Ivory-billed Woodpecker No Boost to Cryptotourism or Where’s the Woodpecker Windfall

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! 

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

9 Responses to “Ivory-billed Woodpecker No Boost to Cryptotourism or Where’s the Woodpecker Windfall”

  1. Doug responds:

    I am not surprised. If the bird is as shy as said, folks tromping through its habitat will make it even more so. My mother lives in Brinkley, and my father-in-law is an avid birder, and both have said that rumors are the bird has been spotted flying over a bridge that runs through the northern tip of the refuge between Brinkley and Cotton Plant, for those who would be interested. There are a number of people who still do not believe its there, and the bird was simply mistaken for its look-a-like species counterpart.

  2. Nessie-Chaser responds:

    Contrary to Doug I think it is possible that people see the Ivory-Bill and think it is a “Pileated” Woodpecker.

  3. Benjamin Radford responds:

    I’d like to point out something that seems, so far, to have been missed by the cryptocommunity in this whole story of the woodpecker. The search for the woodpecker took many months of research, during which time researchers were out in the brush carefully watching and listening for the woodpecker. My question: Why didn’t they report seeing a Bigfoot, or recording Bigfoot vocalizations?

    Cryptofolk like to say that part of the reason that Bigfoot haven’t been found is that few people are actively out there in the wild for sustained periods of time looking or listening. Here is a perfect counter-example: quality researchers with sophisticated equipment in the field for extended periods of time. And yet, no reports of unidentified, Bigfoot-like vocalizations, despite being in a general area that has had Bigfoot sightings.

    That they were not specifically looking for Bigfoot is irrelevant; often new discoveries take place when searchers are not specifically looking for their quarry. This case, so often touted by cryptozoologists, proves their (undisputed) point that animals thought extinct may not be, but it also helps disprove their point that Bigfoot are out there but no one’s there to record them.

  4. mrbf2006 responds:

    Mr. Radford, with all due respect, I don’t see YOU getting out in the field and searching for Bigfoot. You and your fellow skeptics like to just sit back on your laurels and make proclamations that “Bigfoot doesn’t exist” without going out and taking the time to do field research yourself. Until you and your fellow skeptics actually go out into the field and do research into whether or not there is a Bigfoot, do not come here or anywhere else with your nebulous, arrogant statements proclaiming your ignorance.

  5. Benjamin Radford responds:

    # mrbf2006 Says:
    “Mr. Radford, with all due respect, I don’t see YOU getting out in the field and searching for Bigfoot. You and your fellow skeptics like to just sit back on your laurels and make proclamations that “Bigfoot doesn’t exist” without going out and taking the time to do field research yourself. Until you and your fellow skeptics actually go out into the field and do research into whether or not there is a Bigfoot, do not come here or anywhere else with your nebulous, arrogant statements proclaiming your ignorance.”

    Wow! There are so many mistakes in this post I don’t know where to begin; it is just this sort of ill-informed rant that makes me stay away from message boards like this. I don’t have the time or inclination to respond in full, but briefly here is a quick response:

    1) “mrbf2006” has tried to change the subject: My post questioned why no evidence for Bigfoot had been found during the extensive, sustained, and sophisticated search for the woodpecker. mrbf2006 apparently had no good response to this, and decided to try and attack my credibility as a researcher. How about answering the question instead of changing the subject?

    2) “I don’t see YOU getting out in the field and searching for Bigfoot…Until you and your fellow skeptics actually go out into the field and do research…” If you were familiar with my cryptozoological work, you’d know that I in fact have extensive field experience —-some in Bigfoot, but more in the field of lake monsters (i.e., Champ, Ogopogo, etc). Had I spent more time on Bigfoot, my lake monster critics would complain that I had less field experience there. I’ll bet that I have more cryptozoological field experience than mrbf2006 does. And furthermore, what do we have to show for all that Bigfoot field work mrbf2006 is so proud of? Can anyone name even ONE thing that we know for certain about Bigfoot that has resulted from field work? Which provable, scientifically valid piece of evidence has resulted from the decades of field research on Bigfoot?

    3) “You like to just sit back on your laurels and make proclamations that “Bigfoot doesn’t exist” Again, “mrbf2006” doesn’t have his facts right. I have NEVER EVER claimed that Bigfoot doesn’t exist, and I challenge anyone to find a quote by me saying otherwise.

    Mrbf2006 begins his post by ignoring the valid argument I posted, and then proceeds to make several claims which are demonstrably false.

    I shall use mrbf2006’s conclusion as my own: Do not come here or anywhere else with your nebulous, arrogant statements proclaiming your ignorance.

  6. mrbf2006 responds:

    Ok, well, maybe I was a bit hasty in some of my proclamations, Mr. Radford, and I apologize for that. I have no idea why no Bigfoot evidence was found on sojourns to search for the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. I cannot answer that (incidentally, that discovery was made no less than 7 miles from my uncle’s house). Anyway, I may have misunderstood you Mr. Radford, when you were on the National Geographic special seemingly mocking those who have had sightings of Bigfoot, like myself. You made some pretty interesting statements there regarding eyewitness testimony being unreliable, and in the case of Bigfoot, it being even more unreliable. I can tell you, Mr. Radford, that what I saw was real; it was a real creature, not a hallucination, not a “cultural memory”, not a bear, not a person in a fur suit. It was a real creature, and your proclamations about eyewitness testimony being unreliable in the case of Bigfoot will not change that. I was unaware that you had had experience in the field, and you’re right, you have had more experience than I have in the field. I know I seemingly came off as arrogant and snotty, but I felt I needed to defend the Bigfoot field. I just have a hard time with skeptics, is all. If you would like to continue this discussion with me, Mr. Radford, my e-mail address is giantape20042000@yahoo.com

  7. Questor responds:

    Radford, I am certain you won’t accept my answers, but I will still address your comment with frankness and accuracy.

    1. There is a very good possibility that there were no sasquatches in the area of research, given the probable rarity of the species. Therefore, the researchers reported nothing related to sasquatches because they reported accurately.

    2. The extensive search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was conducted almost entirely during daylight hours; no night vision or infra-red devices were employed. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, in case you were not aware, is a loud, diurnal species. Sasquatch researchers believe that their quarry is mostly nocturnal.

    3. The Cornell researchers were not, in even the most remote way, looking, or listening for an unknown bipedal primate. Even if they had recorded sasquatch vocalizations, it’s highly unlikely they would have even considered or pondered what they were hearing; their search was for a large, diurnal bird with a “kent” call. They were fixated on that, during the day.

    4. There also exists the remote possibility that one or more of their researchers did have some type of encounter, but like others, refused to report it.

    There are large numbers of people who venture into the American forests everyday who do not report encounters with bipedal primates. It should not come as a surprise at all that the Cornell researchers reported nothing pertaining to sasquatches. On the contrary, it would be amazing if they did.

  8. Benjamin Radford responds:

    “Questor Says:
    Radford, I am certain you won’t accept my answers, but I will still address your comment with frankness and accuracy.”

    Actually, I do accept your answers, and I appreciate your considered comments. Obviously, we are getting into Bigfoot and away from the woodpecker topic, but I’ll just respond briefly.

    I know many think that Bigfoot is nocturnal, but as you know, there are many, many daytime sightings, so it’s not unreasonable to think that field researchers might see it. As I pointed out, the fact that the researchers weren’t specifically looking for Bigfoot is irrelevant; many new species are “happy accidents,” found in the process of looking for other creatures.

    I never said it was surprising or amazing that the woodpecker researchers didn’t see Bigfoot; my only point was that this was an example of a serious, sustained, well-equipped field investigation in an area which is known for Bigfoot sightings. It serves as a valid counter-example to those who claim that the reason Bigfoot are so rarely seen is that no one is out in the field for long periods of time where Bigfoot supposedly roam.

    That always seems to be the easy, default explanation for why every single cryptid field search comes back without hard evidence: the creatures just weren’t there when the searchers were. Fair enough; no animal is always found when it’s looked for. But then how do you distinguish something that never seems to be there when searchers look for it, from something that’s simply not there?

    Every time they search Loch Ness, with ever more sophisticated methods, they never find the creatures and supporters claim that they were all hiding, or were migrating at the time, or whatever. This is not scientific, not falsifiable. Can anyone name a single known animal that ALWAYS manages to avoid leaving hard evidence of its presence?

  9. Questor responds:

    It is logical to infer that sasquatches are mostly nocturnal because:

    There are as many or more sightings of sasquatches during the night than during the day; there are far fewer humans active at night, therefore nocturnalism of the animal is probable. Further, there are very, very few reports of diurnal bigfoot vocalizations. The majority of reports by far of purported sasquatch vocalizations are predominantly from night time encounters.

    While it is not unreasonable to think that a sasquatch sighting could occur during the day, we should not at all expect it from a team of bird researchers who are funded by a major university and conservation groups. To my knowledge, the area in which the researchers were looking does not have a historical record of sasquatch sightings. Actually, I’ve heard of very few bigfoot sightings in southeast Arkansas. In light of that, and the controversy surrounding the subject of bigfoot, that the researchers did not report a sasquatch encounter or related evidence is really not something that should propagate much discussion.

    It is not irrelevant at all that the Cornell researchers weren’t looking for rare hirsute bipeds. They WERE (and still are) looking for a large, loud, diurnal bird and still only came away with a few short seconds of footage and a few short clips of what may be Ivory-billed Woodpecker calls. This after an extended, organized search of at least a year.

    Also, even if any of the researchers did hear or see anything that may have been sasquatch-related, they are not brazen enough to risk losing funding for their project by coming back with anecdotal reports of sasquatch encounters.

    We do have many many reports from sustained incursions into densely wooded areas said to be the habitat of sasquatches; hunters, who happen to be the most prolific witnesses in terms of bigfoot encounters, are out throughout the year. While their business out in the American wilderness is not of an investigatory nature, they are nevertheless out there for prolonged periods. However, certain individuals and groups refuse to recognize the significance of their eyewitness reports.

    Why is it that you seem to be more enamored with the fact that the Cornell researchers DID NOT report having sasquatch encounters than you are that large numbers of American and Canadian hunters HAVE reported such encounters?

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