On Ivory Billed Woodpeckers.....and Hope
By julieabrown on December 18, 2011
Last night I watched the documentary "Ghost Bird" on the discovery channel. This feature length film dealt with the possible rediscovery and recovery of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. I was not prepared for the way it made me feel. It wasn't necessarily all that controversial, except for the debate that continues since a few years ago about whether in fact, they are extinct or they managed to survive when their habitat, the "Singer Tract" in Florida was clear cut for timber back in the 40's. The last time anyone had seen one was during the 1940's but a few years ago, there was a sighting and a few seconds of video recorded in the big woods area of Eastern Arkansas. The report that was published in the journal Science can be found here. Due partly to the fact that the birds are notoriously leery and have a large range, no clear photographs or film was captured. Additionally signs of their ongoing existence has been difficult to document. There have been some recordings but no sightings of nest sites or trees that they have fed on, items of concern to naturalists.
Shown on this official conservation stamp, here is the "grail" of birds today for bird watchers:
Was the sighting merely a pileated woodpecker (quite common)? Great debate and discussion has followed ever since. The documentary Ghost Bird has the tagline: Every year another bird species vanishes forever. What are the odds of one coming back? It lays out how the downward spiral of the population occurred, and what is really like to consider that once a species is gone....it's gone, and really conveyed the sense of loss. There were old movie clips, and a visit to the Smithsonian where it was revealed that the "collection" of species for their collection was, at times, less than thoughtful or wise.
Here is the part that caused me to be so reflective ever since seeing this program last night. I really felt the loss. Just think of NEVER seeing a beautiful bird or animal that you regard highly, again. No flash of color, no feeding, no song, no life. I really had that vision as a take away. It's important that we try to do what we can to preserve what we have, while also having a plan that cares for people and the creatures that inhabit our environment!
The program featured among others, this great quote from the naturalist William Beebe: "When the last individual of a race of living beings breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again."
In the meantime, I have hope, always hope, that the ivory bill is out there. It was so inspiring that I think were I retired, I'd go into the habitat and spend a few weeks in search of it with my camera my side. That would be a labor of love. Sadly, I cannot do so. What I can do, is care for the animals in my immediate community as best I can. Today at the suet feeder, I saw the Downy Woodpeckers. I don't think I've ever been as glad to see them. I don't think I'll ever look at any type of animal again without remembering the lessons of "Ghost Bird", the movie.
I hope all my friends in the Blogher community are doing well this holiday week!
"Farm Is Where the Heart Is"