Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ivorybill Season

Well, it's getting cooler outside and soon the leaves will be a' dropping. And we all know what that means!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cypress Creek Trees

I headed out to Cypress Creek again to check out the scaled trees there now that I know what to look for. Cypress Creek is very near to Angola Bay GL which is another potential IBWO habitat. CC empties into the NE Cape Fear, which borders one side of the ABGL. I found some very interesting marks on the trees there. It was getting dark, so I'll have to go back again, but I did find a perfect gouge that measured 6.4 mm. This tree isn't covered in gouges, but it does have quite a few of them as well as pileated-looking holes and cavities. There are two other nearby trees to examine as well. All these are within 50 yards of a paved road. The site is totally overloaded with deer ticks though. It's like a Lyme Disease bonanza in there.

I'll post some better pictures when I get out there again. I want to put a camera on that tree. At the very least, I'll get some good PIWO shots.

Waccamaw River Headwaters

I finally put in on the headwaters of the Waccamaw April 30th. I was in the canoe this time since it's a major bear to portage with the kayak. I had the trusty bowsaw with me to clear out the little stuff I was sure to encounter. The river starts as a tiny creek from a spillway at the southern end of Lake Waccamaw. It's a beautiful paddle, since it's not traveled much and the swamp forest is thick. We started portaging right away. Ugh. This is going to be a tricky river to check out. I do think I can get to some other stands of trees via IP road though. There are a ton of trees down since the last hurricanes. On one portage, I walked in the woods a bit and saw that all the downed wood was totally covered with a carpet of bright green moss. It was beautiful. It looked like something you would expect to see in the Pacific Northwest. There was some sawn cypress there and god knows how long ago it was cut. I didn't quite make it into the heart of the swamp area there yet, but I came close. I also saw some decent high ground to camp on. As long as the mosquitoes in there don't carry you off in your tent....

Monday, April 24, 2006

White River National Wildlife Refuge

Sunday I was back at the White River NWR. On Saturday I had met Pam Hines who runs the visitor center in St. Charles. It's definitely worth the visit if you get over that way. They have some wonderful exhibits and good maps. I also met Pam's husband, Richard Hines, the refuge's biologist. They are both very nice folks. The visitor center is well worth a visit. I’m happy that our tax dollars are being spent on something worthwhile for a change. I headed to East Moon Lake. While there I found some good examples of tree scaling. I did bring my digital caliper and took measurements. The largest was 6.1mm. I found plenty in the 4mm range and some in the 5’s. The tree had been gone over pretty good, and the grooves were diminished a bit from all the other woodpeckers, but there were a few good grooves left to measure. The bark was still nice and tight, and when removed, I found millipedes underneath. I found another tree on the road from Alligator Lake to Prairie Lake. The grooves were all in the 4mm-5mm range. I most wanted to see what the scaling looked like to compare to what I have here. Now I know what IBWO scaling looks like.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dagmar WMA

Today I'm a tad farther afield than the Cape Fear River Basin. I'm writing this blog entry from Brinkley, Arkansas. Yep, IBWO Ground Zero. I was in northern Louisiana on business and had a free weekend, so I decided to come up this way and see what the habitat looks like. I do not expect to see IBWO's nor do I plan on searching for them. I just want to see trees, scaling and understory to compare to back home.

I also checked out a possible IBWO sighting in Caddo Parrish, La, before I left. This does look promising, but unless I had a canoe or kayak I would have been trespassing.

This afternoon I checked out Dagmar WMA. The forest is wonderful with many trees in the 24-30" dbh range and some even larger. Hardly any pines to be seen which is kinda weird for me. I'm used to it being the other way around. The first thing I noticed is that this habitat looks very similar to the pictures that Tanner took of the Singer Tract. The trees and understory look identical.

The 4 main trees in this picture are all around 24" dbh.

Here are some smaller trees showing the understory.

I didn't see any scaling in here, but I'll admit, I was really wanting to get down to the White River NWR. Word around the campfire is that this is where the action is. I was just figuring on popping on down there. Ummm....nope. Nuh-uh. This place is freekin' huge. I started in Brinkley which still isn't the northernmost part of this place. It took me well over an hour to reach the south end of the WRNWR. And I was bookin' it on the backroads at 70mph. Wow. I would have rather stayed down there, but there isn't anything down there except soybeans, tractors, and tiny towns with no amenities for the weary traveler. The only hotel with high speed internet is here in Brinkley. I hear that there in one over in St. Helena. Maybe if I get up this way again, I'll stay there.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bigfoot's New Pal

This was posted over at CyberThrush's blog...

The thought that you take these sightings seriously is ridiculous.
Which of course then means if your blog takes them seriously then yes your blog is ignorant too.
The IBWO was never stupid. It was a magnificent bird that is now extinct.

Oh...ok. You're just one of the ones who thinks I'm wasting my time out there in the bush looking for imaginary ghost birds perched on Bigfoot's shoulder while waiting to board a UFO. Ok...fair'nuff. I touched on that subject on my blog. I'm used to that. Thankfully, folks telling me that something can't be done hasn't stopped me before. Hope springs eternal, as they say. Here's a little secret. When folks tell me over and over that the IB has gone the way of archaeopteryx, it just makes me want to look harder. Thanks!

I am one of the ones who keeps her head down and keeps a low profile. Frankly, I don't give two flips what people think about me or anything else. I left that back in junior high, thank god. Also, it helps to be in a place where no one really looks. Although, I'm finding more and more folks who are looking here....And you guys know who you are :-) I try not to get caught up in all the retoric. I will not let that happen here. This is simply a journal of my hobby and my outings. I did want to post a reply to that post though since CT has limited his blog to comments only by team members since a recent post stirred up a major hornet's nest of troll posts.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bobby Harrison Talk

This past weekend I had the good fortune to see Bobby Harrison speak in Columbia, SC. Thanks go out to M from for the heads-up. You can imagine how excited this IB hunter was to get to see other like-minded folks in the same room. The lecture was preceded by Alex Sanders, a past SC legislator who is credited with saving the Congaree Swamp and starting the SC conservation movement, with a little help from our elusive feathered friend. I was absolutely riveted listening to his story. The hairs on my neck and arms stood on end when he spoke about what happened out there in the swamp on that fateful day in 1971. I recorded all the speakers and will post notes from BH and JC, but I will post a link to a streaming file of Mr. Sanders talk. If he or anyone involved wants me to take it down, just email me and let me know. Christen “AT” cscstudios “DOT” com is my email address in non-spambot format….

Anyhoo….If you don’t know the story I won’t ruin it for you. It’s better to listen to it. I apologize for the crappy sound. It was recorded on a teeny digital voice recorder with no external mic, whaddya expect? I did run it through Cool Edit to remove some of the background hiss.

Alex Sanders Talk

Also speaking was John Cely, a wildlife biologist from Columbia. He too was bitten by the IB bug long ago. He was bitten when he read about them in RTP’s field guide to the birds. RTP mentioned that they were to be looked for in SC. So….JC just figured he’d hop on down to the swamp and have a looksee at one. Well, obviously, it wasn’t quite that easy. He did give a very nice talk about the history of IB’s in SC. I’ll give a few details about his chat in another post. Long story short…..I did get to see the Luneau video up close(I was in the front row) and it was projected the size of a movie screen. Whatever that bird is, it’s not a pileated. And, the white on the wings is on the top, not the bottom…. You lose! Good day sir!(with apologies to Willy Wonka)

The piece de resistance, was of course the Harrison video. Apparently we were the 2nd group he had ever shown it to. Upon the first viewing you realize just how darn quick it is. You’re looking at trees, then….zip!!.....some flap-happy bird with really white wings goes flying by. Once you slow it down though, you realize that this isn’t a pileated either. It sure looks like an IB to me. And I saw it 8 times, in various speeds and zooms.

He also played quite a few double knocks and calls from the ARU’s.

I’ll summarize his lecture in another post.

The next day I went for a hike in the Congaree NP. Wow. This was swamp habitat I’m not used to. This was swamp in red-clay country. Not the blackwater lowland swamps I grew up near. And the trees were absolutely HUGE. I’ve never seen this many trees so large on the east coast. The place was loaded with prothonotary warblers, red-bellied woodpecker, pileateds, downys, and hairys. I can see this being a good place for IB’s.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Town Creek

I paddled Town Creek on Sunday. Town Creek empties the eastern part of the Green Swamp. No one has been up in here since the last hurricanes as I was blocked by a treefall about 2 miles in. This part of the swamp looks promising, but there is a lot of development around it. I saw lots of cavities, but hardly any fresh woodpecker workings.

I head this bird calling around sunset. Not sure what it was.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Double knock

Wed the 5th I was back on Cypress Creek. I'm slowly making my way down the creek toward the NE Cape Fear. No one has been on this creek since the last hurricane at least. Treefalls are every 100 yards or so. Some are quick and easy, some not so much. Yesterday I was working on a big sweet gum that was totally blocking the creek. It was day 2 of trying to cut this sucker away. Around 7pm I heard a distinct double knock coming from the direction from which we had already paddled. It was not answered. It sounded kind of like the sound you hear when a car goes across a expansion joint on a bridge....a "pop-pop" sort of noise. I was never expecting to see anything here on this creek and I was just out having a good time clearing a paddling creek close to home. I'm going to have my recording equipment with me next time.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Cypress Creek

This Sat I decided to see what Cypress Creek was all about. This is the northern most range for the IB on the east coast, so I wasn't expecting to see much. And I didn't. This has all been logged many times over. I don't think anyone has been in here since the last set of hurricanes as there were trees down everywhere. I'm going to bring a saw next time and try and clear it out, as at least it's a good paddle close to home.

Cypress Creek Topo

Friday, March 31, 2006

Lake Waccamaw 3-26-06

Took a trip down to LW on Sunday. I hiked the river trail all the way to the coffer dam at the headwaters of the Waccamaw River, around a 7 mile round trip. It was sort of a blustery day with temps hovering around 60's and the wind was rough coming in off the lake. The trees are starting to green out and make looking through them difficult. I saw some evidence of scaling and found one tree that had been decimated by woodpeckers. I took a few good pictures of this tree which I will post shortly. I used my Leatherman to peel some bark on the tree and found lots and lots of termites. So the tree is still loaded with food. I saw no woodpeckers, only a brown thrasher and assorted chickadees and titmice.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Green Swamp Hike

On Sunday, I took a little recon trip out to the area of the March 2004 sighting. I know this area very well, as it borders TNC's holdings out in the GS. The Green Swamp in this area is known as Honey Island. There's not much of an island there anymore since most of the GS has been ditched by paper companies to grow pines. Actually, there's not much swamp there either for that matter. The jury is still out regarding Ivorybills and pine pocosin, but I can say I did see some interesting things out there.

First stop was the bridge where the fellow who made the report stopped and put in his canoe. Thing is, there are two creeks a mile or so apart. Here is the northernmost one.

I don't think this was the one in question, but it's not much smaller than the other creek. It's about 12 feet or so wide. And it sure didn't look navigable. The southern creek looked a little better. It's a little wider and it looked like it might go for a bit.

The fellow probably didn't go too far, so I'm going to return with my kayak and a pocket chainsaw for the treefalls. I'm going to give a good look for nesting cavities. I'll also play some calls and see what happens. I'm almost done remastering the 1930's Allen recording and I'll be burning it to cd soon.

This creek is the northern border of TNC's land. There is a remnant of their original sign here on the southern bank.

You can just make out "ecological preserve" on the sign. They have new ones now.

There is a parking area down the road at the trail head. While on the trail I saw many signs of woodpecker activity. The thing I didn't see was woodpeckers. Nor did I hear them. The entire forest was almost devoid of birds, save for a few chickadees and titmice. It was eerie in there with hardly any birds. The only sounds were from the chickadees. I also found a pine with a large nesting cavity. The cavity measured around 120mm in diameter. It was about 15 feet high in a tree with a dbh of 16 inches. The pine was devoid of bark. I would have a picture but my camera ran out of space. I'll get it next trip, since I now have a new digital camera with tons of space. I need to know how large IBWO nesting cavities are in relation to pileateds.

One thing that stands out here is the abundance of dead or dying trees. They are everywhere here. If they produce a food source, I can see woodpeckers having a field day here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Green Swamp

There was a story in the Charlotte Observer recently about searches in the Congaree NP. That's some prime IBWO area, and I wouldn't be surprised if the picture perfect mugshot didn't come from there. I should be up there in early to mid April with my kayak. Funny thing, my company has plants in Columbia, SC and Arcadia, LA. Both are a hop, skip, and jump from primo IBWO Habitat. Add to that that I live in the Cape Fear Lowlands, and it would appear that I'm fortunate as a hunter of Ghost Birds. But I digress. In the article, there is mention of a 2004 sighting in or near the Green Swamp around the Waccamaw River. Wha..wha..what!?! I really need to read more newspapers! I called CS who runs the Waccamaw NWR and asked him if he could give me any details. He's a super nice guy and gave me all he details of the story. He even made a trip up this way to check out the site. The fellow who reported it isn't from this area and the creek name he gave has about 4 locations around here, some many, many miles apart. CS said that the creek he was on was more like a paraphrase not his. I do know the exact location though as I've been hiking there many times and doing carnivorous plant photography. Guess where I'll be this Sunday? Hopefully, I'll have the MD recorder working to make some field recordings.

Getting your groove on

Steve Holzman and Paul Sykes have written a good piece about measuring woodpecker groove marks on trees with dial calipers. You can read it here. They mention that PIWO's and IBWO's grooves look pretty much the same, but the IBWO's are a tad larger with anything over 3.8mm being the magic number. I reckon it's time to hit eBay for a slightly used lineman's climbing kit and a dial caliper!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

How I got hooked on IvoryBills

I'm not a birder... yet. I'm a biology student, on the long-term degree plan, but I'm not an official birder.

I didn't get hooked on chasing ivorybills by looking forlornly at their illustrations in the field guides and hoping to see one in the field while adding to my ‘life’ list. I became hooked on them when I learned how America's father of ornithology, Alexander Wilson, discovered his ivorybill. I'm sure everyone who ever had an interest in the Lord God Bird has heard or read the story about Wilson shooting one and bringing the little guy back to the room he was renting. The bird, though injured, was still severely ticked off at being shot and proceeded to chisel an escape hatch in the plaster wall. Wilson wrote that the bird had "a noble and unconquerable spirit." Well, that event transpired in Wilmington, North Carolina, my birthplace and home.

One of my loves in biology was the re-discovering of lost and presumably extinct species. I would research animals like the thylacine of Australia and panthers still in the Carolinas. BTW...
Here's a wonderful book on the subject. I hope that when I do finish my degree, that I can devote my area of research to that pursuit. Anyhow, I did some research on the ivorybill and learned that the little guy has been AWOL since the 40's. Never one to let the voice of reason stop me, I decided that I would give it a shot of finding the bird. I also love challenges. :-) I suspect my overwhelming love for the outdoors and all things wild has something to do with it as well. I get recharged when I'm out in the woods and swamps, and what better excuse to traipse around in the bush than to look for an extinct woodpecker? Especially when you’re told that it’s ‘impossible’ to find one? I do have enough of an OCD personality and enough eccentricity to not let folks calling me a crackpot get in my way....

I do hope that the bird is still out there, even if not in the Carolinas. I was born in a time where all the great swamps and forests were already 'conquered'. I had to read about their depth and mystery in books. I'm not so much of a tree hugger to not know that the rise of America couldn't have happened without the logging and the expansion of the last century. But it's sad that so many species had to lose out for our successes. To find this bird, somewhere, anywhere would be the tiniest smidgen of hope that we haven't careened off the cliff of environmental doom and gloom. That we still might have a sliver of a chance to be the good stewards of the Earth that we are supposed to be.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Black River Trip

Sunday I kayaked a portion of the Black River that has quite a bit of land that is owned by the Nature Conservancy. This portion of the Black River is supposed to have soom of the oldest trees east of the Rockies, according to the Nature Conservancy. Well, If they are there, I didn't see them. To be fair, I was looking for large, tall cypress. I know now that these trees are going to be a bit on the small side as far as height goes. 2000 years of hurricanes takes its toll, I suppose... Here's the map of the area. It's a beautiful paddle, and I definitely recommend it. Sometimes hunting IBWO's is just a good excuse to get out on the water!

This place is loaded with pileateds. I heard about 6 or 7 and saw 2. I also saw a red bellied woodpecker. I saw many trees with nesting cavities. I'll try and get back out there with a camera to get some pictures. I recently saw a picture of Dr. Martjan Lammertink with a big printout of pileated nest cavities compared to ivorybills. I really have to get one of those. I haven't ruled out this area as of yet. I still think one of the best bets is somewhere on the Black. I want to get out there again when I have my acoustic playback equipment in order.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Carolina Bay in Bladen county

There is an undeveloped state park over in Bladen County at one of the carolina bay lakes. Bay Tree State Park is the name. There is a trailhead there and a info kiosk, that's about it. I was on my way to SC with a friend today on one of her pilgrimages to buy a lottery ticket. We decided to stop off there and see how the trail was. There's a lot of sand, it reminds me of Carolina Beach State Park. Lots of scubby pines and oaks. No large hardwoods to speak of. I did hear some pileated activity and I saw one pine with an abnormally large nest cavity. I'll try and get a photo next time. The map of the area can be found here. I'm still thinking that the best bets are going to be in the river corridors, but it never hurts to look elsewhere.

First Post...

I'm starting a journal of my search for IBWO's in the Carolina's. I'll add more background later but I wanted to time and date stamp the beginning.