Saturday, November 12, 2005

Ivory-bill keynote speech

Tim Gallagher’s presentation on Saturday night covered a lot of material from his book about the history and rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Folks who’ve read The Grail Bird heard and saw familiar information about the Lord God Bird and Tim’s quest of many years.

The especially neat part of hearing Tim talk about his quest was seeing him re-enact scenes with accented voices and hand gestures. I particularly enjoyed watching him relate the encounter with Fielding Lewis, the formerly anonymous boxing commissioner who took the pictures that George Lowery shared at an American Ornithologists Union meeting. Tim said meeting Lewis was “like something out of Tennessee Williams’ Big Daddy (from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”).”

Tim shared new information during his presentation, such as a map of all the ivory-bill sightings reported since 1944. The map showed many sightings throughout the bird’s former range in the United States, and it prompted the fellow next to me to practically fly out of his chair out of desire to read all the details on it.

When Tim showed a slide of Bobby Harrison, his long-time partner in the ivory-bill quest, and Andrew Farnsworth, I had to smile. It’s fun to see Andy, who participated in WildBird’s Great Texas Birding Classic team many years ago, involved in adventures like this and earning recognition for his skills.

Then Tim treated the birders in the auditorium to sounds and sights that many likely hadn’t heard or seen. He played a digital version of an audio recording from the Singer Tract in 1935. It sounded incredible to hear the bird’s kent or tin-horn calls fill the huge room.

Tim also played kent calls recorded in the White River National Wildlife Refuge in January 2005 and a double-knock (BAM-bam) recording from January 2005. A map of the recent calls and knocks puts them in the same two locations: the sighting by Mary Scott in 2003 and the sighting by Tim and Bobby in February 2004.

We got to see a version of David Luneau’s video that looks much better than the one available online. The audience audibly responded to the sight of a dark bird with lots of white plumage quickly flying away from Luneau’s canoe.

Afterward, Tim signed copies of The Grail Bird. I very much enjoyed the chance to meet the associate editor of WildBird when the magazine debuted in 1987 and one of the rediscoverers of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in 2004.


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