"...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, March 5, 2017

Breakout North: John Goff Slough, 2 March 2017

I was fortunate enough to be able to get out into the field this past Thursday, after a three-month absence.  My good friend Richard Ezell and I headed back down to the south end of the Pascagoula WMA, where I hoped to do a little more exploring in the area between John Goff Slough and the Pascagoula River.  (I have since discovered that the south end of the Slough may also be referred to as Files Pond on old USGS maps, but I will continue to refer to it as John Goff Slough.)  The remoteness of the area and the excellent habitat continue to intrigue me, and I also hoped to perhaps find a way around the northern tip of the ancient oxbow, and to explore along its old outside shoreline.

The day was clear and cool, and blustery.  The swamp and bottomland forest was noisy throughout our hike with the groan and crack of the great trees as they bent in the wind.  We bore northward from the trailhead, between Lice Lake and the River.  Beyond a long, slender lake (unnamed on Google Earth), the trail ended; but we easily navigated the relatively open bottomland, keeping the River in view to our left.  Broad swathes of sand in the woods hinted at past flooding by the Pascagoula.  Eventually we found a trail again, which turned out to be one I had walked before.  We continued northward, and I was pleased to find that the trail did indeed wander around the northern tip of John Goff Slough.  Richard and I followed it another mile or two before venturing out into the muck of the old lake bed for a closer look at the baldcypresses and tupelos, then turned to follow the trail back.  Our total hike that day was six miles.

The water of John Goff Slough looked very low to me, though the River and nearby lakes seemed full enough.  We found no woodpecker scaling of note, and heard no kents, SK's, or DK's; but we saw and heard Pileated, Downy, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, along with sapsuckers and flickers.  I continue to be impressed with the quality of the habitat there, though, and I hope to return to continue my survey of the Slough's outside shoreline.

Near the trailhead.

Pascagoula River from the east bank.

Typical view of the bottomland between the River and John Goff Slough.

Richard and a very large water oak at trailside.

The area to the north of us is clear-cut, privately-owned land.

Old woodpecker cavity on a downed baldcypress.

View of the dry swamp forest from the muddy northern edge of John Goff Slough.


  1. Enjoy reading the reports and admire your persistence.

    1. I appreciate that, Gary. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Chris, can you PM me on IBWO forum please? motiheal, John