Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Taking the Woodpecker Seriously, Not Literally
A few weeks back my parents checked out what my Dad referred to as the "Florida Chautauqua" located in the Panhandle and where, for a few days at least, one can pay as little as $7 to attend seminars on "Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally," or "Why Can't I Wear Pajamas to the Supermarket? And Other Pressing Questions About Fashion" among others. My parents enjoyed a Victorian Tea session as hosted by Ellen Mayfield and The Tea Ladies and were randomly seated alongside a couple in search of the iconic ivory-billed woodpecker, which, according to a recent National Geographic, was thought by most ornithologists to have been extinct since the 1940s. That is, extinct until the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, based on "seven fleeting glimpses and four seconds of fuzzy video," announced in April of 2005 that they had "confirmed the existence of an ivory-billed woodpecker flitting elusively through the tupelos along a small Arkansas stream called Bayou DeView." That's it. But it's enough, according to the article, and as my parents witnessed in the couple they sipped tea with, to inspire hundreds of ivorybill searchers (often funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) to wallow deep into the birds suitable habitats all through the south in hopes that they too might catch a fleeting glance or, better, a definitive snapshot or video of the illusive little pecker.