Thursday, September 01, 2005

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Tours: The Fleecing Becomes More Organized!

We here at BINAC were the first blog to highlight the "deluxe" $2300 tours from Mallard Pointe Lodge. Tom Nelson just pointed out on his web site a very interesting post from the "always-entertaining" Missouri birding list:


I received a solicitation in my mailbox today from a well-known birding tour company. It offers a 4-day, $1550 "Ivory-billed Woodpecker Tour." Persons who take the tour will stay in "an extremely nice hunting lodge (which normally charges $500 per night)" near Brinkley, Arkansas.

They will be fed "high quality, basic food." (Does that mean the bread will be fresh?).

The lodge's land holding is said to be "the only private land adjoining the Restricted Zone. In fact, the lodge's lands are bordered by the Bayou de View, very near the point from which the bird was first seen."

The solicitation goes on to say, "THE BIRD has been seen once on this property since the announcement." (The solicitation does not make it clear that "THE BIRD" is an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but why should anyone think otherwise?)

Notwithstanding the high end lodge accommodations, the solicitation goes on to say, "Participants will be taken each day before dawn using 4 wheel-drive vehicle to one of our new blinds or to one of the boats built especially for this tour and will be returned around dark. "Each participant gets two trips in the boats and two in the blinds.

A day in a boat will not be too different from a day in a blind. The boats will go northeast as far as allowed on the Bayou de View and then "hold position for the day." The blinds are said to be "rain resistant." The boats are "completely camouflaged and weather protected." "Rough sanitation facilities" will be provided with the blinds. "Crude sanitation set-ups" are available on each boat. The 19-foot long, 5-foot wide boats are "mounted with swivel chairs having back rests."

The solicitation contains reassurance that those who tick IBWO right away will not waste the rest of the tour. It says, "Should you see Ivory-billed Woodpecker early in the tour there will be opportunities to bird the 2500 acres of private land or take a guided tour down steam on the Bayou de View."

The solicitation, which altogether is 7 pages long, contains a page each from US Fish & Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Also included is an "Enrollment Form." One page consists entirely of "Special Rules and Regulations."

These require participants to:1. Swear to keep the location secret.2. Not take GPS equipment outside the lodge.3. Drink and smoke only in designated areas of the lodge.4. Use cameras only after all members have seen the bird and then "only without extending lenses beyond the shelter or using flash."5. "Each group will have a captain to enforce stealthy movement within the blinds, soft voices and restriction to the interior of the shelter."

Persons who disobey the rules after warning can lose their payments and not be allowed to return to the field.From the special rules and regulations page, I also learned the following:1. The group will be divided into teams of up to 12 persons with each team having a specific site for the day. The accommodations inside each blind are described as "tight quarters."2. The well-known tour company, which sent the solicitation is not the entity actually conducting the tour. That entity is named "Little Rock Tours, Inc." (I have not heard that name before).3. Some of the rooms for which the lodge "normally charges $500 per night" are evidently "'dorm' type accommodations." Every attempt will be made to put married couples in a room together, but this cannot be guaranteed.

In contrast to the $1550 package, designated an "Ivory-billed focus trip," the solicitation also offers an "Ivory-billed and other birds" package at the reduced rate of $1295. I'm not sure what the difference is.I do not quite know how to evaluate the following additional paragraph of the solicitation:"

We definitely hope that you will try to raise some money for The Nature Conservancy beyond that which is included in the trip price. Conversion of the successful hunting lodge into a birding lodge is very much desired. Further, there are needs for additional hunting lands to relieve pressure from the local population to replace areas of the Refuge which are now restricted.

Further, we urge you to purchase a Federal Duck Stamp and to bring it with you as an aid in the political struggles."(How does one handle political struggles while huddling from dawn to dark with 12 people in the tight quarters of a blind? Will there be bubbas with shotguns wandering the 2500 acres who need reassurance that the blind contains NRA-certified good 'ole boys and good 'ole gals who have bought duck stamps?)

I must say this solicitation is very tempting, but I probably won't do it for the following three reasons:1. I really don't want to bird 2500 acres of Arkansas swampland for three days after I tick IBWO on the first day.2. In view of the difficulties a Cornell team of 60, spending 14 months in the field, has had getting a satisfactory photo of IBWO, I really don't want to hold off getting a good picture of the bird until all 12 people in my blind say they've seen it. I mean, what do you do if someone keeps saying he/she has not had a good enough look yet?3. I guess I'm a selfish SOB, but when I pay 1550 bucks to see an IBWO, I want to drink my champagne right away! Making me wait until we get back to the dorm is too much delayed gratification for me!

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri


BINAC here again...actually, I think Bob's post may have been to BirdChat and not the Missouri list, I got that part wrong...but still pretty entertaining. There is an entertaining thread on the Missouri list right now entitled "Chasers are scum."

No comments: