As a huge bird enthusiast, I was beyond happy to start this book. I wanted to know about birds gone by – not knowing what this information would present.
It presented me with a mystery instead of a closed case where the Ivory Billed Woodpecker was concerned. The WHAT? I’d never heard of this bird. It sent me immediately to Google. I needed to see what this Ivory Billed Woodpecker looks like. I have been birding only for a few years and am a weekend volunteer at an Audubon chapter. I make up plates for birds, administer medicines to the injured, hand feed the babies and oh yeah, clean up their cages (Ravens are not very neat by the way). BJ Hollars’ enthusiasm for tracking the ghost of the Ivory Billed piqued my own curiosity.
Here is the thing – it’s not a bird that someone drew a picture of a long time ago. It’s a bird that we have photos of – alive. Sure, there are probably photos of a number of extinct birds, but this seems just minutes from the assumed loss. It seems that the Ivory Billed has been last seen in the late 1960s…..however – it also seems like it can be easily confused by any untrained eye to be a Pileated Woodpecker instead. THIS makes it even more exciting. The photos that Hollars describes – and that I found online – are of a curious little soul, who has landed on a human – and hangs out for a bit. Could we possibly still have this bird, believed to be likely extinct, here with us, incognito? Living off the good fortune to be passed off as someone else and left alone?
We follow Hollars through various paths as he traces physical history in order to get as close to that one degree to the Ivory Billed as he can. Unfortunately the best he can do is to have a chance to hold a preserved one from long ago. I shared the awe and joy it must have been to finally lay eyes on this creature that seems so full of myth. The privilege of handling energy of the Ivory Billed. Granted it is deceased, but any object still carries an energy. To connect to that energy, even on the thinnest veil of possibility, must have been quite a moment indeed.
The author touches subjects that pave the way for further thinking – the birds of today. Our own morality. Surely some birds would naturally become extinct. But as he notes, humans have hastened the process in rewards for short term profit and for reasons of a tasty pie. I am grateful for those who find the obsession and beauty still in the natural world. Those who can light more torches with their own flame to inspire many more to the cause.