Thursday, August 11, 2005

Recent sightings of IBWO in Arkansas?

Mike Miller pointed out to me that I missed a pretty interesting post on the Arkansas list from an out-of-town birder who may have recently seen an Ivory-billed Woodpecker:


In response to Bill Shepherd's message about the Ivory-billed Woodpeckerthat I am fairly confident that I saw at Pine Bluff on 7/28/05, here aremy details (Cornell's form plus additional), sent to Cornell Laboratoryof Ornithology and to Max Parker. I should add, I had no doubt at allthat I was viewing a large woodpecker, resembling a Pileated Woodpecker.

1. Name/Address/State/ZipWilliam D. Ellis, PhD 6012 Snowdens Run Road, EldersburgMaryland 21784-6737443-520-8809 (secondary)billellis AT (primary)

2. Date07/28/05

3. Time1745 hours

4. State Arkansas

5. CountyJefferson

6. CoordinatesEstimated from DeLorme Arkansas book map, page 50, index G3: 34 deg 14 min 10 sec N91 deg 59 min 30 sec W

7. General LocationSE of Black Dog Lake, Delta Rivers Nature Center, Pine Bluff RegionalPark, 1400 Black Dog Road, Pine Bluff

8. Specific LocationFlying East overhead about 75 to 100 feet high, above trees that wereabout 50 ft in front of me. I was on the boardwalk on the SouthEastside of Black Dog Lake (which I believe is a wide area of a bayou).(Note: This report was prepared from written notes that were preparedabout 3 hrs after the sighting.)

9. Weather & Lighting Mid-80s (F), calm, clear sky, sun behind me and to my right, about 2.5hours before sunset.

10. My EncounterWhile I was birding, I saw a large bird flying ESE above the trees,which were about 25-50 ft tall. I was facing S. My initial bare-eyedimpression was of a cormorant, based on shape and level flight. Afterviewing the bird through binoculars, I thought that the bird was aPileated Woodpecker (PIWO). After consulting a Sibley - East guide, Irealized that it could not be a PIWO (see item #18). My initialbare-eyed view was forward of lateral, and all views were ventral. Mybinocular view was just rear of lateral, then from the rear as the birdflew further away.I have extensive experience viewing PIWOs, but aerial views have mostlybeen without binoculars, of birds gaining elevation or coming down. Idid not remember where the white on a PIWO underwing is; all I have seenis a flash of white and red from a mostly black bird. After consultingthe Sibley PIWO supplementary page to his large guide, I realized thatthe bird had to be an Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO), because of theunderwing pattern (see item #18).

11. HabitatMoist bottomland woods along a bayou - cottonwoods, sycamores, willows,and hickories were dominant; also baldcypress, sugarberry and dogwood.Vernal pools (dried up) were present. (Note: I am not sure that thishabitat is relevant, since the bird appeared to be overflying the site.Its trajectory was toward an extensive area of forest on an "island"surrounded by Lake Langhoffer, and lacking roads or human disturbance.Some of the north end of this area (about 1 mile E), that I did access,appeared to be bottomland forest with ponds and dried vernal pools - agood potential home base for an IBWO.)

12. How long observed?View of bird was about 15 to 20 seconds total - 5 sec w/o binoculars, 5sec with binocs and near-lateral view, and 5-10 sec with binocs and rearview.

13. Distance to birdAbout 90 to 110 ft (simple trig from data given).

14. Using Binocs?Yes

15. Brand/Model/PowerNikon LXI 10x42

16. Supporting evidence?No

17. If so ...n/a

18. PlumageRear half of underwing was white (my most significant field markobserved); balance of bird appeared dark. No white was seen on fronthalf of wing.

19. Body sizeAbout the size of a PIWO; no objects were nearby to base a size estimateon).

20. Body shapeBill, head, and body forward of wings was about the same length as thebody and tail rearward of the wings - that is, the the bird looked aboutsymmetrical about the wings. I do not remember seeing a crest. Tailwas pointed, not fanned.

21. Bill LengthLong, stocky, pointed bill that merged smoothly with head.

22. Bill colorNo bill color was noticed; no impression of a white bill was perceived.(Note: background was blue sky.)

23. Length of neckBill, head, and body were continuous; no separate proportions werenoticed.

24. Length of tailTail was not distinguished from body; no length was discerned.

25. Flight patternFlight was straight, direct, without any undulations such as seen withPIWO and other woodpeckers. Bird did not change altitude or direction.Wing flapping was slow and steady; a rough estimate of flapping speedwould be similar to a Turkey Vulture, and slower than a Black Vulture.(NB - no white existed on primaries forward of midline of the wing, aswould be seen on a TUVU)

26.Behaviorn/aFinal Note - I having been a serious birder for the past 4 years, andalso during 1978 to 1990. Of course, I have never seen an IBWO! I alsodid not expect to find one in Pine Bluff, although I have searchedDagmar State Park (within the Cache River NWR) for one.

Supplement #1I returned to the general area tonight where my sighting of 28 Jul 2005 occurred. In the woodlot, there were at least 4 to 5 trees that appeared to havebeen stripped of their bark. All were topped - the trunks appeared tohave been broken off, although they were all about 6 inches or more in diameter (lightning? tornado?). I understand that Tanner reported IBWOs to be disaster area opportunists (per William Shepherd, Little Rock). The most convincing tree was about 20 ft high, 10-12 inches in diameter,with a section of bark missing from the top down about 3-4 ft; the stripped area was about 4-6 inches wide at the bottom, and squared off in shape, and about 10-12 inches wide at the top. There was at least one large hole in the middle of this bare area, about 2-3 inches in diameter. (There were Red-headed (adult & immature) and DownyWoodpeckers present in the woodlot during my visit.) Another tree, still alive with (willow?) leaves on the branches, wasabout 6-8 inch dia., but completely denuded of bark the top 1 to 1.5 ft.(Also "topped".) Another tree with bark missing, about 8-10 inch dia., appeared to be missing bark along crack lines also apparent in the barkstill present. That is, the bark may have fallen off as the dead treeaged. Unusual, however, was the large hole in the middle of this de-barked area. A shallow conical hole about 5-6 in dia. with a centerhole about 2 inch dia. that went through the tree, letting lightthrough.

Supplement #2 will follow (more stripped trees)

Bill Ellis
Back in Eldersburg, MD (Baltimore area)

No comments: