Monday, January 08, 2007

Here We Go Again...IBWO News, More Birding At Anahuac NWR

The saga of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker rediscovery (and re-rediscovery) continues. In the most recent update on the Choctawhatchee River Ivory-billed Woodpecker search it was reported that Tyler Hicks, a member of the search team, had an "outstanding look" at an IBWO on Christmas Eve. Several aspects of this sighting are unusual and noteworthy. First of all, it is claimed that he saw the bird perched at close range (40 feet). This is important, because subsequent to Gene Sparling's inital (tentative) sighting in Arkansas all documented IBWO observations (or at least all of those that I am aware of) have been brief views of birds in flight.

He is also reported to have seen several key field marks, including the black crest indicative of a female, the white lower back on the bird when perched, the white trailing edge to the wings in flight, and the “ivory-white” bill - the latter a feature that should be conspicuous, but in recent years has been missing from most alleged sightings. Sadly at the moment of opportunity his camera failed, so no photos were obtained.

Once again we have tantalizing details but no conclusive proof. Knocking sounds and glimpses of winged ghosts. How long can they maintain the suspense before the whole thing becomes tedious? How long can the true believers maintain their faith? Must be terribly frustrating for the search team. Hell, I'm frustrated just reading about it. If there are any IBWOs in Florida I hope they get some definite proof SOON. If they can't produce a photo by the end of the 2007 nesting season it'll just be a repeat of the Arkansas experience.

Coincidentally, Michelle just received an invitation to the "Inaugural Fund-raising Gala" for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Foundation (emphasis on the fund-raising part). Guess she got on some mailing list when she ordered an IBWO T-shirt for me last year. Reading the invitation it looks like it's mainly an invitation to donate $$ to the Foundation. Tickets to the Gala, which include program and dinner, range from $35 up to $250 for the better seats. If you donate at or above the "Enthusiast" level ($500 to $10,000+) you'll be glad to know your Gala tickets are included. You'll also be relieved to know that if you can't attend the Gala you can still donate, and if you do attend you can make your donation there.

Of course they've got an all-star lineup. Bobby Harrison and Tim Gallagher will deliver the keynote address, and Mary Scott (of "Ivory-bill Whisperer" fame) is listed as one of the guest speakers. The big event will take place on Feb 24th in Huntsville, AL (guess the convention center in Brinkley wasn't available that weekend).

Today I revisited Anahuac NWR. Again I spent some time scoping overgrazed pastures along FM 1985, searching for Sprague's Pipit. Again no luck. But I was surprised to find a small flock of Brewer's Blackbirds, the first I've ever seen on the Upper Texas Coast. Then I drove to Smith Point on Galveston Bay, where I scoped shorebirds and diving ducks (Common Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser were new for the year list). Checked more fields on my way back, but aside from Eurasian Collared-Dove and zebras (I'm not kidding - zebras) I didn't see anything new. Took these photos of American Pipit and Savannah Sparrow around the shell mounds at Smith Point.
For the third time in as many trips I photographed a Merlin along the main entrance to Anahuac NWR (same bird, same location). This time the lighting was favorable, and I got some nice shots at close range.Also got more and better photos of the Krider's Red-tailed Hawk, which was still along the road past the entrance station.Only new bird was a Golden-crowned Kinglet near the willows. After a quick drive around Shoveler Pond I headed for home. On my way back the sun was setting, and there were long broken black strings of ibis weaving across the sky - very cool.


At 4:24 PM, Blogger Larry said...

Nice Pics of the Merlin and the Krider's.-


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