My Search For the Ivory Billed Woodpecker
Are They That Easy To Find???

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Around the same time as my sighting of the female woodpecker I had been working on several leads from other areas. I must admit, the photograph that was displayed in the woman's business intrigued me and I will no doubt have to admit, I would like to find out where they are. But, talking to this woman, I am sure she will not give up the location and honestly, for some reason, I just might feel funny finding them. But who knows?
I have a lead in south Florida in the area of a well known sighting. It is a small area, but it's distance from my home inhibits my ability to travel there daily to search. I talked with someone in south Florida who is familiar with the birds,,he has not seen one personally, but he spends alot of time on the water down there. He passed along a phone number of someone that is a kayaker in a region that is seemingly too small to harbor the birds. I called him and he described a bird that he has seen twice that may be the the woodpecker.
I would have ordinarily let this go in my "of interest file",,but there is an interesting article on line about a man, an ornithologist  named Dennis G. Garratt, who in 1985 had an extended observation of a male ivory billed woodpecker in this region.
So this area will be of special interest when I get a week to get away.
In the mean time I was fortunate to get a very good lead in an area that is only a couple hours drive from my home. This too, is an area that is quite small,,,it is surrounded by development, but has hardwood swamps, cypress, around a lake region, and more importantly some large tracts of managed pine forests adjacent to it.
The lead was as good as one gets, and I would have felt foolish letting it go so first I drove there and took the 15 minute tour of the area via the county roads that surround it. Indeed, it is an area that the birds inhabited historically, but there just isn't alot of it left. Nearly all of it is private land, some managed by the government, especially the pine forested region.
I spent the next few weeks going there,,canoeing the region and of course there were lots of pileated woodpeckers who quite interestingly do not get spooked and you can paddle up to them and watch them work. I have this on the back burner, for it affords one the opportunity to study these fascinating birds with a proverbial "License to Kill" so to speak,,,no killing intended of course. It is just with the pileated being a bird that seems to run away this area's birds just sit and look at you.
I basically did not feel alot of confidence here, but the person I got the lead from was(is) compelling and the evidence offered was tantilizing. I quizzed and quizzed and kept getting the same feeling of "this person saw the bird".
Well after weeks of searching my daughter and I were on the water there on November 10, 05. We had paddled all morning with nothing as usual interesting happening. She got her first close up view of the pileateds,,,there was a pair feeding early in the day and we sat and watched them.
After a couple hours we decided to call it quits and we were resting in a cove along side some cypress and that is when I saw it. I e-mailed a friend the next morning and I will copy that, it is the best way to describe the following events.
"Yesterday my 10 year old daughter and I were canoeing
in the small area I told you about..."
"Yesterday was wonderful. I got to see the bird,,,but
the view was fleeting,,,it alighted on the trunk of a
tree a few dozen yards into the swamp directly behind
the tree,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,"
"I saw it fly in from the right, it's wings were
exactly like the female I saw before, it landed on the
trunk and started clammering up,,the moss and limbs
hid it's head and never saw if it was a male or
female,,,but the white was there and it was exciting
to see. "
"We were trying to move the canoe this way and that to
get a better look,,,I never saw it fly away,,,,but the
spot where it landed is a piece of tree laden area
that is on the corner of two larger waterways."

"We Started paddling out into the open water heading
back to our starting point and in the trees directly
in front of us came the sound. ,,,,, once again, the
sound is unlike anything else,,,and I am now amused at
the comparison to nuthatches and bluejays,,it is
astounding. The toots came out of the trees and
actually were very loud. It was two double toots,,,my
daughter had never heard the cornell audio and did not
know what the bird sounded like. She quickly turned to
me and went, "What the heck was that?" Giggling. She
thought it was funny. I told her it was the bird. They
are toots,,,I do not understand the word kent. I never
got that correlation,,even the cornell tapes do not
sound like "kent", it is a tooting noise and it is

"Several minutes later after trying to see the bird in
these trees the sound came from we heard over in the
area where I had seen the bird the classic BAMM. In
the swamp things echo. In this particular area you can
hear even downies and hoarys tapping wood. We heard
three Bamms,,,they did not sound like Bam bam,,,just
BAMM. We were delighted."

I have been back since then and with the wind and cold fronts moving in the weather is not favorable. Nothing else has been seen or heard. But I will be spending many days of the next few weeks here,,,we have found some great holes in the trees and hopefully we can be there when and if something comes home to roost.

After christmas I will be back to the area of sighting number one to hike through some areas that hurricane Charlie demolished,,lots of fallen timber,,just over a year old,,it ought to be fun,,,,a smorgasborg I think is how I saw it described once.

Yes, I think the next several months are going to be terrific for bird watching.

Willaim Smith

November 30