"...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."

Monday, August 28, 2017

Spider Moon: Stronghold, 19 August 2017

My brother Brian Carlisle and I returned to the Stronghold on August 19, after many months' absence.  Our goal was a quick survey of our old haunts, to get a feel for the area after our unusually wet summer, and to reconnect with what for us has become a deeply spiritual place.

A fast-retreating quarter moon before a hazy dawn found us far along the old trail I call Hollow Man Road, which cuts north-south through the Hutson Lake sector in the north-central Pascagoula Wildlife Management Area (WMA).  Little if any wind moved for the duration of our hike, and the humid air warmed quickly.  The denizens of the Swamp kept mostly silent and largely to themselves, though we encountered numerous golden silk orb weaver spiders, almost comically fearful of us despite their menacing appearance.  It was a quick trip down to the relict baldcypress Hollow Man, where we set up a brief Watch in the deep woods along his small lake.  A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers livened things up for a few minutes, and I spotted a lone Yellow-crowned Night Heron wrangling something reddish out of the muck on the shore opposite.  Some distant, heavy tapping, likely Pileateds at work, gave us pause; and the drumming of red-headed woodpeckers at times rang out over the still bottomland to the north and east of our position.  After an hour or so we decided to seek the air conditioning of Brian's truck.  On the way, we spotted at least two juvenile Little Blue Herons and a white ibis haunting still waters among the trees, but few other feathered things aside from the usual crows and cardinals, and no mammals at all.  It truly is the Spiders' time, and they are welcome to it.  It is short enough.

From Hutson Lake we drove north, crossing Mississippi Highway 26 to another section of the WMA.  We put our kayaks in at Dace Lake (or Dacy Lake, depending on the map), a small oxbow we have hiked near and visited a number of times, but never kayaked.  It was around ten in the morning, and nothing was moving around the lake, save a small family of white ibis and a few turtles.  Repairs I made over the summer to my boat, the Kuhn, seemed to have been successful, confirming the craft will be able to bear me again beyond terra firma, as needed.  As usual, I have some ideas where I would like to explore in the months ahead.

 The old field between Hutson Lake and a network of sloughs that stretches south to the Lord God Tree, Elephant Man Swamp, emptying into the Pascagoula between Pierce Lake and Hollow Man Lake.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Near this year's new beaver dam.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 The dam has been broken, and is possibly now abandoned.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

From our vantage point by Hollow Man Lake.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Dace Lake launch.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 The lake lay still and silent.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 I seldom manage to get this far ahead of my brother.  Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

 Photo:  Brian Carlisle.

I had to move fast to snap this photo.  As I've noted before, it is difficult for me to manage to photograph wildlife from the kayak, which seems to have a mind of its own at such moments.

The bottomland lies still and dreaming while August simmers, but change is afoot.  The days are already cooling here, enough to take the edge off a hot day hike in the Swamp.  After this rainy summer, I wonder what challenges we will face come fall and winter -- paths newly revealed, others now hidden, all at the whim of the River.

I am studying my maps.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Kints in Print

My brother and I are honored to have our story in the Summer 2017 issue of Mississippi Wildlife, the annual magazine of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation.  The article, "Adventures in Old Ivorybill Country," provides a short narrative of the Ivorybill, its relationship with mankind, and a very brief account of our own experiences in the Pascagoula River Basin, with Brian's photographs offering glimpses of the magnificent Swamp.  My wife Susanne, and my sister-in-law Lindsey, were kind enough to proofread the article before submission, for which Brian and I are grateful.

It is only the first week of August, but the shadows of early morning and late afternoon hint of September; and I am restless.  Norman MacLean wrote, "I am haunted by waters."  I am, too; though mine are less noisy, are deeper and darker, and are less respectful of boundaries.