Thursday, April 23, 2009

April 19 2009 - Green Swamp

On Sunday, I made a trip to the Green Swamp. I listened and observed on Juniper Creek Bridge for about 2 hours. We saw many flocks of ibis fly overhead. We also saw a large gator in the creek. I found a large fresh cavity just down the road and in a tree just inside the woods line. I really need some way to measure these things! There is a dirt road just NE of the bridge. Walking this, we found the remnants of an old logging road that we hiked until the old pine plantation turned into swamp. Here we spooked a very large woodpecker. I did not see enough tic marks to make an ID. It was huge, definitely white underwing, red on head, white stripes on neck. But it flew with slow lazy wing beats, not like a pileated or an IBWO for that matter. Weird. It was overcast on Sunday and under that swamp canopy, it was very dark. To give you an idea, I took a picture of a opossum attempting to hide in plain sight up a tree under us.

Here is the tree where the woodpecker was, I believe. As Shaggy would say...."Spooksvile, man!"

Looking at Google Earth, I can see quite a few good places to get into the swamp on foot to set up a blind and listen. The thing is, the GS is an hour away from me. I want to spend more time down here, but to do so, I really need to camp here days at a time. Hopefully I can work that in.

April 18 2009 - Goshen Swamp

Saturday found me back in Goshen.
Remember to click the image for full size.
This time in a kayak and also putting in on the western edge. This downstream run skirts a cutover, but heads into the main area of the swamp. Again, I was only able to penetrate .33 miles before running into a logfall. I didn't want to raise a ruckus cutting the log, so I sat still a bit and listened and then paddled back upstream. As you can see on the map, I still have lots of swamp to cover. The blue line is my GPS-recorded track.

Lots of cavities were observed, including one newly created high up in a dead tree. This cavity appears quite large, but without a measuring tool, I can't say how large.

The proto warblers were everywhere and so were the snakes. I almost paddled into a cottonmouth coiled in a branch in the middle of the run. But, I saw him in time to avoid him. Pileateds, hairys, red-bellieds, and downys were heard. This trip, I also had my recorder going the whole time. My recorder is a Zoom H2. I was recording in uncompressed WAV format, but until I get a johnny bar for the kayak, the recorder was lying on its side in my deck bag. This muffled the sound a bit. I'm saying this as a preface for the double knock I recorded. At the time, there was no wind, and no cars on the road where we put in. This, of course, isn't definitive evidence, but it is intriguing nonetheless. Here is the recording. The DK is 5 seconds in. Tell me what you think in the comments section.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Mysterious Goshen Swamp

Goshen Swamp. Just the name sounds a bit spooky. The locals talk about it as one of the last wild places around here. A place where you go when you don't want to be found....i.e.-a good place to drop off that body you have in your trunk. So, I'm thinking, what better place for an ivorybill? Goshen swamp is linear. It's maybe a mile wide, but it stretches on for miles. It's all bottomland hardwoods, with some logging taken place, but most appears intact. I'll know more after I get in the middle of the place. I'm getting in here late and the trees are in leaf-out, but this place seems to hold promise. My first foray was on Sunday, April 12. I put in on one of the multiple runs and paddled upstream in a 17' canoe. It didn't take long to find out that a canoe won't work in here. This place is just too thick for a canoe. I will be coming back with a kayak.

My trip was upstream until the first major logfall, only a 1/4 mile in. There, I sat and listened for over an hour. Observed were pileateds, red-shouldered hawks, snowy and great egrets, and a beautiful barred owl only 20 feet away who watched us the whole time. Heard but not seen were other pileateds, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, and a very distinct kent call. The kent call was heard about 30 feet up in a tree appx 75 feet away upstream. There was no wind at all at that moment, since I hear squeeky noises in the trees when the wind blows sometimes. My partner in the canoe heard the exact same call. We both noted it. Later that evening, I played kent call from jays, nuthatches and ivorybills without telling her which was which. Every time she identified the ivorybill as the call she heard. Like I said, this place has promise. The trees are in full leaf out, so visual searches will be spotty at best, but I still can scout the area for Fall. The next time I go in there, I will be loaded for bear with cameras and recorders. Oh....and in a kayak packed with a pocket chainsaw.

NE Cape Fear River - April 10

On Friday, I built a motor mount for my canoe. Now I can add an electric trolling motor so I can cover more distance in my searches. It turned out pretty well. It's hinged, so if I hit a stump or something, the motor can flip up and not be damaged.

I wanted to take it for a test run, so I headed back to Wayne's Landing. It was sunny and warm, late in the afternoon. The canoe clips along pretty good with the motor and the mount works perfectly. I was quite pleased. I found the pair of pileateds easily and observed them for quite some time working an old log that had fallen over the river. It was very entertaining. Later on, on the way back, I saw one of them land on the tree with the cavity I had found earlier. So, it appears that I have found a nesting pair of pileateds! This was wonderful. After the nestling fledges, I can measure the cavity and have a good piece of data on the pileated cavities in my area. Other birds observed were 2 great blue herons, what appeared to be a glossy ibis in flight, a belted kingfisher, assorted fish crows and american crows, and a red shouldered hawk. Heard but not observed were red-bellied woodpeckers and downy woodpeckers.

Forgive the pictures, I was carrying a little Canon A520.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Remote Recorders

I've always felt that one person searching in an area that most folks wrote off the list years ago is a shot in the dark at best. But you never know. Someone has to get struck by lightning now and then, right?

One way to put the odds a bit more in my favor was to deploy remote recorders in the field. The trouble here is that CLO recorders are very pricey to rent. I have heard 8k$ If that's right that is way out of my budget.

Actually, I have no budget to think of. So I had to do it on the cheap. I started looking at other ideas. A few years ago I found a great article on using PDA's as frogloggers. Froglogger's are remote recorders that record amphibian calls. The first ones were cassette based, but soon moved to mini disc recorders and now digital. I also found a biologist who made some awesome digital frogloggers from mini motherboards and sound recording daughterboards. That was a bit more than I wanted to tackle. So, enter the IWRD, pronounced "eye-word", the Inexpensive Woodpecker Recording Device.

IWRD1 is a HTC-6800 pocket pc with Windows Mobile. It is running Resco Audio Recorder. Power consists of a 12v car accessory outlet charger wired to a larger battery. Resco Audio Recorder allows the user to program when to record and for how long. Also, I can record in uncompressed WAV format. I'm only limited to microSD card size and the microphone. I'm not sure how much of a hindrance the mic will be yet. I'm still in the testing stage before I roll these out into the field. But the potential is there to have a bunch of these deployed in the field to see what they can hear. These devices are a few years old, so they are cheap and easily available on eBay.

I made the first recording test today. I recorded a IBWO call I have, from 75-80 feet away through trees and brush. You can definitely hear the kent calls. Also you can hear a Chickadee or two in the background for reference. You can listen to the WAV here.

I think it sounds pretty good. I normalized the audio with Cool Edit, that was the only fix in post. The next step is to test double knocks and also to test recording distance. I used the built-in mic for this test, but the field model will have a wired mic. I'll post pictures soon.

NE Cape Fear - Wayne's Landing - Upstream

On Sunday April 5, 2009, I put in at the Cypress Hole boat landing, also known as Wayne's Landing on the NE Cape Fear River. I paddled upstream about halfway to the Deep Bottom Bridge, a distance of almost 3 miles. Tree cover was poor with a few good sized trees right at river's edge, but extensive logging had taken place. There are also cabins here and there on the water. I saw a few feeding signs and one good cavity. I would like to measure the cavity for size. Back at the put in, across the river there is an ox-bow that was connected to the river due to high water. In here, I observed a pair of pileateds for 30-45 minutes. They were closely examining every limb for food. They did not appear to do much exploratory pecking. They just looked like they were looking for food on the surface of the bark. I observed them hopping from branch to branch, looking up and down, even hanging upside down. They would search branches even as small as 2-3 inches in diameter. I think this stretch can be eliminated from future searches, but I would like to measure the cavity size.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Angola Bay

Today, I set out to see how accessible Angola Bay gameland is by car. My goal is to get as close to the eastern bank of the NE Cape Fear as possible and then hike, looking for cavities. I also plan on deploying recorders in this area as well. This, and the connecting Holly Shelter Gameland is the area where Alexander Wilson got his ivorybill in the 19th century.

It appears that the main road to get into AB is through Angola Bay Road, which is a dirt road right off of highway 53. This road is gated right off the highway. It was locked last Sunday, but it was open today, a Saturday. Sarah and I drove in, relatively north, then took a quick right, then left, then went north again on Turtle Road until the road ended. This is pretty much the northern most road in the gameland. North of us, there are miles and miles of woods with no easy way in. It appears to be mostly pine, but I won't know for sure until I hike it and see. I didn't want to stay too long for fear of being locked in. I'll know more about the gate hours when I call the ranger station on Monday.

Next, I headed over to Croomsbridge Road, off of highway 53 again. On the map there appears to be a road which comes very near the river. This road was gated unfortunately. The gate appeared to be private.

The real test of this area will be a long search on the river for tree size and perhaps cavities. I am still crossing my fingers for this area though, since it is so close to home.