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My Search For the Ivory Billed Woodpecker
The Search Begins













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I started my search very simply. What I was looking for was dense forested areas along waterways that were traditional habitats of the bird, This is where I found one of the first contradictions in the reasoning of ""experts".
 
According to James Tanner, in his book, "The Ivory Billed Woodpecker", one pair of  ivory bills required about 6 square miles of suitable habitat. What made habitat suitable is a regular supply of dying trees. You see, according to early research the birds would feed on large beetle larvae, and these beetles would lay their eggs in relatively fresh dead trees. You would need to have a constant supply of these dying trees to support a large enough population of beetles to feed a pair of birds, and their offspring. Tanner was the one who came up with the arbitrary 6 square miles.
 
Let's look at what 6 square miles is. It is a block of land that is 2miles by 3 miles. That's it. The experts were saying that tracts of habitat like this no longer exists. Get in your car. Drive to any forested area and look at your odometer,,,drive 2-3 miles. It isn't that far! Florida is full of well forestd areas that exceed this size by 10-12 times.
 
Dying trees. They're everywhere in Florida. Our state burns down every year. There are large tracts of land that are burned in controlled burns. Lightning takes out thousands of acres every year. We have pine bark beetles killing large tracts of pine forests. We have hurricanes and tropical storms that kill trees every year,,,and trees die by the thousands every year of old age.
 
There is plenty of food for these birds.
 
How do we know they need these large beetle larvae? Tanner observed the birds feeding them to the young. He observed one pair feeding young over an extended period of time. He also noted that the baby birds more often than not disappeared and this was a huge puzzle for him. Why were the babies dying?
 
Maybe they were not being fed proper diets? Maybe these beetle larvae were too big.
 
It is my belief that James Tanner was observing birds that had retreated into the Singer tract from the large pine forests that were cut down earlier. They were forced to live in this densly forested area in habitat that they were not used to and were eating food that was not suitable for raising healthy families.
 
When Cornell University ornithologists studied the nests of these birds they found the nests teeming with mites that they thought were actually eating the dead babies,,,or live babies,,,because when the nests failed,,as most of the studied nests did, no dead baby birds were ever found.
 
Could it be that the birds were nesting in trees that they normally didn't nest in? Were these mites endemic to this type of habitat that the bird normally wouldn't nest in?
 
My contention is that the ivory billed woodpecker is a creature of pine forests, pine forests that border on cypress stands, cypress that the birds nest and roost in, and pine trees that the birds find their abundant food in.
 
There is ALOT of suitable habitat for them in Florida, and it is in these areas that the birds live and in these areas that people have failed to search for them.
 
This was how I started,,,I went on this belief,,,and I got my hands on satellite images of our great state and was quite amazed at what I found.
 
So with this knowledge in my hand I headed out and on my first day out I interviewed an old black man about to put his rowboat in what I ventured as suitable habitat. I started a conversation and this is basically how it went.
 
"Hi, how are you doing today?"
 
"Good."
 
"Tell me, do you boat these waters alot?"
 
"Yup."
 
"Good fishing?"
 
"Yup"
 
"Is there anywhere along here that I can take some good pictures of wildlife?"
 
"There's gators and racoons everywhere."
 
"Yeah, I like them,,,I'm a bird watcher though,,,I like really interesting birds."
 
"I know where there's dinosaur birds, but it ain't here."
 
"Dinosaur birds????"
 
"Yeah, they're big black and white birds that go BAMM on the trees."
 
"Oh, you mean woodpeckers."
 
"No mister! I ain't talking about woodpeckers,,these are big, real big."
 
"Vultures?"
 
"These got red heads, and it stands up on their heads."
 
"Really?"
 
"They are in the trees with the woodpeckers,,they bang louder than woodpeckers."
 
"They all have red heads?"
 
"They're heads aren't all red,,just the tops,,,some of them have black heads,,they go Bamm.. I take the church kids to see them. They're,,,,,
 
At this point he explains where they are and tells me that hurricane Charlie knocked down a bunch of trees in this area and the kids go hiking there and see them. he says they are bigger than the woodpeckers. We discuss woodpeckers and he describes pileated woodpeckers but he doesn't use the word pileated and I never use that word. he's anxious to get in his boat so I thank him and we part ways.
 
Dinosaur birds.
 
I get my satellite images out and look at the area he described. It is 4 times the size of the area I wanted to start in and now I am on my way to God's country.
 
William Smith.