Gallagher: The Grail Bird
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Tim Gallagher, The Grail Bird : Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2005. xv + 272 pages; illustrated, mostly in color; maps; with bibliographic references and index.
Tim Gallagher's book covers much of the history of the search for a bird most believed died out in the 1940âs. The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (Campephilis principalis) lived in the forests of the southeastern United States, an area that has been decimated by logging and agriculture since the Civil War. Its last known sighting took place in 1944.
Then, in February 2004, a kayaker named Gene Spaulding spotted an unusual bird in a bayou in eastern Arkansas. Word reached Gallagher, the editor of Cornell's Lab of Ornithology's "Living Bird Magazine", and he was off, traveling to the South, hooking up with his friend Bobby Harrison and beginning a search that continues to this day.
The Grail Bird is an interesting read, mostly about the connections and camaraderie between the searchers, the destruction of Ivory-Billed habitat, and the struggle to set up and maintain the search teams. There are some nice passages about observation, about having to sit still in a swamp.
-- Notes by GG