2006 Choctawhatchee

Ivorybill Video


On May 19, 2006 Brian Rolek and I were exploring an area of the Choctawhatchee River that we had never visited before.  It was about 4 in the afternoon and we’d been paddling since dawn.  We were starting to get worried about getting back to our car before dark and were moving steadily along in our kayaks, talking, and trying to pick our way along a narrow channel—not really paying much attention to be honest.  I was behind Brian shooting video from a Sony high-8 camera mounted on the front of my boat.  As we rounded a bend in the channel, Brian exclaimed “Whoa, ivorybill!” and pointed to a spot to his left.  I didn’t see the bird at all.  Brian said that he had gotten an excellent look at the bird as it flew across the channel and that it was a huge woodpecker with bright white trailing edges on black wings.  Brian said that after it flew across the channel, it swooped up onto the trunk of a large tree as only a woodpecker would do, but that he hadn’t actually seen it perch on the trunk because it moved behind vegetation just as it landed.  A detailed account of this event is told in my book “Ivorybill Hunters: The search for proof in a flooded wilderness”.
     Here we post the video that culminates with Brian pointing at the bird he had seen.  There is a very good reason that we have waited 1.5 years to release this video—it is not clear enough to definitively document Ivory-billed Woodpeckers.  The image on the video is frustratingly, tantalizingly suggestive, but in the opinion of all the primary searchers on the Auburn/Windsor Ivory-billed Woodpecker research team this video is not proof of the existence of ivorybills.  The bird in the video has plumage features and flight pattern consistent with an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but the plumage pattern on the bird is not clear enough for the bird in the video to be conclusively identified.
            The closest view of the putative ivorybill comes in the last segment (Clip3 presented in various formats both zoomed and not zoomed) just before Brian raises his arm.  Unfortunately this view is fleeting and the bird is hidden behind vegetation some of the time.  Nevertheless, in a few frames it appears that the bird has black ventral plumage, extensive white in the underwings, and a white trailing edge on the upper wings, corroborating Brian’s positive identification of this bird in life.  Of course the pixel-by-pixel analysis and endless debate and discussion of the Luneau video has taught us that video bleed can distort black/white patterns in this sort of video, so we can’t claim anything conclusive regarding plumage pattern.
            When we examined the video record more carefully, we found images of a large birds with extensive white in their wings moving in front of our boats staring about 4 minutes and 20 seconds before Brian sights what he is positive was an ivorybill.  We’ve posted the full four and a half minutes of video (FullVideo) culminating with Brian raising his arm and pointing at what he identified as an ivorybill, so interested viewers can see the context for all of the clips. We then present just the three sections of the video that most clearly show a large bird with white on its wings.  There are several other fleeting views of a white bird that we did not extract for separate clips.  Neither of us saw either an ivorybill or any other white-plumaged birds in the five minutes leading up to Brian’s sighting.  In Clip1 a large, white-winged bird flies to the trunk of a tree, disappears for eleven seconds, and then flies from a higher spot on the tree, left to right, giving a brief view of steady flight.  The wing flap rate can be estimated from this view of level flight and it appears to be about 10 beats per second.  We welcome independent assessments of this flap rate.
            In Clip2, a large bird flies across the edge of the channel low over the water.  In this sequence one can see both extensive white on the dorsal surface of the wings and extensive white on the underwings in the reflection in the water.  This bird could be a heron or ibis, but we didn’t see a heron or ibis on this stretch of the creek.
          While the video is not conclusive evidence for the existence of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, we feel that it is important evidence, especially because the bird was positively identified as an Ivory-billed Woodpecker by an eyewitness.
         Below we present these videos as both Quicktime MOV clips and PDF images. The PDF images are substantially smaller than the Quicktime Files and can be viewed frame by frame. We apologize for the large size of the MOV files, but we wanted to maintain video quality. Please do not reproduce or distrubute this video or any of these images without permission.

Geoff Hill

Clip 3
Clip 3(305.3mb MOV)
Clip 3 Deinterlaced(4.5mb PDF)
Clip 3 Zoomed 300%(45.2mb MOV)
Clip 3 Zoomed 300%(2.3mb PDF)

Clip 2
Clip 2(56.9mb MOV)
Clip 2 Deinterlaced(5.5mb PDF)
Clip 2 Zoomed 175%(3.8mb PDF)

Clip 1
Clip 1(98.5mb MOV)
Clip 1 Part 1 Deinterlaced(5.0mb PDF)
Clip 1 Part 1 Zoomed 300%(3.0mb MOV)
Clip 1 Part 3 Deinterlaced(5.4mb PDF)
Clip 1 Part 3 Zoomed 300%(2.2mb PDF)

Full Video (Must use Real Player to view this video)

Sighting Notes
Brian's Notes(1.5mb MOV)





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