Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration 1

The festival’s vendor expo filled a room at the Brinkley Convention Center when I arrived before noon. (The drive east from Little Rock on Hwy. 70 was delightful, by the way. I took notes on spots to revisit later for photo opps.)

Mayor Billy Clay welcomed everyone in the main hall and said the chamber hopes to turn the celebration into an annual event. Then Bill Holimon of Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission gave a presentation about the local endangered Red-cockaded Woodpeckers and the possible effect of ivory-bill searchers on red-cockadeds.

The local area, known as the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, currently hosts two breeding groups of red-cockadeds, which require loblolly pine habitat. Only 800 acres of that habitat exist nearby in the Pine City Natural Area.

Holimon’s work with the endangered woodpecker provided lots of details and photos for the audience. We learned about their use of red heart fungus to determine the location of their nest cavities, the maintenance of man-made cavities with backpack vacuum cleaners(!) and the birds’ use of helpers (young males) to raise young.

Holimon floated the idea that folks who come to this region to look for ivory-bills will want to see the red-cockadeds. In that case, he offered suggestions to minimize the effects:
* Refrain from playing any tapes.
* Park by the boundary signs.
* Remain more than 100 feet from the roost trees.
* Leave 30 minutes before sunset.
* Avoid nest cavities between April and June.

Then Holimon drew 10 names from a bowl, and those 10 individuals received an invitation to join a RCWO tour with him. Two people – a husband and wife – opted to offer their spots on the tour to bidders in the room. A bidding war added a little drama and escalated the winning amount to $100, which will go toward the IBWO recovery efforts. It was an informative and dramatic beginning to the three-day festival.

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