Oh, how we would have liked to have a photo of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, not a Hooded Merganser, on the cover of our February 2015 issue. The issue goes on sale on newsstands today.
Mind you, there’s not a thing wrong with the merganser, which was photographed by accomplished Seattle-based photographer Gerrit Vyn. In fact, we love how softly its crest and throat are illuminated, and the gentle waves the bird makes as it paddles toward the camera.
More important, we think Gerrit’s photo provides the perfect lead-in to Sheryl DeVore’s cover story about last winter’s historically harsh weather and the toll it took on the mergansers and other diving ducks that spend the season on the Great Lakes. (With help from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of the Wisconsin Humane Society, I got to rescue one of them, a Red-breasted Merganser that I found waddling in front of my home in Milwaukee, a story I tell in my editorial.)
It’s fun to imagine an Ivory-bill on the cover, though, isn’t it? And it would be appropriate, too, since in April we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the thrilling announcement that an Ivory-bill had been rediscovered in Arkansas. At the time, the woodpecker had not been convincingly recorded for over 60 years.
The news was electrifying. It made a blurry, four-second-long video famous. It divided birders into skeptics and true believers. And it touched off a massive, multi-year search. Centered in the Big Woods, it reached as far as Texas, South Carolina, and Florida. (Ornithologist Geoffrey Hill, a recent recipient of the AOU’s prestigious William Brewster Award, was one of the searchers. He described his work along the Choctawhatchee River in a memorable article in our February 2007 issue.)
To mark the anniversary, we asked author and acknowledged woodpecker expert Jerry Jackson to look back on what happened, what’s happened since, and where we are now. His article — the centerpiece of the issue — makes painfully plain why Managing Editor Matt Mendenhall and I had no new Ivory-bill photo to put on the cover.
Also coming in our February issue:
Experienced local birdwatchers describe four great places to go birding:
- Leslie Jones describes Morro Bay State Park, on California’s central coast.
- Photographer John Phillips Jr. writes about the waterfowl at Lacassine NWR, near Lake Arthur, Louisiana.
- Frequent contributor Chuck Graham tells about Agua Fria National Monument, north of Phoenix, Arizona.
- And guidebook author Rhonda Ostertag shares details about Washington’s Julia Butler Hansen NWR, home of an endangered subspecies of white-tailed deer and many, many birds.
Our contributing editors answer questions and pass along wit and wisdom: Pete Dunne argues that Cape May might be the best birding location anywhere… Eldon Greij explains the well-coordinated movements that bring flight to a safe end… David Sibley tells how to ID streaky sparrows by the patterns on their backs… And Kenn Kaufman gives timely tips for distinguishing female Common and Red-breasted Mergansers.
And we list more than 60 fun, worthwhile citizen-science projects that you can join between February 1 and July 31.
As if that’s not enough, the issue also contains important bird news, a list of upcoming festivals, profiles of migrating birds, a gallery of rare-bird sightings, and page after page of big, colorful photos of birds taken by readers like you.
I think you’ll like it. Please pick up a copy and then let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you. – Chuck Hagner, Editor
On sale now!
The February 2015 issue of BirdWatching — featuring Jerry Jackson’s article about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, our list of citizen-science projects, and Sheryl DeVore’s cover story about diving ducks — is on sale now at Barnes & Noble and Chapters book stores. If you don’t see it on the newsstand, ask for it!