Posted by: Craig Woolheater on December 3rd, 2005
When the reports came out of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker had been rediscovered in the Big Woods of Arkansas, the town of Brinkley planned to cash in on the swarm of bird enthusiasts and tourists that were expected.
But with no additional confirmed sightings, the tourists have not showed. With the colder temperatures of winter approaching, a second round of Cornell birders have flocked to Eastern Arkansas to gain photographic evidence of the elusive bird. They are searching an area of forest, bottom- and swampland 550,000 acres in size. A formidable task indeed.
An article in today’s Chicago Tribune details the woes of the community:
And here in Monroe County, where one-quarter of residents live in poverty, merchants stocked up on bird-related souvenirs and waited for tourists.
But with fresh sightings of the ivory-bill yet to be confirmed, "We’re still waiting for the tourist part," hairdresser Penny Childs said.
Outside her salon, woodpecker T-shirts hang from a tree, swinging in the breeze. Inside, nearly half of the establishment has been taken over with woodpecker souvenirs: candles, artwork, books. Childs has created the $25 "woodpecker" haircut–a spiked hairdo accented with red, black and white paint.
"It’s like waiting for Christmas to get here," Childs said of what residents hope will be a big winter bird-watching season.
Folks here knew that few visitors would brave the mosquitoes, snakes and wilting heat of an Arkansas summer to look for the bird, said Larry Mallard, manager of the White River National Wildlife Refuge, where ornithologists taped what is believed to be the ivory-bill’s call. Better to wait until the dead of winter, he said, when the dense foliage has dropped and there is a better chance of spotting the skittish bird or hearing its signature rap–a loud double-knock: BAM-bam!