- Environmental Recording
- Environmental Recording
- Environmental Recording
Pearl River WMA ambiance
David Luneau, Rick Knight
Bogue Chitto NWR ambiance
David Luneau, Rick Knight
Ivory-billed Woodpecker discussion
Outside Stennis Space Center ambiance
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
23 Jan 2002
LouisianaSt. Tammany County
- Pearl River Wildlife Management Area
- 30.38379 -89.71489
LouisianaSt. Tammany County
- Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge
- 30.5475 -89.793889
- 49:07 - 1:27:33
- John C. Stennis Space Center
- 30.362767 -89.6002
- 1:27:42 - 2:07:24
- SONY TCD-D8
DPA 4060 omni mics.
DAT 08 Log
(aka Weds Stereo 1 Log)
Everything on this tape is recorded with a CoreSounds custom stereo rig of DPA 4060 omni condensers, spaced about 10 inches, in Lightwave zeppelin. Direct into mike input of D8 DAT. Some are slated as having no high pass filter in on the mikes' power supply, most is recorded with filter in.
01 00000 ambience Tuesday afternoon at nature trail south of old Hwy 11 in Pearl River WMA, good frogs and occasional birds, filter out, levels low. (This turns out to be fairly close to where the Cornell team would later put out ARU 10)
02 00430 more ambiance at same location, filter in, higher gain
03 00900 slate to ID preceding ambiences
04 00940 slate to begin Wednesday morning stereo recordings, recording with no filter
05 01010 at bunkhouse, out of car, open gate combination lock
06 01340 knock and enter bunkhouse, greet David Luneau and Rick Knight who are our searcher subjects for the day. Their preparations around kitchen, offmike voices. (Other four searchers are away camping.)
07 01810 more voices and prep sounds in bunkhouse.
08,09 02607 more voices and prep sounds in bunkhouse.
10 02840 looking at map of Bogue Chitto Natl Refuge where we'll be walking, David describes where we'll be going
LOADED: WPfw Ax DL looking at map 02840-03430
11 03430 more voices and prep sounds in bunkhouse.
Okay, what are we looking at?
We're looking at a map of the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge. We'll come up highway 41, that's a Louisiana state highway. Turn on the access road to lock number 2, go about half a mile, there's a nice parking lot there, walk across the lock, across some oh, sand dunes for lack of a better word¿I think when they dredged the canal, originally dug the canal they piled up the sand on the side so it doesn't look like any other features I've seen here because it's fairly high mounds, higher elevations than anything else in the Pearl River area. But as we walk past those sand dunes immediately east of the canal we'll get into some of the hardwood forest here. And it looks like we have almost a mile before we reach the first major waterway to the east and then a couple miles north or south that we can walk along the canal. So we should have plenty of areas to discover and search today.
What's your MO for doing this? Frankly I've not done this before with ornithologists. Are there things you do, things you don't do? How do you go about doing this?
Well we're looking really for two things. We're looking for the bird, obviously, but the second thing we're looking for is habitat and signs of the bird. Habitat is all around here but signs of the bird, scaling on the trees, nest holes, roost holes, large nest and roost holes, are something we're looking for. So even if the bird's not there, if we see an area that looks like it's obviously been scaled by a large woodpecker it becomes a prime spot so we'll mark that and later on we'll go back and spend more time in that general area looking.
Scaled means basically taken off in big chunks, as opposed to excavating where a woodpecker would keep pecking in the same spot till it makes a hole. The ivorybill slashed back and forth with its bill, ripping large chunks of bark off to get to the grubs that were immediately under the bark.
And in the first few days you've already seen some scaled bark.
We've seen quite a bit of scaled bark. The distinction perhaps is that the ivorybill scaled the bark off freshly dead trees. As opposed to if you see a tree that's been dead for quite some time the bark will just peel and fall off on its own. So when you see a tree that's been scaled and there's still very light colored wood right under it, it's not weathered much, then that would be a good indicator that it's recently scaled. And if you object (?) the bark and it's very tight bark, than that's an even better sign.
And the idea is to be quiet.
Yeah, the idea is to be quiet. Back to the MO question, we'll generally walk 50, 100 yards, stop for ten seconds to a minute maybe, listen, give everything a chance to settle down, our footstep sounds to die out, be very quiet for a little bit, and move on. Course when you're walking you don't hear as much because of your own noises. And when you stop you can hear a pretty good distance. And this was a pretty loud bird when it did its double rap on a hollow stump. The sound, Tanner said it could be heard up to a quarter mile, maybe more realistically an eighth of a mile.
And you're working here with five colleagues. Have you talked about what you do if one of you sees it?
If one of us sees it of course we're working in pairs so we would want the other one to see it as immediately as possible. If the other four would be off somewhere else no we haven't talked exactly about how we're going to go get those other four. Our goal is to document it as best we can, get a photograph or a video of it as soon as we can if we see it at that first sighting and then obviously when we meet back with that group in the evening we would head out to the direction where we saw it and have a plan for fanning out in that area and trying to see it again.
Placed any bets?
Come on, really. None of the six of you have said the winner gets a pepsi or a bottle of wine?
No we haven't. Alan Wormington pointed out in an interview early on that obviously some one person will see it first but we all hope to get to see it and I don't think any of us care who that one person is as long as each of us gets a shot at seeing it and I think most of us would also love to get a picture of it. But no, no bets, yet.
Do you bring a copy of that with you?
I'm going to bring one of each page. This is the southern half, map 2. Map 1 is the northern half. Since we're going to be in the 1 area I'm going to fold that up and stick it in my pocket but I'm going to bring 2 just in case we get in there and find out the habitat doesn't look good we might have to go to plan B and I'm not sure what plan B is right now.
Just about time to roll.
They call it gumbo here.
The mud? I've heard it that term when I lived in texas, southeast Texas had gumbo mud too. I haven't actually heard that here. Maybe because they have food called gumbo and they don't like to refer to their mud as gumbo.
What is it? Is it just silt?
Yeah, Mucky kind of silt. You'll probably get some good sound out of that. When you step and your boot sinks about to your ankles, 2 or 3 inches, 4 inches maybe. Makes it very hard walking cause you're pulling out every step. But up in Bogue Chitto the ground is more sandy and packed. He said in the permanent slues it could be a little mucky but in the rest of the area it should be easier walking. Let's hope. (36:09)
What are you wearing there?
A digital video camera and a pair of Zeiss 8x40 binoculars.
Did they provide the binoculars?
Oh yeah, oh yeah. That was part of the deal.
(for the next section, occasional stereo ambiences were recorded on this tape at stopping points along the trail. But there's also a full recording of this hike on the three "Weds Wireless" tapes, and Chris recorded some sections with mono shotgun on his MiniDisc.)
12,13 04100 out on trail, Lock 2 area, at point where we've walked along water for a while and are turning back to the north. Good birds and insects, GPS beeps, things going in and out of packs, someone takes a leak
(NOTE: This should correspond with 12600 on "Weds Wireless 1/3")
14 04302 birds and insects, a fly passes, rummage in pack,
15 04440 good birds, more rummaging
16 04520 more rummaging
17 04530 at next stopping location, mid distance voices David and Rick
18 04715 woodpecker pecking, other bird sounds, voices and pack noises,
19 04915 more good birds and pecking, good long ambiance stretch, some highway sounds audible later in track
20 05145 I slate previous track
21 05200 next location, quiet ambiance with bird twitter, several species
22 05430 slate previous track, east of lake, slough to right, before ridge
23,24 05445 next location, quieter ambiance, birds, some voices, good birds and pecking at 05725
25 05840 slate preceding, farthest north we went before we headed out of Lock 2
(no recordings on this tape of Lock 3 and Lock 1 walks, which were short and fruitless. But good wading sounds on Weds Wireless 3 from Lock 3 walk!)
26,27 05900 interview David and Rick at parking lot of Lock 1,
28 10153 restart intv after van pulls into parking lot. (Note: this is a very rough transcript of intv, taken down in real time by FW while loading the tape.)
One of the things I've been trying to get at is why this particular bird generates so much intense interest. Other birds have gone extinct; passenger pigeons have gone extinct. This one seems to be different.
Good question. The passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet, and some of the others went extinct before there was as large of a birding population as there is today. And there weren't as many field guides and binoculars and things like that that got people interested in birding. So this bird, well a lot of people thought or still think it went extinct quite a number of years ago. And I think part of the intrigue of why this bird is that a good reliable sighting in '99 may tell us that it's still here.
One of the things that's been mentioned to me is that to many people it kind of represents the old hardwood forest that used to cover so much of this country and the disappearance of this bird is kind of synonymous with the disappearance of that last eastern wilderness.
Yeah, this particular bird I would think so. At least since the early 1900's it's been associated with the swamp.
1:01:06¿motor noises, interview paused.
Yeah, the bird is certainly highly correlated with deep forest. Since Tanner in the 30's that was the only place it was found was in the deep swampy forest. Losing the large wood out of the deep forest is kind of synonymous with losing bird I think.
Do you think that people feel kind of a little guilt about it because it disappeared or probably disappeared within our own lifetimes?
Probably some people. Some probably don't. Some probably have never given it any thought. As far as collective guilt, I'm not sure I believe in collective guilt, but we as a society are guilty of cutting out old growth, probably a lot of it before we knew the implications of doing it, it just looked like a good place to get large trees. We didn't realize the biological implications of doing that as we were doing it.
You want to add anything to that rick?
ah, part of the mystique of the bird is¿it's very mythical. The passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet, their extinction was fairly certain. This bird may be holding on. No one knows for certain. If we were certain it was extinct, there wouldn't be this rash of sightings around. And it was such a majestic bird. One of the colloquial names was the Lord God bird. I can imagine someone going through the woods and suddenly coming on one of these, such a large, striking bird, and suddenly exclaiming "lord God!" when they see it. The colors and the markings and the large white bill, very impressive. Probably made more of an impression on folks of that day than the passenger pigeon would have. It's just another dove or another pigeon type bird. The Carolina parakeet was probably looked at as an agricultural pest to most folks. The woodpecker wasn't of any commercial interest to most folks, either negatively or positively, it was just something they encountered in the woods.
What do you think would happen if you found one here, or even better a nesting pair? What would happen?
depending on the location either the state wildlife agency or the federal wildlife agency would step in and try to initiate some kind of conservation program, whether it's just habitat management or there are some other possibilities. We don't really know what they would do, we're just out here looking for some.
Yeah, but what about to birders, to ornithologists like yourself, professionals and engaged amateurs, people who love birds, all the sudden after so many years, so many false sightings, the real thing? What does that got to do to the way you think about¿
I think it would be a giant ray of hope, a giant ray of hope. Because some other birds have approached extinction, like the whooping crane and the California condor and they're on a slow recovery, but a bird¿(1:05:50 stop intv due to motor noise)
I think we were talking about what it would mean to birders if ivorybill was rediscovered here. As I said I think it would be a ray of hope. There's a chance for saving practically anything, if a bird this majestic and rare had managed to hang on in all the habitat and landscape adjustments we've made. We practically destroyed old growth bottomland hardwood forests. There's not any significant stands of virgin, there might be some tiny little pockets, but they're not big enough to support ivorybills. But perhaps they were able to move around in a nomadic lifestyle and continue to exist. That would show the strength of the bird, its determination to live and to propagate. It would be a sign of encouragement for all of us.
I think as far as a conservation plan we need to move very carefully because if you think about it, the bird has survived, on its own, without our help, for 50 years, because the last confirmed sightings were somewhere around the 1950's. So anything we do I don't think we want to be too hasty about it or too immediate in making any grand changes because the bird, if it's still here, has been very resilient and very determined to survive, under the conditions we've given it, for the last 50 years.
And as to the question of what do you think it mean to birders and to pro's as well as amateurs if it was found to survive as well as hang on?
Well, I think it would be very impressive that the bird has done that all of these years. With its size and loud voice and loud hammering, I think it would say one thing for probably the secretness of the bird, the elusiveness of it, it would also say something for the kind of habitat it lives in. It is deep in the swamp where birders don't go¿certainly some hunters and fishermen go there and some of the claimed sightings are from people who've gone out hunting and fishing. As far as what birders would think about it, I think you would have quite a few birders want to come down and see it, quite a few. And maybe as far as a plan for conserving the bird the first thing that would happen is you would have to make sure that there wasn't a stampede, although if it's in a very difficult terrain it would also be very difficult for birders to get to it to see it so the stampede could be slowed by edge of swamp
What about the opposite? What if you spend your 30 days down here and don't find any sign of it?
Then it's either probably not here, or there's so much terrain we didn't get a chance to cover it all good. But Bogue Chitto is a large place, we've covered already in 6 days a fair amount of the Pearl River and it's been covered by a lot of other individual searchers and small teams, with a few signs here and there but no actual sightings of the birds. But Bogue Chitto's so large and then Old (?) River management area in Mississippi north of that is also fairly large, there's still a lot of habitat to search and we may not get it all covered in 30 days, so I certainly don't think that means it's extinct, all we can truthfully say is that we didn't see it.
Do you agree?
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
I wonder if what with all the publicity, even without a mess of journalists coming down, the word was out about the sighting in 1999 and then put this much effort into it, I wonder if a lot of people might just say the heck with it?
I expect some people would. Some people would say, if six people spending thirty days couldn't find it, that's good enough for me, why should I keep looking for it, or if you're sitting at home, why should I bother to even want to go looking for this if 6 people couldn't find it in 30 days. I expect there will be a lot of people who will have that type of attitude. But I personally after 30 days if we haven't found it I wouldn't think it was gone. I genuinely believe that David Kulivan saw one, or the pair that he said he saw. And I really believe that if a pair has survived 50 years, odds are there's more than just one pair 'cause their lifespan is maybe 20 years at best. So they've been breeding to have made it this far, breeding several generations.
1:12:51 Chris goes to get book.
ambi.( ambiance at interview site, distant motor will need filtering, or throw R ch mike out of polarity and add in to left ch to help cancel noise!)
This is the greatest passage. This is Alexander Wilson. This is the passage he wrote about taking a captive bird to a hotel. I want you to make it awesome. If you could start reading it and Rick could pick it up half way through.
The first place I observed this bird at, when on my way to the south, was about 12 miles north of Wilmington, North Carolina. There I found the bird from which my drawing was taken. This bird was only wounded slightly in the wing and on being caught uttered a loudly reiterated and most piteous note, exactly resembling the violent crying of a young child, which terrified my horse so as nearly to have cost me my life. It was distressing to hear it. I carried it with me in the chair, undercover to Wilmington. In passing though the streets its affecting cries surprised everyone within hearing, particularly the females, who hurried to the doors and windows with looks of alarm and anxiety. I drove on, and on arriving at the piazza of the hotel where I intended to put up the landlord came forward and a number of other persons who happened to be there, all equally alarmed at what they heard. This was greatly increased by my asking whether he could furnish me with accommodations for myself and my baby. The man looked blank and foolish while the others stared with still greater astonishment. After diverting myself for a minute or two at their expense, I drew my woodpecker from under the cover and a general laugh took place. I took him upstairs and locked him up in my room while I went to see my horse taken care of. In less than an hour I returned. And on opening the door he set up the same distressing shout which now appeared to proceed from grief that he had been discovered in his attempts at escape. He had mounted along the side of the window, nearly as high at the ceiling a little below which he had begun to break through. The bed was covered with large pieces of plaster. The lathe was exposed for at least 15 inches square. And a whole large enough to admit the fist opened to the weathered boards. So that in less than another hour he would certainly have succeeded in making his way through. I now tied a string round his leg and, fastening it to the table, again left him. I wished to preserve his life and had gone off in search of suitable food for him. As I re-ascended the stairs I heard him again, hard at work, and on entering had the mortification to perceive that he had almost entirely ruined the mahogany table to which he was fastened and on which he had wreaked his whole vengeance. While engaged in taking the drawing he cut me severely in several places and on the whole displayed such a noble and unconquerable spirit that I was frequently tempted to restore him to his native woods. He lived with me nearly three days but refused all sustenance. And I witnessed his death with regret. (1:16:35) Quite a spirit.
That's a really awesome story. That bird did not sound like it wanted to be in captivity. I think a captive breeding program would have to read that very carefully before they tried anything like that.
The approach to a captive breeding program in a bird like that would be very different from what Wilson was trying to do there. The Condor recovery program is handled in a way so that the condors, at least the juveniles, aren't seeing humans. They're being fed by hand puppets that resemble a condor head.
Chris talks about Lloyd Kiff writing a book about the condors.
conversation after intv, more talk about radio production
It was sad, the first time I read this, going "wow, this bird's great! How's it going to end?" and it refused all food and died. Not a very happy ending.
Well, let's hope this ending is a little happier this time around.
Well, let's hope so. Well, this is neither the beginning or the ending. This is just a transition in our knowledge of the bird. If the bird is still here our finding it doesn't do anything to the bird unless we choose to act on it. I mean if it's here it's been here for 50 years, moving around and surviving and breeding and we just didn't know about it. So all this is doing is adding to the learning from the human side; it doesn't affect the woodpecker in any way.
Can you imagine capturing it and trying to breed it in captivity?
No. No, I would be very hesitant to do that, like I said, if it's made it 50 years. But that's not my job or my profession so that won't be up to me to decide.
(directions to Stennis Center,) DL: ready to roll? Map hunting? Washeteria hunting?
Loaded: Ax DL RK Lock 3 intv 05940-12100
32 12130 ambiance at intv site, car passes, same gain as interview
33 12408 same location, ambiance at higher gain, bird calls and pecking with distant motor noise, car passes
34,35 12744 slate new location, outside Stennis Space Center on east side of Pearl River WMA where David is waiting for other searchers
36,37 12800 traffic ambiance outside Stennis Center before searchers arrive, helicopter flies over
38 13200 searchers arrive, David greets them as "soggy bottom boys", bag limit, baptism, voices of Peter, Martjan, Alison, helicopter still around, talk of wood chips at likely site they'd seen, David says he'll put video monitor out there, food back at cabin, got maps, camping possibilities,
13700 Chris talks to Peter, sound of stowing stuff in back of truck, truck and van depart, ambiance
39 14030 Chris and I talk in car
40 14110 back at bunkhouse, searchers are offloading their gear, voices and commotion, ambiance fairly quiet inside bunkhouse,
14510 some dishes rattling, voices talking about canoes, coffee and cocoa
14740 noisy air compressor kicks on outside where Alan is inflating his car tires
14850 better outside ambiance, Highway I10 nearby
14930 a pirogue is dropped atop other boats in leaves
15015 directions to Walmart
15110 Peter talks to guy who's brought a loaner canoe, they pull it off his car, more talk
15420 back inside, cooking sounds, stove exhaust fan goes on, loud voices in kitchen area
15708 back outside, Mark's truck starts, backs into garage, garage door closes
15820 back inside, many voices, get vent fan set to quieter setting
15925 Chris interviews Peter
why did you pick the spot that you picked and then tell us how it went.
Well, I think Al can answer the question better why we picked the spot. As far as I know some of the other people on the team had looked at places where we had sampled before and seen some more encouraging clues and based on where they were geographically this was a good point in between a couple different locations so we wanted to kind of search in the middle. But we're trying to cover all areas it's just a mix of trying to hit areas that look interesting while getting our complete coverage everywhere. And a lot of it has to do with logistics, just what we can line up on a given day in terms of if we have transportation to get the boats to a place where we can launch them and so forth. But they mapped out the location. They said it would be a good place where we could put the boats in and get across a small piece of water, camp, and do some searches from that camp in different directions, return to the camp, and then search again the next day.
Did you find any good habitat?
Oh yeah, we've seen lots of habitat that looks promising. That doesn't seem to be in great shortage. At least what we judged looked promising. And the final word will be if there are woodpeckers using it. But the potential looks good. Finding any signal that the habitat's actually used, that's a lot harder. We saw some trees that had bark scaled, as we did in a few other places. But it could be the pileated woodpecker. It's not black and white, it's not diagnostic. But those are the sorts of clues that we watch for that could potentially indicate the presence of the ivorybill, or suggest that the presence was there. We also rely on the fact, or what was written in Tanner's monograph that ivorybills tended to be found where there's a high abundance of other woodpeckers. And so if there's pileateds there as well as other smaller woodpeckers, that's still a good sign.
Why do you think it is that they're found in the same region? I mean they have do have separate specialties in terms of what they feed on and the kinds of trees that they focus on are different generally speaking from the ones the pileateds focus on. They're in a different state.
Well, that's a good question. I don't know if I have a real answer for that. I've thought about that myself because some of the woodpeckers, whose foraging approach is more familiar to me because of some research I've done with other woodpeckers, might tend to be favored by more mature stands with long dead trees because they might feed on wood-boring beetle larvae that are deep in the trees for which the conditions only develop over a series of decades or over a century perhaps. The ivorybill, as we understand it and apparently as you've read as well, tends to feed on more ephemeral eruptions of beetle larvae that follow the death of trees, perhaps a kill event like a fire or other source that will trigger the infestation. Apparently though they feed in--well, that's a good question. Their feeding might be different however their nesting requirements may well require large old trees. And in many species of cavity-nesting birds the availability of cavities or adequate trees in which to construct cavities may be more limiting than the availability of prey . So, I'm just thinking out loud but it may be that factor of their ecology, the presence of sufficiently large trees with enough age that they've developed heart rot, which is usually a precursor for cavity excavation for most woodpeckers, maybe that could be the key factor that makes the ivorybills tend to be sympatric, or occur in the same locations with the other woodpeckers.
I also wonder, if not now even back in the 30s at that point whether the very fact that there were any ivorybill woodpeckers left might be explained that they had to become more Catholic in their tastes or widened their niche a little bit and been able to survive because they were less specialized in their selection of food and habitat.
Well, I wonder that myself. But I guess what I keep telling myself and sometimes commenting to my team members is, if we find the bird, and of course the "if" is the first part of this whole thing, but if we find them I expect to be surprised. Perhaps they're using the landscape differently than we expect, even from the commentaries of Tanner in his period of time. Because obviously if you look at the present landscape and our understanding of how the bird lived in it and try to deduce how a population lives in the present landscape, it's a complex puzzle and the answer isn't obvious. Part of the answer may be they're not living there the way we think they are.
a lot of species have gone extinct because their ecological niche was so narrow. And if I remember my Darwin correctly, the narrower your niche in some ways is good because you have less competition. But at the same time, if man comes around or some other unusual environmental event, it also dooms you. Is that the case with the woodpecker?
I guess by the end of the search we can say more about that, but common wisdom would suggest probably yes. I mean it certainly seems to be a specialist in many of its requirements and it certainly seems to have declined with modifications of its habitat. So yes, it seems to be suffering the classic fate of a specialist. As you say, it's good to avoid competition as long as your niche, in terms of its parameters, stays there. But many of the parameters that we understand of its niche have been modified or removed.
Well, science, aside how is the camping?
The camping is fine, the paddling where we went was quite easy and it was just 15 minutes paddling across a week to where we set up camp. And it didn't rain on us, there weren't many bugs, so it was fine. It was actually really nice, we could hear bard owls calling from across the lake or the slue--we were at a junction. This morning what I really liked was there was a thin ground fog. Apparently there was rain further north but we just got a lot of fog coming in. And when we walked through the forest it had this ethereal luminosity. I can't really describe it. It was like the air itself was actually glowing. Because there was this vaporous fog¿not quite visually a fog. Well, through the distance it was a fog, but anyhow the air seemed like it was glowing. It was very luminous, I liked it.
And you can tell me now. I know you're trying to keep it a secret but you did find one right?
Don't I wish I could say yes.
What would you do? I'm asking everybody the same question. What would you do if you saw one?
Well, in the moment I hope I would contain my excitement well enough to get immediate footage of it. I mean, obviously our immediate---
20720 tape runs out, interview continues on "Weds Stereo 2" tape
Subject 1,2 at Location 1; Subject 3,4 at Location 2; Subject 5,6 at Location 3