This I Believe

Jacqueline - Fayetteville, Arkansas
Entered on July 21, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

HOST COPY

           THE SEARCH FOR THE IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER IS ON SUMMER HIATUS.

LONG CONSIDERED EXTINCT, THE BIRD WAS SPOTTED SEVERAL YEARS AGO IN THE WOODLAND SWAMPS OF EASTERN ARKANSAS.

CONTROVERSIAL VIDEO AND SOUND RECORDINGS CAUSED A BIG STIR IN THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY.

SEARCH TEAMS THIS PAST WINTER AND SPRING LOOKED FOR ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE OF THE LEGENDARY WOODPECKER’S EXISTENCE.

THEY DID NOT GET DEFINITIVE PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE BIRD.

STILL,THE ORIGINAL SIGHTING CONTINUES TO FUEL A BIG DEBATE AMONG BIRDERS–LIKE ARKANSAS WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST, JOE NEAL.

HE WORKS TO PRESERVE HABITAT FOR ENDANGERED WOODPECKERS IN WESTERN ARKANSAS.

AND HE THINKS THE IVORY BILL IS OUT THERE.

 

          IS THE IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER FOR REAL?

I HEAR CONSTANT DISCUSSION ABOUT IT.

          I WALK INTO MY NEIGHBORHOOD GROCERY WITH BINOCULARS AROUND MY NECK. A SUNNY YOUNG WOMAN SCANS MY STUFF, THEN STOPS AND ASKS, “DO YOU THINK THEY REALLY FOUND THAT BIG WOODPECKER?”

            MY SISTERS WHO LIVE IN GEORGIA AND FLORIDA ALSO ASK IF I BELIEVE. WE ALL GREW UP AS SOUTHERN BAPTISTS. EVEN IF WE HAVE STRAYED A BIT FROM THE ONE TRUE FAITH, WE STILL TAKE OUR BELIEFS SERIOUSLY.

            I’VE BEEN THINKING HARD ABOUT ALL OF THIS.

            IN THE ABSENCE OF A LOT OF FACTS—THE KINDS WE CAN SQUEEZE AND SMELL—I’M WONDERING WHY WE BELIEVE SOME THINGS AND NOT OTHERS.

            I DON’T HAVE ANY ANSWERS.

            NOR DOES THE OFFICIAL ORNITHOLOGICAL UNIVERSE–WHICH HAS BEEN STRUGGLING WITH FACTS AND FAITH CONCERNING IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKERS. IT’S A WRENCHING THING TO SEE: BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER, SISTER AGAINST SISTER, SO TO SPEAK.

            IN THE MEANTIME, I’VE BEEN OUT IN THE FOREST WATCHING OTHER WOODPECKERS. A SMALL, VERY RARE ONE, THE RED-COCKADED WOODPECKER, IS MAKING A SLOW AND VALIANT COMEBACK ON THE OUACHITA NATIONAL FOREST IN WESTERN ARKANSAS.

I’VE BEEN WATCHING ADULTS FEEDING THE CLASS OF 2006.

(RECORDING OF COCKADED ADULTS FEEDING CHICKS)

            ANOTHER SPECIES OF WOODPECKER, THE PILEATED, IS NEAR IVORY-BILL IN SIZE. IT’S NOT RARE LIKE IVORY-BILLS, BUT IT IS DRAMATIC, AND IT IS BREATHTAKING TO SEE ONE FLYING THROUGH OAK PINE AND OAK FORESTS HERE.

I’VE BEEN WATCHING SEVERAL NESTING PILEATED FAMILIES. ONE IS WAY UP ON A PINEY RIDGE IN THE OUACHITA MOUNTAINS. IT HELD THREE BIG YOUNG IN LATE MAY. WHEN PAPA PILEATED CAME ALONG WITH BUGS, TRUMPETING THAT LOUD PILEATED CALL, THE YOUNG ONES HUNG OUT OF THE CAVITY, BEAKS AGAPE, RED CROWN PATCHES ALL SPIKY AND ERECT.

THEY CALLED CONSTANTLY AT THE NEST.

(RECORDING OF PILEATED ADULT QUEING UP YOUNG BIRDS)

           THEY ARE ABOUT READY TO FLY. SOON THEY WILL CLAIM A PIECE OF THIS OUACHITA RIDGE AS THEIR OWN.

I WONDER, HOW DO THEY FIND COURAGE TO FLY? HOW WILL THEY CROSS OVER FROM THE SECURITY OF AN OLD PINE SNAG TO THE VAST WILD BLUE, FILLED WITH DANGER AND PROMISE?

        AS I WATCH, I IMAGINE HUNGRY IVORY BILL CHICKS, WAITING FOR THEIR PARENTS TO RETURN, BIG BEAKS FULL OF BEETLES.

I GREW UP WITH THE DESIRE TO BELIEVE. SO IT’S NOT HARD FOR ME TO LOOK AT THE KNOWN FACTS, INCLUDING THOSE FREIGHTED WITH CONTROVERSY, AND CONCLUDE IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKERS MAY BE NESTING AMONG US.