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 ditch...my 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.