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Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Field Report (1 Viewer)

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motiheal

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The previous IBWO thread showed some interest in seeing sample field reports. Here is my first one, edited to a maximum of 10,000 characters.

Hi, I’m John Williams. I want to help with techniques to find the Ivorybilled Woodpecker. I have a BS Marine Science, MS Secondary Education, and a non-accredited, 10 year PhD in Natural Science. My field experience is from the last five decades, from Alaska to Guatemala, in many habitats. I have a life list of about 410 bird species, have led birding hikes, and have training in marine mammal spotting and identification. Many of my field hours are with student groups; my training there was to locate and interpret interesting organisms, ecologic relations, weather, and earth sciences.

I’ve become especially interested in sound attraction. It’s common knowledge that birds can be attracted by the correct sounds; in fact, a growing problem with birding tourism expeditions is that playback seems to be too successful, possibly changing wild bird behavior.

For the IBWO, there is much speculation that the Allen-Kellogg recordings, or parts of them, are of stressed individuals, and that playing these sounds for attraction is problematic. Additionally, there are some who believe that double knock sounds by the IBWO have a territorial component, with similar problems for attracting a bird. In looking for other sounds, I became interested in the SR recording series on the Project Coyote website. Some in particular can be interpreted as a male and female IBWO communicating; the two sounds are octave-related. Researching further, I found that other members of Campephilus, especially the Magellanic Woodpecker, make very similar sounds.

I also studied how researchers play their sounds. This is often with limited volume. In searching for a solution to higher volume, to reach a wider area, hunting playback machines were found to be a good answer. My choice was a Cass Creek RPS Extreme, which is advertised to reach 90 decibels, and is portable. This device can record and store sounds.

I reasoned that a IBWO-related begging juvenile sound could be a great attractant. Recordings from the Magellanic Woodpecker on the website Xeno-Canto have these. I also decided to record some of the possible and proven IBWO kents, available at Xeno-Canto, the Macauley Library, Project Coyote, and Cornell websites.

Following is a list of sounds recorded.

  • Project Coyote SR0010, 432 Hz, 6 kents, slowed, x3
  • Project Coyote SR0010, 432 Hz, 6 kents, normal speed, x3
  • Project Coyote SR0010, 6 higher kents (approx. twice 432 Hz), slowed, x3
  • Project Coyote SR0010, 6 higher kents (approx. twice 432 Hz), x3
  • Xeno Canto, Magellanic juvenile begging, slowed, x2, LOUD
  • Xeno Canto, Magellanic juvenile begging, different version, x2
  • Xeno Canto, Magellanic juvenile begging with knocking (feeding?), x2
  • Xeno Canto, Magellanic kents, 432 Hz, 2x, LOUD
  • Xeno Canto, Magellanic kents, 432 and other Hz, 2x, LOUD
  • Project Coyote, Bill Benish DK
  • Project Coyote, Bill Benish DK, slowed, showing multiple resonances
  • Project Coyote, SR1721, 6 high kents
  • Project Coyote, SR 1721, sampled section x 2
  • Project Coyote, SR3255, toot x2
  • Cornell, Allen-Kellogg, 2 kents, different frequencies, LOUD
  • Cornell, Allen-Kellogg, 2 kents, similar frequencies, LOUD
  • Cornell, Robust WO DK, LOUD
  • Cornell, “A very active morning,” approx. 10 seconds, drumming and one DK
  • Cornell, tooting with Flicker, 5 toots, 1 loud Flicker sound
  • Macauley Library 6784, Allen-Kellogg, high kents, wokawoka, LOUD
  • Macauley Library 6784, Allen-Kellogg, pounding, 1 kent
  • Macauley Library 6784, Allen-Kellogg, wokawoka, 10 seconds, LOUD
  • Macauley Library 6784, Allen-Kellogg, wokawoka and pounding
  • Macauley Library 6784, Allen-Kellogg, 7 short higher kents, LOUD
  • Macauley Library, Crimson-Crested WO, DK with resonance
  • Macauley Library, Magellanic juvenile
  • Macauley Library, magellanic juvenile with kents


It should be obvious to students of the IBWO question that Project Coyote (Mark Michaels, Frank Wiley, and their guest researchers) have at this writing the best chance at good documentation. In the American Southeast with millions of square kilometers, they have a place with local documentation, feeding sign, multiple sightings with good field marks, a few photo images, all in a small search area that IBWOs seem to have stayed in for almost a decade. There are indications of multiple birds as well. After years of various emails to Mark and then Frank on various topics, I offered my ideas on sound attraction, asked to visit the area with them, and was accepted.

From 22 to 24 March 2016, I camped in the study area with Frank Wiley. We hiked in during the AM, and made camp at noon on higher ground. The habitat is an incised stream floodplain, a week or so after historic flooding. There was little leaf litter, no snakes, and the high water marks on the trees were astounding—a good four meters above the present stream levels. Following is the trip report with some discussion. The decision to play various sounds at various times was made from Frank’s experiences, and eventually with some of mine.

22 March, 1200 noon—made camp. Clear skies. Variable windy day to 20 knots. Tree leaf-out was slight. Some faint bird sounds. Possible single knock to NW, then soon after, Frank thought he heard an SK to the SE. This was my first experience with hearing either an SK or DK. These did not sound anything like tree-on-tree noises, from wind knock, that I have heard in my experience; there is no component of rubbing, nor is there the expected repetition.

130—probable PIWO. Used RPS to play sound 7 twice.

230—other WO activity, with some sightings of PIWOs and RHWOs.

245—high kents? to the N. Played 7 2x, 9 3x. Bluejays called to SW.

345- hiked to N about 200 meters. Frank did a wooden stick DK. At this position, unbeknownst to us at the time, we were fairly close to a spot where Mark was finding abundant and recent feeding sign.

We sat in full camo on a log near the edge of a shallow water pond. No blind was used and, with the open woodland, we were visible to a bird if camo does not actually work the same for their vision (for example, sensing in the UV range as some have reasoned). We faced East. Frank suggested that we wait for a while, then begin playback in sequence, twice each with gaps of 30 seconds, waiting 2 minutes between different sounds.

400—began sound series:

Sound 1: after about 1 minute, two barred owls called

S2: soon after, there were two fairly close tree knocks (like SKs) behind us. Frank’s interpretation were that they were wind-caused; mine was that they were not. They sounded exactly like other SKs later in the trip, including when it was not as windy.

We then played sounds 3 through 6 without any obvious sounds occurring.

S7: two large dark birds flew in to the front of us (from the East), to about 70 meters, landing in the tree canopies. My impression were that they were large crows. They did not call. Eventually, they worked their way to the left and flew away; field marks were for crows.

S8: we had an immediate PIWO sound as if a reaction

S9: a barred owl called to our right, after each playback

S10 and S11 played without any obvious sounds occurring.

S12: at this point, we had been at the spot for about an hour, and had been using playback for about forty minutes. There were two SK-sounding knocks to the East in front of us, then Frank saw a bird with good IBWO fieldmarks fly to a tree, similar to where the crows were, around 70-80 meters in front of us to the East. He told me he saw large white bill (the sun was bright in back of us), black face, red on crest, that the bird came in silently, and that the bird cupped its wings to land. Frank then saw the bird moving, apparently to get a better look at us. He tried to point this out to me but I did not see it. I took a wide-angle photograph of the area, then a zoomed-in photo of my best-guess where the bird was. Post-trip study of these photos has not revealed any pixels that could be the bird.

S12: after a minute, we repeated this sound, hoping the bird would move closer, but it did not. I remembered at the time that this rough distance of 80 meters or so has been reported as an IBWO stopping distance by more than one researcher.

After about five minutes, I suggested to Frank that he walk to the right, to see if the bird would move. He did so and, when he got to only about twenty feet away, I saw the bird jump-flap to the left, to another tree perhaps 15 feet away from it. It was a large-bodied bird, bigger than a crow, only appearing black, and it moved perpendicular to me so I did not see wings. It moved in a manner that has been described for an IBWO—a power jump. It landed on a section of tree in back of some emergent foliage, and I did not see its position. The sighting was in about two seconds. I took a zoomed-in photograph of my best-guess to its spot, but again, subsequent study has not shown a trace of the bird.

At this point, another dark bird appeared from very nearby, and flew to the right. My impression was that it was a crow. It flapped for about 40 meters, then landed in a tree. (During these encounters, there were no crow sounds or other sounds).

After another five minutes, I suggested that I walk to the right similarly, to flush the IBWO. I walked, circling the pond, and began to close the distance. When I took a particular step, Frank called that the IBWO had flown. I came back, and Frank told me that he had seen it power-fly away silently, in the manner that IBWOs have been recorded to do. Its flight was directly East, the direction that it came in. This was at approximately 520 PM.

We returned to camp.





Further research, reproduction, and refinement of the technique and its results, is needed.

John Williams

Long Island NY

April 2016
 
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