An Exciting New Search Strategy and Two Newly Noted Calls from March 2017

Exciting news on the search front, and we’re indebted to Matt Courtman for making this happen. It is a dream come true for me, and I hope it will represent a major breakthrough in the search effort.

This post is going live on the second anniversary of Frank Wiley’s passing. I imagine that he would be as thrilled as I am about this new development.

 Matt recently reached out to the National Aviary, which is collaborating with the Kitzes Lab at the University of Pittsburgh on a variety of acoustic monitoring studies. As a result of Matt’s efforts, Pitt and the Aviary will be supplying us with 200 remote recording units, as well as technical support and processing of the data collected.

The technology has advanced considerably since the organized ivorybill searches in the early 2000s.

We plan to start deploying the units toward the end of the week, with the hope that we’ll be able to home in on potential nest/roost sites in our primary search area. Barring that, we hope the data collected will at minimum provide insight into the movements of putative ivorybills in the area. In addition, we’ll be deploying units in a number of other Louisiana locations.

In other acoustical news, Guy Luneau, whose acute hearing and outstanding ear-birding ability continue to impress, listened to the compilation clip discussed in the previous post and heard something that, to the best of my knowledge, everyone had missed. I know I had.

There are two calls toward the end of that clip (at around 2:25) that sound very similar to the “wonka-wonkas” or “wonks” (as Guy calls them to make it clear the sounds are single syllables) calls from the ’35 recordings. They’re soft, the first softer than the second, but they can be heard on headphones and both show up on the sonogram, the first very faintly. They occur approximately 3 seconds into this 16 second clip.

Several kent-like calls and two lower-pitched notes suggestive of Ivory-billed Woodpecker

I’ve extracted a relevant segment and created a sonogram using Sonic Visualizer. I have also included a bit of a sonogram from the Singer Tract showing both kents and wonka-wonkas. (The relevant segments can be found at 0:57 and 3:14 on the Allen and Kellogg recordings.) Note the smaller harmonic interval (distance between each horizontal line) in the wonkas as compared to the kents. Also note that the wonkas frequently came in pairs, with the first note considerably shorter than the second.

The two calls are at the left of the screen cap. The similar harmonic structure suggests to me that the source is the same creature. I think it also tends to further support the suggestion that these calls were made by ivorybills and tends to exclude other species.

Spectrogram showing two lower-pitched calls suggestive of the Singer Tract “wonka-wonka” calls at far left. Kent-like calls are visible farther to the right.
Sonogram of a segment from 1935 showing wonka-wonka calls on the left and kents on the right.

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