. They'd been out there erecting tree blinds in which the searchers were assigned to perch for eight cold hours a day.

A Ford F-150 with Montana plates rattled down to the landing. A small fleet of kayaks was belted to the roof. A middle-aged man got out and ambled over to us. He had big aviator shades and an air of highway loneliness about him.

"What are you guys looking for?" he asked, noting my camera, which was outfitted with a zoom lens the size of a soup thermos.

"Take a wild guess," Sparling said. He and Sparling exchanged introductions, and the man raised his eyes and rocked back on his heels.

"The number-one spotter," the man said. "I thought it might be you."

Sparling shifted somewhat uncomfortably, and he asked the guy what he did for a living back in Montana.

"Which career? Which life?" the man said. "Now mostly I'm just a vagabond bum, looking to do kayaking and birdwatching full-time."

Sparling said, "A man after my own heart; it's a wonderful life."

We slid our boats into the bayou. Paddling away, Sparling cast a sympathetic glance back at the nomadic birder. "I feel bad for these guys who drive all the way across the country to try to see this bird," he said. "I'd like to tell 'em I spent a year out here and didn't see a damn thing. Could've saved him the trip."

Sparling glided out into the silty water, threading his way through the cypress maze. A few minutes in, I saw a bird, a flash of white vivid against the tree trunks. "Gene!" I said.

"Kingfisher," he said, without bothering to look. "To be honest," he added, "I have somewhat let go of the need to see the bird again myself. Seeing it's not nearly as important as restoring the habitat. If we give him a place to live, he can take care of himself. It doesn't matter whether we know where he is or not."

The fall had been dry in Arkansas, and the water in the swamp was low. The vandals of the forest, beavers, had dammed the channel every few hundred yards, and we had to vault strenuously over their blockades, breathing in the spicy stink of their musk.

The bayou broadened into an oblong black lake, and Sparling suddenly got quiet, watching a black confetti of crows tumbling above the tree line about 150 yards away. "Hold on," he said. "The bird was seen right here, getting mobbed by crows, and these guys are sure as hell chasing something." But the crows veered out of sight. Their cawing faded and the only sound in the swamp was the conch-shell moan of Interstate 40, which the woodpecker(s) had almost certainly crossed to be seen up this way. Sparling shook his head at the thought of it. "It's amazing: Here you've got what's probably the rarest bird in the world, regularly flying over I-40." He shrugged and paddled on. "Sure hope he's flying high."

Farther down, we pulled out into a shallow canyon of trees where the forest had been cleared to accommodate a long, stolid parade of telephone poles. The sun was throwing a platinum glow on the dark water, and the trees blurred and shimmered with reflected, dying light. Dusk was coming on, and whatever birds were out there would soon be heading home to roost. I shipped my paddle, my boat turning idly in the autumn wind like the needle on a compass. And then something caught my eye, a far-off flare of red, white, and black. I raised my camera, nearly dropping it in my haste, and focused on the flitting colors, which turned out to be a load of glossy new sedans on an 18-wheeler barreling east along the interstate.

http://outside.away.com/outside/features/200603/ivory-billed-woodpecker.html[/quote]|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|shearluck|lewisoll@yahoo.co.uk|03/26/06 at 18:00:31|shearluck|xx|0|86.131.103.154|[quote]Scientists say farming, progress shrinking woodpecker habitat

DANIEL NASAW
Saturday, March 25, 2006

Large-scale irrigation projects, flood control measures and river channeling threaten the remaining areas of the South that could provide a habitat for the endangered ivory-billed woodpecker, scientists said Friday at a conference on Arkansas forests.

The Eastern Old-Growth Conference on ancient forest and endangered species science and conservation convened Friday. Sponsored by the Eastern Native Tree Society, the University of Arkansas and the USDA Forest Service, the conference was held at the Peabody Little Rock hotel.

The rediscovery of the woodpecker, which was thought to have been extinct since the 1940 s, is a tribute to recent conservation efforts that included a move in the 1970 s to prevent the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers from ditching the Cache River, the scientists said. That could have destroyed Bayou DeView in Monroe County, the swampy stand of ancient tupelo and cypress trees where researchers last year reported seeing the bird, the scientists said.

"If you think about the successes we've had over the last few decades since the ' 40 s and ' 50 s, it's pretty impressive," said Doug Zollner, director of conservation science at the Arkansas Field Office of the Nature Conservancy, an international nonprofit conservation advocacy group.

But more than 80 percent of the land in the Mississippi Valley plain has been cleared for agriculture, leaving only a tiny percentage of the giant woodpecker's habitat untouched, Zollner said.

Also threatening the bird's habitat are agricultural operations that kill plants with chemicals and flood control measures and river channeling projects that drain wetlands and destroy the forests in which the woodpecker might thrive, Zollner said.

The species is vulnerable to extinction because its foraging environment is scarce even in pristine old-growth forests. The bird feeds on beetle larva, and the beetles lay their eggs in recently dead or dying trees. Zollner cautioned, however, that scientists know little about the behavior of the bird because it was already nearly extinct when research began.

A scientist in the 1930 s estimated that the ivory-billed woodpecker needs more than seven dead or dying trees per acre to survive. When loggers and farmers remove dead trees, it shrinks the bird's suitable habitat.

University of Arkansas tree scientist Dave Stahle speculated that the 2005 drought may help the woodpecker by killing some of the old-growth trees located in Bayou DeView.

"The ivory-billed is a disasterdependent species," he said.

Zollner said scientists have embarked on a 25-acre study in which they are attempting to replicate the damage that fire and beavers do to trees to see if they can attract beetles, and thereby increase the number of ivory-billed woodpeckers.

Also at the conference, David Luneau, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock electronics professor who, almost two years ago, captured murky pictures of the bird with a video camera mounted on a milk crate in a canoe, defended his claim to have rediscovered the bird against recent scientific attacks.

Of an article in the journal Science that suggested Luneau may have in fact recorded the flight of a pileated woodpecker, a smaller bird that lacks the ivory-bill's white wing markings, Luneau said, "We don't feel threatened."

http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/149743/[/quote]|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|04/11/06 at 10:18:36|obadiah|xx|0|86.131.100.139|From the Kansas City Star: 9 April 2006
Professional birdwatchers are seeing red
BILL GRAHAM

The ivory-billed woodpecker's resurrection is molting into a battle of
professional birdwatchers.

One side hopes it's wrong.

Conservationists worldwide were stunned and thrilled a year ago when bird
experts from Cornell University announced that an ivory-billed woodpecker -
a gaudy species thought extinct for 60 years - had been seen in northeast
Arkansas.

The best evidence that the red-crowned king of woodpeckers had survived was
a short and blurry video.

But some leading ornithologists say wishful thinking led to
misidentification that has triggered an expensive search for what some
consider the "Holy Grail Bird."

"I don't believe it's there, and I haven't from the get-go," said Mark
Robbins, a nationally noted ornithologist at the University of Kansas.

Robbins and others think the bird in the video, and the ones observers
report having seen in the swamps, are pileated woodpeckers. They're common
and very similar in color markings to ivory bills.

If so, he said, millions of private and public conservation dollars are
being spent on a bird that's an illusion.

"For such an extraordinary claim," he said, "we need irrefutable proof."

Robbins, collections manager at the University of Kansas Natural History
Museum, has led more than 40 ornithology expeditions around the world. He
has documented bird populations and discovered new species. And he has
served on the America Birding Association's Birds Records Committee, which
evaluates and validates unusual sightings.

So when bird experts began dueling over wing positions and feather colors in
the reputed ivory-bill video, Robbins joined the fray and was a senior
editor on a paper questioning the find.

He's not surprised that a highly publicized search this winter in the
Arkansas swamps turned up no ivory-bill photographs or nest trees.

"The one thing Cornell seems to have established is that there are no ivory
bills down there," Robbins said.

A more independent and thorough review by scientists should have been
completed before it was announced that an ivory bill had been discovered,
Robbins said.

Ivory-bill expert Jerome A. Jackson and birding field guide author David A.
Sibley agree. Both published papers this year in prominent scientific
journals that say the bird in the video is probably a pileated woodpecker.

All want the ivory bill to be there, Robbins said, but they want proof.

Ivory-bill believers say that such skepticism is a healthy part of the
scientific process but that they will prevail.

"I am absolutely positive that I have seen an ivory-billed woodpecker," said
Bobby Harrison, an Alabama college professor and birder who claims five
sightings. "I had been after this bird for 33 years when I actually saw it."

Reported ivory-bill sightings have occurred on national wildlife refuges
already receiving public and private money for waterfowl habitat and the
preservation of bottomland forests.

But the bird's possible presence triggered $10.2 million in federal money,
mostly for habitat. This year, almost $1.2 million went to ivory-bill
searches and research work, said Jon Andrew of Atlanta, who leads the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service's ivory-bill recovery team. The agency is seeking
$2.1 million for 2007.

Private conservation groups and Cornell University also are active, and they
are paying most of the Arkansas search tab, Andrew said.

Since November, camouflage-clad professionals and volunteer birdwatchers
have slogged through the swamps of the Cache River and White River national
wildlife refuges, looking for ivory bills or nest holes.

Remote cameras and digital audio recordings also are being used to look and
listen.

Searchers have seen ivory bills this winter, officials say, and some
recordings are promising.

"But we haven't got that 8-by-10 photograph we need as hard proof," said
Gene Sparling of Hot Springs, Ark., who is credited with the ivory-bill
sighting in early 2004.

Sparling now makes speeches about ivory bills for the Nature Conservancy, a
private, nonprofit conservation group with bottomland forest projects in the
search area.

"It doesn't surprise me that it's taking a lot of time to find this bird,"
he said. "We're looking for a few birds in a half-million acres, swamp land
that is difficult to search."

A winter drought left the marshes too dry for canoe travel, but still too
boggy to walk on, Sparling said. That has hampered searchers.

Search crews can cover only about 8 percent of the potential habitat a year,
said Jay Harrod, director for the Nature Conservancy in Arkansas.

"The habitat is nearly the size of Rhode Island," Harrod said, "and it's
swampy."

Land developers have fought with conservationists for years over whether to
drain the swamps or protect them. Finding the ivory-billed woodpecker there
validates saving the swamps, conservationists say.

But Robbins and other ecologists fear that if the ivory bill is not there,
conservation will get a black eye. In addition, they say, money will have
been spent that could have helped well-documented endangered species.

It's true that ivory-bill programs are taking a bite out of funds for other
endangered species, Andrew said. But what's good for ivory bills is also
good for songbirds and black bears that need help in the Big Woods region,
he said.

"With all the visual observations and recordings," Andrew said, "it's enough
for me to believe in doing the things we're doing."

Business owners in Clarenden, Ark., are being told in meetings to keep the
faith, said Donald Branch, acting mayor. They're hoping for an eco-tourism
boom from ivory bills, such as for the city's Big Woods Birding Festival on
May 20.

"If they're not there, most tourists have never seen a cottonmouth water
moccasin," Branch said of the poisonous snake. "We know we can find those."
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|04/15/06 at 03:33:42|obadiah|xx|0|86.131.100.139|Natural Acts

The Thing with Feathers

Is it a bird or a haunting memory?

Wells Tower tracks an uncertain resurrection in the big woods of Arkansas

By Wells Tower
 
IF YOU WERE THE LAST BIRD OF YOUR SPECIES, looking for a comfortable place to evade extinction, the view flying over northern Monroe County, Arkansas, would probably not tempt you to touch down. You'd see abandoned trailer homes with saplings growing through their windows; asbestos-shingle shacks with discarded cars and appliances sinking into their lawns; rice fields sectioned into rectangular ponds like the plastic lagoons in a TV-dinner tray; and huge, insectile central-pivot irrigators patrolling oceans of soil where thousand-year-old cypress trees once stood.

Yet Bayou de View—a spit of hardwood jungle here at the uppermost tip of Arkansas's 550,000-acre Big Woods, smack-dab between Little Rock and Memphis—is where the world's rarest avis, the ivory-billed woodpecker, has reemerged more than half a century after ornithological authorities pronounced it dead. Seen from above, Bayou de View looks about as primeval as a planter of ficus trees at a shopping mall. Below the treetops, though, the terrain looks less like eastern Arkansas and more like rural Mordor. The water, which is the color of beef au jus, flows in labyrinthine meanders boiling with toothy gar and cottonmouths as stout as a man's wrist. The forest is an endless gray weft of cypress and tupelo trunks that reduces the vista to nil. In the warmer months, when the trees haven't yet molted, trying to spot an ivorybill back here is roughly as rewarding as tracking a dust mite through the world's largest shag carpet.

"Damn close to pointless," said Gene Sparling, gently adrift in a kayak south of Bayou de View late last May, when I first met him. It was the 50-year-old Sparling—an amused, stoic Arkansan with blunt, sun-cured features—who first sighted one of the supposedly long-gone ivorybills, a red-crested male with lustrous black wings trailing a signature fringe of white, while on a solo pleasure cruise through the Big Woods in February 2004. (The embattled beauty of the place, a well-known birding destination, regularly drew him from his home in Hot Springs.) By mid-March, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Nature Conservancy, along with Sparling and other key players, had launched the top-secret Inventory Project. Sparling, a lifelong amateur naturalist who never attended college, was tapped to co-direct the subsequent quest for the bird, a 14-month, 100-person sub-rosa stakeout in the swamp.

"Here I am, a dumb, son-of-a-bitch hick from rural Arkansas, helping manage one of the most phenomenal conservation stories of the last 200 years, working with the most outstanding ornithologists on Planet Earth," said Sparling, whose name, with 16 others, appeared on the April 28, 2005, ivorybill announcement, which appeared on the journal Science's Web site prior to publication in the June 3 issue—a distinction most ornithologists would trade a finger for. "It's pretty cool."

Within four weeks of identifying the unextinct bird, Sparling had shuttered his stable, where he'd been running a horseback-riding business, and turned his attention to ivorybill stalking full-time. But the first long spate of concerted searching didn't exactly yield jaw-dropping results. Twenty-three thousand hours in the swamp turned up a mere six solid sightings, a few recordings of birdcalls and trees being bludgeoned, and a video: four blurry seconds of piebald wings flapping through the gloom, the hardest evidence going of the bird's revival. "Evidence means a photograph or, in this case, a crappy video with extensive analysis," says the video's author, David Luneau, a birder and technology professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. To certify that the footage shows an ivory-billed and not a pileated woodpecker, its closest look-alike, a battery of experts at Cornell subjected the footage to pixel-by-pixel scrutiny, concluding that, based on the bird's inordinate size and the broad trailing band of white on its wings—a pileated bears a lean white swoosh in the center of its otherwise black wings—Luneau's camera had indeed captured the genuine article.

Two dozen autonomous audio recorders, strapped to trees throughout the woods, logged a little over two years' worth of tape. Back at the Cornell Lab, in Ithaca, New York, a group of luckless people used pattern-recognition software to audition the recordings eight hours a day, ears pricked for the ivorybill's nasal, warbling tin-trumpet call ("kent, kent, kent") and the distinctive report of the bird tearing a tree trunk a new one. The mind-numbing work ultimately paid off, though. In July 2005, when a trio of rival scientists threatened to mount a challenge to the findings, the audio captures convinced the skeptics. Two months later, the Arkansas Audubon Society's Bird Records Committee amended the ivorybill's official status from "extirpated" to "present."

But two years after the rediscovery, the searching has yet to turn up signs of a breeding population or video evidence that doesn't require a team of Ph.D.'s to decipher. In the continuing quest to locate a remnant population of a bird that once flourished in the ancient forests that spanned the southern lowlands from North Carolina down to Florida and across to Texas, Ivorybill Search Team Two took to the Big Woods this winter. But it's an errand less reminiscent of the freewheeling adventures of John James Audubon than the nihilism of Samuel Beckett.

"Waiting for the Ivorybill," says Tim Gallagher, editor of Cornell's Living Bird magazine and author of 2005's woodpecker-quest narrative The Grail Bird. "It gets old pretty quick."

Despite the possibility of fame—at least among an unglamorous ghetto of bird enthusiasts—and the more slender chance of getting rich off your story, spotting an ivorybill has not always been something you would wish upon yourself. For decades, claiming to have seen one could get you lumped in with folks who swaddle their heads in tinfoil to ward off mind-control rays beamed from outer space. George Lowery, a professor of zoology at Louisiana State University, showed up at a 1971 ornithological conference with ivorybill snapshots supposedly taken in Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin. His colleagues dismissed them as photos of stuffed specimens nailed to trees. In 1999, David Kulivan, an LSU undergraduate, professed to have seen a pair of ivorybills near Louisiana's Pearl River on April Fools' Day, but later searches (one of which relied on an animal psychic) turned up nothing. Doubters assailed Kulivan's credibility, and, weary of the ordeal, he clammed up.

But when that very first bird banked in front of Gene Sparling's kayak on February 11, 2004, he knew exactly what he'd seen. "I was familiar with the legend of the ivorybill," says Sparling, who speaks with a richly seasoned raconteurial drawl. "As a young man, I fantasized at great length of traveling to the Big Thicket, in Texas, finding a lost colony of ivorybills, and photographing them." Even so, he says, his jubilation at seeing the bird was marbled with pure terror. A wayfaring, neo-beatnik entrepreneur whose résumé includes a failed Baja whale-watching concern and an abandoned shiitake mushroom operation, Sparling was wary of a public drubbing: "I thought, Oh, shit. Here I am, a guy with no education, no formal training, saying he'd seen an ivorybill. I expected everybody to say, 'Sparling, you idiot, you moron, you're delusional.' "

So Sparling didn't shout the news so much as mumble it, posting an obliquely phrased description of the sighting on the Arkansas Canoe Club's online message board. His report eventually came to the attention of two veteran ivorybill searchers: Bobby Harrison, a humanities professor at Alabama's Oakwood College, and Tim Gallagher, of Cornell. Working together, they'd spent the two previous years investigating ivorybill encounters throughout the Southeast. Two weeks after Sparling's run-

in with the woodpecker, they were in Arkansas, and Sparling guided them out into the swamp. On February 27, the second day of the trip, a large black-and-white bird with a vivid band of white on its wings sortied past their canoe.

"We both yelled, 'Ivorybill!' " says Gallagher. "Scared the hell out of the bird. We jumped out and sank to our knees in mud, scrambling over logs and branches, on the verge of cardiac arrest. Bobby, who's kind of a big redneck, just sat down and started sobbing." The bird's appearance was too brief for either man to get it on film. They spent another three days in the swamp before heading home empty-handed. "I was in shock," says Gallagher. "I went back to Ithaca looking like a ghost. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said I looked so bad, he thought I was going to tell him I had an incurable disease."

Though Gallagher and Harrison had urged Sparling to keep the sighting under wraps until they'd gotten hard proof, Sparling felt he had to alert the Nature Conservancy's Arkansas chapter, which had been working to preserve the Big Woods since the mid-eighties. "With the greatest respect to Cornell, I couldn't see leaving the discovery exclusively in the hands of people from New York—and not telling the key people in Arkansas who'd helped preserve the habitat where the bird was found," he says.

Soon the Cornell Lab and TNC scrambled their combined forces. In short order, they raised $1 million to help fund the search and took out a $10 million no-interest loan from an anonymous donor and put it toward reclaiming nearby farmlands to expand the bird's potential habitat. Cornell dispatched members of its crack birding team, the Sapsuckers. The mission was deeply classified; no one breathed a word to the press. To avoid suspicion from the locals, who were sure to cast a curious eye at out-of-towners prowling the woods without duck boots and shotguns, the searchers—between cold, wet vigils in the dense sliver of swampland—would spend the next year crashing at an unluxurious ranch house that had come with some of the newly acquired land.

OF ALL THE ENVIRONMENTAL HORRORS wrought by our destruction of the great forests of the South, the near-annihilation of the ivorybill is one of the most egregious. The largest woodpecker in North America, it stands just shy of two feet tall, talon to crest, with a three-foot wingspan and a sturdy white dagger of beak. The male wears a backswept vermilion crest radiating all the iconic power of a shark fin, and bolts of white plumage zigzag up its neck, as if poised to skewer its baleful golden eyes. The ivorybill's nickname is "the Lord God Bird." It's difficult, according to those who'd know, to behold the creature without being seized by the urge to roar, "Lord God, what a bird!"

Over the years, the creature's splendor has gotten it into trouble. Even before Columbus, Native Americans killed ivorybills in quantity, using the bird's vibrant feathers to jazz up their personal plumage. According to Phillip Hoose, author of 2004's The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, Indians also carried around little sachets of crushed ivorybill heads, hoping it might help them poke holes in their enemies. In the early 19th century, frontier tchotchke hawkers sold ivorybill heads as souvenirs. Before cameras, ornithologists didn't simply watch birds; they shot them. So a species's fondest admirers could be among its greatest threats. (In 1820, Audubon himself killed three and used them as models for one of his paintings, which shows the birds gang-harassing a black beetle.) Collectors paid top dollar for stuffed ivorybills; one Victorian naturalist cherished the birds so highly that he accumulated 61 specimens in his private inventory. Hungry backwoods philistines simply ate them.

According to one account, though, ivorybills didn't surrender without a fight. In 1809, Scottish ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in a North Carolina swamp but only grazed it, to his later regret. He brought the wounded bird back to his hotel room, where it chiseled a 15-inch hole in the wall. He then tied it to a mahogany table, which it quickly pecked to chips. When Wilson tried to restrain it, he was gored bloodily and repeatedly. The bird expired after three days on hunger strike.

The ivory-billed woodpecker's Latin title is Campephilus principalis, which translates approximately to "number-one caterpillar aficionado." The bird's fussy diet—beetles and grubs that dwell deep in the subdermis of ailing old-growth trees—depends on huge forests with enough old trees to support a healthy population of wood-boring insects. But in the aftermath of the Civil War, southern forests, their inhabitants be damned, suffered the most brutal massacre ever inflicted on an American wetland ecosystem, disappearing in the advance of metastasizing railroads, satisfying the nation's surging appetite for lumber and clear-cut farmland. Timber companies scalped mammoth tracts—some bought for as little as 12 cents an acre—and milled the ancient trees into wood for house frames, ammunition crates, automobile chassis, and coffins. Many of the bottomland forests in the upper South were razed entirely. Logging firms descended like locusts on the Big Woods, which once spanned 24 million contiguous acres across seven states. When the sawdust cleared, only 4.4 million scattered acres of habitat remained.

In the thirties, Cornell ornithologist James Tanner discovered 13 ivorybills in one of the last remaining islands of habitat, known as the Singer Tract, an 81,000-acre forest in northeastern Louisiana that the Singer company had been slowly turning into cabinets for its sewing machines. But in 1937, Singer sold the forest to the Chicago Mill and Lumber Company, which resisted conservationists' entreaties and destroyed the woods. In 1944, illustrator Don Eckelberry sketched a solitary female ivorybill roosting in an ash tree on the edge of the ruins. Outside of rumors and unconfirmed reports, the bird would not be positively identified by another person until Gene Sparling came along.

WHEN THE SEARCHERS finally revealed to the world, in April 2005, that the ivorybill had risen from the ashes, it touched off a media frenzy the likes of which the birding world had never seen. Every news organ from CNN to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch trumpeted the sighting. It hit the front page and editorial section of The New York Times; 60 Minutes sent a crew to the swamp; and NPR aired so many stories on the woodpecker, it seemed to have been adopted as the network mascot.

What fueled the furor was the ecstatic sensation that, for once, nature had pardoned our trespasses against it and returned to us a marvel we had tried our damnedest to destroy. After years of depressing portents of annihilated species, of ice caps in retreat, of the Kyoto Protocol ignored, of levee-bound rivers hurling our coastal wetlands out to sea, our mental picture of the future had begun to look like an endless desert with a single lonely species—our own—treading the sands. The ivorybill allowed us to savor the rare hope that the damage dealt our planet is not so wholly irreparable as we've feared.

One evening last May, I sat with Ron Rohrbaugh, Cornell's director of ivorybill research, on the edge of the swamp, pondering the woodpecker's resurrection. "That this bird squeezed through this bottleneck of time and habitat devastation—to think it made it through all that time . . ." Here Rohrbaugh trailed off, and his eyes grew red and moist. "It's just . . . miraculous."

And the woodpecker's odds in Arkansas are getting better, not worse. Since February 2004, the Nature Conservancy, with help from partners, has acquired or optioned more than 18,500 acres of potential habitat, with designs on a total of 200,000 acres in the next decade, half of which are to be reforested.

At the moment, no part of the forest is off-limits to the public, though access to 5,000 acres around Bayou de View is strictly managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife, which issues a handful of area permits each day. Duck hunters are welcomed. It may seem a bewildering policy to allow people to discharge shotguns within range of the world's rarest bird, but the folks at Cornell and TNC are quick to point out that the ivorybill wouldn't have survived if duck hunters, starting back in the thirties, hadn't led the fight to preserve the habitat, financing the state and federal purchase of 300,000 Big Woods acres and, via a six-year legal showdown in the seventies, preventing the Army Corps of Engineers from draining the swamp.

If a nest should turn up, the ivorybill effort will probably close off a half-mile cordon around the tree and maintain a cautious watch. But so far, no nest has revealed itself. Nor can the searchers say with any certainty that they've laid eyes on more than one bird; all positive sightings where sex could be determined have been of a male. (And, of course, he may have been the last of his kind, an omega man doomed to disappear beneath the bayou's coffee-colored waters.) So, right now, anything but watching and waiting is out of the question.

"Until we know we've got a viable population, captive breeding would be way too risky," says Rohrbaugh. After all, the measuring and weighing of a wild California condor chick in 1980 stressed the animal enough to kill it, and no one is eager to go down in history as the person whose well-intentioned bungling accidentally murdered the last of the ivorybills.

It's also possible that the bird's gene pool has withered so drastically that the remaining individuals are too severely inbred for long-term survival. But people like Tim Gallagher cling to a faith that the ivorybill will endure. Take the whooping crane, he says, which by the forties had dwindled to 15 creatures, and the condor, which bottomed out at just 22 wild birds in 1983; both species are now reproducing well, if only after millions upon millions of dollars spent resuscitating them. Gallagher believes the ivorybill may also still lurk in swamps in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida: "It's hard to say how many are out there, but I'm certain we didn't run into the last one in the world."

THOUGH THE BIG WOODPECKER may be hard to come by out in the swamp, you can find thousands of them 15 minutes east of Bayou de View, in Brinkley, where the bird appears on billboards, commemorative platters, mobiles, key rings, and T-shirts advertised on roadside marquees along with cut-rate suitcases of beer.

It's oddly fortunate, for both the bird and its environs, that the ivorybill resurfaced in one of the poorest places in America. Locally, hopes run high that it could help reverse the fortunes of the long-downtrodden Delta towns via an influx of ecotourism dollars. And plummeting prices for soybeans, cotton, and rice have allowed the Nature Conservancy to snap up disused cropland at bargain-basement prices.

Emblems of a desperate hope for the bird's revival, and the money sure to follow, fairly overwhelm Brinkley (pop. 3,567) these days. The town's main drag now hosts the Ivory Billed Inn; the Ivory-Bill Nest, a gewgaw shop; a hair salon specializing in "woodpecker haircuts" (black and white finger paint slathered onto the forescalp and sides of the head, finished with a gelled red crest up top); and Gene's Barbecue, where the menu includes the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Burger, Salad, and Hot Fudge Brownie.

One day last spring, I stopped in on the mayor, Billy Clay, whose head was topped with an immaculate polygon of silver hair. "The saddest day in Brinkley is graduation, because we spend all that money putting them through school, then all the kids move on," he said, adding that, like the rest of the town's citizens, he was praying that the ivorybill might help deliver the place from destitution, though the riches weren't yet flooding in.

Fifteen miles south, Clarendon (pop. 1,859) was holding its annual Big Woods Birding Festival, a sort of miniature carnival nucleating around avian motifs. According to the advance press, the star of the show, the absent-in-flesh-only ivorybill, was to be improbably feted with, among other things, something called a "mini-lawnmower tractor pull," a fishing derby, and, apropos of crackpot obsessions and contested extinctions, a performance by an Elvis impersonator.

Clarendon sits on the White River, the Big Woods' main aquatic artery. Ambient conditions there approximated those at an open-air shvitz, and the atmosphere was suffused with the thick, diarrheal odor of decaying vegetable matter, courtesy of a sawmill on the outskirts of town. The aroma mingled now and again with sweet, grease-scented siroccos of funnel-cake smell drifting up from an undersized midway a few blocks down. TNC's Jay Harrod was walking along Main Street, inspecting the rear bumpers of parked cars. "I was looking for out-of-state tags," he said. "There don't seem to be any." Far-flung ivorybill seekers, aware that there was little hope in finding the refuge's most elusive inhabitant while the trees were green, had mostly stayed home.

Children wailed and brawled inside a huffing Moonwalk. Three bullish policemen stood fingering the butts of their revolvers, as though expecting a riot to erupt any minute. On the far side of the courthouse lawn, a couple from the Little Rock Zoo gave a presentation on birds of prey. The woman wore a tropical-print visor and narrated through a treble-heavy public-address system while her husband, a man with a head of frizzy red hair that looked like a disguise, milled through the crowd with a turkey vulture named Gomez perched on his forearm, which was gloved in a sort of talon-proof mukluk. The woman described how the vultures defecate on their legs to keep cool—and deter predators with impossibly noxious vomit. A man eating a barbecue sandwich turned ashen and stopped chewing. He looked up at the vulture, back at the sandwich, then resumed miserably.

I ran into Gene Sparling, who was on his way to give a presentation on the ivorybill at the American Legion Hall. I'd heard about a catfish fry happening later that night, and I asked if he was going. He said he'd be there but reminded me that we had a swamp-patrolling date scheduled for the crack of dawn, which I pointed out was going to cramp our style at the open bar.

"I know it," Sparling replied. "I was hoping I'd be able to get dead drunk and pass out somewhere." Then, seeming to remember his new status as a respectable member of the ornithological community, he quickly added, "Just kidding. Haven't done that in years. It'd probably kill me."

The couple from the zoo departed, and the imitation Elvis took the stage. A teenager stood looking on, nodding along with "G.I. Blues" and eating a dilute snow cone the color of boiled shrimp. Strapped to his feet were what appeared to be a pair of owls, his costume, he explained, for an upcoming performance of a tribal dance. I asked if he hoped to find the ivorybill.

"I heard they already found 'em," he said. "They got a bunch of 'em locked up."
"Who do?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said.

I'VE NEVER BEEN AN AVID WATCHER of birds, but after my fruitless trip to Arkansas I began suffering from a spell of ivorybill mania myself. During idle moments driving or sitting at home in North Carolina, I caught myself scanning the sky and nearby trees. At the public library one afternoon, I saw a yellow-bellied sapsucker hammering a pine outside. I stood up and yelled, "Hey, a woodpecker!"

Midsummer, I got hold of Gene Sparling, and we planned a weeklong kayak trip in the autumn, when the leaves would be off the trees and the media swarm would have thinned—and when I might have a shot at getting a glimpse, maybe even a photograph, of the phantom bird. The morning of our trip, I breakfasted at Gene's Barbecue with Sparling. We were joined by Nancy DeLamar and Scott Simon, of the Nature Conservancy. Simon, the state director, talked about TNC's local land acquisitions, which he said had been going well. The organization had just closed on an additional 5,000 acres, and earlier in the week they'd penned a $10 million state, federal, and private commitment for new conservation easements. "But if we had more money, we'd do more," he said.

When the plates were cleared, Sparling and I headed to Bayou de View. Sparling had spent his summer on the public-relations circuit, wooing donors for TNC's habitat-expansion efforts and reciting the tale of his sighting for a relentless battery of media. "It's good to get away from all that confusion," he told me.

We drove past fields of cotton, which still had downy microcumuli clinging to their brittle branches, remnants of the autumn harvest. Where the farmland ended, the Big Woods rose in a gray-green mantle. Crossing the bridge over the bayou, Sparling slowed his truck, panning his gaze through the sky above the road. "As many times as I've been over this bridge," he said, "I do always keep my eyes peeled when I drive through." (In fact, a Fish and Wildlife employee had supposedly seen the bird there a few days earlier, though he hadn't spotted enough of the field marks—bill, plumage, etc.—for the sighting to constitute big news.)

Sparling parked on a gravel landing and we began hoisting the kayaks off the rack of his truck. A pair of search-team members emerged from the forest, carrying a canoe. One wore a Sherpa hat and a five-o'clock shadow. The other was dressed as a shrub, in a camo jacket bristling with little leaflike tatters.

"Seeing anything, gentlemen?" Sparling asked.

"Nope," said the man in the Sherpa hat. They'd been out there erecting tree blinds in which the searchers were assigned to perch for eight cold hours a day.

A Ford F-150 with Montana plates rattled down to the landing. A small fleet of kayaks was belted to the roof. A middle-aged man got out and ambled over to us. He had big aviator shades and an air of highway loneliness about him.

"What are you guys looking for?" he asked, noting my camera, which was outfitted with a zoom lens the size of a soup thermos.

"Take a wild guess," Sparling said. He and Sparling exchanged introductions, and the man raised his eyes and rocked back on his heels.

"The number-one spotter," the man said. "I thought it might be you."

Sparling shifted somewhat uncomfortably, and he asked the guy what he did for a living back in Montana.

"Which career? Which life?" the man said. "Now mostly I'm just a vagabond bum, looking to do kayaking and birdwatching full-time."

Sparling said, "A man after my own heart; it's a wonderful life."

We slid our boats into the bayou. Paddling away, Sparling cast a sympathetic glance back at the nomadic birder. "I feel bad for these guys who drive all the way across the country to try to see this bird," he said. "I'd like to tell 'em I spent a year out here and didn't see a damn thing. Could've saved him the trip."

Sparling glided out into the silty water, threading his way through the cypress maze. A few minutes in, I saw a bird, a flash of white vivid against the tree trunks. "Gene!" I said.

"Kingfisher," he said, without bothering to look. "To be honest," he added, "I have somewhat let go of the need to see the bird again myself. Seeing it's not nearly as important as restoring the habitat. If we give him a place to live, he can take care of himself. It doesn't matter whether we know where he is or not."

The fall had been dry in Arkansas, and the water in the swamp was low. The vandals of the forest, beavers, had dammed the channel every few hundred yards, and we had to vault strenuously over their blockades, breathing in the spicy stink of their musk.

The bayou broadened into an oblong black lake, and Sparling suddenly got quiet, watching a black confetti of crows tumbling above the tree line about 150 yards away. "Hold on," he said. "The bird was seen right here, getting mobbed by crows, and these guys are sure as hell chasing something." But the crows veered out of sight. Their cawing faded and the only sound in the swamp was the conch-shell moan of Interstate 40, which the woodpecker(s) had almost certainly crossed to be seen up this way. Sparling shook his head at the thought of it. "It's amazing: Here you've got what's probably the rarest bird in the world, regularly flying over I-40." He shrugged and paddled on. "Sure hope he's flying high."

Farther down, we pulled out into a shallow canyon of trees where the forest had been cleared to accommodate a long, stolid parade of telephone poles. The sun was throwing a platinum glow on the dark water, and the trees blurred and shimmered with reflected, dying light. Dusk was coming on, and whatever birds were out there would soon be heading home to roost. I shipped my paddle, my boat turning idly in the autumn wind like the needle on a compass. And then something caught my eye, a far-off flare of red, white, and black. I raised my camera, nearly dropping it in my haste, and focused on the flitting colors, which turned out to be a load of glossy new sedans on an 18-wheeler barreling east along the interstate.

http://outside.away.com/outside/features/200603/ivory-billed-woodpecker.html



|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|05/05/06 at 15:57:35|richard_f|xx|0|86.131.100.139|No Ivory-bill, no regrets
Wade enjoys Arkansas adventure.
BILL CLARK

Edge Wade still hasn't seen an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but she has returned
home from the most thrilling and exhausting birding experience in a life
filled with great birding experiences.

Wade spent March 27-April 8 as a participant the Cornell University Lab of
Ornithology's Ivory-billed Woodpecker research project.

The project came about after an Ivory-bill was reported from the Cache River
National Wildlife Refuge in the Big Woods area of east-central Arkansas in
February 2004. After other sightings and a brief video of the bird in April
2004, a search was launched to relocate the birds and study the lifestyle of
a woodpecker species that had not been recorded since 1944 in northeast
Louisiana.

Cornell kept veteran observers in the field for well over a year. No more
Ivory-bills were photographed, and last October, the lab began accepting
volunteers to increase the possibility of locating the largest and most
elusive North American woodpecker.

Wade was a member of the seventh group of volunteers spread over two
national wildlife refuges - Cache River and White River - 550,000 acres of
floodplain forests, swamps, mosquitoes and Cottonmouths.

Wade has birded in many parts of the world but never with the intensity of
the Ivory-bill project. Only the most devoted birders need apply for this
trip. The necessities include camouflage clothing, chest-high waders,
powerful binoculars, a miner's headlamp, mosquito dope and a willingness to
live on six hours of sleep or less per night for two weeks.

Cornell supplied a video camera with an external mounted microphone for each
volunteer, a global-positioning system with an FRS radio, a compass,
laminated maps, a cell phone and a laminated card showing the cavity
excavations of both the Ivory-bill and its more common cousin, the Pileated
Woodpecker.

Each day, the volunteers, working alone or in pairs, checked out canoes that
were equipped with an emergency dry bag containing two knit caps, two pairs
of wool gloves, a fleece blanket, a metallic space blanket, chemical hand
and body warmers (it was still March), a first-aid kit and an emergency
light stick. Also available was a large dry bag for personal gear, such as
food, water and clothing.

A routine day started at 5:30 a.m. but switched to 6:15 with daylight-saving
time. Wade's seven-member group lived in a large ranch-style home. Wade and
the group leader, 47-year-old veteran naturalist Beth Wright, were the only
two women in the group, thus they enjoyed the luxury of private rooms while
the five men shared a room.

"Luck of the draw," Wade chuckled.

After a 20-minute drive to the canoe launch location, they spent the next
12-14 hours each day in the field, which was mostly a field of water.
Observation platforms, much like deer stands, have been established in areas
of greatest interest. A pair of observers usually split their time between
the canoe and the platforms. On land, they looked for bark scalings unique
to the Ivory-bill.

Their video cameras and their binoculars were always at the ready position,
their eyes and ears catching every movement and sound.

An hour before sunset, everyone assumed an assigned spot in the forest and
stayed until 15 minutes after sunset. Then came the canoe trip back to the
take-out point. The GPS and miner's light were vital for a safe return in
the dark.

Once back at the house, all the equipment was immediately plugged in to
recharge for the next day. Wright heard a summary of the day's activities
and outlined the next day's plans, supper was cooked and, with luck, bed
time was about 10:30 p.m.

Wade, at 61, was the second-oldest in her group. Joining her were a
51-year-old computer company executive from the Philadelphia area; a
53-year-old nature conservation leader from Portland, Ore.; a 61-year-old
dentist from northwest Arkansas; a 45-year-old hospital administrator from
New York; and Larry Lade, a 65-year-old retired Quaker Oats official from
St. Joseph who is the director of the Audubon Society of Missouri.

"I knew very little about technology, but I could handle the canoe, so I
swapped my knowledge for theirs and we all survived," Wade said.

Every canoe stayed upright for two weeks.

Here are some observations from Wade, a birder with 731 species on her North
American list and more than 1,900 on her worldwide list - but still missing
the Ivory-bill.

"We were bothered by mosquitoes only twice in two weeks, and I picked up
only one tick. Not many ticks in canoe country. I did get too close to
poison ivy.

"The final week was 'Cotton Moccasin Week.' The warm weather heated up their
world. They were on tree limbs, in the water with their heads held high and
on what little ground was showing. I didn't bother them, and they left me
alone.

"Physically and mentally, the assignment was very demanding. A person had to
learn the technology in a matter of hours, and you lived in fear that every
movement was an Ivory-bill. What if you missed it? What if you failed to get
it on video or record its call?

"You had to remain alert for 12 to 14 hours with the technology ready. And
you learned quickly to drink only one cup of coffee each morning. Remember,
you're wearing chest-high waders, camouflage clothing, and you have
binoculars and a video camera around your neck. When nature calls and you're
in a canoe with all your gear or perched on an observation platform, you
gotta problem. Necessity helps you find a solution.

". I was very impressed by the stringent scientific methods Cornell imposes
in such rugged conditions and how well they were carried out. The enthusiasm
of the staff was phenomenal. Beth Wright had taught and managed a new crew
every two weeks for 16 weeks, and her people skills were outstanding. Many
nights, she survived on four hours' sleep.

"The enthusiasm and attitude of the volunteers, the positive attitude as the
days wore on, was more than I could have imagined. The observers were not
pie-eyed crazy kids. They were professional ornithologists and/or avid
birders. To a person, they gave their best, determined not to let the team
down. They were quite successful.

"I was proud to be involved."

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|05/08/06 at 11:07:04|richard_f|xx|0|86.131.100.139|13 Ways of Looking at an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
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By JACK HITT
Published: May 7, 2006
If I wanted to, I could claim something that fewer than two dozen people on the planet right now can: I have seen an ivory-billed woodpecker. It was only a year ago that history was made when it was announced that this legendary woodpecker — also known as the Lord God Bird for the excited cry said to accompany a sighting — was not extinct, as had been widely believed, but had been positively identified in a swamp called the Bayou de View in Arkansas. On Feb. 26, I visited the bayou with Bill Tippit, a friendly bear of a birder. We were expecting to spend the day in the swamp with an expert guide, but in the chime of a cellphone, we found ourselves suddenly guideless, standing there with our waders, a canoe and a big desire. "I'm game," he said in his slow, deep twang. So we put in and spent the day drifting around the primeval beauty of Arkansas's most famous bottom-land swamp.

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Lane Coder for The New York Times
Bobby Harrison, camouflaged from bow to stern in the hope of fooling an ivory-bill into thinking he's part of the landscape.

Multimedia

Video: The Ivory-Billed Debate
Related
Top Birder Challenges Reports of Long-Lost Woodpecker (March 17, 2006)

In the Swamp, an 'Extinct' Woodpecker Lives (April 29, 2005)

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Video and Photographs at ivorybill.org

Lane Coder for The New York Times
Woodpecker boosterism has seized the town of Brinkley, Ark.
Even though I grew up among South Carolina's cypress swamps, I had never seen cypress trees this huge and haunting. Towering beside them was the ancient tupelo, like some Devonian Period beta version of "tree." These thousand-year-old senator trees are large enough at the base to garage a car, and then they suddenly narrow like a wine bottle before shooting up into a regular tree. Tippit and I spent the day paddling into swampy cul-de-sacs and just hanging there, strictly quiet, for half an hour at a stretch.

"You can't find the bird," Tippit said. "The bird has to find you." By late afternoon, the swamp had come to life with a dozen birdsongs. Blue herons flapped through the trees, while above, the canopy was a rush hour of swallows and sweeps. At times, the dimming forest could be as chatty as a crowded cocktail party, filled with the call of the pileated woodpecker. A relative of the ivory-bill, the pileated is common and often mistaken — very often — for its more renowned cousin.

Then: "Ivory-bill!" Tippit urgently whispered from the back of the canoe. I looked ahead but saw nothing. I turned to see precisely where he was pointing. I whipped back around to see the final movements of a large dark bird disappearing like a black arrow into the dusky chill of the swamp.




I knew the drill. To confirm the sighting, I asked Tippit to report to me precisely what he saw. As with any witness, it's important to set the interview down on paper as soon as possible. Tippit called out: "Two white panels on the back of the wings! It lit on that tree. It was large. Also saw it flying away from me with flashes of white."

Since that February afternoon, I have been able to say, "I saw an ivory-billed woodpecker," yet I have not said it. It turns out it's not an easy sentence to utter, and not only because all I really saw was a distant flash of black feathers. I got a better sense of the difficulty of this claim when I attended the Call of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Celebration in February in nearby Brinkley (formerly Lick Skillet), Ark. The town had so gussied itself up in midwinter woodpecker boosterism that I fully expected to see a parade led by Robert Preston sporting an ivory-bill haircut (available at Penny's Hair Care for $25). A modest motel is now the Ivory Billed Inn. Gene's Restaurant and Barbecue offers an ivory-bill cheeseburger. There's even ivory-bill blue: I bought a T-shirt that reads, "Got Pecker?" And yet talk of seeing the bird was curiously absent. It's hard to describe, but it's like saying you've walked on the moon or been anointed by the Dalai Lama. It's a boast of immense magnitude, frightening to claim, and here's why: In the weeks after the initial sighting, Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology flew down dozens of scientists to comb the swamp, and the Nature Conservancy intensified its efforts to secure large swaths of the habitat. Even the Department of the Interior got involved. The gravitas of powerful institutions and eminent professionals now looms over every claim.

During the question-and-answer period after a talk given by Sharon Stiteler, a perky, witty, smiling blonde who is the host of www.birdchick.com, I cut off a back-and-forth about bird feeders to ask her, "Have you seen an ivory-billed woodpecker?" It was as if I'd dropped a glass on the floor. The room went weirdly silent. The smile on Stiteler's face flickered away quick as a chickadee. "I am not allowed to comment on that," she said. "I was out with Cornell in December and had to sign a lot of confidentiality agreements."

Soon after the original declaration of the discovery was made last April, controversy broke out, and it quickly got nasty. The ugliness derives from something deep in the heart of birding. Most people think of birding as either a science worthy of a word like "ornithology" or a harmless hobby pursued by rubber-faced old men in porkpie hats. But the act of birding, ultimately, is an act of storytelling. For instance, if someone said to you, "I saw this cardinal fly out of nowhere with yellow tips on its wings and land on the side of a tree," even the least experienced amateur would counter that cardinals don't have yellow wingtips and don't cling to trees but rather perch on branches. Each bird is a tiny protagonist in a tale of natural history, the story of a niche told in a vivid language of color, wing shape, body design, habitat, bill size, movement, flying style and perching habits. The more you know about each individual bird, the better you are at telling this tale.

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Claiming to have seen rare birds requires a more delicate form of storytelling and implies a connoisseur's depth of knowledge. Saying "I saw an ivory-bill's long black neck and white trailing feathers" requires roughly the same panache as tasting an ancient Bordeaux and discoursing on its notes of nougat and hints of barnyard hay.

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In the Bayou de View, where there have been claims of ivory-bill sightings, Harrison uses digital time-lapse cameras designed for wildlife surveillance.

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Video and Photographs at ivorybill.org If you don't pull it off, then people presume that you are lying or stupid. And this is where birding gets personal. Telling a rare-bird-sighting story is to ask people to honor your ability as a birder — to trust you, to believe you. To say I saw an ivory-bill — and Tippit says we did — would put me in one camp; on the other hand, to say that I'm not sure totally disses my canoe partner's integrity. And I came to like and trust Bill Tippit quite a lot. He pointed out about a dozen birds to me that afternoon that I never would have seen without his keen eye. I don't want to deny him. So I cagily keep myself suspended between two potential truths, which is where a lot of birders now find themselves.

The ivory-billed woodpecker is, essentially, Schrödinger's cat, the famous physics paradox in which a cat in a box is neither dead nor alive until you open the box. By keeping my mouth shut (about as rare an experience as an ivory-bill sighting), the bird is both extinct from the planet and nesting in the swamps of Arkansas.

But this is not one of those crummy stories that ends with some annoying riff about "ambiguity." Birding is not philosophy. Birding is storytelling, and ivory-bill birding is the most exquisitely nuanced yarn of them all. It requires that you consider the different facets of the ivory-billed woodpecker from every angle. (My experience with Bill Tippit and this philosophical mumbo jumbo are but two.) There are, with some editing, 13 ways of looking at the ivory-billed woodpecker, and there is an answer to the burning question Did I see the damn bird or not? Here's the thing — I'm not able to give the answer. It's a birding story. Only you can.




The fantastic story of the bird's rediscovery begins with the first confirmed sighting. Tim Gallagher, editor of Living Bird magazine, published by Cornell University's ornithology lab, was writing a book, "The Grail Bird," a history of the search for the ivory-bill. He intended to interview every living person who had seen one. It turns out that there's a whole subcategory of bird aficionados known as ghost-bird chasers, who look for birds presumed to be extinct. Gallagher himself was one, and over his years of searching, he met Bobby Harrison, a photography professor at Oakwood College in Alabama, who was also in this game.

The two men were made for the Chautauqua circuit, which they're now in fact on, sometimes together, sometimes solo, telling the tale of their sighting. Their appearance before an awestruck audience capped the Brinkley celebration. Gallagher is a tall 55-year-old with white hair and a pleasantly restrained Yankee demeanor who introduced himself in Arkansas by confessing amiably that he'd always thought the South was weird and that he considered Harrison his "interpreter and guide." Harrison, a fun guy with a head like a mortar shell, had his own schtick, like saying that he didn't know "damn Yankee" was two words until he was 20 years old. The audience laughed wildly at their tale, which was, like the best sightings, a great adventure story full of snakes, mayhem, missteps, mud, bugs and a bird.

In early 2004, Gallagher was alerted to an online posting by another Southerner, a kayaker named Gene Sparling, who reported that he'd seen an unusual woodpecker in the Bayou de View. Gallagher and Harrison each interviewed him and were convinced. They rushed to Arkansas and put in. The second day they were there — Feb. 27, 2004 — the two saw something burst into the sunshine. "Look at all the white on its wings," Gallagher shouted. "Ivory-bill!" they both screamed. And it was gone. They wrote down their notes and drew sketches. Gallagher had a new ending for his book. Bobby got on the phone to his wife, Norma, and sobbed.


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Back at Cornell, Gallagher told John Fitzpatrick, the head of the school's lab of ornithology, and Fitzpatrick was persuaded by Gallagher's description. After quietly deploying a few pros (and then a lot of them) to poke around Arkansas, Fitzpatrick decided to throw the lab's prestige and best resources into the search. Meanwhile, Gene Sparling, the kayaker, had contacted the Nature Conservancy, the environmental group best known for buying undeveloped land. According to Scott Simon, the conservancy's state director, the group had helped save some 120,000 acres of this part of Arkansas, known as the Big Woods, a good bit of the habitat where the bird might be.

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Video and Photographs at ivorybill.org "A few days after Feb. 27, Fitzpatrick called me," Simon told me, "and we danced around trying to find out what the other knew." When they discovered that they knew the same thing, Simon became a partner and agreed to supply aerial photographs.

"Fitz emphasized the need to keep it quiet," Simon went on to tell me. "They wanted to get in one full year of research uninterrupted and focused. For 14 months we did that. We called it the Inventory Project, and we talked about it in code." Eventually, when all the necessary groups were brought in, the Inventory Project had a 16-person management board. "And it was really fun," Simon said. "These people met on a conference call every Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m., Central Time." The ivory-bill was now the subject of the greatest supersecret mission in the history of ornithology.




Cornell's swamp operation moved swiftly into place in Arkansas in the spring of 2004, and it is still there today. "We have 36 people on the ground at any one time," the field supervisor, Elliott Swarthout, told me. "Twenty-two are paid staff; 14 are volunteers." There are 28 Autonomous Recording Units, or A.R.U.'s, stationed at strategic flyways in the swamp. Hundreds of hours of audio recordings are routinely flown back to Cornell, where they are computer-searched for the patterns of the ivory-bill's two most famous sounds. There is the "kent" call, a funny bweep that sounds like a kid's toy horn. And there is the double knock — two heavy bill blows into a tree, so close together they almost register as one sound.

Scattered throughout the forest, time-lapse cameras are mounted on trees. The ornithologists have also drawn up grids and transepts and are systematically moving through the area with human eyes to conduct regular bird counts and spot roost holes. They have flown as many as four ultralight aircraft low over the swamp canopy to flush out ivory-bills. By the end of the first year of searching, Cornell had registered seven brief sightings of the bird.

In April 2004, a compelling piece of evidence came in. A computer scientist named David Luneau was videotaping in the swamp when his camera, fixed in the canoe and focused on his colleague, captured a large black-and-white woodpecker in the background. The woodpecker was half-hidden by a tree and was startled before making an out-of-focus escape into the swamp. The tape lasts four seconds. Fitzpatrick and 16 colleagues slowed down the tape and concluded that the fuzzy white patches appeared in the right places.

Fitzpatrick waited a full year, studying the habitat, before taking the discovery public. On April 28, 2005, the peer-reviewed 17-author paper was published with much fanfare by Science magazine on its Science Express Web site. Cornell and the Nature Conservancy launched www.ivory-bill.com and provided the media with easily downloaded images. The lab's marketing department fired off electronic press releases to 1,000 members of the media. Cornell's press office beefed up its presence in Washington and assisted in the media rollout of news items: 43 radio shows, 174 television programs and 459 newspaper articles. Overnight, the ivory-billed woodpecker became a generally accepted scientific fact.




But not for long. Within weeks, both professional ornithologists and amateur birders were starting to have doubts. Four world-class bird specialists, led by Richard Prum of Yale University (who is a neighbor of mine) and including a renowned ivory-bill expert named Jerome Jackson, prepared a peer-reviewed paper, arguing that the Science magazine material did not rise to the standard of scientific evidence. It was a heavy charge.

But then last summer, as the authors prepared for publication, Cornell sent them some fresh and exciting evidence: recordings of kent calls and double knocks. Prum was temporarily won over, publicly stating that the "thrilling new sound recordings provide clear and convincing evidence that the ivory-billed woodpecker is not extinct." The authors pulled their paper.

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But as the months passed and no new evidence materialized, the doubters were heard from again. In January, Jackson published a direct attack on Cornell's science in The Auk, a respected bird publication. He charged, among other things, that Gallagher's original sighting suffered from what might be called "story creep." Gallagher's book, published in May 2005, estimates his distance from the bird at "less than 80 feet." In the July 2005 issue of Audubon magazine, his wife wrote that it was "less than 70 feet." In an interview on "60 Minutes" in October, Gallagher said the bird was "about 65 feet away." At one news conference, Fitzpatrick observed that if Gallagher and Harrison had not shouted, the bird "might even have landed on the canoe." Jackson wrote: "Observations can become more and more 'real' with the passing of time, as we forget the minor details and focus inwardly on the 'important' memory." He characterized Cornell's science, memorably, as "faith-based ornithology."

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Video and Photographs at ivorybill.org The video has always been held out by Cornell as the most solid proof. After all, the pileated has white on the front undersides of the wings; the ivory-bill's wing is distinguished by a lot of white on the top trailing feathers. But in March of this year, David Allen Sibley, the author of "Sibley's Guide to Birds," issued a frame-by-frame analysis of the video. (I know Sibley and have been in the woods with him on a few occasions.) Sibley's critique (which Cornell quickly rebutted) offered a completely different interpretation of the video. As Sibley saw it, the bird pushed back from the tree and rotated its wings furiously, scooping the air to gain initial flight. In other words, the "topside trailing feathers" you could see were actually the underside feathers of a wing strenuously wrenched backward in the act of getting airborne. The most famous ivory-billed woodpecker of the 21st century looked to David Allen Sibley like a pileated flying away.




Early last month, I was back in the swamp, this time with Bobby Harrison, the ivory-bill rock star. If you're going to spend a day in a swamp, there is no one better to spend it with than Harrison. He had a nearly silent trolling motor, so we were able to penetrate the darkness of the swamp this time without a peep, except when we were beating off cottonmouth snakes with our paddles or portaging the whole rig over frustrating logjams. After three miles we came into an area called Blue Hole, and we puttered up the way just past a visible A.R.U. when suddenly: bam-bam. "Did you hear that?" Harrison said. I had. No question. We pulled the canoe onto a mud bank and stepped out. Visibility was becoming limited, not because of light but because the forest was in early bud. Leaves seemed to grow bigger by the hour, making the distant vistas close right up around us. As Harrison and I stood there, a large black-and-white bird came from behind us and soared into the green. "Did you see that?" he said. I did. His eyes tightened with disappointment. "I couldn't tell," he said. Me either.

The problem with double knocks is that they are not that distinctive a sound. As Fitzpatrick himself told me: "There are certain double-knocky sounds that come from wood ducks flapping wings on the water or running into each other." Two branches banging in the wind can make that sound, as well as a distant truck running over a manhole cover.

When I was out in the canoe with Bill Tippit in February, we were disturbed by some amateur birders nearby, loudly discussing their dinner plans. Tippit hammered the side of our canoe twice with his paddle: bam-bam. The woods went so totally quiet that I might have been able to hear the birders scratching down the notes of their encounter if it hadn't been for Tippit's chuckling.




The first sentence of Gallagher's book reads, "I think I've always been the kind of person who gets caught up in obsessive quests, most of which seem to involve birds." This sentiment of deep longing grips all those now on the prowl in Arkansas. "It's been a fixation since early childhood," Fitzpatrick told me. If you accept the thinking of Jackson and Sibley, then it's possible to reread Gallagher's book not as a birder's adventure of discovery but as a fanatic's confession of self-delusion. He sometimes seems to undermine his own claims. Gallagher confesses to be prone, for example, to "quixotic quests." The code name used for the bird during the Inventory Project was "Elvis," an unusual choice given that Elvis is now someone seen by true believers but who is, well, extinct. In Gallagher's book, you can find Harrison's initial reaction to Luneau's video: "It makes a bad Bigfoot movie look good."

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Gallagher also tells the story of a ghost-chaser named Mary Scott, who had an Arkansas sighting a year before Gene Sparling, the kayaker, and was the first person to alert Gallagher to Sparling's account. Scott is a former lawyer who in midlife took up residence in a yurt near her parents' house in Long Beach, Calif. On one birding expedition, Scott took along a friend who knew an "ivory-bill whisperer." With the clairvoyant on the cellphone, the search party learned that the bird wanted to be seen but was troubled by the group's "energy." Scott eventually wandered off by herself and, she says, saw the bird. In fact, Scott has seen the bird quite a lot, so much so that she is openly scorned by other birders. "I must admit," Gallagher nevertheless writes, "I had come to believe strongly in her sighting."

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Video and Photographs at ivorybill.org Trace back the involvement of the Department of the Interior, Cornell University, the Nature Conservancy and a half-dozen other groups on the ground, and you'll find that all of them, arguably, owe their presence in Arkansas to a tent-dwelling courthouse dropout taking her guidance from an ivory-bill whisperer on a cellphone.




From the moment the Inventory Project began, according to Scott Simon, environmental organizations carefully laid out a fund-raising strategy. The Nature Conservancy immediately went to work raising money to buy or option some 18,500 more acres. "Because 18,500 acres is about $28 million," Simon said, "we went to about seven or eight key donors who have supported other projects. We shared everything with them, like you would with a board member." Simon contacted people like Marshall Field, the department-store owner; Roger Sant, a founder of AES Corporation; and John Norris of Lennox Corporation. They were briefed on the ivory-bill after being asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

The conservancy was raising millions. Cornell, meanwhile, had committed itself to an extensive ground research operation costing, Fitzpatrick told me, "between half a million and a million dollars a year." At the time of the 2005 announcement of the discovery, Gale Norton, then the secretary of the interior, pledged more than $10 million in federal funds to help secure the bird's habitat. She called it the Corridor of Hope.

In his article in The Auk, Jackson describes the pressure this put on the bird sightings: "How many major donors, how many granting agencies, how many government officials would contribute to the more than $10 million associated with this effort, if the message had been only, 'There might be ivory-billed woodpeckers out there'?" The ivory-bill suddenly looked less like Audubon's stately woodpecker and more like Hammett's Maltese falcon.




The one sturdy argument on behalf of the ivory-bill is that there were repeated sightings, all by the Cornell team, during the secret mission. After Cornell got Gallagher's first sighting report, the ornithology lab excitedly sent down another experienced birder. He didn't see anything, but he returned with enough enthusiasm to inspire a half-dozen more birders to head down. Expanding the clique while still incubating the secret, Fitzpatrick dispatched ever-larger contingents.

"For me, it was just a recipe for misconception," Sibley told me recently. He and other birders believe this expanding pool of people being let in on a secret sighting may well have fed a kind of groupthink, leading to wishful sightings. But could such a thing happen among birders? Actually, it turns out, it does happen. A lot. In Sibley's introductory book, "Sibley's Birding Basics" (published long before these sightings), he warns against "the overexcited birder" and "group hysteria." Sibley cites "one very well documented case in California" in which "the first state record of the Sky Lark (a Eurasian species) was misidentified for days, and by hundreds of people, as the state's first Smith's Longspur."

"There is a long list of well-studied effects," Sibley told me. "There is peer pressure, the expectation of what they were there to do, as well as the authority effect of finding what the boss wants you to find." Most of the Cornell sightings occurred in the surge of joy immediately following Gallagher's return to Cornell. Since then, they have come less frequently. At the ivory-bill celebration in Brinkley, the organizer got up on the big night and said, "We were hoping that tonight we'd be making news with a big announcement from Cornell, but apparently we won't be."

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These two opposing views in birding now exist side by side. Each day more birders join the Prum-Jackson-Sibley side. But the Gallagher-Harrison-Sparling view is not yielding any ground. In March, I was invited to attend the annual dinner of the Explorers Club, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. The group is a grown-up version of the Boy Scouts, minus the solemnity of tying knots. In the hotel's Grand Ballroom, there was a visit from a llama and, of course, a march of penguins. The ivory-bill trio were onstage in black-tie to receive the coveted President's Award for Conservation. Around a banquet table loaded with exotic appetizers — "Sweet-and-Sour Bovine Penis Braised, With Testicular Partners" and "Mealworms With Durian Paste, on Toastettes" — the chat was about the thrill of the ivory-bill's rediscovery. Reports of Sibley's critique were still in the newspapers, yet there was not a peep of dissent to be heard near the "Kangaroo Balls Bourguignon."

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Video and Photographs at ivorybill.org The bird was both seen and unseen. "The Arkansas ivory-bill," Prum later told me, "is the W.M.D. of ornithology."




One morning last month in Arkansas, a Fish and Wildlife clerk named Karen, sporting ivory-bill earrings, winked at Harrison, handed me a map of the swamp and told us she'd been hearing about an area called the George Tract.

The ground there was not exactly swamp — just wet, full of sinks and little bogs. We didn't find much. We were just chatting when I asked Harrison if he could remember when he first got bit by ivory-bill fever.

"Oh, sure," he said, without pausing. "It was after reading Don Moser's article in Life magazine in 1972. I was 17 years old."

I had been hearing about this article — an account of a search for the ivory-bill — since the festival in February. Gallagher had mentioned it in his talk, and I noticed how often it came up in lunchtime chats with visiting birders. "I remember reading that Life magazine article," Fitzpatrick later told me. So I ordered the old magazine. From paragraph to paragraph, Moser's story quivers with melancholy and wistful longing, and as is typically found in Northern writing about the South, the author's prose goes all damp as he contemplates a landscape of things lost and, at twilight, almost found.

"If the question of its existence remains unanswered it will continue to range the back country of the mind," Moser wrote of the ivory-bill, "and those who wish to trail it there can find it in their visions."

"It's a funny thing about that magazine," Harrison said to me in the bog. "I cannot tell you how many people I stumble upon out here in the woods, and when we get to talking, I find out that they were inspired by the exact same article."




The greatest search for the ivory-bill was a 1935 expedition led by Arthur Allen, who, like Fitzpatrick, headed the Cornell ornithology lab. As Gallagher relates in his book, Allen and his team ventured into some virgin swamp in Louisiana known as the Singer Tract, owned by the company that bought such forests to make cabinets for its sewing machines. Allen not only saw the bird but also filmed it, photographed it and recorded it. Today, when Cornell scientists play the famous kent calls in Arkansas hoping to attract the bird, they are playing Allen's 70-year-old recordings.

After the expedition, Allen sent his best student, a young man named James Tanner, down South to spend three years observing the bird. Out of that work came a slim book, still in print, and no ghost-bird chaser is without a dogeared copy.

The burden of this noble history is undeniable. "No doubt about it, this is a venerable institution," Fitzpatrick said, "and one of the things I'm doing is sitting in Arthur Allen's chair." But that burden carries much more than the reputation of Cornell University. If the ivory-bill is a story, it is one that reaches deep into America's most anguished history.

After the Civil War, when the South lay in smoldering ruins with no railroad or economy and with federal troops occupying many of those states until 1877, there were no jobs for the freed slaves or the poor whites living on the land. When Reconstruction ended, the Northern timber companies descended. "Some 200 million acres of forest were cut in about 30 or 40 years," Scott Simon of the Nature Conservancy told me. (At one talk at the festival, a conservationist put up a slide depicting the annihilated "range of the ivory-bill." It was essentially the Confederacy.) These primeval swamps and old-growth forests had been sheared into flat farmland by the time Allen and his party headed South to visit the last stand of virgin woods.

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It's hard to imagine that it's a coincidence that the story of the ivory-bill so often involves a serious Northern expert coming South to hook up with a smart-alecky good old boy from Dogpatch, and these two lighting out for the swamp to find the iconic bird. The stately Gallagher found Bobby Harrison, just as Allen and Tanner found an amusing local lawyer named Mason Spencer and a woodsman named J.J. Kuhn.

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Video and Photographs at ivorybill.org After Tanner returned from his famous study, naturalists undertook a monumental project to save the ivory-bill and its habitat. Chicago Mill, a lumber company that had bought the timber rights to most of the 81,000-acre Singer Tract, expressed some willingness to sell them, since there was no labor to cut the wood at the beginning of World War II. But in 1943, as Phillip Hoose recounts in his book "The Race to Save the Lord God Bird," negotiations with government officials and environmentalists broke down when company executives learned that German soldiers were being held in P.O.W. camps nearby and could be used to cut timber practically free. "We are just money grubbers," the company's chairman explained with a long-lost candor. Despite the intervention of four governors, the last large virgin forest in Dixie was clear-cut by Nazis.

After that, there has not been a single undisputed sighting of the ivory-bill. Some theorize that the bird, unable to find appropriate habitat, simply died out. Others disagree. "The bird didn't just die," Harrison explained to me. "He went — somewhere."

A lot of birders believe this, and perhaps that is why the recent Arkansas sightings are hardly unique. Ivory-bills have been seen sporadically since the end of World War II. In 1950, Chipola River, Fla. In 1955, Homosassa Springs, Fla. In 1966, Big Thicket, Tex. In 1971, in Atchafalaya Basin, La. In 1975, near Baton Rouge. In Cuba in the 1980's. In 1999, Pearl River Swamp, La. Each sighting had mythic tones, and not just because the iconic bird could never be definitively seen. There was also that repetition of plot that marks the cultural myth — the friendship of a Billy Yank and a Johnny Reb, the almost-confirmed sighting, talk of resurrection, sometimes a media circus or a fuzzy image. Some of these sightings led to vicious disagreements. The 1966 sighting by a very respected birder, John Dennis, ended brutally: "Dennis wants to believe he saw something," intoned James Tanner himself. "But he didn't." In 1971, George Lowery Jr. came forward with a story that he had befriended a local man who trained his dogs in the swamp. Lowery refused to identify his swamp-loving sidekick, who had given him two fuzzy Kodak Instamatic pictures of an ivory-bill on two different trees. Critics right away noticed that the ivory-bill had the exact same body posture in both pictures. The conclusion was that the bird was stuffed and put up in the tree. Lowery went to his death standing by his mysterious friend and the pictures.

"Am I worried?" Fitzpatrick mused. "That if the ivory-bill is never seen again that people will look back and say, 'Fitzpatrick laid an egg'? No. I did the right thing to jump on the story and put resources on the ground. We continue to focus on this as a conservation story whether or not the bird decorates the treetops." After the disputed sighting in Texas in 1966, 84,550 acres became the Big Thicket National Preserve. The Nature Conservancy says it will be satisfied if this sighting has a similar ending. "There may not be an ivory-bill there," said Steve McCormick, president of the conservancy, "but it's a habitat that now and forever could sustain an ivory-bill."

The ivory-bill's habitat is this Edenic swamp, an old and majestic forest. The names of the areas where it has been sighted — the Big Woods of Arkansas, the Big Thicket of Texas — suggest large and wild habitats, crowded with senator trees and brimming with other life. The swamp's ivory-bill is the storied messenger bird. He is Noah's dove, surviving improbably after a catastrophe to bring us grace. Lord God Bird, forgive us our trespasses.




Back three miles in the bayou with Bobby Harrison, the swamp air got a bit awkward. "We heard a double knock," he said from the back of the canoe. "That is so exciting."

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"Yeah, I heard it," I replied. Harrison brought up the double knock a half-dozen times on our way in. He was plumbing my level of enthusiasm. He was listening for that certain tremolo, the true believer's excitement. I was cradling Schrödinger's cat as delicately as possible.

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Video and Photographs at ivorybill.org "That is such good news," he said. "It is the first indication all season that I had that tells me the bird is still here." We dragged the canoe through a shallow part of the swamp. The sun was setting. "I feel optimistic," he said.

But the truth is, few of the people involved in the hunt feel all that optimistic anymore. "It would be a shame if the bird is not there and a marvel if it is," McCormick confessed to me one day last month, "but what I care most passionately about is the integrity of the ecosystem and the fact of its rebounding, even if the bird is not there." When I asked Fitzpatrick recently what he had learned after studying the ivory-bill for two years, he said, "The bird is not that common."

Harrison attributed Fitzpatrick's slim finding to the Yankees' grids and transepts, which he mocked as a form of intellectual clear-cutting. "The Cornell method is a bust," he told me, adding, "They had a tiger hunt the other day. You know what a tiger hunt is? When the servants run through the woods banging pots and pans so the maharaja can walk in at the end and shoot the tiger." (Fitzpatrick prefers to call them saturation searches: "Using 30-odd people spaced out in the swamp with G.P.S.'s so that anything that moves that day, we'll find.") "It just shows you how desperate they are," Harrison added. "They'll never see the bird if they keep scaring it off." Harrison prefers the Tippit method, floating and sitting. Harrison has a camouflage rig that covers all of him and his canoe, leaving only his eyes to poke out of some fake leaves. "I want to become part of the landscape," he said, as much a dream as a strategy.

Since bird-watching season begins when the leaves fall off the trees, I asked Fitzpatrick if he intended to hit the swamps with the same ground operation this fall. "The answer is probably no," he said. "We will try to get more robotic. We'll use more technology without human effort."

The 22 paid staff members of this past winter will most likely be downsized to somewhere "in the 3-to-5 range," he said. But Fitzpatrick affirmed Cornell's commitment to Arkansas. "We'll be looking for years," he said. "Maybe for the rest of my life."

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|05/19/06 at 17:14:00|obadiah|xx|0|81.155.45.216|Rare woodpecker elusive as search season ends By Deborah Zabarenko
Thu May 18, 4:05 PM ET



The search for the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker in the swamps of Arkansas has ended for the season with no confirmed sighting, wildlife experts said on Thursday, but they plan to start looking again in late autumn.

The "Lord God bird" -- so-called because of the exclamation it prompted from those who saw it -- was last officially seen in 1944, but eyewitness reports and a four-second video of the ivory-bill in flight in 2004 convinced many scientists the crow-sized woodpecker has come back from presumed extinction.

An intensive six-month search in the Big Woods area of Arkansas failed to turn up any renewed sightings, bird experts and wildlife officials said in a telephone news conference.

"Certainly we're somewhat disappointed," said Ron Rohrbaugh, director of Cornell University's search for the bird. "But we have had enough of these kind of tantalizing sounds and possible encounters with birds ... that we still have a lot of hope that there might be a pair."

Twenty-two full-time field biologists and 112 volunteers have monitored the birds' probable habitat in eastern Arkansas since December, but the effort ended for the season this month after tree leaves emerged, cutting visibility.

The search will resume in late autumn, when the trees are again bare. "We're still in high gear, we're still going to keep searching," Rohrbaugh said.

Four people reported seeing birds this season that might have been ivory-billed woodpeckers, but the sightings were so fleeting they could not be confirmed, the wildlife experts said.

In all four cases, those who saw them reported a characteristic band of white at the trailing edge of the wings, a pattern seen only on ivory-billed woodpeckers.

The more common pileated woodpecker, found over much of the United States, is about the same size as the ivory-bill but lacks the white swath at the edge of its wings.

Aside from human observation, searchers installed remote microphones and cameras in the Big Woods. Scientists at Cornell's Lab of Ornithology will review the thousands of hours of these recordings for possible signs of the rare bird.

In addition, some searchers heard what sounded like typical ivory bill calls, called kent calls, and a double-knocking tap that is also characteristic of an ivory-billed woodpecker.

This season's search cost Cornell about $1 million, and Rohrbaugh said its spending would be trimmed for next season.

Jon Andrew of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is overseeing the search, said future searches for the woodpecker would focus on a broad area including Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas.

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|05/23/06 at 11:05:05|obadiah|xx|0|81.155.45.216|From BBC News: 22 May 2006

US woodpecker search a 'no-show'

More than 100 volunteers and experts have been searching for the bird
The second season of an intensive search for a sought-after North American
woodpecker has failed to produce confirmation it still exists.
The spectacular red, white and black ivory-billed woodpecker was long
thought to be extinct, but was reported to have been filmed alive in 2004.
More than 100 volunteers and experts spent the winter scouring the woods of
eastern Arkansas for the bird.
But they have failed to find further evidence of the bird's existence.
"Certainly we're somewhat disappointed," said Ron Rohrbaugh of the Cornell
University Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York.
But he added that the lack of evidence "doesn't mean the bird's not there".
Wildlife managers at the Cache River Wildlife Management Area, where the
bird was first believed spotted after a six-decade hiatus in 2004, decided
to reopen the area for public use after the search came to an end.
Rare sightings
The stunning red, white and black woodpecker was formerly distributed across
the south-eastern US and Cuba.
The bird carves out a narrow niche for itself by drilling in mature trees.
The last confirmed sightings were in the '30s and '40s
Logging and forest clearance for agriculture began to impinge on its
environment. By the 1920s, it was assumed to be extinct, although, in 1944,
there was one more confirmed sighting in North America of a lonely unpaired
female, above the remnants of an over-cut forest.
Since then, decades of searches yielded nothing and hope gradually faded
away.
But on 11 February 2004, Gene Sparling of Hot Springs, Arkansas, was
kayaking in a reserve in Big Woods. He saw an unusually large red-crested
woodpecker fly towards him and land on a nearby tree.
Experts who conducted their own search finally went on to capture the bird
on video, which allowed them to confirm its identity.
But then researchers in Massachusetts said the interpretation of several of
the bird's features was "mistaken".
Jon Andrew, the recovery team leader with the US Fish and Wildlife Service,
said the search will continue next year across the south-east of the
country. Paid and unpaid searchers would look for evidence of the bird in
Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas as well as Arkansas,
he added.
The National Audubon Society said it would continue to support search
efforts for at least one more year. One volunteer searcher and three members
of the public have reported seeing the bird, but none of the full-time
researchers has spotted it.
In all four cases, the birds sighted were said to have had large amounts of
white feathers on the lower halves of the wings - consistent with an
ivory-bill.|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|07/21/06 at 08:28:52|Obadiah|xx|0|86.131.100.7|Woodpecker halts Ark. irrigation project By ANDREW DeMILLO, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jul 20, 7:36 PM ET



A federal judge halted a $320 million irrigation project Thursday for fear it could disturb the habitat of a woodpecker that may or may not be extinct.

The dispute involves the ivory-billed woodpecker. The last confirmed sighting of the bird in North America was in 1944, and scientists had thought the species was extinct until 2004, when a kayaker claimed to have spotted one in the area. But scientists have been unable to confirm the sighting.

Still, U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson said that for purposes of the lawsuit brought by environmental groups, he had to assume the woodpecker exists in the area. And he ruled that federal agencies may have violated the Endangered Species Act by not studying the risks fully.

"When an endangered species is allegedly jeopardized, the balance of hardships and public interest tips in favor of the protected species. Here there is evidence" that the ivory-billed woodpecker may be jeopardized, he said.

The National Wildlife Federation and the Arkansas Wildlife Federation had sued the Army Corps of Engineers, arguing that the project to build a pumping station that would draw water from the White River would kill trees that house the birds and that noise from the station would cause the woodpeckers stress.

The judge said the Corps and the Interior Department must conduct further studies before proceeding.

The Corps began building the Grand Prairie Irrigation Project last year, about 14 miles from where the bird was supposedly spotted. It suspended work in mid-March to keep from exceeding its budget and is scheduled to resume construction in October with the start of a new fiscal year.

About $80 million has been spent so far. The project is scheduled to begin delivering water to farmers in 2010 or 2011.

The kayaker's claim to have seen an ivory-billed woodpecker in the woods near the White River caused a sensation in scientific circles. But more than 100 volunteers and researchers who spent weeks last winter trying to find conclusive evidence of the bird's existence came back empty-handed.

The Corps had conducted a study showing the project would not significantly harm the woodpecker's habitat, but environmental groups said the study was too narrow.

Under the judge's order, the agencies must evaluate any ivory-bill nests and forage sites within 2 1/2 miles of the construction project.

The pumping station would draw 158 billion gallons from the White River per year. Authorities said it is needed because the main aquifer beneath eastern Arkansas's soybean, cotton and rice fields is running out of water and could run out by 2015, causing economic hardship.

A Justice Department lawyer said this year that a one-month delay would cost the Corps as much as $264,000, and a six-month wait $3 million.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060720/ap_on_sc/ivory_billed_woodpecker&printer=1;_ylt=AqoTo_hAnRzOzSTN9jVPFf5xieAA;_ylu=X3oDMTA3MXN1bHE0BHNlYwN0bWE-
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|selkie|fiddleinthesky@hotmail.com|08/05/06 at 23:06:24|selkie|xx|0|62.252.32.16|NASA Assists Search for Woodpecker Thought to be Extinct


Unlike its more famous cartoon cousin Woody the Woodpecker, the ivory-billed woodpecker is thought to be extinct, or so most experts have believed for over half a century.

But last month scientists from NASA and the University of Maryland, College Park, Md., launched a project to identify possible areas where the woodpecker might be living. Finding these habitat areas will guide future searches for the bird and help determine if it is really extinct or has survived an elusive existence.

The question of whether the species still exists started when a kayaker reported spotting the woodpecker along Arkansas' Cache River in 2004. That sighting spawned an intensive search for the species by wildlife conservationists, bird watchers, field biologists and others.

In June a research aircraft flew over delta regions of the lower Mississippi River to track possible areas of habitat suitable for the ivory-billed woodpecker, one of the largest and most regal members of the woodpecker family. The project is supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and the University of Maryland used NASA’s Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS) onboard the aircraft. The instrument uses lasers that send pulses of energy to the Earth's surface. Photons of light from the lasers bounce off leaves, branches and the ground and reflect back to the instrument. By analyzing these returned signals, scientists receive a direct measurement of the height of the forest's leaf covered tree tops, the ground level below and everything in between.

"LVIS is aiding this search effort far beyond what aircraft photos or satellite images can provide in the way of just a two-dimensional rendering of what's below," said Woody Turner, Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. "The laser technology gives us the third dimension, enabling us to better assess the complex vegetation structure the plane flies over." The flights are the latest step in an effort spanning over two years to find absolute evidence that a bird once thought extinct continues to survive.

"We're trying to understand the environment where these birds live or used to live, using LVIS-plotted features like thickness of the ground vegetation and tree-leaf density, in combination with other factors like closeness to water and age of the forest, to determine where we might find them," said Turner.

"Through numerous studies, we have shown the effectiveness of the data generated by this sensor for many scientific uses, including carbon removal, fire prediction, and habitat identification,” said LVIS project researcher Ralph Dubayah, a professor in the University of Maryland's Department of Geography. “Lidar technology like LVIS measures the vertical structure of the trees and ground, setting it apart from other remote-sensing systems that provide detailed horizontal information that tells us little about whether a green patch of forest is short or tall, for example. When identifying habitats, the vertical structure of the vegetation is of paramount importance to many species, including a bird like the ivory-bill.”

http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/602484/nasa_assists_search_for_woodpecker_thought_to_be_extinct/index.html?source=r_science|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|09/28/06 at 13:00:25|richard_f|xx|0|212.104.129.148|Researchers see rare woodpecker in Fla. By MELISSA NELSON, Associated Press Writer
Tue Sep 26, 7:17 PM ET



PENSACOLA, Fla. - After spending months in remote northwest Florida swamps searching for the ivory-billed woodpecker, researchers say they have seen and heard the rare bird once believed to be extinct.

But Auburn University ornithologists, who published their findings in Canada's Avian Conservation and Ecology journal online Tuesday, failed to capture a picture of the large woodpecker, which makes a distinct double rapping sound.

That lack of evidence means doubt about the bird's return remains.

The bird was thought to be extinct until 2004 when Cornell University researchers released recordings and an inconclusive grainy video after searching for it in the swamps of eastern Arkansas. The last confirmed ivory-billed sighting was in 1944.

Auburn ornithologist Geoffrey Hill headed the four-month Florida search that ended in April. He said his team would return to the Choctawhatchee River basin sometime around November with better equipment to try to get photographs.

"On 14 occasions different team members have seen the bird. We heard that double knock, it's a sound the ivory-billed makes that no other bird makes, but we didn't get a clear video of the bird," Hill said.

"I think people should be skeptical. I think they should demand clear photographic evidence. I might start to get skeptical myself thinking, 'I've seen this bird,' but how could I have seen a bird that it is impossible to photograph," he said.

Hill said team members heard the bird's unique call 41 times.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is working with the federal government and some private agencies to provide additional funding for Hill's team, agency spokesman Willie Puz said. Puz said funding is in the early stages and he did not know how much the researchers would receive.

Hill's five-member team from Auburn, Ala., and Ontario, Canada, conducted its search on a $10,000 budget. Hill said the extra funding should help them deliver the conclusive evidence the world is demanding.

"The ultimate prize is finding pairs visiting roost holes and making babies, that would be the holy grail," said John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell lab, which consulted with the Auburn team. "Absent that, the intervening step is to get a photograph that allows everyone else to see the evidence and get on board."

Florida officials praised the early evidence.

"This will be fantastic if we can confirm the woodpeckers are there," conservation commission Chairman Rodney Barreto said in a statement. "Florida is the only state besides Arkansas to come close to confirmation in roughly 40 years."

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|09/29/06 at 12:01:20|richard_f|xx|0|81.152.73.104|Auburn group believes it has sighted ivory-billed woodpecker

John Fleming
Editor at large
09-26-2006

AUBURN – Researchers from Auburn University say they have evidence suggesting ivory-billed woodpeckers dwell in a swamp along the Choctawhatchee River in the Florida Panhandle.
In an article scheduled to be published Tuesday in the scholarly journal Avian Conservation and Ecology, the main author and group leader, ornithologist Geoff Hill, says the evidence includes a collection of 210 separate recordings of the birds’ vocalization, known as “kent calls,” as well as 99 recordings of “double raps,” a sound the birds are thought to make when their bills hit a tree.

Hill also says he and others in the group sighted the birds 14 times in mid-2005 and again between December 2005 and April 2006, when the group set up a permanent camp in the Choctawhatchee basin south of the Alabama state line near Geneva.

“I am 100 percent positive that I saw an ivory-bill,” Hill told The Star in an interview from his campus office, recounting a sighting in early January 2006. He added that the group also made two separate sightings of pairs of the birds flying together.

The last known recording of an ivory-billed woodpecker was in Louisiana in a swampy area known as the Singer Track in 1935. Only occasional sightings of the birds were reported after that, so few that many scientists concluded the species was extinct.

Renewed interest in the bird emerged in the late 1990s, with a reported sighting in Louisiana and then last year in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. That research included blurry video footage and recordings of kent calls.

Hill, however, believes that what his team found in the Choctawhatchee is stronger than what has been presented from Arkansas because of the multi-layered body of evidence his team collected.

“I think we have the best evidence suggesting an ivory-bill may exist since the Singer Track,” said Hill, the author of dozens of journal articles as well as three books on birds.

Ken Rosenberg is the director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and a member of the Ivory Bill recovery team, which was organized by the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service.

“This research seems very encouraging, but by itself is not definitive. Some of the audio recordings sound perfect. So in terms of clarity, they are very nice recordings. But when you try to match them against the 1935 recording, it isn't exact.”

Rosenberg went on to say that birds from different regions can have different dialects and this may account for the slight difference.

The Cornell lab is eager to work with the Auburn researchers and has given technical advice and is supplying equipment for the upcoming research trip, he said.

He also said, “That environment is very conducive to them. Those rivers in the Florida Panhandle were the mother load of the ivory-bill woodpecker.”

Although it had camera equipment, Hill says the team “did not get that clear a picture,” of the bird. “We set out to prove that there are ivory-bills there. In that, we failed. It was a success, however, in that we have evidence.”

While praising the support of Auburn (the university provided a grant of $10,000 from a discretionary fund) Hill said that, “If we would have had more people and money we would have found what was making those kent calls and those double knocks.”

He also added, “I can’t imagine how we could be wrong,” and asked, “What else could be making that noise? Nothing in nature we know of. There might be something we don’t know of.”

Without clear photographic evidence, Hill says he knows there will be a lot of criticism of his team’s findings, but he also says he welcomes that criticism.

His colleague and co-author of the journal article, Daniel Mennill of the University of Windsor in Ontario, said in a telephone interview that, “We expect a lot of questions and a lot of skeptics. But we appreciate a healthy degree of skepticism.”

Jerome A. Jackson, a professor of biology at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, an ornithologist and the author of the book, In Search of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, was a critic of the research findings in Arkansas.

“Arkansas is on the fringe of what was known to be the range of the ivory-bill,” Jackson said from the Atlanta airport on his way to give a lecture in Alaska.

“The heart of ivory-bill country is in the Florida Panhandle. I would expect them to show up there,” said Jackson, considered by many to be a foremost expert on ivory-bills.

Although Jackson calls the Auburn findings, “very exciting,” he cautions that, “it is not conclusive.”

Hill and Mennill also point to the recordings that suggest more than one possible ivory-billed woodpecker, especially recordings on 11 days when the team recorded kent calls and double knocks on the same recording device. Additionally, they say, on two occasions the kent calls of two birds were heard at the same time.

David Sibley, a well-known illustrator of birds, who is also a critic of the Arkansas research, wrote in an email to The Star that since he hadn’t seen Hill’s research yet, he couldn’t comment. He did add, however, that, “As far as I know bird identification experts are all in agreement that we’re still looking for proof that the ivory-billed survives, so if people can actually present proof from Florida that would be absolutely thrilling. The evidence from Arkansas should have been scrutinized more carefully before it was announced last year.”

“That evidence doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and really doesn’t justify the claims of proof, and it simply raised a lot of false hopes.”

Although the research team initially offered the findings and were ultimately rejected by the journal Nature, the strength of the audio, says Mennill and Hill, is one reason they decided to turn to Avian Conservation & Ecology, an on-line scientific journal.

“It is an online journal capable of handling all of our research, including our audio recordings,” said Hill.

Merrill adds that, “we have put all of our research out there for everyone to see.”

As for the future, Hill plans to continue the research. While stressing that this is an Auburn University project, he hopes that publication of the article may bring in private, state and federal money. He and the team are planning to return to the area for a long-term research trip later this year.

“Now we have to go back, said Hill. “Now our job is to go find what the source of all these knocks, and kent calls and what exactly these big birds are.”

‘We heard this rapping that was really loud’
How the Auburn team decided to explore the remote area south of Geneva, near Bruce, Fla., is an interesting story in itself.

As ornithologist Geoff Hill tells it, he was a new professor in the mid-1990s at Auburn, laboring under a workload, trying to make tenure, juggling family and job, when one day he received a call from a man in Geneva County, whom he described as some guy in a pickup truck.

The man in the pickup told a skeptical Hill that he had seen an ivory-billed woodpecker; that it was big and it flew away from him into an old growth forest along the Pea River near the city of Geneva in south Alabama.

“I tried to talk him out of it,” said Hill. “I suggested that he might have seen a pileated woodpecker,” he said, explaining that the pileated woodpeckers have similar markings.

The man in the pickup, however, wasn’t buying it, Hill explained. He told Hill he knew what a pileated woodpecker looked like and that what he saw was no pileated woodpecker.

“I just couldn’t handle it right then,” said Hill. “But I filed it in the back of my head.”

Last year, when news of the possible discovery broke in Arkansas, Hill said he thought again of the report from Geneva and started considering a trip to the area.

“I had people urging me to go to Arkansas, but I really didn’t want to be part of a bird event,” he said.

So in May 2005, he and two research assistants loaded up kayaks on his car and headed for southeast Alabama. They floated an area west of Geneva on the Pea River, but determined by the end of the first day that the habitat wasn’t suitable. It lacked old growth forest as well as flooded forest, something the ivory-bills were believed to prefer.

At the end of the first day, they were wondering what to do when one of the assistants, Tyler Hicks, a 23-year-old professional birder from Kansas, suggested they turn their attention to the Choctawhatchee River south of Geneva.

Hicks, now an undergraduate student in Colorado, said he recalled seeing an editorial in The Anniston Star referring to historic reporting sightings south of the city, where the Choctawhatchee and Pea rivers come together. That led him to look at satellite imagery of the area, which he determined to be more conducive to ivory-bills.

Hicks, Hill and assistant Brian Rolek then moved onto the Choctawhatchee.

“Within just an hour or so after we went into that area,” he said by phone from Colorado, “we heard this rapping that was really loud. I can only describe it as like someone beating a baseball bat against a tree. Soon after, Brian saw a large bird that had some interesting markings, and a little later Dr. Hill heard a double knock.”

The team was interested, returned to Auburn, lined up some support, including Mennill, and started returning to the area in preparation for long-term stay in December.

In the meantime, the more abstract moved into something electrifying one day in May 2005, when Hicks was sitting on a log deep in the stillness of a swamp on the Choctawhatchee.

“Out of the corner of my eye I saw a large bird,” he said. “It had a strong flight, like a loon and I saw white and black markings, including white on the secondary feathers. When it flew upward, I saw dorsal white stripes, down the neck and over the back. Then it punched through the forest canopy.”

The white secondary feathers are significant because they differentiate the ivory-bill from the pileated.

The 23-year-old Hicks, who has been birding since he was 10, is described by Hill as one of the best birders he has ever known. He has worked professionally as a bird-watching guide and is studying to be an ornithologist.

“I am as sure that I saw an ivory-billed woodpecker as I am about anything,” he said. “There is no way it could have been anything else.”

Hicks says he made two sightings during his time on the river.

To local people in this part of south Alabama and northwest Florida, the sightings are not entirely surprising. Stories of ivory-billed woodpeckers have floated out of the area around and south of Geneva for years, people from the region say. The swamps from just south of state line to Choctawhatchee Bay broaden out and the area is isolated.

Don Marley, an aquaculturalist who owns land on the river near the state line and has been in the area for years, says while he has never seen an ivory-bill he isn’t surprised there is evidence of them in the area given the habitat.

“South of Geneva, the river starts spreading out into the bottomlands, into swamp forests,” he said. “If I were to guess where they might be, I would say that they would be in that area.”

‘I have never come across anything like this in the United States’

While the team members are disappointed in the their failure to get a clear photograph of the bird, they all say Daniel Mennill’s audio recording devices and his work in an audio lab in Canada is the backbone of the research.

As Mennill describes it, the team recorded 11,500 hours of audio between December 2005 and April 2006. Each day his assistant, a graduate student named Kyle Swiston, would paddle out through the cypress swamp to each of the seven remote recording stations to change the batteries and swap out the memory cards.

Hill would collect the memory cards when he visited every few days and then stream the audio, sometime for up to 18 hours at a time, to Mennill.

At the University of Windsor, Mennill had hired a team to “look,” not listen to the audio. They were trained to look for a particular signature sound imprint on one screen and would try to match that imprint to a collection of others on an adjoining screen, such as squirrels, gun shots, blue jay calls and other woodpeckers. That way they could exclude all those sounds. On the adjoining screen was also a sound signature of the Singer Track recording made in 1935 of the Ivory bill in Louisiana.

Using this method allowed the technicians to exclude the other noises and concentrate on the ones suspected to be that of the ivory-bill.

In Mennill’s opinion -- based on the body of evidence, especially the audio – “our evidence is convincing that we have found ivory bills.”

Mennill, who is a specialist in avian sounds and has studied cousins of the ivory-bill in Central America says, “I have never come across anything like this in the United States. It reminds me of what I have heard in Central America.”

MEET THE TEAM
Geoff Hill, Scharnagel Professor in Auburn University’s Department of Biological Sciences. He co-authored today’s article on the ivory-billed woodpecker in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology.
Daniel Mennill, assistant professor at the University of Windsor’s Department of Biological Sciences.

Tyler Hicks, professional birder from Kansas who suggested the team turn its attention to the Choctawhatchee River south of Geneva. He now is an undergraduate student in Colorado.

Kyle Swiston, graduate student at University of Windsor. He kept watch over the remote recording stations in Florida’s Choctawhatchee River.

Brian Rolek, now a graduate student in ornithology at Auburn. He was an assistant to Hill and the first to spot the Ivory bill.

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|09/30/06 at 16:41:02|richard_f|xx|0|81.152.73.104|You can download the paper regarding the Florida Ivorybill evidence from the online journal Avian Conservation and Ecology, at:

http://www.ace-eco.org/

Also, an article regarding Arkansas:
-------

Hunt for ivory-billed woodpecker to continue in Arkansas

ANNIE BERGMAN
Associated Press Writer
September 26. 2006

Arkansans should not be worried that the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker will leave the state and move to Florida after news that researchers there have seen and heard the elusive bird, wildlife officials say.

Ornithologists at Auburn University in Alabama and Windsor University in Ontario published a report Tuesday in Canada's online journal Avian Conservation and Ecology, claiming the woodpecker may live along the Choctawhatchee River in the Florida panhandle.

The report came after researchers documented 14 sightings and extensive sound recordings of the bird after spending months in Florida's northwestern swamps. However, they failed to capture a picture of the large woodpecker with the white bill that makes a distinct double rapping sound.

"It doesn't change the findings from Arkansas," said Connie Bruce, director of marketing and communication for Cornell University's ivory-billed woodpecker project. "Searches will be taking place throughout the southeast, building on the fact that there is reason to search in these places."

The bird was thought extinct until 2004 when Cornell researchers released recordings and a grainy video after searching for it in the swamps of eastern Arkansas. The video, however, was deemed inconclusive, and the last confirmed ivory-billed sighting was in 1944.

Dennis Widner, manager of the Cache River Wildlife Management Area where the bird was first spotted, said he was elated to hear the news out of Florida and hopes the teams there will be able to capture the woodpecker on film.

Widner said he is certain the ivory-billed woodpecker lives in Arkansas, even though search teams had found no new confirmation of the bird's existence in the state last season. Widner said researchers and birders will still be drawn to the state to look for the bird.

"There's just too much evidence that was gathered over the first couple of years," Widner said. "When you look what they got in Florida, it's basically the same evidence" as they gathered in Arkansas.

The search for the ivory-billed woodpecker will begin again in Arkansas in January, Bruce said. Arkansas will be one of 18 search sites across the southeast, along with sites in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas, she said.

http://www.gainesville.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060926/APN/609262200
-----
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|10/08/06 at 18:30:58|obadiah|xx|0|81.152.73.104|WINGED MYSTERY
A woodpecker considered the Holy Grail of bird-watchers could be in Pearl River Basin

Jenny Hurwitz
Sunday, October 08, 2006

For nearly half a century, Susan Epps has been haunted by the specter of an ivory-billed bird.

She claimed her first sighting in 1958, at age 10, while scouting the fringes of a state park near St. Martinville. It darted into a tree: an oversized woodpecker with a telltale white beak, a ringer for the famous one she had scrutinized relentlessly in her birding books.

Her father said she'd made a mistake; the mythic, ivory-billed woodpecker had disappeared from Louisiana at the turn of the century, after loggers drove it from its natural habitat among old-growth hardwood forests, and into extinction.

But Epps was unconvinced. She has been searching ever since.

"It's been this thing in my life -- this gap, this missing part of me," she said. "I wanted to see it again."

A legend among scientists for its oft-disputed history and striking features, the ivory-billed woodpecker remains one of nature's most elusive species, a mystery that has evaded even the most fervent bird-watchers for the past 60 years.

Despite repeated claims from ornithologists and bird watchers -- and a pair of university-led sightings in Arkansas and Florida -- the scientific community remains staunchly divided over the question of the ivory bill's existence.

"It almost has a Bigfoot association," said Auburn University ornithologist Geoffrey Hill, who warned that skepticism runs high among ivory bill enthusiasts. One false move, and "you can get cast as a amateur."

Epps, a resident of Diamondhead, Miss., and fellow birder Michael Collins, of Washington, D.C., contend they saw one flit across their path just days ago, as they combed the forest in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area.

"You don't need a Ph.D. to identify this bird," said Collins, an avid bird watcher who, in fact, holds a doctorate in mathematics from Northwestern University. "It's an easy bird to identify."

But as hobbyists in a highly competitive and occasionally petty field, where careers have been ruined by ivory bill allegations, their sightings mean little to a dubious academic community.

"It's an exciting experience, but it's not something you can rejoice about or share," Epps said of the recent sighting "It just felt like, 'OK, I'm going to go tell people I saw it, and they're going to think I'm a nut case.' "

Illusive sightings

Louisiana bird-watchers have long suspected the bird's existence in the Pearl River Basin, a swamp and forested reserve that straddles the Mississippi state line.

In 1999, Louisiana State University forestry student David Kulivan inspired a full-fledged expedition after he reported seeing a pair while turkey hunting. That search proved fruitless, however, yielding only some possible nesting cavities and stripped bark patterns that could indicate the presence of the bird.

Since then, experts have turned their attention to other Southern states -- and found varying degrees of success.

In 2004, researchers from Cornell University announced they had rediscovered the ivory bill in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas. And last year, during a small-scale search led by Auburn professor Hill, woodpeckers were spotted along the Choctawhatchee River in the Florida panhandle.

But each announcement unleashed a steady stream of criticism, skepticism and disbelief. Neither yielded what scientists had most desired: a clear-cut photograph, video or nesting cavity.

Cornell's best evidence consisted of a blurry video, which experts continue to dispute. Even Hill, who says he saw the bird with his own eyes in Florida, admits his findings fell short.

"Sight records are never definitive proof," he said. "We don't claim proof -- no one's had it since 1944," when the bird's existence was last verified.

Pursuit persists

Oddly enough, the ivory bill isn't subtle-looking or particularly quiet, making its obscurity even more puzzling. Dubbed "the Lord God bird" for its elegance and stature, the woodpecker is crow-sized and conspicuous, jet black with white wing markings. Males sport a pointy, red crown, while female caps are black.

It also has a distinctive rap -- two, quick knocks -- and a call that sounds like the plaintive bleat of a tin horn.

But the ivory bill is also skittish and shy, which makes capturing it on film difficult. In an added twist, it is often confused with the pileated woodpecker, a smaller, squatter species common to the South with a grayish beak and thicker neck.

Additionally, the question of Hurricane Katrina's effect on the population remains largely unanswered, although experts say the severe deforestation in both Louisiana and Mississippi probably had some impact.

"It's a mixed bag for birds," Hill said. "They will not stay in an area with no canopy cover. But then, lots of dead trees means lots of beetles, which means lots of food."

The ivory bills use their chisel-like beaks to drill through tree bark and feast on beetle larvae that cling just below the surface.

The swaths of felled trees across the region have led to a banner year for beetles, which are drawn to damaged or stressed trees.

Still, researchers have not given up on their quest for absolute proof. On the local front, Epps and Collins plan to continue scouring the Pearl in hopes that their efforts will win greater protection for the wilderness they believe is serving as home to the endangered species.

Collins, who has recorded 12 sightings in the past year, intends to return in the winter, after hunting season, when the forest is still.

Hill is launching a second Florida search in December, armed with a bigger team and time-lapse cameras. They hope to check every cavity they come across for evidence of nesting.

But even with more manpower and better technology, nothing is certain; the quest will still depend on the finicky patterns of a creature that has eluded scientists for decades.

"We've just got to get lucky," he said.

http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/metro/index.ssf?/base/news-17/1160293173143460.xml&coll=1
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Ed Malone|cfz@eclipse.co.uk|10/09/06 at 10:08:28|obadiah|xx|0|81.152.73.104|If ivory-billeds survived, why were they said to be extinct?
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Huntsville Times
Just when enthusiasm was fading over the 2004 sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker in eastern Arkansas, hope has surged again with a report that the once-thought-extinct bird has been seen in the Florida Panhandle.

The sightings, along the Choctawhatchee River north-northwest of Panama City, were reported by ornithologist Geoff Hill of Auburn University and a team of researchers in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology.

The evidence is substantial: numerous sightings, sound recordings of both the "double rap" and the kent call. The recorded sounds number in the hundreds.

In addition, the team found apparent nest holes and peeled bark strongly suggestive of ivory-billed activity. Persuasive photographs? Not yet.

For more information, you can read the entire article at www.ace-eco.org.

If you're really interested, you can apply for a job as a field technician, as efforts are being mounted to produce an unambiguous photograph and other evidence. Information can be obtained from team member brianrolek@gmail.com.

The Florida report has been followed by sightings from other areas, one of the most promising of which has come from the Pearl River in Louisiana. Meanwhile, searches are under way (or planned) in South Carolina, Texas and other states.

It seems a good bet that some ivory-billeds have survived. It remains to be seen how many.

So why were they missed all these years? Maybe they weren't. Since the 1940s, a number of people of various skill levels have reported seeing the birds, and even some photographs have been offered.

Until 2004, none of the reports was considered credible. While mistaken identification no doubt accounted for most of the reports, it probably didn't account for all of them.

I have to wonder: Were all the sightings dismissed because the bird was considered extinct? And was it considered extinct because there had been no "credible" sightings? Did the scientific community unwittingly create a Catch-22 situation?

If so, I hope they - and we - learn from this.

Netting migrants

In May 2005, I wrote about John Carpenter, a graduate student at Alabama A&M University, and others who were studying the threatened cerulean warbler in North Alabama.

Last Sunday, I talked with Carpenter and two other A&M graduate students, Zach Felix and Jill Wick, at Monte Sano State Park. They had put out mist nets early that morning to see what neotropical migrants might be in the woods.

It was slow going. After a couple of hours, they had snared only one wood thrush even though they had deployed seven nets. The effort was undertaken in part to find out if the area was worth further study each fall.

Carpenter, whose cerulean warbler research continues, said another graduate student, Lisa Gardner, was using mist nets in the Walls of Jericho and had recorded and banded some 90 birds.

The mist nets resemble badminton nets. They are 20 to 40 feet long and suspended a few feet off the ground between aluminum poles. The netting is black nylon, which, against the forest background, is all but invisible to both birds and people.

Once a bird is caught in the net, it's identified, weighed and sexed, and fitted with a tiny band on one leg. Then it is released. If the band is recovered, the information is conveyed to the Bird Banding Laboratory of the U.S. Geological Society for comparison with the information from the original banding.

You don't have to be a scientist to be bird bander, but you have to know the birds and obtain a license, as well as agree to abide by some strict rules.

Bird-banding in the United States is more than a century old. Over the years, it has yielded valuable data about birds' life spans, flight speeds, populations, and migration routes and dates.

I don't think extensive banding of songbirds has occurred in this region of North Alabama for some years, but if it is re-established, it would be a valuable contribution to what we know about the birds that pass through in the spring and fall.

John Ehinger's Birdwatching column appears monthly on the Outdoors page
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|10/23/06 at 10:43:06|richard_f|xx|0|86.131.102.150|
BirdFest approaches amid ivory-billed enthusiasm
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
By BEN RAINES
Staff Reporter
Fresh on the heels of the possible discovery of an ivory-billed woodpecker population about two hours east of Mobile, the third annual Alabama Coastal BirdFest opens Thursday with four days of bird-watching expeditions, dinners, lectures and an all-day bird-themed fair in Fairhope.

The BirdFest will once again feature several lectures by Bobby Harrison, a professor at Oakwood College in Huntsville, who was part of a yearlong effort to document the presence of the large and elusive woodpecker in a remote Arkansas swamp. More recently, Harrison spent time along Florida's Choctawahatchee River, where Auburn University scientists reported several ivory-billed woodpecker sightings over the past year.

The BirdFest consists of lectures, displays and 20 guided bird-watching trips between Thursday and Sunday. The trips require advance registration and cost between $20 and $40 per person.


Among this week's activities, birders can participate in the annual Fort Morgan migratory bird banding program, watch shorebirds on Dauphin Island and tour the Mobile-Tensaw Delta region by boat.

Hundreds of bird species migrate through this area each fall, traveling along the Dauphin Island Trans Gulf Migration Flyway, one of the most important bird migration corridors in the world.

Harrison's lectures will be held at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday in Centennial Hall Giddens Auditorium on the grounds of Faulkner State Community College in Fairhope during the Bird and Conservation Expo. Admission to the expo is free and open to the public. The event also features demonstrations with live owls, raptors, snakes and sea creatures.

Harrison said he has seen ivory-billed woodpeckers on five occasions in the Arkansas swamps and appears to have captured one on a videotape. The first sighting occurred with Tim Gallager, an ornithologist from Cornell University in New York, and touched off a large-scale search for the bird. For the image captured on video, Harrison said he carved a decoy of an ivory bill, attached it to a tupelo tree in the swamp and pointed a camera at it.

Then he left the area for about half an hour while the camera ran. When he returned, a large bird flew off a tree about 200 feet away from the camera. Harrison said there are two images on the tape of that bird, which experts believe -- based on a frame-by-frame analysis -- is an ivory-billed woodpecker.

"I'll show the tape in Fairhope and people can make up their minds," Harrison said. "It's a big bird, but it's a much bigger swamp. It is amazing how big this bird is, yet can hide itself so well. It will always keep a tree between itself and you. It will always be on the opposite side of a tree from where you are. I think they are just wary."

Harrison, who lives in Alabama, said he holds out hope that the bird will be found in this state, perhaps in the

Mobile-Tensaw Delta, which he described as good habitat.

He said the birds likely have home ranges of about 13 square miles, making them even harder to locate.

"This bird is made for speed and long-distance flight. It would have no trouble flying those kinds of distances," Harrison said. "These birds just really love their solitude. It's not that they are fearful of man, they are just wary of man."


__._,_.___ || Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|11/19/06 at 22:21:52|richard_f|xx|0|86.131.103.11|
S.C. searcher believes ivory-billed is out there
By JOEY HOLLEMAN
Staff Writer
Matthew Moskwik believes ivory-billed woodpeckers still live in South Carolina.
He’d better, because it’s his job to coordinate a continuing search for the long-feared-extinct birds in the state.

A partnership of federal agencies and The Nature Conservancy hired the 27-year-old Moskwik in October to ride herd on the South Carolina effort to find the woodpeckers.

“I believe that the bird is still alive and well and exists somewhere,” Moskwik said.

It’s like if a child doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, the jolly elf won’t bring presents. If you don’t have faith the ivory-billed is out there, you won’t find it.

Moskwik joked with friends about that when he got the job, but at least he has scientific basis for his faith in the ivory-billed. Birders in Arkansas captured grainy video of what some experts believe was an ivory-billed in 2004.

That bird did appear to have the white feathers on the trailing edge of the wings and the black forehead that sets the ivory-billed apart from its smaller cousin, the pileated woodpecker.

But doubters wonder why wide-scale searches in that area since then haven’t found the bird.

Before the Arkansas sighting, the last verifiable sightings of ivory-billeds were in the 1940s. Since the Arkansas find, a team led by Auburn professor Geoffrey Hill has reported numerous sightings of the birds in the Choctawhatchee River area of Florida, but Hill’s team has yet to land the holy grail — a clear photograph or video.

Some of the last verified sightings of the large woodpeckers were in South Carolina in the Santee Swamp in the 1930s. The mature bottomland forests of Congaree National Park, the remaining portion of the Santee Swamp and portions of the coastal Francis Marion National Forest are ideal habitats for the birds, which nest in large hardwoods.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service started searching for ivory-billeds at Congaree National Park last spring after getting a $75,000 grant. Volunteers located many of the large, irregular nest cavities and odd tree scrapes typical of ivory-billeds, but there were no verified sightings of the birds themselves, said Jennifer Koches, spokeswoman for the federal agency.

“What we did find leads us to believe that we need to be out there intensively looking,” Koches said.

The Fish & Wildlife Service combined the money left over from last year’s search with contributions from the U.S. Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy to hire Moskwik. While the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has an ivory-billed coordinator for the Southeast, Moskwik is the first to be hired for an individual state, Koches said.

On the job less than three weeks, Moskwik has reviewed last year’s search data. Now he’s plotting a game plan for 2007 and recruiting volunteers. A large part of his job will be tracking data and checking on all realistic reports.

Avid birders from throughout the world showed up at Congaree National Park this year, but Moskwik will be competing for searchers with similar ivory-billed projects in Arkansas, Florida and Louisiana. He can’t wait.

“This is cutting-edge ecology. No matter what the outcome, it’s great to be involved.”

Reach Holleman at (803) 771-8366.


__._,_.___ || Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|12/17/06 at 14:27:33|richard_f|xx|0|81.152.72.27|"Elvis" Woodpecker Could Rebound Near Florida River, Expert Says

Richard A. Lovett
National Geographic News
December 15, 2006

Among U.S. birders, one of the dream sightings is a giant, black-and-white bird with a distinctive red crest called the ivory-billed woodpecker.

For the past 50 years many bird experts believed the creature to be extinct. But recent sightings in Arkansas and western Florida have tantalized biologists with the thought that a few might have survived.

The sightings are frustratingly uncertain, but if even a few birds are still out there, the species might have a fighting chance of making a comeback along Florida's Suwannee River (interactive Suwannee map).

"[The Suwannee] is the heart of where the birds were once abundant," said Jerome Jackson, a biologist at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. "That really was the homeland for ivory-bills."

Jackson has been on the hunt for ivory-billed woodpeckers throughout the southeastern U.S., including the Suwannee region.

In a book chronicling his as-yet unsuccessful effor to find difinitive proof, Jackson notes that the bird's 30-inch (75-centimeter) wingspan and dramatic plumage led people to dub the creature the "Lord God Bird."

That's probably because people who saw the bird in its heyday, he said, would exclaim "Lord God, what a bird!"

Last Stand

Ivory-billed woodpeckers depended on dense old-growth forests with aging trees to supply them with their prime food source—large beetles.

"They were specialists in these big beetles," said Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society, who is based in Washington, D.C.

But heavy logging in the late 19th and early 20th centuries devastated the birds' habitat.

The Suwannee region may have been where the species made its last substantial stand.

There were once so many woodpeckers there, book author Jackson said, that about half of the 400 specimens now in museums were collected in the vicinity.

Geoffrey Hill, a biologist at Auburn University in Alabama, thinks specimen hunting was the final straw that caused the bird to effectively vanish.

"Some people say the shooting was of little consequence," he said. "But I think the shooters were the death knell in many areas."

Not that Hill thinks the bird is extinct. He reported a May 2005 sighting on the Choctawhatchee River of Florida's panhandle in September.

If a few birds do survive, they may be poised for a comeback. The forests have been regrowing for 50 or 60 years, opening the door for ivory-bills to repopulate their old range.

And the Suwannee is a prime location for a boom, as long as the river region can withstand the latest threat: real estate development.

"If we have any hope for ivory-bills in the area, we've got to find them now and get the habitat protected," Jackson, of Florida Gulf Coast University, said.

"It's not going to be there in 20 years. It might not be there in 10 years."

Icon for Forest Protection

According to Jackson, if any birds did survive, it is probably because they were protected by the hunting culture of the South.

"Large forest areas have been preserved as places to hunt," he said. "I think those are places where the ivory-bill might still exist."

Just as the birds can coexist with deer and turkey hunters, they should also be able to coexist with tourists visiting the Suwannee River.

"If the bird is there and the habitat is protected, I think the bird will do fine," Jackson said. "I don't think people in kayaks or canoes or hiking are going to make a lot of difference."

Butcher, of the Audubon Society, agrees, saying that "there's no reason to suspect that they'd be more disturbed by hunters, boaters, or birdwatchers than any other bird would be."

David Sibley, author and illustrator of the Sibley Guide to Birds, fears that the recent sightings will prove to be just "wishful thinking."

(Read a related feature on the search for the ivory-bill and the debate over its current existence.)

But he thinks that habitat preservation of the birds' range is still important.

"The river systems of North Florida are home to hundreds of species and have tremdendous value as natural habiat," Sibley said by email. "And if the ivory-billed is there, it will continue to benefit" as well.

According to Jackson, "reports of ivory-billed woodpeckers in Arkansas and now the panhandle of Florida give us hope.

"But hope is not proof. It's the fire that incites us to seek the truth," he said.

"Whether or not there are ivory-bills out there, we have the opportunity to protect what remains of old-growth bottomland forests.

"Those forests are ribbons of life that provide highways for migrant birds that deliver songs to backyards across eastern North America."

The habitat is also important for black bears, recreation, and water quality.

"The ivory-bill is the icon," Jackson said, "but all of these other things would benefit as well."

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/12/061215-woodpecker.html
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|01/10/07 at 14:19:00|richard_f|xx|0|86.131.94.192|Arkansas Men Claim to See Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Kip Davis and Jay Robison saw what they believed was an
ivory-billed woodpecker on Thursday, one of thousands of reported sightings
piling up as leaves in an east Arkansas swamp drift down.

On the typical day, someone somewhere reports that they've seen the rare
bird, believed extinct until a Hot Springs kayaker said he spotted one along
the Cache River near Brinkley in 2004.

Davis, the city planner for McCrory, and Robison, who works for the Arkansas
Department of Economic Development, said Friday they were driving near
Cotton Plant when a female ivory-billed swooped in the sky behind an
oncoming truck.

"I saw something come off the tree, like the truck has spooked it," Davis
said in a telephone interview from his office in McCrory. "It came by again
and it had its wing span out and it just kind of glided back into the woods,
and I said 'Is that what I think it is?'"

Davis, who has attended workshops about identifying an ivory-billed
woodpecker, said he and Robison believe it was a female because the bird had
a black head and body with white wing-tipped feathers, but no red. The male
ivory-billed has a red crest.

Connie Bruce, a spokeswoman for Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology,
which is researching the possible re-appearance of the ivory-billed
woodpecker, said the search continues despite no evidence being turned up
last winter.

"The search is on," Bruce said. "This is very important to us. We all want
to locate this bird."

Two years ago, Cornell researchers said the bird was spotted in the swamps
of eastern Arkansas. They released recordings and a grainy video after
searching for the bird in the Cache River Wildlife Management Area. The
video, however, was deemed inconclusive.

In September, ornithologists at Auburn University in Alabama and Windsor
University in Ontario published a report in Canada's online journal Avian
Conservation and Ecology, claiming an ivory-billed may live along the
Choctawhatchee River in the Florida panhandle.

The report came after researchers documented 14 sightings and extensive
sound recordings of the bird.

But those reports didn't change the findings in Arkansas, and Bruce said
they are encouraging anyone who thinks they've seen the bird to report the
sighting.

"We get thousands of sightings ... and we're pleased that the public is
interested and actively involved and that they do call us and advise us of
these sightings," Bruce said. "It's a tremendous help."

Davis said he and Robison reported their sightings to the Cache River
National Wildlife Refuge where they made sketches of the bird they saw and
provided a statement detailing where the bird was seen. They also took
photos of a tree they on which the bird perched on before it flew away,
Davis said.

Robison, who said he has done independent research on the bird since its
rediscovery, said they found holes on the tree consistent with what the
ivory-billed would make. Robison said the holes were elongated and the bark
had been chipped off around the holes, as well.

Though it remains to be seen whether Davis and Robison's sighting will send
researchers flocking to the immediate area and specific tree, ivory-billed
woodpecker volunteer search teams will return to Arkansas in January 2007,
Bruce said.

Davis said the two are still shocked and excited by their possible sighting
while doing other work in the area.

"It was just chance," Davis said. "What are the chances of this happening?



|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|01/10/07 at 14:47:37|richard_f|xx|0|86.131.94.192|Ivory-Bill's Could Recover

There is an interesting National Geographic article on Ivory-Bill's, particularly focusing on the Suwanee river area. Some quotes:

"The Suwannee region may have been where the species made its last substantial stand.
"There were once so many woodpeckers there, book author Jackson said, that about half of the 400 specimens now in museums were collected in the vicinity." ...
"If a few birds do survive, they may be poised for a comeback. The forests have been regrowing for 50 or 60 years, opening the door for ivory-bills to repopulate their old range.
"And the Suwannee is a prime location for a boom, as long as the river region can withstand the latest threat: real estate development."

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|02/18/07 at 17:14:48|richard_f|xx|0|86.131.86.25|Robotic cameras join search for 'Holy Grail of bird-watching'

17-Feb-2007

Berkeley -- In the bayous of eastern Arkansas, amidst ancient trees both living and dead that provide nourishment to creatures of the swamp, hangs a high-tech sentinel patiently waiting to capture video of an elusive bird once thought to be extinct.

Developed by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Texas A&M University, the high-resolution intelligent robotic video system installed in the Bayou DeView area of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas is part of a major effort to locate the ivory-billed woodpecker in its historic habitat, the bottomland forests of the southeast United States.

If the researchers obtain conclusive photographic evidence of the woodpecker, it will settle a debate that has become heated in recent years and fascinated millions of people around the world, from bird-watchers and environmentalists to Arkansas farmers and duck hunters.

In the meantime, the new robotic video system provides detailed video sequences of other birds, suggesting a new high-tech approach to doing field biology work.

Ken Goldberg, a UC Berkeley professor of industrial engineering and operations research, and of electrical engineering and computer sciences, will present initial samples from this video system on Saturday, Feb. 17, at a news briefing on the future of robotics at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco.

The robotic video system is part of a new project, called Collaborative Observatories for Natural Environments (CONE) and funded by the National Science Foundation, to develop automated systems that can observe and record detailed natural behavior in remote settings. Goldberg and his former graduate student, Dezhen Song, now an assistant professor of computer science at Texas A&M, are co-principal investigators of the project.

In the early stages of the video system's development, Goldberg worked with Robert Full, professor of integrative biology and director of the Poly-PEDAL (Performance, Energetics, Dynamics, Animal Locomotion) Laboratory at UC Berkeley. "We call it COLABCAM for collaborative lab camera, and it is meant to show experiments in progress on animals to our robot collaborators," said Full, who will join Goldberg at the AAAS robotics briefing. Full will be presenting his work on bio-inspired robots.

"What Goldberg has now done is take this lab camera into the field," said Full.

Goldberg and Song recently teamed up with researchers from the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University to help look for the ivory-billed woodpecker, also reverently referred to as the "Lord God bird" or the "Holy Grail of bird-watching." The search throughout the Southeast is being led by U.S. Fish & Wildlife and in the Cache River Refuges of Arkansas by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The bird, standing 18 to 20 inches tall with a wingspan of 30 to 31 inches, was considered the largest woodpecker north of Mexico when it vanished more than six decades ago. It feasts on beetle larvae that inhabit the dead or dying trees of the bottomland wilderness - or what remains of it - in the southeast United States.

It had been feared extinct for decades until sightings in recent years revived hopes of the species' survival. However, most eyewitness observations of the woodpecker were made while the bird was flying through dense forests, making it difficult to obtain photographic evidence of the sightings. Yet, in 2004, biologists made national news headlines when they captured a few seconds of video of what appears to be an ivory-billed woodpecker.

But those sightings also generated their share of controversy, with skeptics claiming that the fuzzy image in the video, taken by David Luneau, associate professor of electronics at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, actually depicted a common look-alike bird, the pileated woodpecker.

Hopes that the ivory-billed woodpecker survived extinction were renewed last September along the Florida Panhandle when another team of scientists from Auburn and Windsor universities reported sightings and retrieved a number of audio recordings of the bird's distinctive double knock. Still, none of the evidence to date has provided the definitive proof of the bird's existence that skeptics demand.

"A single photographic frame would have to clearly show the unique markings of the ivory-billed woodpecker," said Goldberg. "Much better would be a high-resolution video clip that would also capture its unique wing and flight patterns."

The researchers note that simply pointing video cameras at the sky and recording is not practical, as the images would quickly fill up the computer's hard drive. The challenge, they say, is for the software to automatically recognize when animals are present. "Passive infrared (PIR) motion sensors are sometimes used in wildlife research," said Goldberg, who has pioneered networked teleoperation systems for more than a decade. "The problem is that PIR sensors look for heat and are not triggered by birds flying overhead. So we're developing a robotic system that analyzes high resolution video in real time."

In February 2006, the Cornell researchers took Goldberg and Song out to the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge to scout out potential locations for placing the remote cameras. Because no one knows exactly where the bird might appear, the cameras must cover a relatively wide swath of sky.

They settled upon a power line that cuts through the bayou and provides a 50-foot-wide clearing unobstructed by trees.

"It's a natural bottleneck in the forest, and birds passing through that corridor are relatively easy to spot because they expose themselves," said Ron Rohrbaugh, project director at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "At this location, we should have the highest probability of capturing an image of the ivory-billed woodpecker."

With the generous help of the Arkansas Electric Cooperative, a 69 kilovolt transformer was erected for the project that provides both a power source and a post to mount the equipment. The researchers decided against solar and battery cells because they would not provide a reliable enough power source.

The two cameras - one pointing east and the other west - are connected to a computer that processes the data. Waterproof gear helps protect the equipment from the elements, including rain and wind, and even from occasional bird droppings.

The researchers created software that keeps video files only when potential "bird flight" movement is sensed.

The software is based on new algorithms that can handle the unpredictable conditions of a natural environment, filtering out false readings from clouds, water reflections and falling leaves. "The program knows, for instance, that the ivory-billed woodpecker flies 20 to 40 miles per hour, so anything outside that range is deleted," said Song, who worked with Ni Qin, a computer science Ph.D. student at Texas A&M, on the software.

"The high-resolution camera we have shoots at 22 frames per second, with approximately 2 to 3 megapixels per frame," said Song. "That's a huge amount of data that must be managed."

Collecting the video data involves a decidedly low-tech approach: Luneau takes a boat out to the site every two weeks to change the disk.

Not only is Luneau skilled with computer equipment, he is an avid bird-watcher and a leading member of the ivory-billed woodpecker search team in Arkansas. He does an initial screening of the images from the hard drive, and then sends the data to researchers at Cornell, Texas A&M and UC Berkeley.

And what if a high-quality image of the ivory-billed woodpecker is captured? "If something really interesting is in the frame, Cornell makes the call (on the identity of the bird)," said Song.

Rohrbaugh pointed out the benefits of using an autonomous camera. "There are other ways of searching for the ivory-billed woodpecker, but those ways usually involve a human positioned in the forest for a very long time," he said. "Humans are expensive, and they're not always alert, and their simple presence is a disturbance to the environment, even when they're camouflaged and sitting quietly. Remote systems that can serve as our eyes and ears are a big advantage."

Song also noted that using the camera extends the search season to the entire year.

"Usually people do this type of bird-watching in the winter because there are fewer leaves, making it easier to spot the woodpecker," Song said. "Also, in the summer, the temperature is hot, it's swampy, and there are mosquitoes and snakes to deal with. Our system can run the whole year, and it is not bothered by mosquitoes."

The researchers are continuing to fine tune the system and algorithms while combing carefully through each new set of video that is collected.

"I'm a person who's been in the outdoors all my life, and I'm trained as a wildlife biologist," said Rohrbaugh. "Certainly going into this I had a lot of skepticism about the usefulness of this robotic camera. But now there's hope that by using this camera, we can get a hi-res image that is an indisputable piece of evidence that the ivory-billed woodpecker is living in Arkansas."

However, the researchers also acknowledge the possibility that the robotic cameras may never capture definitive footage of the famed woodpecker.

"I'm hopeful, but not overconfident," Goldberg said. "We're willing to run this camera for years, and we're prepared to accept it if we never see the bird. But if this persistent robot out on the bayou manages to capture verifiable high-resolution images of the legendary ivory-bill, it would be a major discovery for scientists, for conservationists and for more than 45 million American bird-watchers."

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-02/uoc--rcj021207.php
------

Computer scientists join in search for ivory-billed woodpecker
COLLEGE STATION — Computer scientists from Texas A&M University and the University of California, Berkeley, have installed a robot in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge to help natural scientists from Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission find the rare ivory-billed woodpecker.

The computer scientists — Dr. Dezhen Song, assistant professor in Texas A&M's Department of Computer Science, and Dr. Kenneth Y. Goldberg, professor in UC Berkeley's departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, and Industrial Engineering and Operations Research — developed the robot, Automated Collaborative Observatory for Natural Environments (ACONE), to scan the skies near Brinkley, Ark., for birds.

"If the system can catch any kind of bird, that's a success for us," Song said. "But if it catches an ivory-bill, that's a bonus."

With a grant from the National Science Foundation, Song and Goldberg programmed ACONE to distinguish birds from other objects and only record the birds with its two digital cameras, Arecont Vision's AV3100s.

"It's a fast, flying object," Song said. "And also, the shape of the object — the shape of the bird — isn't regular. It's deformable, and from the lighting conditions, it's very difficult to capture."

The robot stores images of the birds it has recorded in the hard disks of its computer, Logic Supply Inc.'s S-625F. The computer as well as the cameras are housed in weatherproof cases.

"If you put a normal computer out there, it wouldn't function very long because of the humidity and the rain," Song said.

The hard disks are removed routinely from the computer by birdwatcher M. David Luneau, associate professor in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Department of Engineering Technology. Luneau enlists fellow birdwatchers to scrutinize the images stored in the hard disks for a shot of the ivory-billed woodpecker.

In addition to Luneau, the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corp., Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Audubon Arkansas, Nature Conservancy in Arkansas, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Woodruff Electric Cooperative Corp. have volunteered to help Song and Goldberg install, maintain and power ACONE.

"You want to have these people help you," Song said. "Otherwise, you have a big problem."

Song and Goldberg took interest in the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker after Goldberg read an article about the search in The New York Times.

Goldberg contacted the co-leaders of the search from Cornell's Laboratory of Ornithology to volunteer systems he and Song were developing through their project, Collaborative Observatories for Natural Environments (CONE).

"Cornell's ornithology lab and Arkansas Game and Fish are crucial members of this team," Goldberg said. "They've been leading the search in Cache River and have a deep understanding of the bird and this environment."

Scott Henderson, director of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said he looks forward to continued cooperation among groups studying the ivory-billed woodpecker.

"It's exciting for this agency to be involved in cutting-edge technology as we continue to research and understand what can be done to improve the habitat for this bird," he said. "We're pleased to be working alongside our partners in this ambitious venture."

CONE purposes to help natural scientists observe animals — whether birds or mammals — in the animals' habitats. Song and Goldberg have developed robots to webcast images of animals from the animals' habitats to natural scientists' computers.

In addition to the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, they've installed one of their robots in the Richardson Bay Audubon Sanctuary in California. Song and Goldberg have considered sites in Alaska and Rwanda to observe polar bears and gorillas, respectively.

"Our goal is to use the emerging capabilities of computers and networks to better understand the natural world," Goldberg said. "It's very exciting to work with researchers in fields beyond engineering."

The ivory-billed woodpecker seemed to have disappeared sometime in the 1930s or 1940s. In 2004, it was reportedly spotted in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-02/tau-csj021407.php
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|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|03/06/07 at 10:31:03|richard_f|xx|0|86.147.98.33|MICHAEL GRACZYK
Associated Press
Fri, Feb. 23, 2007

BIG THICKET NATIONAL PRESERVE, Texas - Corinne Campbell stuffs her gear in waterproof sacks and then stuffs them and herself into a tiny circular cutout that marks the seat in her green kayak.

After taking a quick peek at the GPS unit clipped near her orange vest to make sure it is getting a satellite signal, she shoves off between large downed tree trunks. Then she propels her tiny needle-nose craft into a wide rain-swollen creek that wiggles through what's been called the biological crossroads of North America.

And so begins another daylong search for a giant bird that may not exist. In fact, it hasn't been seen in these parts for more than 100 years.

Campbell, 23, from Emmaus, Pa., and a pair of companions in similar kayaks are on a tedious winter-long canvass of Texas' famed Big Thicket, an often impenetrable jungle of swamps choked with thorny vines and prodigious pine and cedar trees, in pursuit of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

The bird, at 20 inches with a nearly three-foot wingspan, is the third-largest woodpecker in the world and the biggest woodpecker north of Mexico. It was thought to be extinct until a kayaker reported seeing an Ivory-billed along the Cache River in east-central Arkansas.

"There's a lot of doubters out there that this bird does exist," said Campbell, whose degree in conservation biology from Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pa., and passion for birds, led her to take a job here. "I believe it exists."

A more perplexing question is even if the bird lives here, will Campbell, her fellow searchers or anyone else see it in the Big Thicket?

"It's not called that for no reason," she said, referring to the almost 100,000 acres of swamps, bogs and forests in Southeast Texas about 100 miles northeast of Houston. "It's challenging, very challenging. I've never done anything as hard.

"I'd describe it as trying to climb through a cement wall."

The already difficult terrain was made even worse 18 months ago when Hurricane Rita downed thousands of trees that now litter the landscape. But that may be good for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, which feeds on beetle larvae that inhabit dying or recently dead trees.

The duck-sized bird, marked by black and white feathers and its namesake ivory-colored bill, has achieved a kind of exalted status among bird watchers and biologists.

The last East Texas sighting was more than a century ago - in 1904. But the Arkansas sighting has spawned interest across the South.

News of that sighting, along with a subsequent April 2004 video of the bird taken by a University of Arkansas-Little Rock biologist, "was the most exciting thing I've heard, and I've been interested in birds all my life," said John Arvin, research coordinator for the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in Lake Jackson, Texas.

Armed with a research grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arvin began the hunt in the Big Thicket last Nov. 1. It will continue through the next month when new leaf growth on trees will make looking for the elusive nomadic bird even more impossible.

"I'm hopeful, neither optimistic nor pessimistic," Arvin, 63, said. "I'm not 100 percent convinced. We may not have any, even though they may be somewhere else, Florida or Arkansas."

Other serious searches have been or are being made this winter in Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana under coordination of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which is supplying equipment to the efforts.

The last confirmed families of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers were in northeast Louisiana in 1944 in an area known as the Singer Tract, where wood from the Mississippi River bottomland forest was being used for shipping crates by the Singer sewing machine company. The World War II need for wooden ammunition boxes and coffins accelerated removal of trees and likely hastened the demise of the woodpecker colony, Arvin said.

"The last population was hanging on by a fingernail," he said.

No clear signs of the Ivory-billed have surfaced after several months of searching the Big Thicket and monitoring by electronic devices. Shoe-box size cameras belted to tree trunks are aimed at promising cavities carved out by woodpeckers or at areas where bark has been scaled off by birds in search of a beetle snack.

They've captured photos of squirrels and other birds, including a similar-looking but smaller Pileated Woodpecker, but no Ivory-bills.

Audio devices are deployed in other promising spots and Arvin every two weeks trudges for a mile, some of it in waist-deep water, to install new batteries and retrieve data to be shipped to the Cornell lab for review.

Jonathan Fredland, 24, is armed with a video camera and a small radio-like speaker that plays the sound of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker - recorded in 1935. It's a distinctive double knock on wood, followed by the bird's "kent" calls, so named because it sounds like the bird is saying, "kent, kent, kent."

"You walk, wait a period, sit down, let everything quiet down because you've been making a lot of noise," Fredland said. "Then you play it - double knock... Wait five minutes or so. Then play kent calls.

"Then you listen for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. I try to find a spot that's open, maybe by a pipeline, sit in the middle so you can see."

All the time, he's holding a video camera, listening for a like response or a rustling in the thick brush or tree canopy, and hoping not to lose a GPS unit or have the batteries expire. That could ensure getting lost in the wilderness.

So far, the team has disturbed some wild hogs, drew the attention of screeching hawks and spooked some deer. Campbell says she's spotted otters and beavers. Everyone's on the lookout for alligators and snakes, among the 50 reptile species, 186 bird species, 85 trees species, 60 shrubs and 1,000 other flowering plants that make the Big Thicket biologically unique.

The more common response has been from the Pileated Woodpecker, which often is confused with the larger Ivory-billed.

"There's woodpeckers out there for sure," Campbell said. "That's a good sign. Where there's one, there are others."

The goal is to get a definitive picture of the Ivory-billed. Confirmation of the bird's existence here would lure biologists from around the world.

"It would be huge. It would have quite an impact, that's for sure," Fredland said. "I imagine someone from Cornell or the federal government will come in and seal off the area. It'll be big business whatever it is. I don't imagine I'd be allowed anywhere near.

"I hope to have that problem."

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|03/06/07 at 11:04:10|richard_f|xx|0|86.147.98.33|Robots join search for ivory-billed woodpecker
POSTED: 11:35 a.m. EST, February 19, 2007


SAN FRANCISCO, California (Reuters) -- Deep in the bayous of eastern Arkansas, two robotic video cameras keep vigil for an elusive bird, aiming to capture conclusive evidence the ivory-billed woodpecker is not, as long feared, extinct.
Recent sightings have revived hope of the survival of the large and dramatically marked bird, with its characteristic white beak and red crest.

Now the search is on for proof -- something scientists hope the robot video cameras can provide.

The cameras are part of a new project funded by the National Science Foundation to create automated observatories that can capture natural behavior in remote settings.

"Our idea is that robots can be useful for advancing science," said University of California Berkeley professor Ken Goldberg, speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.

Goldberg and a colleague at Texas A&M University have joined forces with researchers at the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University to look for the bird in the Cache River Refuges of Arkansas, where a kayaker reported spotting it in 2004.

Recordings of what sounds like its distinctive hammering have also been made.

Before that, there had been no confirmed sightings of ivory-bills for half a century.

A few seconds of jerky video footage is the strongest evidence the bird is still alive, but some experts who have seen it say it could be showing a pileated woodpecker -- a similar-looking bird that is fairly common.

Standing nearly 20 inches tall with a wingspan of about 30 inches, the ivory-bill was thought to be the largest woodpecker in North America.

"The challenge is to develop software that can ... throw out anything that is not a bird image," Goldberg said.

Mounted on a power line and aimed toward the sky, the cameras are programmed to detect only "bird flight" movement, filtering out false readings from clouds and other objects.

"It still has a fairly high false positive rate," Goldberg said. "We get triggered by leaves blowing by," Goldberg said.

The cameras -- one pointing east and one pointing west -- are connected to a computer that processes the data. They shoot 22 frames per second with about two to three megapixels per frame, but keep only a tiny fraction of what they shoot.

Waterproof gear helps protect the equipment from rain and wind. To safeguard it from hunters in rowboats taking target practice, Goldberg considered bulletproofing, but settled instead on a sign warning of radioactive material.

"That seems to have worked," he said.

The system has been running for three months and so far has captured a flock of geese and an blue heron.

"It's a work in progress. We'll keep watching," he said.

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


||03/06/07 at 11:04:41|richard_f Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|03/16/07 at 12:55:45|richard_f|xx|0|77.99.227.157| Caught on tape: an ivory-billed imposter? Thu Mar 15, 8:30 AM ET



CHICAGO (Reuters) - Fresh analysis published on Thursday suggests that a fuzzy four-second video that revived hope the rare ivory-billed woodpecker had survived extinction may be nothing more than a case of mistaken identity.


Research published in the journal BMC Biology compares footage of the common pileated woodpecker with a now-famed video shot in 2004 by David Luneau in the swamps of Arkansas of what he believed to be an ivory-billed woodpecker.

Before that, there had been no confirmed sightings of ivory-bills for half a century.

Luneau's finding, which appeared in the journal Science in 2005, has been disputed by several bird experts. A new study by J. Martin Collinson of the University of Aberdeen in Britain raises even more questions.

The study compared Luneau's video with footage of the pileated woodpecker, a similar, large but common species that is also black and white with a dramatic red head.

Collinson analyzed the flight and plumage patterns of the bird in the Luneau video.

One argument had been that the pileated woodpecker's wings beat more slowly than the 8.6 beats per second captured in the Luneau video. But Collinson noted that the pileated's wings have been known to reach 8.6 beats in an escape flight.

He also asserts that the black edges of the pileated woodpecker's distinctive trailing wings show up in Luneau's video as the wings stroke downward. The trailing edges of the ivory-billed woodpecker's wings are white.

Based on these observations, he thinks the ivory-billed woodpecker's survival remains unproven.

||03/16/07 at 12:56:14|richard_f Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|03/20/07 at 18:15:06|richard_f|xx|0|86.147.98.33|As many of you undoubtedly know, a short video of what might be an ivory-billed woodpecker was captured in 2004 in an Arkansas swamp. However, further analysis casts more doubt as to the identity of the bird in the footage: the videoed bird appears to flap its wings at 8.6 times per second -- the rate of a pileated woodpecker, Dryocopus pileatus. Additionally, Martin Collinson from Aberdeen University, UK, has re-analyzed the footage and says the bird in the pictures appears to have black trailing wing edges rather than the unique white features associated with the ivory-billed woodpecker, Campephilus principalis (pictured, right).


"A poor quality video of pileated woodpeckers can look like ivory-billed woodpeckers -- and in that respect it can catch an observer out; and a mistake can be made. And in this case, I think a mistake has been made," said Collinson. As I and many others, including Collinson, have asserted, the Ivory-Billed woodpecker's large size and distinctive plumage would surely have given it away by now in the many follow-up surveys.

"The ivory-billed woodpecker isn't some small brown bird that can only be identified by one in a thousand; it's an enormous black and white bird with a red head," argued Collinson. Granted, these swamps are pretty remote, but there are hundreds of people there, right now, looking for the ivory-billed woodpecker. Eventually these birds would be sighted.

Researchers still hope that one of the many robot bird-watchers may record the elusive bird on film.

"I am happy to be proved wrong; a good photo would end this debate," said Collinson.

I agree wholeheartedly: I would be thrilled to be proven wrong.


|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|04/02/07 at 12:50:39|richard_f|xx|0|81.152.72.119|Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Sought in Texas
By MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press Writer




(AP) -- Corinne Campbell stuffs her gear in waterproof sacks and stuffs them and herself into a tiny circular cutout that marks the seat in her green kayak. With a clear signal from the GPS unit clipped near her orange vest, she shoves off between large downed tree trunks. Then she propels her tiny needle-nose craft into a wide rain-swollen creek that wiggles through what's been called the biological crossroads of North America. And so begins another daylong search for a giant bird that may not exist.

Campbell and a pair of companions in similar kayaks have been on a tedious winter-long canvass of Texas' famed Big Thicket, an often impenetrable jungle of swamps choked with thorny vines and prodigious pine and cedar trees, in pursuit of the ivory-billed woodpecker.

The bird, at 20 inches with a nearly three-foot wingspan, is the third-largest woodpecker in the world and the biggest woodpecker north of Mexico.

The first sighting in generations was made by Gene Sparling in Arkansas on Feb. 11, 2004, and has spawned interest across the South. Biologists converged on the Arkansas bayou area of the sighting and subsequently captured a 4-second video of what they said was an ivory-billed. Just this month, however, a Scottish scientist, in a British biology journal article, said identification of the bird from the video couldn't be certain.

The last East Texas sighting of an ivory-billed was more than a century ago - in 1904.

"There's a lot of doubters out there that this bird does exist," said Campbell, from Emmaus, Pa. "I believe it exists."

A more perplexing question is even if the bird lives here, will Campbell, her fellow searchers or anyone else see it in the Big Thicket, which is almost 100,000 acres of swamps, bogs and forests in Southeast Texas about 100 miles northeast of Houston.

"It's challenging, very challenging," Campbell said. "I'd describe it as trying to climb through a cement wall."

The already difficult terrain was made even worse 18 months ago when Hurricane Rita knocked over thousands of trees that now litter the landscape. But that may be good for the ivory-billed woodpecker, which feeds on beetle larvae that inhabit dying or recently dead trees.

The duck-sized bird, marked by black and white feathers and its namesake ivory-colored bill, has achieved a kind of exalted status among bird watchers and biologists.

Helped by a research grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the hunt began Nov. 1 in the Big Thicket. It has continued through this month even as new leaf growth on trees has made looking for the elusive nomadic bird even more impossible.

"I'm hopeful, neither optimistic nor pessimistic," said John Arvin, a research coordinator for the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory in Lake Jackson, Texas. "I'm not 100 percent convinced. We may not have any (ivory-bills), even though they may be somewhere else, Florida or Arkansas."

The Fish and Wildlife Service is also coordinating searches in South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana with assistance from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which is supplying equipment to the efforts.

The last confirmed families of ivory-billed woodpeckers were in northeast Louisiana in 1944 in an area known as the Singer Tract, where wood from the Mississippi River bottomland forest was being used for shipping crates by the Singer sewing machine company. The World War II need for wooden ammunition boxes and coffins accelerated removal of trees and likely hastened the demise of the woodpecker colony, Arvin said.

No clear signs of the ivory-billed have surfaced after several months of searching the Big Thicket and monitoring by electronic devices. Shoe-box size cameras belted to tree trunks are aimed at promising cavities carved out by woodpeckers or at areas where bark has been scaled off by birds in search of a beetle snack.

They've captured photos of squirrels and other birds, but no ivory-bills.

Audio devices are deployed in other promising spots and Arvin every two weeks trudges for a mile, some of it in waist-deep water, to install new batteries and retrieve data to be shipped to the Cornell lab for review.

Jonathan Fredland is armed with a video camera and a small radio-like speaker that plays the sound of an ivory-billed woodpecker - recorded in 1935. It's a distinctive double knock on wood, followed by the bird's "kent" calls, so named because it sounds like the bird is saying, "kent, kent, kent."

"You walk, wait a period, sit down, let everything quiet down because you've been making a lot of noise," Fredland said. "Then you play it - double knock... Wait five minutes or so. Then play kent calls.

"Then you listen for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. I try to find a spot that's open, maybe by a pipeline, sit in the middle so you can see."

All the while he's holding a video camera, listening for a like response or a rustling in the thick brush or tree canopy, and hoping not to lose a GPS unit or have the batteries expire. That could ensure getting lost in the wilderness.

Confirmation of the bird's existence here would lure biologists from around the world.

"I imagine someone from Cornell or the federal government will come in and seal off the area," Fredland said. "I don't imagine I'd be allowed anywhere near. I hope to have that problem."
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|04/18/07 at 12:21:52|richard_f|xx|0|81.151.14.125|Ivory-billed woodpecker: The Elvis of the swamps

Kevin Spear | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted April 8, 2007


PONCE DE LEON -- A small band of searchers rousts itself each morning from a secret camp deep in the woods of a forgotten northwest Florida swamp.

They have endured freezing nights, foul drinking water, long stints without showers and an outhouse with only one wall, all in a search for a ghostly creature that may not even exist. They are on a quest to find and photograph an ivory-billed woodpecker to show the world the bird is not extinct.

They have invited me along for a two-day glimpse into a mission that is as inspiring as it is mundane.

In the past few years, bird experts in the Southeastern United States have collected sightings, recordings and fuzzy video images. The latest evidence comes from Florida along the Choctawhatchee River. But no one has the ultimate proof: a clear photo.

No doubt such a find would bring fame to this assembly of highly trained birding experts mostly from universities. But more thrilling is the chance of discovering one of the nation's most majestic birds was not wiped out by logging and suburban sprawl. They are now in the fourth month of a second fall-through-spring season.

During my visit, their daily outing began with a hushed shout minutes after 5 a.m.

"Rusty, get up."

Camp boss Rusty Ligon, 23, was on his feet in minutes, stuffing recharged batteries into his global-positioning device and video camera. Jean Olbert, 24, having rousted everybody, donned camouflage.

The encampment, hidden in a thick stand of trees that blotted out stars, was as dark and still as a cave. And it was rudely chilly. One by one, pinpoints of light came on inside tents.

Others in the crew appeared out of the forest. They mumbled "Morning" but little else. Some wore headlamps as third eyes. Each glanced at aerial photos of search zones; slapped cold cuts, bread and other foodstuffs into knapsacks; and followed flashlight beams to where the only human tracks were their own.

Soon seated in a kayak, Ligon slid backward into the muddy "Choc" River. Olbert launched next. In a few paddle strokes, they vanished into a thin blanket of river fog.

Hard-to-find treasure

Ivory-billed woodpeckers are as big as ducks and are virtual flying chain saws that can strip off great slabs of tree bark in search of juicy grubs.

Their feathers are patchworks of blue-black and brilliant white. They are called the "Lord God Bird." That's what people exclaimed when one rocketed through swamp canopy.

But the world's second-largest woodpecker faded toward oblivion in the early 1900s with the clear-cutting of its virgin forest habitat. Since then, ivory-billeds have been akin to Elvis. Reports of unexpected appearances are sprinkled across the decades. A new wave of fascination with the birds began to peak this century.

Compelled by a possible sighting, an army of biologists combed Louisiana woods in 2002. They went home disappointed.

Sensational news came in 2005. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology announced rediscovery of ivory-billeds in Arkansas. Among key evidence was a brief video of a bird in flight.

But since then, Cornell has been stung repeatedly by criticism the video may show a smaller, near-lookalike pileated woodpecker.

Amid that controversy, Auburn University professor Geoffrey Hill cautiously revealed last year he's certain the bird inhabits Florida's Panhandle not far from the Interstate 10 town of Ponce de Leon.

Hill had amassed sound recordings, findings of fresh tree cavities big enough for an ivory-billed nest and his own blurry video of a bird in flight. What he wants now is the indisputable glamour photo. "I know it's there," said Hill, who recently published a book about the woodpecker. "I've seen it twice."

"I think it is the most secretive, hard-to-see bird in the world. They are virtually silent, almost unlike any other bird. It's got very good eyes and ears. I think when any of us come near, it hitches around to the other side of the tree and flies away."

It's a tantalizing thought. Perhaps by their extreme shyness, ivory-billeds have survived in lost enclaves of formidable swamps.

Down to the river

Muddy-yellow currents of the Choctawhatchee River gather in Alabama, cross the Florida Panhandle and dump into the Gulf of Mexico. The main channel is an endless curlicue woven with islands and side channels.

Even with detailed directions, you could pass Hill's camp and not see it.

So I met Ligon, a graduate biology student, down river on a March morning. He led the way, idling patiently in his hot-rod kayak while I thrashed at swift water in my fat-bottom canoe.

Along was George Skene, a Sentinel photographer who specializes in environmental stories. And I invited Eva Armstrong, head of Florida's Division of State Lands under former Gov. Jeb Bush. She directed purchase of thousands of acres for preservation. She's also a former Audubon official who knows lots of birds by their song.

We dragged our canoes up a steep bank into underbrush and looked around at a hump of thickly wooded, high ground.

Vague trails, more like wildlife tracks, slithered toward about a dozen individual tents almost hidden by brush and limbs.

The common area, resembling a yard sale of gear, food stores and folding chairs, was sheltered partly by plastic sheeting roped to trees. A sparingly used generator, a good one that snored rather than roared, charged batteries.

Campers mostly managed their own meals, but drinking water was shared -- when it was potable.

Last year, the area was ground zero for ivory-billed sightings and sounds. This year has brought little.

Seated around a pit of campfire ash, we got to know our hosts -- and their disappointments.

Brent Campos, 23, is a likable, soft-spoken team member.

One day, he heard what he thought was an ivory-billed's call, which sounds something like a blast on a toy horn. Looking up, he saw two silhouettes in a gliding, shallow dive.

Campos described how, because it had been raining, he tucked his video camera in his kayak to keep it dry. Thrill turned to gut-punch. He might have become one of the best-known birders of modern times.

"I could hear the calls getting farther and farther," Campos said, smiling in a way that revealed deep regret. Out of respect for his disappointment, we stayed quiet for a few minutes.

We had wanted to prowl into the woods alongside the searchers, who spend up to 12 hours a day looking into the trees and skies, listening intently for the distinctive double-tap sound it makes when it taps trees. They sit on logs and drift in kayaks, and they work alone so they aren't tempted to talk. So we knew we would only ruin their stealthy stalking and went off on our own.

What may come

Having no expectation of uttering "Lord, God," we looked for signs of their existence. But whatever moved in the sky drew my attention: bees in blossoms, vultures in the distance, pairs of squirrels in full chase.

When a pileated woodpecker landed on a limb 50 yards away, it got our full scrutiny. There are telltale differences, including flight, feather and feeding patterns. But at a distance, they seemed like tantalizing impostors.

I wondered how the researchers kept their spirits up after so many days of visual distraction and empty searching.

Ligon, it seemed, had a surplus of optimism -- Army hooah, in biologist fashion, about carrying out the mission. Then there was John Puschock, 37, dour-faced as a veteran street cop, whose trademark pessimism brought comic relief to other team members.

"I've spent 10 months doing this and have not seen much that impresses me," said Puschock, 37, who also searched in Arkansas and by far has the most birding experience among the crew.

"I have to take everything on faith, and it's discouraging," he said.

Later, I called his wife, a whale biologist in California.

"He doesn't like to get his hopes up and jinx his chances," she said. "But if anybody is going to get a picture, I think he will."

I have no idea what time I burrowed into my tent. But I was awake before the "Rusty, get up" call. By then I realized I was encouraged by how much hope there was that the Choc woods had potential to harbor the bird, even if none was found.

To me, the woodpeckers -- more than panthers, bears or eagles -- are the icon of the pure, unaltered wilderness Florida once had. Swampland along the Choc isn't like Mother Nature first made it. Virgin forest is gone. But it's wild, remote, vast and publicly owned in many areas.

If this almost mystical bird lives in those woods, there's a good chance it will survive there long into the future, Hill said.

A short while after Ligon and Olbert steered their kayaks into the mist, Puschock arrived. I told him I appreciated that after all these disappointing months, the crew still seemed relatively upbeat.

"Yeah," said Puschock, with deadpan on his unshaven face, "it's really annoying."

With a stroke of his paddle, he vanished as well.

Kevin Spear can be reached at 407-420-5062 or kspear@orlandosentinel.com.
Kevin Spear can be reached at 407-420-5062 or kspear@orlandosentinel.com.


|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|08/03/07 at 14:15:32|richard_f|xx|0|86.142.246.170|Ivory-billed Woodpecker Search Team to Present Findings, Celebrate
Conservation Efforts
'Hope Takes Flight' Event Set for Nov.4

Atlanta-The power of conservation will be celebrated as The Nature
Conservancy presents the behind-the-scenes story of the rediscovery of the
ivory-billed woodpecker at its "Hope Takes Flight" luncheon on Friday,
November 4.
Long-time Nature Conservancy member President Jimmy Carter, honorary chair
of the event, will present remarks by video.
Long-thought extinct, the ivory-billed woodpecker was recently rediscovered
in the Big Woods region of northeastern Arkansas some 60 years after in was
last sighted. As the Search Team prepares to reignite its investigation for
the bird in late November, two key members of the team will be in Atlanta to
present a detailed account of their findings.
"This was a landmark rediscovery," said Scott Simon, state director of The
Nature Conservancy in Arkansas and key strategist for the protection of the
ivory-billed woodpecker's habitat. "Finding the ivory-bill in Arkansas
validates decades of great conservation work and represents an incredible
story of hope for the future. We look forward to the Search Team's findings
and its next steps."
The event will feature a detailed account and video footage of the discovery
from Gene Sparling, a naturalist and entrepreneur, who first spotted the
bird while kayaking along that Cache River. In addition, Simon will detail
conservation efforts critical to the ivory-bill's survival.
More than 20 years ago, The Nature Conservancy and its partners began work
to protect the bird's habitat in a 550,000-acre corridor of Arkansas
floodplain forests. And, in Georgia, The Nature Conservancy has helped
protect more than 220,000 acres of native habitat throughout the state,
including more than 79,000 acres in the Altamaha River watershed - the last
remaining habitat in Georgia suitable for the ivory-billed woodpecker. The
old growth floodplain forests of the Altamaha and Savannah rivers and the
primitive wetland of the Okefenokee Swamp were once home to the bird, last
sighted there in the 1930s.
About the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker
The largest woodpecker in North America, the ivory-billed woodpecker is
known through lore as a bird of beauty and indomitable spirit. The species
vanished after extensive clearing destroyed millions of acres of virgin
forest throughout the South between the 1880s and mid-1940s. Although the
majestic bird has been sought for decades, until now there was no firm
evidence that it still existed. The elusive woodpecker became know as the
"Lord God Bird" as it elicited gasps of "Lord, God, what a bird."
The Search Team's findings include multiple sightings of the elusive
woodpecker, frame-by-frame analyses of brief video footage and possible
audio recordings of the bird's distinctive double-rap drumming display. The
evidence was gathered during an intensive year-long search involving more
than 50 experts and field biologists working together as part of the Big
Woods Conservation Partnership, led by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
at Cornell University and The Nature Conservancy.



__._,_.___ || Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|08/24/07 at 11:01:28|richard_f|xx|0|81.152.72.125|Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Plan Released for Public Comment

WASHINGTON, DC, August 22, 2007 (ENS) - In an attempt to prevent the extinction of the rare Ivory-billed woodpecker, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued a draft recovery plan for public comment during the next 60 days.

Evidence supporting the Ivory-billed woodpecker's rediscovery with the presence of at least one bird in the Bayou de View area of Cache River National Wildlife Refuge was announced in 2004 and 2005. Before that sighting, there had been no confirmed sighting of an Ivory-billed woodpecker in more than 60 years.

While the woodpecker's existence has not been confirmed since, evidence continues to be gathered in Arkansas, Florida's panhandle, South Carolina, and other locations across the bird's historic range.

Rediscovery of the species led to the need to develop a recovery plan, says the Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency says it gathered "one of the most talented recovery teams" it has ever assembled to write the first recovery plan crafted for this species.

"Given the evidence pointing to its survival, we believe it would be irresponsible not to act. That's why we established this recovery team with some of the nation's best biologists to help us chart a reasonable, well founded path to save this species," said Sam Hamilton, regional director for the Service's Southeast Region and leader of the recovery team.

Since 1967, the Ivory-billed woodpecker has been federally listed as an endangered species.

The species appeared to be widely distributed throughout the southeast before European settlement. At that time, Ivory-billed woodpeckers ranged from the coastal plain of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, large portions of Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, Louisiana, eastern Texas, west Tennessee, and small areas of Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Missouri.

The range became smaller by the late 1800s and the woodpecker was no longer found in Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois or Kentucky. Ivory-billed woodpecker numbers continued to decline until the last confirmed sighting in 1944.

Hamilton says the woodpecker's disappearance is closely linked to logging and the disappearance of forest habitats that once covered much of the southeastern United States.

The recovery strategy will initially focus on learning more about the species' status and ecology, including documenting known locations and characterizing those habitats. Population goals are not identified, although such goals are key to recovery.

"The opportunity to recover this icon of the ornithological world cannot and should not be passed over," said Hamilton. "We want to encourage interested citizens, agencies and conservation organizations to participate in the comment period. The diverse team developed a balanced, common sense approach and we look forward to receiving feedback that makes it even better."

The draft plan also can be found at www.fws.gov/ivorybill/. Public comments on the plan will be accepted by the Service until October 22, 2007.

Comments may be faxed to 337-291-3139 or emailed to: ibwplan@fws.gov. For further information contact Deborah Fuller by calling 337-291-3100.

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2007/2007-08-22-094.asp
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|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|02/22/08 at 01:59:04|richard_f|xx|0|217.42.87.168|Without Proof, an Ivory-Billed Boom Goes Bust

LARA FARRAR
January 23, 2008

BRINKLEY, Ark. â&#128;&#148; David Baxter, 62, has hunted the Big Woods in eastern Arkansas for most of his life. But these days, his weapon of choice is an old 35-millimeter camera with a zoom lens, which he keeps in his blue pickup truck at all times just in case he comes across an ivory-billed woodpecker.

"God help me, I am trying," said Mr. Baxter, who thinks nothing of camouflaging himself in front of old swampy cypress trees for up to three hours in case the elusive bird makes an appearance. "No matter what I am doing, I am looking."

Before 2005, Mr. Baxter, along with many of his neighbors, had never heard of an ivory-billed woodpecker. They certainly never imagined such a creature would emerge from the darkness of extinction and become a symbol of hope for their increasingly endangered delta towns.

But one day, it seemed one did.

It has been almost three years since a research team, led by Cornell University and the Nature Conservancy, announced the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods â&#128;&#148; a 550,000-acre tract of bottomland hardwood forest. Researchers have also reported spotting an ivory-billed woodpecker in a northwest Florida swamp.

The large, yellow-eyed bird had not been conclusively seen in the United States since around the end of World War II, and some scientists have questioned whether the more recent reports of sightings are legitimate. Nevertheless, the federal Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended spending $27 million on recovery efforts for the woodpecker.

The patch of Arkansas bayou where the researchers said they spotted the bird is in the heart of Monroe County. Once an agricultural and manufacturing center, the county is now one of the poorest places in Arkansas. For its roughly 10,000 residents, the reported rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker fired hopes of an economic turnaround not seen since the soybean boom of the 1970s.

After the sighting was announced, local economies seemed to benefit for a while as scientists, bird-watchers and news media outlets from around the world flocked to Brinkley and to the other communities in the patchwork quilt of fragmented forest and farmland that surrounds the Big Woods.

"People came from everywhere," said Gene DePriest, who still has an ivory-billed cheeseburger, salad and dessert on the menu of his barbecue restaurant in Brinkley. "I sold over $20,000 worth of T-shirts in six months."

Lately, though, the ivory-billed boom has pretty much been a bust, especially since researchers and bird-watchers have, so far, failed to take a definitive picture of the woodpecker. A blurry video clip released when the rediscovery was announced failed to convince many ornithologists of the animalâ&#128;&#153;s existence. There have since been plenty of purported sightings, but still no picture.

"It has been kind of a disappointment," said Penny Childs, owner of Pennyâ&#128;&#153;s Hair Care and creator of the "woodpecker haircut," which she does not get many requests for anymore. "The delta could use millions of dollars to build up our lives, but instead we struggle."

Mrs. Childs, 43, is still cutting hair, but just down the street from her small one room salon, an empty brick building is all that remains of the Ivory-Bill Nest gift shop, which closed last January. Down the street, the former Ivory-Billed Inn and R.V. Park is now a Days Inn.

"I did invest a lot of money in stuff to sell, and I didnâ&#128;&#153;t even break even," Mrs. Childs said. "I have got a whole yard full of wooden woodpeckers right now."

But beneath the disappointment and piles of unsold ivory-billed T-shirts, coffee cups and wooden woodpeckers, remnants of the bird are everywhere, and they can be found with people like Mr. Baxter.

At his home, he has a brown briefcase full of photographs of birds. Most are blurry shots of hoot owls and hawks taken by an automatic camera he hung 10 feet up a tree in the middle of a swamp. But in two pictures, he swears he captured the ivory-billed.

"I know what I seen and what I didnâ&#128;&#153;t see," said Mr. Baxter, holding two 3x5 photos with tiny black flecks flying against a deep blue sky. "I have been a hunter all my life, so I know my birds."

|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|Richard_F|richard@cfz.org.uk|05/25/08 at 23:54:07|richard_f|xx|0|81.155.45.100|Elusive woodpecker hatches controversy
Millions have been spent on the hunt, but there's still no definitive proof of the ivory-billed woodpecker

Tom Charlier
Sunday, May 11, 2008

BRINKLEY, Ark. -- The life jackets have been stowed, the paddles secured and the water bottles packed. But as far as Allan Mueller is concerned, the canoes aren't quite ready.

"Every boat needs a camera," says Mueller, avian conservation project manager for The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas, as he totes digital equipment to a canoe that's about to be launched.

Here in Bayou DeView, a languid stream that seeps through a trackless realm of tupelos and several-hundred-year-old cypress trees, Mueller has every reason to be obsessed with photography.

In this swamp 75 miles west of Memphis, he and others have been trying to solve a tantalizing mystery and intensifying debate over an iconic, majestic bird -- the ivory-billed woodpecker -- thought to be extinct since World War II. And there's only one way to do it: "We've got to get a picture," Mueller says.

Although federal officials announced the apparent rediscovery of the woodpecker here three years ago, questions about the existence of the bird -- and the money and effort devoted to it -- have been mounting ever since.

In east Arkansas alone, the federal government and its partners have spent more than $5 million on searches, land acquisition and conservation work related to the woodpecker. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently set forth a $27 million recovery plan aimed at securing the bird's long-term survival.

At the same time, concerns about the woodpecker have delayed a major irrigation project, adding as much as $54million to its cost.

Now, despite surveillance involving robotic cameras, helicopters, remote sensing equipment and thousands of hours spent by volunteers and experts, another search season has ended with no definitive proof of the woodpecker known as the "Lord God Bird."

Many officials remain convinced of the bird's existence, but as far as skeptics are concerned, the searchers might as well be looking for Bigfoot.

"This is a big bird. They haven't found a feather, they haven't found a pile of dung," said Dennis Carman, chief engineer and director of the White River Irrigation District; the district's Grand Prairie irrigation project costs have soared during a delay for environmental studies of possible impacts on the woodpecker.

But it's not just area officials who doubt the bird's existence. Some leading ornithologists believe the sightings, recordings and brief video that led to the rediscovery announcement might involve the similarly colored but more common pileated woodpecker instead of the ivory-billed.

"I think it would be something short of a miracle if it is there," said Jerome Jackson, professor of ecological sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University, who has spent decades looking for the bird and wrote the book "In Search of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker."

"I think that any betting person would have to say it's probably extinct."

The debate over the bird's existence has grown increasingly heated, with some bloggers deriding the government's claims about the ivory-billed's rediscovery as "Peckergate."

After the Fish and Wildlife Service unveiled its recovery plan, NBC Nightly News pilloried it in a "Fleecing of America" report questioning the spending of millions on a bird whose existence hasn't been confirmed.

Jackson said the rediscovery announcement not only was unfounded but has obscured the importance of protecting the habitat needed by other birds. He also criticizes the search effort as poorly run and often lacking in expertise.

"We're also talking about millions of dollars of public money that's been spent based on no really good scientific evidence," Jackson said.

The bird at the center of the issue is an icon of the ornithological world. With a wingspan that can reach nearly three feet, the ivory-billed is North America's largest woodpecker. Its nickname supposedly derives from the typical response of people seeing it for the first time: "Lord God, what a bird!"

Through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the ivory-billed dwindled in numbers as its habitat -- bottomland hardwood forests from the Carolinas to Texas -- was cleared or reduced to fragments. Some also were shot by people who mistakenly thought the birds' bills actually were made of ivory.

The last confirmed sightings of the bird were in a Louisiana forest clear-cut by German prisoners of war in 1944. The ivory-billed was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1967.

Since then, there have been scattered sightings reported across the South.

But none of those was as convincing as the cluster of sightings reported in Bayou DeView, which is part of Cache River National Wildlife Refuge and within the 120-mile-long "Big Woods" area of east Arkansas, beginning in 2004.

In February of that year, a kayaker caught a glimpse of an unusually large woodpecker in the swamp. Two months later, a University of Arkansas-Little Rock professor made a four-second video of what many believe is an ivory-billed in flight.

In the following months, researchers with Cornell University and The Nature Conservancy reported more sightings and gathered more evidence.

To Mueller and others, there's no doubt the ivory-billed exists in the swamp.

"We've got sound recordings, we've got the four-second video and, depending on how you count them, quite a number of observations," he said.

"This is the first time we've had a clumping of sightings in the same spot about the same time."

Researchers also say they have found telltale signs of the bird, such as recently dead trees with the bark stripped back. That's how the ivory-billed feeds on insects.

Nature Conservancy spokesman Jay Harrod said experts believe they're dealing with more than one ivory-billed.

"The odds of us seeing the last one on Earth are so much lower than seeing the last few of a small population," he said.

The April 2005 announcement by federal officials triggered a rush of excitement through conservation circles and brought a wave of tourism and business activity to Brinkley, a depressed Delta town of 3,900.

"Right now we're back to normal. We had a big boom for a year," said Brinkley Mayor Barbara Skouras.

Through it all, the search has continued by The Nature Conservancy, Cornell ornithologists and others.

Venturing into the swamp one recent morning, Mueller and his fellow searchers gazed high into the craggy cypress trunks looking for signs of the woodpecker. In the distance, the tapping of pileated woodpeckers and the calls of Carolina wrens resounded through the trees.

Stopping at an island in the bayou, Mueller used an improvised device designed to mimic the "double-knock" call made on trees by the ivory-billed. A series of "knock-KNOCK" noises echoed through the forest.

"The idea is to mimic the double knock in hopes that Elvis is going to answer," Mueller said, comparing the elusive bird to the King of curious sightings. "We want to hear something like that coming back at us."

Much of the search activity has been funded by the Fish and Wildlife Service, which has been spending $1.1 million to $1.2 million annually in recovery efforts in Arkansas and other states.

While the work continues, so does a court order halting the irrigation project, which would pipe water from the White River to rice-growers in the Grand Prairie region of east-central Arkansas.

Two federal agencies have asked U.S. Dist. Judge William R. Wilson to lift the order, citing evidence the project wouldn't harm the woodpecker. But after a hearing less than two weeks ago, Wilson said he needed more time to study the matter and refused to end the delay, which a recent University of Arkansas report estimated is adding $8 million to $18 million annually to the project's cost.

Despite the controversy surrounding the bird, agency spokesman Jeff Fleming said the search effort is well worth it.

"We believe the evidence, the sightings, while not enough to be considered confirmation, is certainly tantalizing enough that the search activities should continue," he said. "Sure, there's some disagreement in the birding world. I think it's healthy -- we're OK with that."

Rebuffing criticism of the $27 million recovery plan, Fleming said nearly all of that money will remain unspent unless the woodpecker's presence is confirmed.

"We've got to ask for that money, and we're not going to until we find the nest cavities, until we find the birds," he said.

And the money being spent to preserve and enhance the woodpecker's habitat will benefit a wide range of species, officials say.

"The same habitat that's good for the woodpeckers is good for bears, waterfowl and all the other species that use the woods," said Scott Simon, Arkansas director for The Nature Conservancy.

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2008/may/11/flight-unseen-elusive-woodpecker-hatches-knock/
----
|| Re: "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker fo|shearluck|lewisoll@yahoo.co.uk|07/11/08 at 17:23:38|shearluck|xx|0|86.150.129.67|Some searchers still expect to see 'Lord God bird'
By PEGGY HARRIS
Associated Press Writer
1277 words
23 June 2008
05:47
Associated Press Newswires
English
(c) 2008. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

BRINKLEY, Ark. (AP) - From fall through spring for the last three years, researchers in camouflage and waders, with notebooks in hand and cameras turned on, have slogged through the east Arkansas woods, steered johnboats across its silence, and sat on the banks of the bayous for hours to watch, listen, and record.
Some scientists still believe the ivory-billed woodpecker exists in the Big Woods of Arkansas.
The problem is they haven't been able to capture a sharp image of its remarkable 30-inch wing span and glossy black and white feathers on still or video camera for other ornithologists who doubt the bird's rediscovery.
To date, searchers have investigated about 83,000 of the 550,000-acre woods that swallow up the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is where kayaker Gene Sparling spotted the bird Feb. 11, 2004, and Cornell University experts made subsequent sightings.
Engineer David Luneau caught a blurry image of what some believe is the "Lord God bird," the third-largest woodpecker in the world, on video in 2004. Others challenge the claim that the ivory bill survived decades of clearing forests for farming, timber, roads and towns.
"Since early 2005, none of our group nor anyone from the public that we are aware of has made a definitive absolute sighting of an ivory-billed woodpecker that we can document with a photograph or a sound recording," said Ron Rohrbaugh, project director at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "So we have what we call potential encounters that we follow up on, but we have nothing that is a definitive sighting with a photograph. That's the key."
According to researchers, it became known as the "Lord God bird" because people, upon seeing it, would exclaim, ""Lord God, look at that bird."
The Big Woods is a hot, humid place -- tupelo, cypress and oak bottomland filled with mosquitoes, poisonous cottonmouths and thigh-high swamp water. The swamp is so thick with vegetation that scientists concentrate their work on the months when leaves are off the trees -- and the temperatures are bearable. They target areas where they have reports of credible sightings.
But wildlife biologist Allan Mueller says he saw an ivory-billed woodpecker during a search in May 2007. But it happened so quickly he missed getting the bird on camera.
"We were in a johnboat going up Wattensaw Bayou and it was about noon," Mueller says. "We were coming back and we had what we called the hot spot in the Wattensaw bottoms. And that's where we had been having, for lack of a better term, encounters, which means we were hearing calls, we were hearing the double-knocks, which is a distinctive way that the ivory-bill woodpeckers have of knocking on a tree. It's just two very quick knocks on a tree. Bam. Bam."
Researchers are looking for a bird that is scarce and highly mobile. To the untrained eye, the ivory bill can be mistaken for a pileated woodpecker. Past research suggests the ivory bill ranges as much as six miles from its roost while searching for succulent beetle larvae, its favorite food.
Others outside the search team had reported sightings, says Mueller, avian conservation manager for The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas. So he and his teammate decided to get out of the boat and investigate. While his partner searched from the bank, Mueller walked into the woods.
"There's some large trees there but it's open underneath," he says. "I saw a large bird, large woodpecker, flying directly toward me. All I know, what I knew then, was this is a big woodpecker coming at me. So naturally I paid attention.
"Probably about 100 feet away from me, it did a complete U-turn. And when he did the U-turn he flew out into a sunny area where I was able to get a very good look at the top of the bird, the top of the wing with a black, very glossy, shiny, black front and very white bright trailing edge of the wing. And just that quickly it was over."
Mueller paused to collect his thoughts.
"After it flew off, I just sort of stood there for a minute and said 'what did I just see?' Because you don't want to be casual with claiming you saw an ivory bill. Just ran over it in my head. Could I have really seen this?" he recalls. "And thought to myself 'there's no way it was anything else. That was an ivory-billed woodpecker that I just saw.'"
When then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced in 2005 the rediscovery of the bird the world believed was extinct, she and then-Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns pledged federal dollars from existing funds to research the woodpecker, restore its habitat and develop a recovery plan as required by the Endangered Species Act.
To date, about $9.6 million has been spent toward those goals, including nearly $2 million to search the woods in Arkansas and other states. Funds used to purchase land in the Cache River refuge also served prior objectives to restore bottomland hardwood forests for the benefit of numerous species. A 185-page draft recovery plan was released last year for public review, and could be in revised form by January or February.
With announcement of the bird's rediscovery, it seemed not all wilderness was being lost to the past. Despite challenges from fellow scientists, searchers remained convinced the bird had cheated extinction.
"It always has been one of these icons of the birding world, an icon of the deep woods. It has this amazing place in people's minds and hearts," says Laurie Fenwood, the ivory-billed woodpecker coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Atlanta.
The Cornell lab, The Nature Conservancy, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas Audubon Society head the search and have enlisted other groups to scout potential habitat in other Southern states. Researchers say the bird has been seen and heard in the swamps of northwestern Florida.
In all, searchers have spent thousands of man-hours looking. They have grafted video cameras and audio recorders onto trees, planted a Texas A&M-made robot in the woods to capture images and, last winter, searched by helicopter about 200 feet above the tree tops.
"After three intensive years of searching, we know there's not a large population of individuals there," Rohrbaugh says. "There's not some surprise population of 50 ivory-billed woodpeckers breeding in the Delta region of Arkansas. We simply would have found that number of birds by now. What we're looking for is a handful of birds, a very small number that have evaded us since 2004."
In September, just before the leaves fall off the trees again, the various groups will meet in Atlanta to discuss what to do next. Fenwood says forgoing another season of searching is not really on the table.
"I do not think right now that this is anything that the Fish and Wildlife Service is going to just drop," she says. "We are just searching for an animal that is very difficult to find."
------
On the Net:
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service http://www.fws.gov/ivorybill[http://www.fws.gov/ivorybill]
Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory[http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory]
Ark G&F Commission http://www.agfc.com/wildlife-conservation/birds/ivory-billed-birds.aspx[http://www.agfc.com/wildlife-conservation/birds/ivory-billed-birds.aspx]
The Nature Conservancy http://www.nature.org/ivorybill/about/[http://www.nature.org/ivorybill/about/]
The Audubon Society http://www.ar.audubon.org[http://www.ar.audubon.org]
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