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Ivory-billed Woodpecker Memories

Rick Hollis

Pileated [top] and Ivory-billed [bottom] Woodpeckers
Rick Hollis

When I was a kid, my family used to vacation in the mountains of Western Maryland at a park which was then called Herrington Manor State Park. It was a great place for a kid acres of woods, a 50 acre lake. There was a nearby road called Snaggy Mountain Road.   On it was house called the Cabin of the Lone Wolf. This was neat stuff to kid who lived just outside of Baltimore. We stayed in a log cabin in the park. At night, I used to study Mom’s bird field guide. I loved the Audubon Land Bird Guide by Richard Pough.

During one of my walks a huge woodpecker flew across the path ahead of me. I took a mental picture and ran back to the cabin. I do not know the distance but it had to be a more than a half mile. If you went back to the park with me, I could show you the path I saw the bird on, even if the path is no longer there.

Why was I so excited — I had just seen an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. I surely read about them one evening that week and knew they were in trouble.   It had to be. Now I, Boy Scientist, had just discovered one.

Had my favorite field guide had maps, I would have known the problem — I was nowhere near Ivory-bills had been. Of course back then field guides either did not have maps or they buried them in the back of the book.

When I got to the cabin and found a field guide – we must have had two as the images in Pough would not have helped. But I realized that the bird I saw had large white spots in leading part or the wings. Ivory-billeds, would have white patches in the front and rear of the underwings.

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