Thursday, October 13, 2005

Midwest Birding Symposium 3

Bobby Ray Harrison is a funny man. This afternoon’s talk about his research and rediscovery of the species with Tim Gallagher, titled “Obsessed with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker,” included interesting details about the elusive species’ history and behavior. It also included anecdotes and revealing comments about himself and Tim, who works as editor of Living Bird at Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (after working on WildBird as associate editor when WB began in 1987).

Among the more interesting aspects of Bobby’s talk were the illustration of the bird’s recurved tail, thought to serve as a spring when it hammers wood in search of beetle larva, and a picture of an ivorybill skeleton at the American Museum of Natural History.

Bobby amused the audience with his imitation of Fielding Lewis, the formerly anonymous boxing commissioner who took the two pictures in 1971 that led to George Lowery’s presentation at the American Ornithologists Union, and of Gene Sparling, the kayaker who saw the first bird in February 2004 and told Bobby that it looked like “a Pileated Woodpecker on steroids.”

While relating his and Tim’s February 2004 sighting, Bobby said, “Here’s this bird, just bookin’ it.” That made me chuckle… to imagine this black-and-white bird flying so fast that its speed qualified as “bookin’ it.” Bobby mischievously tried to blame Tim’s loud voice, projected from the front of their canoe, for scaring away the bird when they both yelled “ivorybill!”

Bobby said the bird was so close to their canoe that “I could see light shining off veins in the primary feathers.” Can you imagine?!


Anonymous Cindy M. said...

great post! I can just picture the two of them yelling 'ivorybill!' at once- it would be hard not to :) Definitely the sighting of a lifetime and then some..
Enjoyed your blog, will be back to read more.

October 26, 2005 8:25 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

I am not a bird photographer, but Bobby was my studio photography teacher at an itty, bitty college in norther, AL. It was amazing watching the 60 minutes episode with my old quirky prof'in his hunting regalia. Though the images of the elusive woodpecker caught in the video footage was hard for my untrained eyes to digest, I understand the passion behind Bobby's hobby, and now find myself zeroing in on birds feeding and mating outside my, Toronto, office window


Enjoyed your Blog

November 27, 2005 2:20 PM  

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