"...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."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Excursion: Pearl River WMA, Louisiana, 3 September 2015

IBWOH's:  Brian Carlisle, Chris Carlisle.

Summary:  My brother Brian works for a major oil company, and his drive to work from his home in Mississippi takes him through some beautiful bottomland swamp forest, habitat compelling and intriguing to students of Ivorybill lore.  Scrutiny of the area on Google Earth led him to consider an area off of Interstate 59 between Picayune, MS, and Slidell, Louisiana, in the Pearl River region north of Honey Island Swamp, as suitable for a day hike.  Not far from Bogue Chitto NWR, which we visited early this year, it is part of a vast area of swampland that extends all the way down to the marshy mouths of the Pearl on the Gulf of Mexico.

We left well before the dawn, carrying our kayaks, though we did not end up needing them.  It's been very hot and dry here lately, and this day was no exception.  We hiked through some nice mixed bottomland forest for two or three hours before calling it a day.  We held to a wide, grassy path for the most part, so the going was easy.  Several encounters with wild hogs kept it lively.

The forest in the area we walked -- no more than a couple of miles -- is generally younger than that in the Pascagoula River Swamp, with the larger trees of course in the bottoms; and it seemed less diverse, with cypress/black gum and water oak dominating.  Invasive Chinese tallow is present in large numbers.  There were no trees I would characterize as superdominant, though I must stress again that we only explored a very small area.  A firearms target range lay near as well, so that the quiet of the woods was interrupted several times by the pow-pow-pow of gunshots.

I don't expect to return to this area any time soon, though it was well worth visiting for its natural beauty alone.  I took no photos, but happily Brian did, and has been as usual gracious enough to share them here.  All the following photos are by him.

 I watch a multicolored wild boar feeding up the trail from us.

Cardinal flower, one of my favorites.

 Honeybees were plentiful in this field near the trailhead.

 Lack of rainfall has made this swamp easy to navigate.

 Sow (middle of photo), and a piglet in mid-leap.

 Brian caught this ribbon (garter) snake, and passed it on to me to get a picture.

Conclusions:  We saw no evidence of the kind of scaling that would suggest Ivory-billed Woodpecker feeding activity.  It was good to get out of my "comfort zone" for a bit, but I am ready to head back to the Pascagoula Basin soon.  Cooler temperatures are on the way, thankfully, decreasing the threat of heat exhaustion and allowing for longer days of exploration.


  1. Enjoyed your report.

    Hate to hear about all tallow trees. They don't belong. I assume there is also a bunch of invasive privet as well. Correct?

    Keep looking, like someone said, "the truth is out there."

  2. Thanks, Gary. I don't recall the extent of privet, but that's probably only because I've become a bit oblivious to its presence most of the time.

    We will keep looking. Autumn is coming!