The View from Here

Reflections on Ivorybills
December 19, 2008, 3:39 pm
Filed under: Adventures, Art News, Ivory-Billed Woopeckers

My previous post was written nearly a year ago, just after I returned from Florida.  Since then, I’ve talked to a lot of folks about my Ivorybill sighting. The hardcore birders (I’m not one) are jealous in a good-natured way,  although some remain skeptics. Of course, I don’t expect them to change their views on my word. I have nothing more to offer than any other witness to this extant, “formally extinct,” bird.  I was a skeptic before I went down to Ivorybill country, so I understand where they’re coming from. When people tell me, “You did not see an Ivorybill,” all I can do is smile.  I know what I saw, and it was independently confirmed by another witness. But we are left with only our own experience, since it doesn’t count as proof.  The fact that I had a camera in my hand and didn’t get a picture makes the experience very bittersweet.

I have completed a painting based on what I witnessed. Actually, it is pretty damn close to what I saw, but I hesitate to call it an eyewitness account. The reason is that the bird is not based strictly on my observation. I was also influenced by published photos and museum skins. The sketch that I made a couple of days after the sighting is missing some details. Not necessarily because there were not there, but because I only had a couple of seconds to see and my brain to record.  Your eyes fix on attention-grabbing details. In my case it was the sunlit secondaries, glowing in their translucence. The other white that is supposed to be on the underside of the forewing was lost in shadow to me.  So, I had to resort to other sources. besides, I don’t have a memory good enough to recontruct the proportions, exact colors, etc.


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