ML 161654


Interview 2:49 - 57:14 Play 2:49 - More
Audio »
Video »
species »
John Fitzpatrick, Gene Sparling  







Ivory-billed Woodpecker search; Scott Simon also in this recording  

Interview 59:46 - 1:06:16 Play 59:46 - More
Audio »
Video »
species »
Sara Barker  







Ivory-billed Woodpecker search  

Interview 1:06:24 - 1:09:30 Play 1:06:24 - More
Audio »
Video »
species »
John Fitzpatrick, Scott Simon  







Ivory-billed Woodpecker search  

Sound Effects 1:10:33 - 1:22:33 Play 1:10:33 - More
Audio »
Video »
species »
Canoe paddling  








Sound Effects 1:22:48 - 1:23:31 Play 1:22:48 - More
Audio »
Video »
species »
Imitation Barred Owl call  








NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
26 Jan 2005

  • United States
    Monroe County
  • Dagmar State Wildlife Management Area
  • 34.888   -91.318
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Equipment Note

Show: Elvis (Ivory-billed Woodpecker)
Log of DAT # 1
Engineer: William McQuay
Date: January 26-29, 2005

JP = John Fitzpatrick
GS = Gene Sparling
SS = Scott Simon
SB = Sara Barker
CJ = Chris Joyce
Bill = Bill McQuay

00:38 - 2:40 Ambi Push off of the canoe and quiet canoeing with no talking

CJ: off mic question about asking John Fitzpatrick to tell us about the first time you came here.

03:00 JF: I came down here only a few days after I had this amazing moment in my office, the kind of moment you dream about, when Tim Gallagher told me this story of having come down and seen this bird, which is an amazing story itself, a Gene Sparling siting, and I said to Tim, what are the chances that this thing you saw was not an ivory bill. And he said, Fitz. It was an ivory bill. And I said, well our lives are going to change. And a few days after that we were back down here, starting to talk with Scott Simon about the conservation efforts that had to accompany the science. And I'll tell ya, just the first paddle tough this with Gene leading us down through the place, that Tim saw this bird¿to sit with 1,000 year old cypress trees around you. And imagine my God this bird is still alive. What a feeling. [4:11]

CJ: And when you came down and saw the kind of forest. The ivory bill woodpecker is very picky about the kind of forest it can live in.

JF: Absolutely. That's been its demise. It was a bird that lived in the high big forests of southeastern U.S. The mammoth old forests with ten foot diameter trunks and 1,000 year old trees as they were dying, the bird was feeding on them as they were dying. We took away all those trees, so here is a place a little vestige that actually has some of that character. Some of these really old trees. Now the really classic old growth trees is fairly limited here, but the most amazing thing of all as Scott Simon and Doug Zollner pointed out the most amazing thing of all is that it's attached to this 500,000 acre forest that is being regenerated, so there's the hope right there.
As we got in this water for the first time, you get this incredible feeling of hope, cuz, my god, there's huge forest available here. This bird can last for another few years as this stuff continues to grow back. It may make it. We may have actually not lost this gem of the American woods. [5:35]

CJ: And when you got that call. People have been talking about finding and seeing the ivory bill a lot of the times. You learned to be a skeptic. Did you have any question, another false promise.

JF: Absolutely. I've seen hundreds of reports of ivory bill woodpeckers, especially since we did our work in the Pearl River in 2002. There isn't a week that goes by that I don't have a rep[ort of an ivory bill somewhere. So I had seen hundreds of them. This one was different because mainly for the first time really a professional science journalist had gone down to follow-up a specific report that was itself very credible, and darned if he didn't actually see it himself. So a guy goes and follows up on a report and actually sees the bird, and this is a guy who's been searching¿.
We're talking about Tim Gallagher, and his buddy Bobby Harrison who came in after Gene Sparling's report, and they saw the thing after just being out here two days. [6:54] And not only that he could describe in explicit detail what it was about it. It came very close by. So he just got a very lucky sighting.
So I asked him is there any chance this was not an ivory bill. He said. No. this was. So my life changed instantly with that statement. We can't not pursue this. I have to take it seriously. So I took it as a real one. And immediately contacted the Nature Conservancy with whom I've worked for a long time. And fortunately Scott
Simon had heard the story too and was himself thinking about the implications, so we almost immediately agreed we had to work together on the process. And that has really led to this year long adventure in the woods, which is a big effort now. We have a couple dozen people working in these woods, trying to do two basic things:
Number one, figure out what's going on with this bird or birds in the specific place around the sighting area, and number two, can we find the source population.
This bird had a mom and a Dad and can we find the place where the bird came from. And the obvious place on the map is this huge corridor along the White River that's got such a vast amount of forest in it. So it gives us a lot of hope. [8:33]

CJ: Gene, you're the first person who saw it¿. Can you recreate that day, and perhaps a little bit of the excitement.

9:13 GS: I wqas traveling down Baya da Vue on a trip just for pleasure and actually leaned back in my boat and was having a wonderful sublime moment of joy that this was such a beautiful place and so different than anything I had seen and so impressive. At that point a large woodpecker flew into the channel headed directly towards me. I immediately noticed the size. I'm quite used to seeing piliated woodpeckers and the size of this was exceptional, and my first thought was this is the biggest piliated woodpecker I've ever seen in my life. The bird then noticed me, altered his flight to avoid, because he was headed straight towards me. He flared his wings to break, and once again the size was immediately noticeable and impressive.
He altered his flight to land on the butt of a tree approximately 50 to 70 feet away in front of me, he gave several herky, jerky motions and swivel of his head. He looked cartoonish and animated. I was distracted by particular yellow tint on the margins of the white feathers of the lower wing which at the time was an odd distraction to me. I did not make the connection immediately. The significant fact was that the feathers on the lower part of the wing were white. I had the thought of ivory bill, but I was not aware that this was in the range of the ivory bill. I thought that it had always been a species of the deep south, and it was too unbelievable.
[11:18] I couldn't accept or believe that I had seen an ivory bill, particularly since as a child, I had as many children did in my time dreamed of finding the ivory bill woodpecker. [11:33]
The bird then eventually hopped to the backside of the tree. He began to work his way up the side of the tree in typical woodpecker fashion, little glimpses of the head peeking around the tree to make sure I was in the same position. When he got to the top of the tree, he pushed off and began to fly off in the same direction he originally was headed. The flight was instantly noticeable, it was a straight, big broad straight
Wing, not at all like y9ou would expect a piliated woodpecker¿
CJ; because a palliated will dip, the profile of the wing on a piliated is curved, or at least appears that way in a motion of flight to me. This was a dead straight wing, a really long wing, and the pattern of flight was just straight, and you'll actually see lots of people use this same motion when they tell their stories.

CJ: And that's very distinctive of an ivory bill.

G: I did not know that at the time. I have since learned that is the case.

CJ: And you noticed the white bill.

GS: I noticed a light bill, but it did not jump out at me. I didn't attach any significance. I suppose the rest of the day it bounced around in my head, what if that was an ivory bill. But that was just crazy to believe. Ivory bills have been extinct for a 100 years, or at least 50, and the thought haunted me for several more days. I posted a little trip report on my canoe club website, that made a very veiled reference to the sighting of the bird, and was chastised by someone that saw that report to take it more seriously, and they referred to me to another website that informed me that
This was was in fact the historical range of the ivorybill and that in fact people had been searching the White River for the ivory bills. That caused me to get my bird book out.

CJ: So it took several days for it to sink in.

GS: Yes, sir. And actually when I looked at the bird book, I had a tremendous sinking feeling that oh my gosh, the greatest blessing to ever come my way has landed in my lap, and I have discounted it, and not taken it seriously, because I was too cynical to believe something that extraordinary could happen to me.

CJ: Did you ever think, gosh, I wish I had had a camera.

GS: Well, actually, and I hesitate to say this in front of Fitz for fear I'll get hit with a paddle, but my camera, my 35 was sittin between my legs, where I keep it. When the bird first came in, I thought my gosh this is gonna be a great picture, I ought to grab my camera, and I actually thought that no, I'm just gonna enjoy looking. And in truth, I think that probably was the correct decision, because I don't think I would have had time to get the camera

JF: ¿.diddling with the shutter. And you had a look at the crest even.

GS: Yes, the angles formed by the head, the neck and the bill were much more acute. The crest was more pointed

CJ: And red.

GS: Yes, it was definitely red, but not as large of a bold patch of red as you would expect to see on a palliated. It was more of a slender slip of red. The neck was longer, and, yeah. How did we end up here. It's pretty amazing.

CJ: And when was this?

GS: This was February 11, 2004.

CJ: And why were you out here?

GS: For fun. I'd been for several months. I love getting out in my kayak, putting all my stuff in the boat, and being able to paddle around for a week and just go where I want to. And I'd been exploring the big woods of Arkansas for several months and had just put in quite a ways up north and was basically traveling all the way down Bayadeview to the Cache and then onto Clarendon on the White, just for a pleasure trip, and I had been on several of these trips on the White and the tributaries to the White, and down in the refuge, and I had heard tales and whispers and little myths of Bayadeview, a place where there were 300 hundred year old cypress trees is what Ihad heard at the time. Which I now realize is an extreme understatement, and the trees in Bayadeview are 800 or 1,000 years old.

CJ: And that's where we are now.

GS: Yes, sir. We can show you an 800 year old tree in just a few moments. The entire White River refuge is just a beautiful, unique, wonderful place. Very impressive, but when I got to Bayadeview, it was immediately apparent that this was a whole cut above. This was really phenomenal. And particularly this section that we're in right now. I haven't seen anything like it anywhere else in the Big Woods, and I've seen a lot of the Big Woods. But it's just an amazingly unique place, and it's so amazing that it's here, and nobody knows that it's here. I've lived in Arkansas for 30 years now, and was aware of the White River refuge, but not at all aware of the significance of the last remaining best stand of bottomland hardwood forest. [17:45]

CJ: Is it ever frustrating that you've got this great story and you really can't tell it to too many people.

GS: Yes, at a certain level. But this is beyond personal gain or notoriety. This is so significant and so important that you have to pout all that aside. At times I really feel chosen, selected, feel the hand of fate using me, which I'm not normally given to such flights of fancy, but if you'd lived what I've lived, you might come to that conclusion too. But yes, it's a little frustrating. But actually, when Tim and Bobby, Tim Gallagher and Bobby Harrison. They had heard my story on the website. I was admonished by another canoe club member to take it more seriously. I looked at the bird book and found out that this was in the historical range of the bird, and after looking at the bird book, I had a tremendous sinking feeling as I already said, and so I did make a report of my sighting, and so shortly, quite quickly received a call from Tim Gallagher of Cornell and shortly thereafter from Bobby Harrison that they were both rather excited over my report, and we made arrangements for them to come back down in a couple of weeks. And I brought 'em in here, and we took a trip, and we were basically floating down Bayadeview, and the second day out the bird flew right past em at a very close range. It was close enough and in such a position that it was almost impossible for them not to have had a positive ID of the bird. But when that came about¿

CJ: What was their reaction when they saw it?

20:26:GS: Oh, they were running around like a couple of ten year old kids. I had paddled on ahead of them just a very short distance and did not witness their sighting, but when they didn't show up downstream, I paddled up to see what had happened to them. At this point they had already beached their canoe and were onshore and were trying to chase the bird down through the woods, through the mud and the muck and the mire.

CJ: Probably saying God, I wish Fitz was here.

JF: I think they were saying, God I wish I'd gotten a picture of that. Bobby broke down.

GS: Shortly after that, Bobby broke down and started crying. One of the biggest memories I have of this whole situation is that moment when I realized they had saw it, which confirmed to not only them but to myself that what I had seen was real, and I sat down on a log, and it was as if a tremendous weight had been lifted off my shoulders. And at the time, I felt my Gosh, it's true, how unbelievable, my work is done. And really thought I could release all this and turn it over to people much more qualified than myself to pursue such a thing, which in fact is true, and is exactly what happened. But I didn't realize at the time that my involvement would be as deep in it as it is, and I'm totally grateful to these two gentlemen for the privilege Scott Simon of the Nature Conservancy and John Fitzpatrick of the Cornell. It's just been wonderful to be a part of this. [22:23]

CJ: ';m not a birder. I like to write about wildlife and nature. I wonder how it feels now to be surrounded now by people like Fitz, people who are professional birders scientists who would give their eye-teeth and maybe more than that, and you're the lucky one, and you have to sit and talk with them, and ride with them and eat dinner with them,.

GS: It's actually kind of fun. As I get to know them better, it's actually a lot of fun.
They're great bunch of folks. They're intensely dedicated to the cause. And as I say I have no explanation for why I was the one this bird landed in front of. Initially it felt just like chance, luck, and I suppose that's still a likely explanation, but after enough coincidences and twists of fate, well, I don't know. I've had to learn through this, to use that phrase and acknowledge there's just so many things that I don't know. It is intimidating to be surrounded by so many geniuses in something that means a lot to me. I've always been a very interested and dedicated amateur naturalist. I was a birder as a young man, and then moved away from it.

CJ: It's an addiction./

GS: Well, it seems¿.

CJ: It's a virus.

GS: Well, I actually have a different version of the virus.

JF: You'll catch the virus pretty soon.

GS: My passion has always bee for wild places, wilderness of any form. And that's actually what brought me to the Big Woods. It was an environment that I had no experience in. And was very different thus challenging.

24:47 JF: You know that's the key connection of this bird and this discovery that Gene's made cuz he made the discovery because he's passionately in love with wilderness and that's what the ivory billed woodpecker has always stood for. It did in Audubon's day, it did throughout the latter part of the 1800s's as it was disappearing. People knew the only places you could go see it were in the most remote deepest Southern swamp forest, toughest to get into, hardest to get out of, filled with snakes and hot, so it's always stood for this primeval deep uniquely American wilderness forest. [25:26]

CJ: And one of the reasons it's so sad, and why people get so powerfully moved by it's extinction, because in a sense, it's iconic, it's the totem of the ancient American forest.

JF: That's absolutely right. It is the symbol of the ancient American southern forest.]

GS: It is aptly nicknamed Lord God Bird, and ghost bird.

JF: People when they saw it are reported to have said Lord God, what a bird, it got that nickname. One of Audubon's genuinely favorite birds. He just marveled at the color patterns, spectacular thing, and, of course uncommon and only found in these great big forests of the South. And so the disappearance of the bird literally coincided with the disappearance of this wilderness forest. So Gene's discovery, and the idea that there may be a remnant population that actually as these forests are coming back might itself grow again is this incredible idea that the big unique bottomland forests of central, southern North America might be coming back.

CJ: And if the bird got through the bottleneck.

JF: If the bottleneck survived, and this discovery indicates that at least a few survived it. Because this bird had a Mom and a Dad, and it has to have been born in the '80's or '90's, so by gum all the times people were saying it's extinct, it's extinct, why are you still looking there was a bird born at that time. Gene saw it. So this bird may have survived the bottleneck enough to come back and establish a population again as this forest becomes the big beautiful wilderness forest that it used to be.

CJ: I just need you to identify yourselves¿..

27:20 GS: My name is Gene Sparling, live in Hot Springs, Arkansas. It'll take me a minute to figure out what I do¿..I'm a third rate entrepreneur, amateur naturalist
¿..third rate explorer¿.. avid kayaker. I guess probably I'm Gene Sparling from Hot Springs, Arkansas, amateur explorer and adventurer and amateur naturalist.

CJ: And soon to be birder.

GS: Yeah, once returning to birding again in my life.

28:18 JF: I'm John Fitzpatrick, Director of the Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, new York. I've been a professional ornithologist for almost 30 years, I've been dreaming about ivory bills since I was six years old, chasing them from time to time since I was 18, and I am privileged as heck to be sitting in this canoe under 125 foot cypress trees [28:45]

28:53 SS: I'm Scott Simon with the Nature Conservancy, Arkansas chapter. I'm the Director here. I live in Little Rock, Arkansas, and I am just honored to be a part of this effort, and this incredible group of people, and there is really no finer place to do the sort of conservation work that we get to do in these incredible habitats and big woods in eastern Arkansas. It's pretty cool. [29:25]

GS: Thank Goodness that you and your organization were out here doing this work before any of this high profile unbelievable rare bird sighting came to pass.

CJ: Talk about when TNC got involved.

30:13 SS: It really started with two great calls. Gene called me I think it was on a Thursday maybe in February and we had met before briefly a few times, and he had just described what he had seen. And described that it had been followed up by a credible sighting by staff from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, that he loved the place, he knew that there was a long history of conservation work, and we need to do something. We have to take into account this new information as we go forward with conserving the bottomland hardwoods, and swamps and great rivers that are here. And we had a great visit. And it was a moment that I will never forget. Because every time that every person Gene shares this story with, it's an emotional moment, because it's something that anybody could hope to hear about a place that they love. That it is of big enough size and good enough quality to have the Lord God Bird come visit it and call it home, just incredible. [31:35]
And then the next day, Fitz called, I was out of town¿I had a message "Be in your office". John Fitzpatrick who is the key to this whole effort, John's on the Board of Governors of the Conservancy and also Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which really in this country puts him in the unique position to galvanize research and conservation effort around a sighting in a moment like this. So Fitz and I talked, and we didn't really know how much each other knew. So there was a moment of ¿.which has been typical for this story¿.a moment of him trying to determine how much I knew, and me trying to not so much determine how much he knew but just to make it clear that I understood two things: First that this was a significant moment for conservation of this place, and second that there was a lot of search and research work that needed to be done, and it needed to be done discreetly, and that we wanted to support that effort in whatever way we needed to, and as discreetly as they needed. So then we danced around a little bit, and then he said YOU KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT

JF: Do you know Gene Sparling¿

SS: And I think I said, Arkansas's a very small state. I had actually heard a few little rumors before Gene had told me of something, because there are always rumors of somebody maybe seeing an interesting species or an ivorybill in the southeast, but that's what really got me involved, and it has been¿..and I think that is one of the neatest things about this effort¿.because it has been a great partnership from the beginning. And soon after that moment when Fitz and I talked, and Gene and I talked there were really only a handful of people who knew, and all of them would be considered in some way conservation leaders in the State or related to ivory bill searching and laid out a plan for what we are going to do in the future. And that was a great initial start to this whole effort. [34:05]

GS: I remember promising Susan that it would be the most interesting call of the week. Have Scott call me.

JF: What was critical about Tim's¿.I mean Tim Gallagher, when he told me this story, I had just come back into the office from being away, actually services for my Mom who had just passed away, and Tim closed the door and sat down and proceeded to tell me this story, and I couldn't believe it. I ran and got a tape recorder, so I grilled him that morning with a tape recorder. And that's when I asked him Can you assure that that's what it is. He said it was. I said we got to make a decision. It's going to change our lives. I'm treating this as a 100%er. Even though there is no photo which is the thing we've always wished we could get, we've got act as if we have one, and the key is we'd been rehearsing this in the Pearl River a couple of years before as a fantasy, and here we are living it, the one the one we'd been rehearsing. Namely, Number One, we've got to do a scientific study, but absolutely at the same time, we've got to make it a conservation thing, that's the key because this bird stands for this opportunity to bring back the forest of the primeval era. We've got to get going with that right away too. So it's that dual effort of studying it and conserving the place, figuring out what the place needs, get ting additional land acquired, working with the agencies who are dealing with the management, and that's clearly the Nature Conservancy's work, so obviously it was clear to me right away that it was clearly an opportunity to work side by side with the TNC, and we've done that ever since. [36:35]

CJ: How did you sleep that night.

JF: I was excited. I'm still excited. I was really a different person. I kept saying to myself, and I will confess that although I knew this had to stay secret, I talked to my wife, so Molly and I were saying over and over, I can't believe it. We've been dreaming about this. I can't believe it's actually true.

CJ: When you made that commitment. You said okay we haven't got a photo, but we're act as though we do, this is solid , any second thoughts.

JF: No second thoughts whatsoever. What we knew as we started the process of studying and conserving was that we had to get a photo, we had to get some kind of visual evidence, because to be able to walk into an office and ask for money, whether it's a private donor who can help buy some land,, whether it's an agency that can work with a management plan, whether it's the government who could actually put big money towards the needed conservation effort that it requires, you got to be able to show them something visual that makes them believe what you now believe, so visual evidence was key. And it remains one of the things we're having the hardest part with. This bird, we know exists, but we also know it is very good at staying away from people. So we're still struggling. But then the fateful April 25th day.

CJ: What's that?

38:13 JF: so April 25th is probably the day, aside from Gene's initial sighting, and Tim and Bobby's follow-up confirmation sighting the most important day of this whole process has been April 25th, 2004, when David Luneau, who's an electrical engineer, a long time ivory bill searcher, was involved in the Pearl River, lives here in Arkansas, was out here, part of the story from the beginning, part of the search process, and David is a tinkerer and a gadget guy, and he lashed a video camera running live and continuously on his canoe, tooling around right near the place where
Gene had spotted the original sighting, and caught a little piece of this bird flying away from the canoe. That little clip, and it's not a good video, but that little clip, when we took it back and analyzed it in our video shop at the Lab of Ornithology, we realized what that thing had. That has clear evidence of the bird in it. It shows the white wings, it shows the crest, it shows the pale bill, it shows the direct flight flying straight away, not undulating like a piliated, so that video we treat as sacred in this thing, because it's really important video. It's not good enough for prime time, we'd really love to get something better, but it's enough to convince serious professionals that the sightings are real, that was the ivory bill woodpecker flying away from David's canoe. [39:57]

CJ. Re David. Really nice that it was David]

JF: Fabulous that it was David who got that first video.
Now what we're dying for is that spectacular cover shot. So we're out here talking under these trees because we have this huge project underway., in part to try to get that. Everybody who's out here in the woods right now is out here with a video camera at their feet. [41:04]

AMBIENCE 41:10 - 42:42 [note: plane flies over after one minute of ambi to end]
[Snow geese fly over, though easy to hear. Fitz says there is a "flicker" flying over too]

Ambi of Paddling with plane overhead: 43:51-44:37 [no good]
Ambi of paddling - no plane 44:38-45:40 [VG]
CJ: These are all cypress¿..

JF: So we're paddling down this channel through a tupelo forest. We have Cypress trees 100-130 feet tall on both sides of us¿.[interrupted]¿.150 feet tall, really wide at the base, five, six, seven feet in diameter, some of the biggest ones.

CJ: How old would that make them?

JF: Well, I'm told that the oldest ones in here have been cored up to 1500 years, but I think that the main ones are 800 years old. That's a mere 4 or 500 year old one right there.

CJ: They're very slow growing¿

JF: Yeah, very slow growing, and the matrix in amongst these big giant cypress trees are tupelos with these big swollen butts, much younger, although some of these tupelos regrow and regrow from the butt and the stumps, so some of them could be remarkably old¿.SS: There's a big one. The cypresses are neat, because you look a the top, and a lot f them, they're just all ragged at the top, damaged by storms. The cypress are really super ? They're higher above the canopy than the tupelo and the other oaks which is what from afar or even the air gives these swamp forests that tropical look. You've got that uneven canopy. Primeval. Really gorgeous. 48:28

JF: [More re trees¿.sweet gum, red maples, some of the most diverse hardwood in the U.S.]

SS: [off mic] One of the neat things about it, is the diversity of forest types. There's about 70 different forest types or plant communities ranging from the cypress tupelo in the deepest water where we are now to the oak, white oak on higher grounds. So you get it all. The tree species just sort themselves out based on soil types and water levels and hydrology and historical disturbance. [last sentences on mic] with the sweet gums being up on some of the higher areas.

49:46-49:59 FX: Quick bird call in the clear [very short]

CJ: Now if you were looking for the nest hole of this ivory bill, where would be the best place to look, would it be on land or here in the water.

JF: They've nested in both circumstances. They have a very characteristic hole that's huge. It's significantly bigger than the piliated's hole, oblong, so it's taller than it is wide, up to 5 inches tall and 4 inches wide. And it would tend to be up to 50', sometimes higher, often at the base of a branch that's protruding out, almost always in something that's dead, but often in a living tree. So they did nest in the cypress bottomlands, but also up in the hardwoods. They key about the forest thing with the ivory bill is that it did a lot of foraging in the hardwoods. These cypress tupelo forests are a little bit sterile compared to the hardwoods, so there's a lot of rapidly growing and dying wood in a hardwood forest, and they loved, and in Jim Tanner's work in the 1930's, he showed they preferentially foraged on sweet gum, big old dying sweet gums and nuttal oaks, much more than any of the other trees, especially cypress. [51:32]

51:33 CJ: What is your strategy right now for trying to get a picture of it, and where do you look, and when.

51:39 JF: We have a couple of different strategies underway. We're trying to, Number #1, we really want to find a nest hole, and this is one of the big contributions made by Mark Jan Lamertink [sp], who's a biologist from the Netherlands whom we hired to come over here and be part of the search team for a year. He's one of the world's experts on big woodpeckers, and his immediate decision was we've got to find potential roost holes, so they've been doing systematic surveys, 50 meter apart transects through this entire forest, studying every one of the trees, trying to find holes that could be ivory bill roost holes, and then when they find available ones, they post somebody there to see what's using them. So we're trying to inventory the forest for potential roost holes. All of us are dressed in camouflage, I'm wearing this gilley suit, which reduces the chance that something sees me, because one of the things that's clear, we've had 10 sightings of this bird, but this bird is so spooky, it doesn't stick around, so it's clear that we need to be surprising it. [52:51] So, we're trying to work slowly through the forest, everybody armed with a camera, and hoping for the lucky encounter that's going to have somebody seeing the bird before the bird sees him.

CJ: And you think it's just one bird?

JF: We don't know whether it's one or more than one here in Bayadeview [sp].We have circumstantial reason to think that it could be two. The most exciting of which was in November of 04 when one of our searchers, Marshall Ilif [sp] spent the evening doing a watch at a place that was one of our best pieces of habitat, and he heard the characteristic [53:36 FX: good thump on the canoe[[though it should have been two thumps] double rap of this bird, and Marshall knows the same sound from the bird's relatives in central and South America, and he said it sounded very, very real, and then he heard it again, then he heard at a different angle, and then he heard it from the first place again. He actually spent ten minutes listening to a number of these double rap sounds, and he was completely convinced that this was a campefelous [sp] woodpecker displaying. And that suggests, that's actually the best evidence that we have that there could be two. That's very consistent with a pair of birds displaying to each other at dusk. It was a nice warm night in November, and unfortunately, I think it was the last warm night in the fall, because the weather broke the next day into an awful mess, and really turned into this quite severe winter that Arkansas has had. We didn't get any follow-ups from that time, and haven't since. So here it is the end of January, and we're still waiting for another encounter. It's possible, we're in the absolute dead of winter, we've had, a lot of us have frozen our toes off in here in these cold January days. It's gone well below freezing many times over the last six or eight weeks. And there is a little thought that this bird may have moved to the uplands, to the higher ground for the winter, where it could be eating sugar berry fruits, and could be foraging on things outside of where it was mainly seen last year. [55:10]

CJ: [Questioning Fitz on whether he knocked once or twice]

55:16 FX: double knock again.

JF: The bird had this very, very rapid, very sharp display call, characteristic of the whole genus.

55:27 FX: double nock

JF: That's really a display drum. {FX of piliated woodpecker in background} So the display drum is this double rap almost like the second one echoes the first
55:41 FX double knock [VG] plus a few seconds of Ambi on the river

JF: I know that Marshall would not want me to tell this story, but he actually had a tape recorder with him, and as soon as he heard the double rap, he turned the tape recorder on, so he spent that ten minutes saying I'm getting it, I'm getting it, but he had not turned on the microphone¿..I know for sure Marshall will never forget that. He's a great field guy, I said, don't worry about it, we'll get it again¿.

57:25 - 58:14 Ambi of paddling

JF: We're seeing another searcher, Sara Barker coming in, well camouflaged.

59:47 How long have you been doing this, looking for the bird?

SB: I've been with the project for a little under a year now. I came out with one of the first groups last April, was lucky enough to be here the week when they had their sightings, but not the lucky one to get to see it. But I was around all the excitement which was just amazing.

CJ: Are you a biologist.

SB: I am, I work in bird conservation at the Lab. Ken Rosenberg is my boss, and I work with Fitz quite a bit on projects. I'm actually the project coordinator here in Arkansas, so I go back and forth.

CJ: had you ever been to Arkansas before.

SB: Yah, my grandmother lives here up in the northwest corner, so I've been down here to visit her, but never to this part, never into the swamp. It's just such a magical area, just amazing.

CJ: As someone who is in this very calculated and well thought out search, what is your job, and how do you spend your day?

SB: My main job is to organize all the part-time employees who come down from the Lab to work with us, and then when I come down here I go out with the crew.
We're given a job each morning, right now it's transects, searching for cavities, or we are doing slow floats through the channels just doing point counts. We're doing about 20 minute point counts right now where you'll sit and listen for all the birds that you'll hear, you'll record them all. At the same time, you're in a nice location, usually an open spot where you're able to look for the bird. We're also doing walking transects. We have about 8 people over in Dagmar which is farther south than us, and they've been walking all day slogging through the hardwoods.

CJ: Muddy.

SB: yes, very muddy, in about chest deep water, but very interesting. I just talked with a few of them on the phone, and they're doing well, but they're pretty tired, so you might have some tuckered out field assistants this evening. It's good work. There's a lot more diversity there now. Lots of redheaded woodpeckers.

***1:02:13 - 1:02:34 FX: Good bird call

CJ: What's that?

SB: A flicker.

JF: A flicker is another woodpecker that is really dependent on dead wood. It's a good indicator of a forest with lots of dead wood in it. The woodpecker diversity in this forest is spectacular. It's got every species of eastern North American woodpecker in it, including red cockated in a piece of forest not far east of the White River, and of course the big magic one of all, ivory bill. We're in a woods that has every eastern North American woodpecker in it. [1:03:25]

JF: All the species do this evening display just before going into their roost, which is why we were so excited about Marshall's drumming which would be consistent with them drumming and then going into their roost. In fact, they have found a very good ivory bill shaped roost hole right in the vicinity of where he was hearing this. Unfortunately we haven't found the bird there. Weather may have moved the bird out shortly thereafter. But we have our hopes for the spring. One of our thoughts was to get out here, really know the place, doing a lot of the logistics before the spring breeding started, so that by the end of January, middle of February, the weather starts to break, starting to flower, leaf out begins, birds start to get noisy, we'd be ready and used to the place in time to start hearing these beautiful ivory bill woodpeckers calls.

CJ: You want to see one bad don't you.

SB: Oh, I want to see one more than anything. It would be dream come true, really. I haven't be searching nearly as long as these guys, but it's infectious, it's kind of every biologist's dream to be out here and participate in this type of project. I honestly believe that this is probably going to be the biggest conservation effort in my lifetime. And I'm honored to be a part of it. It's pretty special .

CJ: Is it the thrill of seeing the ivory bill woodpecker, or is it seeing a North American animal that was believed to be extinct, and it's not.

SB: I think it's both. The bird itself has already been very magical and mystical and is a great symbol, but it's also jut knowing that I can try to help save a species, try to make a difference, helped out conservation, which is why I got into this field, it's a big passion of mine.

CJ: Conserving habitat for wild animals is very difficult in a country that sometimes seems hell bent on developing every last square foot. Clearly people use charismatic animals as a way to try to convince the public to try to save habitat. In the pantheon of charismatic animals, where do you think the ivory bill woodpecker comes as far as generating the will to conserve.

SB: I think this offers so much hope and it will bring a lot of public awareness. I think it's a very big symbol, and very important.

1:06:27 JF: It 's the holy grail. Among birds of North America, there is no more charismatic bird. It's a bird not just because it's been so rare and been extinct for 50 years, but it's also the biggest woodpecker we have. It's spectacularly colored. Audubon called it the Van Dyke bird. He just marveled at its colors and loved it. It's a very beautiful bird. In fact we've had a few people her who have said that was one beautiful bird. [1:07:00]

CJ: On the question of conservation, that's your business. What does the ivory bill give you that other animals don't?

SS: I think it gives a symbol of hope. And this area is¿The big woods are really a jewel in the Mississippi River valley. People love these woods. Individuals and agencies have worked long and hard over the last 20 years to conserve it, to restore the bottomland hardwoods, to heal the rivers, and for a whole bunch of species that everybody loves, black bears, great waterfall, 265 species of birds, other birds that people love, and they fish these lakes, and to add to that this critter that is extremely selective that needs the largest woods with the oldest trees further highlights how important the place is. And I think it will attract a lot of positive interest in conservation of our southern forests, because so many people will galvanize around something special. And it's interesting to see the reaction that people have to this bird. And several of us were talking about it. We know why we love it, we're in the business, and we know how symbolic it is to have a rare species in a really important place. But what I think it is that strikes people is that it reminds them of their childhood and a special place that they loved. Everybody had it no matter where they were. They had a special patch of woods, or a prairie that they stomped around in. And they also probably had a species that is not there anymore that they long for. The bison and the tall grass prairies for example. The southern forests, it's the ivory bill woodpecker. It evokes that image of wild beautiful places. It just strikes a cord no matter where you are. [1:09:33]

***1:10:06 - 1:15:03 AMBI - paddling the canoe, plus Gene in his kayak. Very good long bed with some faint talking in distance in the beginning [Fitz talks for a moment about the cypress], and then paddling continues to 1:22:33]
JF: Searchers call this the magic hour. Woodpeckers call before go to roost.

1:22:34 JF: There goes a barred owl through the woods.

**1:22:49 FX : JF makes a great barred owl call and again at 1:23:06-1:23:17
1:23:27 FX : JF third call, then 'Here he comes. Wait, see if he hoots., then long very good bed of quiet Ambi with calls at *1:26:26 plus more bird calls and flock of birds in far distance until 1:28:30 then very quiet Ambi until 1:29:30.
[Fitz: two species of geese, couple of hoots of great horned [owls] couple of flickers, Carolina wren, Carolina chickadee, downy woodpecker]

1:30:36 JF: This woods is spectacularly noisy in the late April-May mornings. Beautiful. 30 species of birds singing around at the same time at dawn.

1:31:00 Ambi -more good paddling/canoe sounds, no talk until 1:32:20 and follows

*1:33:08 FX: landing, pulling canoes up on shore [with some talking, but possibly ok until 1:33:55] + more Ambi of putting other canoes away until 1:34:50.
Then with talking and finally ends at 1:36:27

1:36:28 - 1:37:57 FX: Walking away from the boats [some faint talking]

END - DAT #1

Close Title