"...the ornithologists still had serious doubts. Sutton finally put it directly: 'Mr. Spencer, you're sure the bird you're telling us about isn't the big pileated woodpecker?'

"Spencer exploded. 'Man alive! These birds I'm tellin' you all about is kints!' he shouted in their faces. 'Why, the pileated woodpecker's just a little bird about as big as that.' He held his fingers a few inches apart. 'A kint's as big as that!' he said, holding his arms wide... 'Why, man, I've known kints all my life. My pappy showed 'em to me when I was just a kid. I see 'em every fall when I go deer huntin' down aroun' my place on the Tinsaw. They're big birds, I tell you, big and black and white; and they fly through the woods like pintail ducks!'

"After Spencer's outburst, the members of the team were all believers -- not just because of his vehemence, but because his description was so accurate. Ivory-bills do not have the typical bounding flight of the pileated woodpecker. They generally fly away high and straight, with stiff flight feathers, looking very much like a pintail, and their call is a distinctive nasal kent, kent, kent -- very similar to the local name Spencer used, kint. Sutton and the others couldn't wait to get to the bayou and start searching.

"As it turned out, that was not an easy proposition..." --Gallagher, Tim. The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, pp. 10-11: "Of People and Peckerwoods."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Smells Like IBWO Out There

Autumn generally comes a bit later to the Deep South than to the rest of the country, and this year was no exception.  We had several nights below freezing a week or so ago here in south Mississippi, finally sending the maples into firegold.  The big poplar at the back of my lot dropped most of its leaves in shock, and the cypresses in the little grove I planted nearby now stand rust against the neighbor's bamboo forest.

Wonderful personal news:  IBWO-1 is back in service.  I will retrieve it from the mechanic tomorrow, having been without it for fully four weeks.  Thanks to my Mom for the use of her car, which I enter and exit like a spider in and out of its tunnel; and for the use of her money, without which I could not have met the expense, which was considerable.  Hopefully, we will be able to return to the Pascagoula WMA once or twice to search before the New Year turns.  Dace Lake, I have my eye on you.

In what is undoubtedly the biggest Ivorybill news lately, Project Coyote is returning to the field on Thanksgiving Day to continue the search in Louisiana.  Mark and Frank feel they are very, very close, so keep checking the Project Coyote site and their Facebook page for updates later this month and in December.  I know I am not alone in wishing them success.  I am not sure, but Project Coyote may be the longest-running continuous Ivorybill search effort going these days, and their methods reflect those years of refinement.  If anyone can find the Ivorybill, I believe it is their team.  Good luck, guys.

For myself, my backpack sits at the ready, and fresh batteries lie beside my battered camera.  I have nearly finished Hoose's The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, which I thankfully found in my local library.  It has helped to pass these days when I could not walk the bottomland, trying to simultaneously watch the treetops for big woodpeckers, the space in front of me for spiderwebs, and the ground for snakes.  The book holds a wealth of information, and Hoose's prose is easy on the brain, though I am at odds with the overall tone of the book.  I find his lack of faith disturbing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

IBWO-1 Down Again... for a while...

Looks like the repair shop did the equivalent of placing a Band-Aid on a stab wound.  Much more extensive, and expensive, repair work is in order before IBWO-1 can take me back to Ivorybill territory.  Perhaps a break from the search would be no bad thing, especially during these next weeks of deer season in Mississippi.  Besides, there is much that needs tending to around my house, things that have been a bit neglected in the past few months of my search; and there are holidays upon us as well.  Oh, and I am getting married in December.  So, a busy time.

But I do chomp at the bit on these cool autumn mornings, and wonder about the sounds and shadows in the bottomlands.