Saturday, March 20, 2021

1960's New Jersey Birders see Ivory-billed Woodpecker in South Carolina and Texas

Congaree River, South Carolina 

3/31/21  0200  New discoveries of ghost birds and past New Jersey birders are intriguing. 

While researching roost data on woodpeckers a once restricted access, 55 year old letter from ornithologist/botanist John V. Dennis to the USFWS was uncovered. He may have been the most active and successful field researcher for Ivory-bills in the last century.  

Dennis detailed that two diligent birders from NJ, and others, had seen and reported an Ivory-billed Woodpecker from 1959 to 1963 in coastal South Carolina (SC). This area of the lower Santee River has a long history of sightings for this species. 


One of the Jersey birders saw a different Ivory-billed in appropriate habitat from a small plane in Texas in those same years.

P. William Smith Jr. of  Matawan, NJ and J. Lee Edwards of  Montclair, NJ and several others saw the SC bird(s) on 4 separate dates with the events detailed in the Dennis letter, linked here and below.

Dennis' Letter SC IBWO sightings by NJ birders

Singer Tract LA, male 

Large Bald Cypress Congaree NP, notice our researcher standing farther away and in depression. 2nd tallest in world at 141 feet.

Singer Tract, male female

Involved with these sighting and reports are some luminaires of Ivory-billed and conservation history; some modern NJ birders comment on these assumed departed birders below.

The circumstances illustrate how various government agencies receive and collect via their offices, employees, contractors, citizens and volunteers, reports on rare animals. The trivial to important information from the public may remain hidden for decades. History like some species can go extinct. More on this tangent in a future article. 

Smith Jr. encountered the Ivory-billed twice that April 1959 day with 1 or 2 other people; during the first encounter Davis Crompton heard the bird with Smith. Crompton was one of the handful of people on  Earth with extensive Ivory-billed field experience.  

Crompton was with Dennis when they surprised the ornithological world at the time by "rediscovering" and photographing Ivory-bills in east Cuba (1948) after one of the many decades long gaps in pictorial evidence for these two species.  

This scientist and avid birder are credited with taking the last known unequivocal pictures of  Ivory-bills in a mountain range of Moa (see below). 

They may be the only two people who ever saw and will ever see both species (American and Cuban Ivory-billed).  

Cuban IBWO, Dennis and Compton

Almost certainly Cuban Ivory-billed, 1956 Lambs. Picture only discovered recently.   

Dr. J. Lee Edwards of  Montclair, NJ saw the Ivory-billed in the same SC area as Smith of Matawan in 1963.  Richard Pough wrote Dennis with praise for Edward's field birding acumen. Pough knew Edwards who told him he had also seen an Ivory-billed in Texas from a survey plane. Pough had encouraged Edwards to look for the Ivory-billed; Richard was with National Audubon and the founder of The Nature Conservancy.  

Various NJ Birders have commented on these two birders with little on Edwards:

"Hello Fred,

I knew Bill Smith very well and birded with him on numerous occasions from 1974 to 1984, when he moved briefly to Massachusetts (where we had a Garganey in February 1985).  He then moved to xxxxxxxx, Florida, where I stayed with him and xxxxxxxxxx, several times. 


The last time I saw him was in 1994, when I stayed there. Somewhere around 2000, they moved to xxxxx, Washington, but I lost contact with him. I was told by a mutual friend, now deceased, that Bill has lost his enthusiasm for birding and sold his bird books. 

Our mutual friend, who passed away in 2016, told me that Bill had died, but I don’t know what year.

Bill was an excellent and very knowledgeable birder and wrote a number of site guides for Records of NJ Birds as well as being a Regional Editor before he moved away. 

I don’t recall any mention of Ivory-billed, but I do know that he traveled to South Carolina around 1960 to look for (and see) the Bachmann’s Warbler that was present for several years. My memory fails me on any more details and, unfortunately, the one person who could have helped is our mutual friend, Ken.

Lee Edwards was very active in the Urner Club before I came to NJ in 1973, but I never met him."


"I spent a couple of weeks on Gambell with P. William (Smith) in the 1990's. He lived in south Florida for many years after leaving NJ.

In October 1999 George Wenzelburger, Jim Zamos and I chased a Eurasian Dotterel in Ocean Shores, Washington. P. William was living there at the time."


"P. William Smith was a former editor for Region 5 of Records of NJ Birds. He moved to Florida in the mid to late 80s."


As a subtheme P. William Smith Jr. of  Matawan, is likely the last NJ birder to have seen both the Bachman's Warbler and the "Kint".

If anyone has any information on these NJ birders, questions or additions please contact me ( avtrader ) .  

The Dennis letter confirms that some of the SC sight reports, referenced in the official Draft Recovery Plan for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker are from these NJ birders (see green bordered line right below). The USFWS has files and numerous reports on the IBWO that remain shelved, vague or private unless various actions occur to sunlight these "buried" reports. 

Despite there being a substantial number of publicly known Ivory-billed sightings post Singer Tract (after 1940) the USFWS and predecessors seemed to be unaware that sitting on reports could  make them susceptible to claims that they were moth balling reports or hesitant to do much conservation centric work.  Ivory-billed reports by citizens were treated like the treasure in the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

The Dennis' letter sheds light on several topics including the globally consistent bureaucratic habit of storing valuable information and artefacts in dark files. A follow up article may examine some of these tangents.

The decades overdue Species Recovery Plan (Draft) has vague sighting details from the USFWS compared to what Dennis originally gave to the same USFWS. No one knows how many phone calls, letters and associated details throughout the Ivory-bills range have been ignored, lost or are still filed away next to similar collections on Eskimo Curlews, Bog Turtles, etc.   

Evidently there were repeated reports from the same area until 1967 in just this small area of SC that borders the 220,000 acres of Francis Marion National Forest. 

Even with the notable Ivory-billed events of 1999 (Kulivan, observes at length a pair, LA) and this centuries scores of sightings of a few birds) the USFWS kept pertinent content details of specific sightings to themselves. They mustered only 8 words for more than 10 subject sightings focused on by Dennis and perhaps others. 

From Draft IBWO Recovery Plan --Some  SC Sightings, Green Boxes, Unknown Observer = NJ Birder Names Detailed Here  

The actions or inaction by government entities together with my hope, without guarantee, to  complete the attraction studies we were doing on Ivory-bills in 4 states compels me to say a bit more about our own past official projects. We were testing under permit various acoustical attraction methods as a precursor to a hypothetical netting attempt.

Several years ago birders and scientists, including some from NJ staffed four formal woodpecker  studies in SC; we were fortunate to experience the greatest US virgin forest left east of the Mississippi River. During these confidential studies I spent collectively over 30 days in South Carolina with ~ 27 days of wilderness camping (see pictures). 

Like the USFWS, the National Park Service (NPS) requires various confidentiality and other agreements to enter restricted wilderness areas, broadcast calls and remain camping in restricted, no camping areas for ~ 4 weeks to do acoustical and attraction research for Ivory-bills. 

Yearly Final Reports were filed and are password protected. The results could be collated by the lead researcher (myself) and published. However there is some desire to adjust methodologies to finally determine if an IB can be attracted towards a net array.  

Study Applications in South Carolina, 4 years, NBP

It was a tough but unique and unforgettable experience as we dodged thousands of large orb weavers, cottonmouths, feral hogs, mosquitoes, mud and rain.  Many species of animals and several hundred woodpeckers were recorded. Three of us, the whole team that year, had a definite acoustical encounter with our main quarry.

That week I also had a sighting of a large mostly white-winged woodpecker followed soon after by a clear double knock heard by the team. There were also other acoustical IB detections during the studies and some probable IB detections.   

In 2009 a pair was seen well by another zoologist not far from where we also detected an Ivory-bill in SC. About the same time a park employee, a die hard skeptic was convinced by a sighting in the same area. More on all this in the future.

Thanks for the comments on the subject birders in order of receipt from NJ birders Bob Dodelson, Tom Bailey and Bill Boyle.  

If anyone has any information on the subject NJ birders, questions or additions please contact me ( avtrader ) .  


SC IBWO sightings by NJ birders

Historic ranges and 22 reported sightings of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers since 1944 - BirdWatching (

Friday, March 5, 2021

Impacts of Hurricanes and Random Events on Ivory-billed Woodpeckers


Kisatchie National Forest, LA Damage 2020 courtesy USNFS

Kisatchie National Forest, LA Damage 2020 courtesy  USNFS 


Hooded Warbler, male NBP

Biologists circa 2005 allege LA Ivory-billed roost, NBP

2/29/2021 (draft 2) 

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Campephilus principalis, is a critically endangered species with an unknown but certainly minimal number of birds left in the southeastern United States. Small populations of any animal have a high risk of accelerated or rapid extinction. 

Red-headed Woodpecker, NBP

Random events such as hurricanes, fires, disease outbreaks, cold snaps, tornadoes, accidental shooting and stochastic genetic effects * (defined at article end) disproportionately threaten small populations with extinction versus larger populations. For this reason endangered species such as the Black-footed Ferret, California Condor, Whooping Crane, Kirtland's Warbler, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, etc., have received significant amounts of management and volunteer citizen assistance with great success. 

The Ivory-billed is in danger of extinction, and as with other species, it could respond favorably to simple habitat management. Basic and relatively inexpensive, volunteer field work can assist Ivory-bills. Since there are so few IBs left even a few 10 acre habitat improvement projects can be helpful, for example, in concentrating food resources to assist in the successful fledging of young. 

This article examines just one of the many possible random events, a single hurricane, that can eventually contribute to the Ivory-billed's demise. There are many types of deleterious random events; during any decade there is a probability that several can occur in succession. Habitat management action can increase the numbers of Ivory-bills helping them withstand this inevitable series of events. 

Hurricane Laura, CAT 4 = Red, CAT 2 =  Yellow, NBP 

Several New World bird species have been lost or pushed closer to extinction with hurricanes being a main driver. Some of the most rapid and devastating impacts on the fauna and flora are when two hurricanes hit the same area in the same season. In 2020 three hurricanes and two tropical storms hit the US state of Louisiana (LA). Two of these hurricanes followed a similar path. The paths went through some areas that have several, recent, sighting reports of Ivory-billed Woodpecker(s). 

Nurse Stump, NBP

Louisiana is considered by several modern field researchers to be the state with the most Ivory-bills remaining. The last unequivocal small breeding population of Ivory-bills was in northeast LA in the 1930s. However there certainly must have been 21st century breeding in LA and in other states if one accepts the best recent sightings. 

Singer Tract, LA 5/1937 Rainey Lake courtesy USFWS 

Our first example of the double hurricane phenomenon was the extinction of Saint Kitt's Bullfinch by the "Great Hurricane" of 8/7/1899 followed by another on 8/30/1899. This mysterious island subspecies was only encountered one time after that. 

Cozumel Thrasher numbers already reduced by habitat destruction and prior Mexican hurricanes was last seen in 2004. In 2005 Hurricanes Emily and Wilma hit Cozumel and there are no confirmed sightings after that. 

The Bahamian Nuthatch was described by James Bond, the American ornithologist (who was friends with Ian Fleming) as common in the pine forests of Grand Bahama Island. The cavity-nester, was in decline for years due to habitat destruction, fires and hurricanes. A 2004 survey optimistically estimated that up to 1,800 birds could still exist but after a series of hurricanes only 23 birds were found in 2007. 

In 2016 Hurricane Matthew, one of the more powerful hurricanes in many years hit the Bahamas reducing the species to a confirmed 2 to 5 birds. In 2019 the powerful and slow moving Hurricane Dorian hit the same area; the species is now likely extinct.

Three New World Picidae taxa, cavity nesters as all are, have also suffered from hurricanes, two are  extinct. The West Indian Woodpecker subspecies of Grand Island Bahamas was never seen again after the hurricane of 2004. The subspecies of San Salvador Island has been closely studied with the population dropping on average 60 to 65% after hurricanes of Category 2 or higher. Numbers precipitously drop from 240 to 90 on average. 

The Bermuda Flicker may have persisted until human visitation of the island according to a brief reference by explorer and governor John Smith in the 1600's; extinction occurred in the Holocene of unknown causes.  

Historically several Ivory-billed roost or nest trees  were well observed and at least two of them were  snapped by storms; some or all the birds were not seen again. 

The last Singer Tract, LA roost under observation by Jesse Laird was felled in a "storm". In the late 1960s a Florida IB roost was snapped in a "storm" at the roost hole.  In the FL case the two birds were not seen again but the female IB in LA may have been seen wandering around. 

The literature describes IB nest characteristics. The tree diameter at the cavity height was measured in a few cases and averaged ~ 19 inches.  The cavities themselves were often vase shaped; ~14 to 30 inches deep.  Some nests and roosts are in a deadened part of the tree, some not. IB nests and roosts obviously weaken the tree right at the cavity height.  

IBs do not nest in hurricane season; their fall roosts are likely less spacious than nests.  However they seem to have been roosting in slightly smaller diameter tree boles.  

Cross Section Nest Diagram, Ivory-billed, courtesy USFWS



In Puerto Rico two hurricanes in September 2017 greatly reduced the islands namesake, wild parrot population. Some birds that were radio-tagged showed the immediate devastation Category (Cat) 4 hurricanes can do to cavity-nesters, like the Ivory-billed. It killed 17 of 20 parrots wearing tracking devices. “They found them dead under fallen trees and tree branches,” per researchers. 

The 3 separate groups of wild parrots had their populations reduced as follows: 

2 birds left of 56 (3.5% survivorship)

4 birds left of 31 (12.9 % survivorship) and 

75 birds left of 134 (56% survivorship).

Well over half the birds were killed by these two hurricanes. The habitat was so impaired by the hurricanes that captive birds could not be released due to continuing reduction in range quality and carrying capacity. 

The 2020 LA hurricanes did not cause the level of leaf stripping and tree blow down rate as occurred in Puerto Rico (PR). Mortality rate of Ivory-bills is likely much less in LA than PR for these particular events. But of course there are many less IBs than Puerto Rican Parrots and every Ivory-billed at this point is genetically important. 

Just as the 2017 PR hurricanes did, the 2020 LA hurricanes initially reduce the quality of habitat for birds, such as Ivory-bills. After these LA hurricanes there is likely a 20% decrease in standing dead wood with insects due to blowdowns. Favorite feeding areas for individual IBs is also initially altered or destroyed and birds have to learn and locate where replacement resources are. There is also an initial reduction of an estimated 10-80% in arboreal plant food resources (berries, nuts, etc.) due to blowdown and damage to the herbivory. A reduction in roosts and nest holes is another impact.  

Formal population point surveys after storms hit the Virgin Islands showed a substantial decrease in bird numbers due to death or resource depletion. The decrease in birds was even found for storms that were not that severe. Frugivories and insectivores showed substantial decreases. (See Impact of Hurricane Hugo on Bird Populations on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands on JSTOR  .)

When the immediate storm impact is not fatal ecological conditions incrementally stress the remaining birds. There is lessened resources, increased exposure to the elements with a concomitant higher risk of injury or death by predators after storms. When resources are depleted the upcoming breeding phenology is affected. After several months resource levels have usually improved from the nadir; regardless the initial months after a hurricane are slightly to somewhat sub-optimal for survival and negatively impact breeding.

In September 1989 the Category 4 hurricane, Hugo, hit a well studied, southeast US endangered woodpecker population of 1,765 birds. An estimated 700 Red-cockaded Woodpeckers survived the devastation in South Carolina. Eighty seven % of the active roost/nest trees were destroyed. These birds were in forestland that stretched from the coast to 30 miles inland. 

Laura's hurricane wind speeds of Cat 4 to 1 reached well into the northern half of Louisiana.   

Hurricanes have adversely impacted many interior forest species and large areas in the New World. Studies indicate the intensity of hurricanes is increasing. 

Hurricane Laura, CAT 4 = Red, CAT 2 =  Yellow, NBP 

Although many of the most severely imperiled species and events have occurred on islands, today's Ivory-billed population dynamics closely parallels island demographics. Small, widely segregated groups of one or a few IBs suffer the same threats as do reduced island populations. Small numbers of heterogeneously distributed and clumped mainland animals are very susceptible to the high winds, flying debris, cooler driving rains, resource depletion and habitat destruction that hurricanes inflict. 

Here is an estimate of how many Ivory-bill Woodpeckers may have been injured or killed by only the one Cat 4 hurricane (Laura) that hit LA in 2020. The other four hurricanes/tropical storms that impacted Louisiana in 2020 have not been estimated for impact to IBs but were weaker and likely less severe events than the subject Cat 4 in relation to IB injury or death. 

The severe record freeze of ~ 5 days in 2/2021 in LA, another random event, may have also caused IB fatalities. 

Method Used to Deduce the Impact to Ivory-bills: Professional foresters in Louisiana produced an official estimate of dollar damage to trees based on aerial data and field measurements. The dollar damage was used with value of trees and salvage value to establish a workable number of trees damaged by the hurricane. 

The impact area of the hurricane pertinent to tree damage was estimated at 15% of the states total area. Although high winds may have covered over more than 15% of the state this peripheral area was modeled to have negligible impact to tree value/damage and therefore IBs. The estimated number of trees damaged was used with the total number of trees in the impacted area to calculate a percentage of trees damaged in the impact area. 

The percent of trees damaged was applied to three different hypothetical numbers of Ivory-bills in the impacted area. The 9.2% of trees damaged was used to assume 9.2% of occupied roosts were blown over, snapped or destroyed. This damage level (9.2%) seems much less than other Category 4 hurricanes but this is attributed to the well known condition that winds weaken as they move  hundreds of miles inland.  Laura's hurricane strength winds did eventually decrease to tropical storm levels but not until it approached the Arkansas line. Laura was a very destructive and "penetrating" storm for Ivory-billeds.   

The Puerto Rican Parrots and Red-cockaded Woodpeckers roosts above that suffered much higher destruction rates were within 35 miles of the coast and close to the path of the respective Cat 4 hurricane. 

An impacted tree containing a roosting IB was modeled to injure or kill the IB 90% of the time. Ivory-bills roosts by definition will weaken the structure of the tree right at the hole location, making it a potentially dangerous situation. 

Cavity Can be a Dangerous Place in a Hurricane, courtesy USFWS  

The hypothetical IB population numbers in the impacted area were 2 Ivory-bills, 6 Ivory-bills and 1,556 Ivory-bills, the latter representing a precolonial population number. 

By using 2020 hypothetical IB numbers and comparing them against reasonable precolonial numbers we can examine the impacts of  hurricanes and random events on a small population versus a large population of IBs. 

Raw Data and Assumptions Used (see references) 

 8.9 Billion trees in Louisiana (LA) 

 Damage to forests/loss of revenue estimate is $ 1.1 B 

 Salvage rate ~ 75% of undamaged value (note salvage value can be higher as commodity prices rise after hurricanes) If actual salvage higher, then the number of trees downed/severely damaged increases and estimated fatality/injury rate of the Ivory-billed goes up proportionally)

 Trees worth $35/tree undamaged 

 Damaged trees are in general harvested and still worth (.75 X 35) = $26.25/tree 

 Loss per damaged tree = ($35 - $26.25) = $ 8.75/ tree damaged 

Number of trees in path damaged =   $1.1 B loss of revenue/$8.75 = 125,000,000 trees lost or damaged 

 Estimate of path of damage as % of LA = 15% = Impact area

 Estimate of total trees in path (15% area of LA X 8.9B trees LA) =1. 335 B trees 

 Percent of trees in path lost = 125,000,000/1.335 B trees = 9.2 % of trees destroyed 

 Estimate range of number of IBs in path = 2 or 6 or 1,556 birds 

On the Atchafalaya River, LA  NBP

 IB occupied roosts destroyed/snapped/felled during hurricane 9.2% of 2 birds to 9.2% of 6 birds 9.2% of 1,556 birds 

 Assume 90% chance of injury or death if roost damaged during hurricane 

 2 birds in roosts in impact area = each had a 8.3 % chance of being injured or killed 16.6 % chance one bird injured or killed  ~.7 % chance of both birds being injured or killed 

 6 birds in roosts in impact area  = each had a 8.3 % chance of being injured or killed ~ 50% chance one bird injured or killed out of 6 

 ~ 3.5 % chance two birds injured or killed out of 6 

 ~ 1.2 % chance three birds injured or killed out of 6 

 ~ .29% chance four birds injured or killed out of 6 

 ~ .048% chance five birds injured or killed out of 6 

 < .000001% chance all 6 birds were injured or killed 

 Precolonial estimate of IBWO population and estimated fatality Cat 4 Hurricane circa 1600 AD 

 LA has 51.843 sq miles x 15% impact area = 7,776 sq miles 

Using 10 sq miles/pair IBs = 778 pairs = 1556 birds 

 Per above 9.2 % of IB occupied roosts destroyed/snapped/felled during hurricane

Assume 90% chance of injury or death if roost damaged during hurricane.  9.2% x 90% x 1556 birds = 129 birds estimated to be injured or killed on average per Cat 4 hurricane 

On average 8.3% of population injured or killed per Cat 4 hurricane circa 1600 AD

Ivory-billed Roost Hole, LA, Tanner

Summary: The area impacted, in relation to downed/damaged trees, by the subject hurricane was estimated at 15% of the state (LA). 

Knowledge of private and public Ivory-billed reports recently and over the last 25 years was used to establish a range of Ivory-bill population numbers in the impacted area of 2 or 6 birds. 

Higher numbers are possible but article reviewers proposing larger numbers based it on "large unsearched areas" with no data comparing large areas actually searched against unsearched.

There also was no presentation on the reduced carrying capacity of modern open spaces in the 15% area of LA addressed here; todays, young managed pine forests and remnant bottomland  forests are likely not conducive to increasing IB numbers or perhaps even stable IB numbers.  

Any higher number than 6 would infer that there are ~ 50 IBs in LA alone, other variables being equal. There is no evidence that there are many birds left in LA, let alone even 20 birds. However the hurricanes path did take it through some of the best areas of LA as far as a few recent IB reports; therefore it is reasonable to infer that the area impacted could have had a greater concentration of IBs than the remaining 85% of LA. 

The impact area may have had 6 birds yet the total number of birds in LA can still be well under 50 birds or even 20. Two to six IBs in the impacted area seems to be a reasonable range of Ivory-billeds in the subject area at this time. 

For a number of 2 birds in the impact area: This Category 4 Hurricane or a similar one can injure or kill 1 of the 2 birds in impact area 16.6% of the time for each Cat 4 hurricane. The probability of both birds being killed or injured is .7%. 

For a number of 6 birds in the impact area: This Category 4 Hurricane or a similar one can kill or injure 1 of 6 birds in path area 50% of the time for each Cat 4 hurricane. 

Average Decrease in Ivory-billed Numbers per Cat 4 hurricane 2 birds in area = 16.6% of the time for each hurricane there is a loss of 50% of the birds (1 bird). 2 birds in area = .7% of the time for each hurricane there is a loss of 100% of the birds (2 birds, all birds lost). 

6 birds in area = 49% of the time for each hurricane there is a loss of 16% of the birds (1 bird lost) 6 birds in area = ~ 4% of the time for each hurricane there is a loss of 33% of the birds (2 birds lost) 

1556 birds in area circa 1600 AD = on average 129 birds are injured or killed per each Cat 4 hurricane.  

On average 8.3% of the precolonial population may have been injured or killed per Cat 4 hurricane.

For several weeks after any Cat 4 hurricane the survival rate is likely to be slightly lower than usual for the adults since standing dead wood with insects/food resources is initially decreased by ~ 18.4 % (standing dead wood is estimated to have twice the rate of blowdown as damage to roosting trees, 9.2% x 2 = 18.4%).



Conclusions: Small populations of animals in the New World have been driven towards or into extinction by random events such as hurricanes. There are an unknown but very small number of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers left in the US.

Ivory-bills are in danger of accelerated or rapid extinction via common random events such as hurricanes, fires, disease, drought, shooting, genetic stochastics, etc. In addition to random events Ivory-bills suffer mortality from expected events such as predation, expected common diseases, old age, etc. 

In 2020 five tropical storms and hurricanes hit the state of LA; one, Laura, was a powerful and destructive Category 4. This single random event alone may have injured or killed one Ivory-billed of the 2 to 6 estimated Ivory-bills that remained in the impacted area of LA.

Although a portion of the Ivory-billed's total population have been hit with hurricanes throughout their existence, large, healthy populations of animals were present in ~ 12 states in precolonial times; recuperation from hurricanes was normal. Only a fraction to a smaller portion of all existing IBs were injured or killed by random events each year. The much larger population then, with a vast range of tens of millions of acres, had a healthy contiguous forest with various areas of concentrated dead trees (hurricanes, large forest fires, insect outbreaks, tornadoes, beavers, etc.) and they could successfully fledge many birds in the post hurricane years. 

Today's younger, lower quality, fragmented,  mostly narrow linear forests, with limited standing dead wood and decreased peak insect biomass are not able to fledge as many birds per existing IB pair. 

The presentation in this article portrayed that one Cat 4 hurricane can reduce a starting number of 2 Ivory-bills to and average of 1.6 birds. Five such random events can reduce the number to an average of .79 birds. When numbers drop below 2  functional extinction is predicted
in that immediate area. A
bird, will have to move and search for a suitable unrelated mate. There is some evidence that females may not disperse far from their natal area. Birds are now very rare; a lone bird may not find a mate. 

CHART : Collates Starting Number of Birds with Average Number of Birds Expected to Survive 1, 5 and 10 Random Events   

Inevitably there will be a series of random events that hand each remaining pocket of Ivory-bills a final blow.

Basic habitat management may be able to increase the numbers of Ivory-bills which would help stave off extinction.


* Stochastic genetic effects for small populations- definitions/explanations -  Each animal in a small population may have genes and traits that are possessed by few or no other living animal within that small population.  If this or these animals are lost before they successfully have offspring those unique genes and beneficial traits are lost forever to all future animals and the entire population. 

If, for example, the gene was carrying the coding or tendency for characteristics such as the ability to better fight off disease x and z or to lay 5 eggs instead of 4 the possibility of being more resistant to disease x and z, or to lay 5 eggs instead of 4, is now lost or reduced for all future animals for that species.  

This is called genetic loss via genetic drift and results in single animals and the entire small population having less viability and survivability.  

Small populations are mathematically more likely to suffer rapid genetic loss and drift  than larger populations.  

Another stochastic genetic effect that impacts small populations is inbreeding.  A gene consists of two alleles, one from the female parent's egg and one from male parent's sperm.  Some alleles are deleterious to the animal but are recessive meaning that any other type of allele within that gene will mask or eliminate the deleterious effects of that one "bad" allele.  However if both alleles (one from female, one from male) are the deleterious allele the animal genome will express and the animal will suffer from the ramifications of this "bad" gene.  

If, for example, the non-deleterious gene was to carry the coding or tendency for characteristics to produce an enzyme that best digests acorns or the ability to see the color red, the possibility of the bird being better able to digest acorns or quickly recognize predators or mates that have red colors is now lost or reduced for that particular animal. If this hypothetical animal successfully reproduces it will by definition only be able to pass on these deleterious alleles for that respective gene.    

Inbreeding results in single animals and the entire small population having less viability and survivability. 

Small populations are mathematically more likely to suffer rapid inbreeding than larger populations.  

Many thanks to Zoologist Frederick Virrazzi for this and other articles.  

References and Bibliography 

Out My Backdoor: Hurricanes Can Affect Backyard Birds | Department Of Natural Resources Division (

AgCenter estimates ag, forestry losses from Hurricane Laura exceed $1.6 billion (

 2020 Louisiana Hurricane season recap (

Hurricane LAURA Rakes Sulphur, Louisiana (2020) - Bing video

VZ_154_Last_St_Kitts_Bullfinch.pdf (

(PDF) Grand Bahama's Brown-headed Nuthatch: A Distinct and Endangered Species (

Hurricane Hugo - Wikipedia

Bahama Nuthatch –

Impact of Hurricane Hugo on Bird Populations on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands on JSTOR

Many thanks to Zoologist Frederick Virrazzi for this and other articles.  

RAW  DATA, comments and info from this point on may be copyrighted to others sources than NBP. Below will be organized or deleted in final draft. 

In the Bahamas, the woodpecker is common on Abaco, rare on San Salvador Island, and thought to be extirpated on Grand Bahama. A pair seen recently on the east end of Grand Bahama (2002-2004) may be good news for the Grand Bahama form but more likely represents a colonizing pair from Abaco. Unfortunately, these birds have not been seen again since the hurricanes in September 2004

Distribution of West Indian Woodpecker (Melanerpes superciliaris). The three Bahamian subspecies live on Grand Bahama (M. s. bahamensis), Abaco (M. s. blakei), and San Salvador Island (M. s. nyeanus). Three other forms (from north to south) live on Cuba (M. s. superciliaris), Isle of Pines (M. s. murceus), and Grand Cayman Island (M. s. caymanensis). Several additional subspecies have been described from isolated islands off Cuba (not shown here). Map: William K. Hayes.

After hurricanes with >160 kph winds passed over San Salvador, woodpecker densities declined to 35–40% of pre-hurricane densities, but generally recovered back to pre-hurricane densities within 2–3 years. Based on an estimated density of woodpeckers within a ~1,400 ha occupied area, we calculated a population size of approximately 240 individuals (CI = 68-408). However, the population declined to far lower numbers immediately following hurricanes.

High Winds

Laura's eyewall produced extreme wind gusts in Louisiana and southeast Texas:

-Lake Charles, Louisiana: 133 mph

-Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana: 127 mph

-Cameron, Louisiana: 116 mph

-Sabine Pass, Texas: 89 mph

-Alexandria, Louisiana: 86 mph (video from Mike Seidel)

Storm chaser Mike Theiss measured a peak wind gust of 154 mph in the western eyewall of Laura near Holly Beach, Louisiana.

NBP notes = Starting # Birds Average # Birds after 1 Random Event Average # Birds after 5 Random Events Average # Birds after 10 Random Events 2 1 (16.6% chance) 2 (83.4 % chance) average 1.66 birds 0-1 (62.2% of time) 2 (37.2% of time) average .79 birds 0-1 (84% chance) 2 (16% chance) average .3 birds 6 5 (51% chance) 6 (49% chance) average 4.98 birds average # of birds 2.4 birds average # of birds .93 birds 1556 1427 birds 677 birds 266 birds 

See our other article on Ivory-bill reports from South Carolina, by using this link of return to the Home page.   

Congaree River, SC  NBP


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Southern France----Research Trip 2018, for Ecoutourism Project Part 1 of 3

Southern France is a beautiful area with ample culture and biodiversity. Adventurers with specific or  broad interests will have plenty of activities to choose from and enjoy.

In this 3 part post you will find a Preliminary Report that invites potential partners to explore and operate a first tour to Southern France and form an ecotourism company. There will be various pictures of the proposed tour area and just a small sample of the sites and animals. NOTE ONLY ONE POST IS UP NOW...but it has the pivotal report. 

Introduction: Here we present a proposal seeking stakeholders/partners to explore an ecotourism trip and the related start up and growth of a new ecotour firm.
The ecotourism business model is only four decades old; the growth in gross revenue and offerings has been substantial.  Global growth in ecotourism, assuming a broad definition, has been over 10% YOY for decades. Protection of some open space, forests and biodiversity hotspots has occurred globally due to the potential and realization of ecotourism. The necessity of supporting infrastructure for the model has resulted in significant local community benefits including the start of many ecolodges etc.     
Southern France has scores of premier attractions, both natural and cultural, making it marketable to a broad segment of the travelling NJ/Metro/USA demographic.  In the past NBPs/RRWA’s zoologist has gone into detail about the tangible strengths of a first trip for a new company exploring S France; the points will not be repeated in length here. The Mediterranean with its varied attractions can appeal to couples, families or group of friends that may have only one serious naturalist, photographer or birder since the other participants will have many possible activities and sites that excite them.  
In April 2018, after receiving favorable comments on the eventual sponsoring of an ecotourism trip by various NGOs and individuals, our zoologist visited, researched and birded the area. He personally funded  the ~ 11 day trip; the time invested in the trip and business concept has been substantial.
His opinion that this is a “good starter trip” for several reasons has been strengthened by this recent visit.  It may be a good trip to offer for a new tourism entity that will likely expand its trip offerings in a measured way.

Scope and Purpose of this Brief Report : This report will only have superficial information since some concepts, ideas, marketing strategies, research results, etc. have proprietary or confidential implications and final partner(s) and exact optimal, corporate structure has not been discussed.  Likewise a detailed demonstration here by any of the partners’ ideas, knowledge and skills sets related to business operation and marketing an ecotourism effort is premature.  Detailed ideas should only be fully shared in less public forums with the final set of partners.    
Investment or start-up funds to organize and run a company needs to be established. It also may be pertinent and necessary to have a company separate from the non-profits for efficiency; the non-profit structure and entities may better serve an ecotourism startup by marketing the trips in return, for example, stakeholder building, fulfillment of their mission, membership dues, exciting publicity and eventual donations.
This report’s purpose is to start some serious formal discussions on the various subjects and steps discussed.

Goals and Time Table: Once the various parameters have been agreed upon resulting in a more formal agreement on company structure, a more detailed business plan (BP) would be helpful and necessary. While the BP is being worked on concurrently a first trip itinerary would be formalized and local guide (in France) relationships promulgated. Again this report is a preliminary step in the hopes of a trip being offered and a more robust business model being produced that will detail how to obtain an acceptable and sustainable cash flow within 5 years.  The trip offering can occur before the final BP is complete; the company and first trip would be governed and guided by some interim guiding BP or agreements.
Readers must take this report’s “initial trip” scope in the context that it is an early step of a business effort that will gradually add more trip offerings to various desirable places. Every long trip starts with one step.  Growth is expected to be measured, incremental and strategic to assure a high quality experience for both partners and the public. Our zoologist has been to hundreds of international tourism locations and “biodiversity hotspots”; he was purposefully assessing ecotourism potential.  This will reduce the new firm’s research costs for trip offerings by tapping into direct experience with potential destinations and pre existing ground truthing, tapping into global business relations already established and more.  
After basic business structure, budgets, costs and responsibilities are agreed upon the next short term goal is to market, book and successfully complete the inaugural trip. This trip could only be in 4-6/19 if the partners worked daily towards that goal. More likely is a fall 2019 or late spring 2020 trip to S France.
Trip offerings would be added each year as possible based on our zoologist’s and partners’ advice, further research and agreement.  A medium term goal, 5 years or less, would be to offer one trip per month; this would smooth out workload and cashflow. The rate of growth of trips offered, and the correlates of gross and net revenue is often dependent on work ethic, business and management skills and the amount of capital investment in the business especially marketing and advertising capabilities.
A small subset of ecotour companies eventually establish a complimentary lodge where they run the tour business out of. The pros and cons of owning and operating a lodge are many; a lodge can be expensive and time consuming; there are geopolitical and economic risks.  Regardless a lodge can be a potential goal for the new firm.      
Note that NBP has a global mission scope reflected by its website and Journal “The Biodiversity River”. These media resources will be important to reduce the costs of marketing the trips.  The Journal is in the process of being viewable on NBP’s developing website.

Trip Results, S France:    S France has an eclectic mixture of scenery, castles, ruins, museums, cloisters, architecture, history, cultures, art, fairs, food, eateries, outdoor markets, stores, vineyards, farms, beaches, marshes, wetlands, parks, forests, plains, mountains, lakes, rivers, a sea, animals and more.  There are many small towns and two larger cities like Marseille near the best area for tours in S France.
I visited approximately 3 wildlife areas including some mid- altitude slopes of the Alps as I traveled slowly for ~ 5 hours from the border of Italy west to Arles, France;  this medium-sized town could be a hub for most of the activities in the adjacent large Camargue Nature Park ecosystem. The s is silent in Arles. These initial 3 wildlife areas in SE France are less important to a first trip since they may not be needed due to more proximal airports and sites around Arles.
Arles is the gateway to the large Camargue ecosystem which is hundreds of thousands of acres of mostly wetlands, with some uplands; the area has many ownership jurisdictions but are mostly accessible. The town with a population of ~ 50,000 sits on the Rhone River; it is compact and walkable with museums, galleries and the famous St. Trophime Church and Cloister. It has two ancient Roman Amphitheaters to explore and Van Gogh lived and painted hundreds of canvases in this area for 2.5 years.  There are pedestrian promenades, small shops, restaurants and scenic squares.
The Camargue ecosystem is in part the Rhone River delta which is famous for marshes and the more African centric bird, the Greater Flamingo.  Thousands of striking flamingos breed in the Camargue along with many other bird species, resident and migratory.
The birds and animals were relatively approachable and photographic in the area likely due to the lands recent history of passive ecotourism.  Our researcher in general rates the area very good for bird photography, scenery and pleasantness. Attached you will see a small sample of what he was able to capture in a single, relatively short trip  The area is good for biodiversity but certainly it does not approach any tropical area and is closer in biotic value to a temperate latitude as one would expect. The biodiversity scale is of course influenced by excellent areas of Africa, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, etc. which are not a fair comparison to any temperate area.
Our zoologist visited almost every notable park and birding location in the Camargue with notes, business cards, maps and pictures; this was ~ 60 stops in ~ 25 locations.  All of these stops are within 15 minutes to 3 hours from Arles. He would be able to comment on any itinerary to this area in detail.
There are at least 3 other smaller towns and a larger, famous city  in the potential tour area that are important to the contemplated itinerary. These towns may be important as staging/overnight areas to visit several other biodiversity/birding and cultural highlights.  It is beyond the scope of this report to list all likely areas to visit and their individual highlights although planning media to partners and premarketing material and itineraries to paid clients will go into greater detail.
Only 20 minutes NE of Arles is the storybook-like medieval village of Les Baux-de-Provence which meets our needs.  This town has some spectacular sights and views with ruins and areas to see wildlife; this town with Arles have several UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Additional important parks/areas to be visited on this tour will likely include The Natural Reserve of Crau and Alpilles Natural Park.  Our zoologist visited these areas in the subject trip.  Birding highlights include Eagle Owl, Stone Curlew, Little Bustard, Calandra Lark and many more species.   

Local Guide:    Our zoologist had multiple preliminary meetings while in France with a potential local guide, who speaks excellent English, with years of field experience in France garnered by successfully completing hundreds of tours.  Our zoologist was also in the field with this guide and found him to fit our basic requirements.    
Conclusion: This is a very good area for an initial ecotourism trip; this could be an annual offering for a successfully run ecotourism firm.   Short term goals would be to form a corporate partnership and successfully complete the "inaugural" trip in 2019 or more likely 2020. A longer term, important goal would be to offer 12 ecotourism trips a year within 5 years.