Happy new ivory-billed search in 2009

May old woodpeckers be forgot and never photoshopped.

A $50,000 reward has been offered for a definitive photo of an ivory-billed woodpecker. I’m thinking that photo might be worth a buck or two more.

Should old woodpeckers be forgot and left to auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear

Forauld lang syne

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

For old ivory-bills

Documenting the “Lord God” bird has proved as vexing for the apostles from the Cathedral of Birding, a.k.a., the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, as documenting papal infallibility has for the Vatican. And this year there is a hint of resignation coming from Cornell.

After the flush of its announcement of the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker, Cornell had this to say in its 2004-2005 report, “The bird captured on video is clearly an Ivory-billed Woodpecker,” said John Fitzpatrick, the Science article’s lead author, and director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. “Amazingly, America may have another chance to protect the future of this spectacular bird and the awesome forests in which it lives.”

The 2005-2006 summary was a little more guarded, “In summary, the visual and acoustic evidence collected during 2005–06 gives us some hope that a small number of IBWOs may persist in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas.”

Then came the 2006-2007 season. “The Lab and its partners concluded the 2006–07 field season in Arkansas at the end of April with no additional definitive evidence of ivory-bills to complement the data gathered in 2004 and 2005.”

The 2007-2008 season was summed up — “Searchers documented more possible sightings and possible ivory-bill double knocks heard, but the definitive photograph, like the bird itself, remained elusive.”

And as Cornell takes to the woods this season — “If no birds are confirmed, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will not send an organized team into the field next year.”

And surely you’ll have your double knock

And surely I’ll have my kent

And there’ll be some keen cavities

For old ivory-bills

I guess Cornell has grown weary of those Arkansas winters and this year is going to sacrifice by concentrating on sunny Florida — “Up till now, we’ve concentrated on bottomland hardwood swamps and forests,” says Ron Rohrbaugh, director of the Lab’s Ivory-billed Woodpecker Research Project. “But there’s a huge area of pristine mangrove forest in southern Florida that could support ivory-bills. In fact, the historical record shows the birds did live there and that collectors took specimens from the area. Although there haven’t been any confirmed sightings there recently, the great habitat certainly warrants a closer look.”

And with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners searches will take place in eastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, southern Illinois, the Florida panhandle, South Carolina, North Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, and east Texas.

And individuals, like Mike Collins in the Pearl River, will continue their personal quests to morph the romantic, enigmatic grail-bird into a lucid, palpable creature that flies not only through our imagination but through remnants of wilderness that remind them of a long-ago home.

But for me:

I’ll buy me my pint cup

And gladly buy you, yours

And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet

For old ivory-bills

Don Hendershot can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Like ships that collide in the middle of the night, “midnight rules” and their undoing perpetuate and reinforce philosophical and ideological divisions in this country while enhancing partisanship and strengthening the hold and influence politicians and power brokers have over OUR economy, OUR liberties and OUR environment.

Midnight rules or regulations are federal regulations that can be enacted through the administration and executive agencies without congressional oversight. It’s a political game played by both parties. The term midnight rules or midnight regulations actually came into vogue at the end of Democrat Jimmy Carter’s last term when his administration set a record for midnight rules by producing more than 10,000 pages of new rules between Election Day 1980 and the January 1981 inauguration of Ronald Reagan. The term is in reference to the “midnight judges” appointed by John Adams as he departed the White House.

As would be expected, the volume of midnight rules rises exponentially when the incoming president is from a different party than the outgoing. Bush Sr. left a load for Bill Clinton, Clinton rolled up “midnight” honors with more than 26,000 pages of rules, and now G.W. Bush is passing on the favor to president-elect Obama.

We become complicit in the game when we start lauding midnight rules that are in line with our philosophies while decrying those rules we find objectionable. I am certainly included in the above “we.”

When I look at some of the midnight rules this lame-duck president has signed, I surely hope Obama has the will to address them:

• The rule that would allow federal land-use managers to approve highway, mining and logging projects without consulting with federal and/or biological experts on the effects of such projects.

• The rule that allows mountaintop mining to dump sediment nearer to streams than is currently allowed.

• The rule that allows factory farms to dump wastes in waterways without permits

• The rule that gives factory farms exemptions from reporting noxious emissions.

• The rule that would ease restrictions on power plants near national parks.

• The weakening of New Source Review regulations making it easier for industry to skirt requirements for better pollution control.

The list goes on.

And I was one who applauded Clinton’s midnight efforts to create rules that provided more environmental protection. But the truth is, the whole concept and protocol that allows midnight rules is odious.

The fact that any administration can, at the stroke of midnight, implement regulations that have profound effects on its constituents, without its constituents having any oversight, is an anathema.

Rules and regulations that affect OUR economy, OUR liberties and OUR environment demand to be vetted in daylight under full public scrutiny — not passed at midnight.

Now, pardon me while I put my soapbox back behind the curtain — for now.

Don Hendershot can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Unexpected guest

There are almost as many reasons for watching birds as there are birders. Whether you are a backyard birder content to fill the feeders and occasionally glance out the window to see who’s flitting about or a hardcore lister, traveling the globe to tick off as many lifers as possible, there’s no denying the attraction of these amazing creatures.

The seach goes on

For the past four years — five years total, if you count the magical, muddy, mystery tour in Louisiana back in 2002 — the devout, the convinced, the skeptical and the curious have slogged and paddled across the swamps of the Southeast in search of “Elvis.” That’s the code name given the ivory-billed woodpecker by searchers in Arkansas in 2004. Feeling constrained by the foot-sucking muck and the capricious currents of bayous, sloughs and slow southern rivers, searchers decided to take the high road during this year’s quixotic quest for the elusive Elvis.

Birdapalooza results

My brother and I conducted our annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Monroe, La., last Friday, Feb. 15. While we didn’t set any records, we had a good count. We bested last year’s total of 57 species by three and because of mechanical problems — a dead battery — we didn’t make it to the piney woods.

My bags are packed

And I’m Loosiana bound — you do know it was named after Louis, not Louise?

Wings of winter

Winter birding is often slow going. There is no chorus of rowdy and randy males singing lustily, and weather conditions can often be harsh. However, winter birding has its on set of rewards.

There she was when I got up around 6:30 this morning, the buttons from her blue jeans shining radiantly just above the southern horizon, Venus was dazzling. Below and to the left of Venus like a poodle on a leash was Jupiter.


It’s nine o’clock and my 6-year-old is snug in her bed and sound asleep even though she’s been told it will likely snow this evening. I, on the other hand, am pacing back and forth in front of the large windows in the living area with an outside light on — waiting for the first flake to show.

Hits and misses

The Carolina Field Birders (CFB) conducted their sixth annual Christmas Bird Count this past Saturday (12/29.) The annual CBC count is sponsored by the National Audubon Society and is the longest running ornithological database in the world. Initiated 108 years ago, the CBC is now international in scope with more than 1,800 official 15-mile diameter circles and more than 50,000 participants worldwide.

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