Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Lord God Bird

Posted by: rosiewolf
The Lord God Bird
It was with bittersweet excitement that I heard about the rediscovery of the ivory billed woodpecker in Arkansas last week. Bittersweet, because I spent most of my childhood searching for him and never found him. I'm glad someone did, but I really wanted to be the one to see him. I have since the first time my grandfather told me about him.

My childhood was peppered with tales of these great birds and the clouds of Carolina Parakeets that blackened the skies above the May River in Bluffton, SC in the early part of the century. I'm not sure how many six year old children were taught the sound of the Lord God Bird at their mother's knee, but I was certainly tutored on it.

Papa on the May River

It was every bit as exciting as looking for the ghost at Ft. Fredricka on Sea Island, GA. Every time I ventured into the deep woods, that woodpecker was part of my search. The bird was mythic in my universe. I grew up on tales of him and apocryphal stories of sightings. It was fun to claim you thought you saw one...even if you sort of knew that you'd seen the more common pileated woodpecker.

I never heard the distinctive BAM-bam. I never heard the strangely high, nasal and off-key warble of the bird...though my ears strained through every trip into the woods. My grandfather could describe these sounds perfectly....and my mother wasn't too bad at it either.

The ivory bill was called the Lord God Bird because one could be forgiven for taking the Lord's name in vain if he was seen in flight.


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