"...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."

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Seasonal Issues: 19 March 2016

I traveled down to the Pascagoula WMA last Saturday, hoping to find some dry ground in the Hutson Lake sector.  My plan was to stake out, for several hours, a large red oak that had been struck by lightning, spotted by my brother Brian last year; it was found at our last inspection to be partly dead.  I arrived well before dawn to find the Pascagoula River, swollen with recent Spring rains, had rather spectacularly overflowed its banks.  The surrounding swamp and bottomland forest was completely flooded, all the way to the highway.

Video taken at the beginning of the WMA road to Hutson Lake.

I had not brought my kayak, and at any rate was not too keen on navigating the wild tangle of flooded bottomland alone.  I regret days in the field lost, but sometimes one must simply let Nature make the decisions.

I do not expect to return to the Pascagoula Basin until possibly the week after Easter at earliest, due to the holiday and to some minor surgery I have to have next week.  For now, then, this part of old Ivorybill country will remain free of this particular meddling biped.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Reliquary: Parker's Lake, 4 March 2016

(Note:  For now, at least, I am abandoning my old report format, which has been leaving me feeling rather hemmed in lately.)

I got back down to the southern Pascagoula Basin yesterday in hopes of exploring the Lice Lake area, only to find the whole south end of the WMA flooded.  I did not expect the extent of the flooding, since south Mississippi had been rain-free at least a week prior.  It was already some minutes after dawn when I arrived, and I wasted valuable time driving a couple of dead-end roads that had looked promising on Google Earth.  The forecast called for rain by 10 a.m.

Parker's Lake straddles the Wade-Vancleave Road, and has a WMA headquarters building and a boat launch that is usually fairly busy.  That day, there was only one pickup truck with empty boat trailer.  The mature swamp forest along the road teases bigger woods further in on either side.  After some deliberation, I elected to put the kayak in at the lake and make my way into the swamp and flooded bottomland forest to the north of the road.

It was only slightly cool, with little wind; the heavily overcast sky seemed to threaten rain at any minute.  I sped along at a good clip against a gentle, southward-flowing current, and presently found myself amidst some simply gorgeous swamp forest.

I am by no means an expert on the Pascagoula River Swamp, but as I have gotten to know the place over the last couple of years, I have come to relate to it in some different ways.  Trees and water dominate the landscape, and in my mind's eye I often look at the Swamp relative to them.  Always on the lookout for older growth, I remember most such pockets, as well as larger individuals:  the massive red oak, between the more massive baldcypress The Ancient of Days and the River; the great tupelos and baldcypresses of Titan Swamp; the lone grandfather cypress watching over the north of Big Swamp; too many special trees and groves to relate here, echoes of once-upon-a-time, which I have come to seek out with an eagerness eclipsed only by the desire to see an Ivorybill.

I found the swamp forest and flooded bottomland forest to the north of Parker's Lake to be such a special place, and remarkable in its own way.  Here are grouped many relict (or near-relict) baldcypresses, in greater numbers than anywhere else I have yet found in the Basin.  Drawn from giant to giant, I made my way nearly a mile into the largely silent swamp fastness, the sound of the road gradually fading behind me to a rumor.

Bird life was muted.  I saw no woodpeckers of any species, and only heard Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a single Pileated; but evidence of Picidae was easily found, and there were many cavities, some of considerable size.


My trip was cut short by the threat of heavy rain, along with an overactive bladder.  I hope to return to this place soon.