"...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."

Friday, November 25, 2016

New Post on the Project Coyote Site

Our friend Mark updated the Project Coyote site this week with an image-heavy important post discussing the nuances of woodpecker scaling.  While the focus is on the impressive evidence discovered in their search area in Louisiana, the information is of tremendous relevance to searchers elsewhere, not least to us here in our own area of focus, the Pascagoula River Basin of Mississippi.

Click on the link here, or on the Project Coyote link to the right on this page.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Search in the Stronghold: 28 October 2016

My brother Brian and I returned to the Stronghold, in the north end of the Pascagoula WMA, to see how the area was faring as autumn laid hold.  We made a wide, leisurely survey, straying often from the old forest road; the intricate network of sloughs leading from Hutson Lake in the north, to Hollow Man Lake and Elephant Man Swamp in the south, are largely high and dry, thanks to a persistent drought.

We started before sunrise.  Silence lay heavy on the darkling woods until well after, the only sounds the tramp of our boots on dry leaves.  Later, woodpecker activity was very high, especially mid-morning.  The yellow-bellied sapsuckers have taken up their winter residence in the bottomland and swamp forest.  The cool dawn gave way to a very pleasant, clear day; temperatures have been consistently well above average for this time of year.

Only once, while working a complex of mostly dry sloughs near Hollow Man Lake, did we hear what sounded like kent-calls, at around 9:15 a.m.  They sounded much like blue jays, only softer; but following the calls south to the lakeshore, we only saw a pair of pileated woodpeckers, which flew off to the swamp forest on the opposite side.  The kent-like calls we heard could have been a white-breasted nuthatch, as the species winters here; but the calls were made in the same general area I heard kent-like calls this past April, when I also had a very problematic sighting, and within a few hundred yards of a large sweet gum with extensive, dramatic bark scaling.

Near the southeastern terminus of the forest road, at Elephant Man Swamp, we turned south into the bottomland, then bore eastward, exploring one of the few parts of this sector we had not visited.  Like much of the bottomland forest in the Stronghold, it was middle-aged oak-gum, with numerous very large dominant and superdominant individuals.

Predawn gloom.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

At the south end of one of the large fields in the midst of the bottomland.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

Difficult to see in this photo, but there is extensive scaling along the top branches of this live sweet gum, though without a closer view it is impossible to classify as anything other than general woodpecker work.

My sharp-eyed brother spotted this.  The silhouetted bird in the center of the photo is a ruby-crowned kinglet that had gotten caught in the web of a golden silk orb weaver spider, some 15 feet or more above the trail.  We tossed dead branches at the web for several minutes, until finally Brian hit it, and the kinglet zoomed off into the woods.

This large woodpecker cavity in a water oak is easily seen from the main trail.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

At the south fork of the forest road.  To the right, Hollow Man Lake; left, Elephant Man Swamp.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 The numerous sloughs in the Stronghold normally greatly restrict movement in the area.

 We breakfasted on candy bars and bacon jerky by this Nuttall's Oak.

Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Extensive, dramatic scaling on the sweet gum I found on an eventful day back in April of this year.

I believe the tree may be dying.

Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

I use a "bully horn," really the horn of a water buffalo, to try and mimic woodpecker tapping, including Campephilus-style single knocks and double knocks.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

Rapping on this Nuttall's Oak today only succeeded in luring a number of squirrels.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

Brian had brought his small john-boat, which we used after our hike to survey Hutson Lake.

Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

Bright green lichen distinctly stands out from the gray Spanish moss atop this baldcypress.

There were hunters in the same area we were in that day, though we did not see them personally -- only their spent shotgun shells, which we collected on our return hike.  We will have to wear blaze orange on all our forays into old Ivorybill country for the next few months.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Among Friends

On October 20, my brother Brian Carlisle and I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the Pascagoula River Basin Alliance (PRBA) at the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Reasearch Laboratory, in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  The PRBA's members are an eclectic group representing industry, state government, academia, and concerned citizens groups, as well as the Nature Conservancy.  We were pleased and honored to be invited to attend, and to give a short presentation regarding our search for evidence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the lands of the Basin.  There we made some new friends, and learned about the ongoing efforts of the PRBA as stewards of the Pascagoula River Basin, which I like to call Mississippi's Last Best Place.  Of tremendous importance to the wildlife of the region, we learned that the Nature Conservancy recently completed transfer of their first Forest Legacy Acquisition Project to the Mississippi Forestry Commission -- to become the 2,100 acre Leaf River State Forest, linking vital habitats along the Pascagoula River and its tributary, the Leaf River.

Now for a bit of housekeeping:  repairs to my desktop computer should be completed soon, so I will be able to more easily update the blog as necessary at better quality than I am currently able, beginning with our last visit to the Stronghold on October 28.

Thanks to those of you still following our efforts here in old Ivorybill country.  I look forward to the fall/winter/spring search season at hand, and to sharing our finds with you on this site.  We still walk these old woods with hearts and minds open to the great Possibility.

Best wishes,