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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. The Green Swamp/Waccamaw area is so large its hard to imagine that anyone could say the IBWO are no more. Especially after the 2004 sighting. You have a great blog here, with a great subject.