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tim Gallagher

The Grail Bird: Hot On The Trail Of The Ivory-Bill

Tim Gallagher The Grail Bird Hot On The Trail Of The Ivory Bill
$4.97 Pre-owned
 
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Excerpt from book:

10 A BAYOU WITH A VIEW You never know when you get up in the morning what earth-shaking event might take place and change your life forever. For me, a chain of such events began when I checked my e-mail one day in February 2004. Just a few days earlier, a kayaker named Gene Sparling—the same man Larry Mallard had told me about a few weeks earlier—had spotted an unusual woodpecker foraging on a huge cypress tree in a long, narrow bayou in eastern Arkansas. When he saw the bird’s unique color pattern—brilliant white on the lower half of its back, with two white lines extending up the back to its crested head— he knew immediately that he had never seen this kind of bird before. Inconspicuous in his kayak, he pulled into a secluded spot and sat watching it for almost a full minute. The woodpecker was so close he could see the minute details of the feathers and even some greenish staining on the lower part of its back, perhaps from going in and out of a roost hole or nest.
When he got home a few days later, Gene posted a long description of his trip on a canoe club listserver, and he included a couple of sentences about the woodpecker, buried toward the end of the piece. His e- mail report was forwarded to me, and I immediately called him up. I grilled him for about an hour. His sighting sounded better than a lot of the thirty-year- old reports I had been investigating, and it was less than a week old.
Gene has pileated woodpeckers nesting on his farm in Hot Springs, in the western part of Arkansas, so he is thoroughly familiar with that species. It seemed unlikely that a pileated was what he had seen. What struck me most about his description was that he said the bird seemed almost cartoonlike because of its quick, jerky movements and general nervousness. Its neck looked thinner than a pileated’s, and its crest seemed to come to a point in the back.
I telephoned Bobby and told him about the sighting. Then I asked if he would mind calling Gene and talking to him. I was interested in getting his impression, to see if it was the same as mine.
After a long talk with Gene, Bobby told him, “It sounds to me like you’ve seen an ivory-billed woodpecker.” “You think so?” said Gene. “I don’t have enough confidence to make that call, but I’m glad to hear you say that.” Before they got off the phone, Bobby was already planning a trip to the sighting area, at Bayou de View in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, and Gene was going to go with him. I mentioned this to my wife about an hour later, and she told me, “You should go along with him. You’ll never forgive yourself if he sees an ivory-bill and you’re not there.” I didn’t need much encouragement. I did a quick search on the Internet to find a good airline ticket price and then called up Bobby. “Say, you think you could pick me up in Memphis on the way down?” “No problem,” he said. “I go right through there.” And that was it: the start of our adventure. A week later I was on my way south again, for the second time in a month.

Gene Sparling told us to meet him on a small country road near Clarendon, Arkansas. He wanted to look at a place where we could haul out at the end of our several-day-long float down the bayou. He had arranged with a local man called Frank to drop us off at a bridge crossing several miles north of where Gene had seen the strange woodpecker and to pick us up at the haul- out point.
We spotted Gene’s red Toyota pickup, unmistakable with the canoe and kayak strapped to the top, a few minutes after turning off the main road. Gene greeted us enthusiastically, and we stood on the side of the road discussing the bird he had seen and our plans for the next few days.
Gene is an affable man with
CONTENTS Preface xiii 1. Of People and Peckerwoods 1 2. Me and Bobby Ray 28 3. Jim and Nancy 37 4. Mary, Mary 54 5. White River Revisited 66 6. A Paradise on Earth 85 7. The Boxer 100 8. The LSU Connection 115 9. The Land of Dead Giants 134 10. A Bayou with a View 145 11. The Third Degree 161 12. Back to the Bayou 168 13. Where Sapsuckers Dare 188 14. Trying to Prove the Existence of a Ghost 205 15. Swamp Rats 219 16. The Lazarus Bird 235 Epilogue 241 Acknowledgments and Sources 251 Index 259


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