Read: Grail Bird

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Would you give up everything to search for a bird thought to be long extinct? I might. It does sound rather appealing and anything is better than Excel spreadsheets. But what if the bird isn’t quite extinct? I’d still go. Did I mention the spreadsheets? But if the bird isn’t quite extinct what does that mean exactly and how does one know for sure. Here is where we get to our story, friends. Tim Gallagher, bird nerd, was intrigued by the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. The Ivory-billed is a legendary bird, not only in its stature but also due to the impression it left on various figures through history. Tim Gallagher’s Grail Bird points the optics at this little bird hunt.

The American South is a perfect testament to human, environmental destruction. The southern US was at once time covered in hardwood forest. And I’m talking MASSIVE trees across the bayou. And then we came along and sold it off to timber companies, who against everyone from the president down, decided to cut down every single tree from horizon to horizon. They not only cut all the trees they then pillaged only the best trees leaving the rest to rot below the surface. Nice job America.

Turns out, this Ivory-billed really enjoys the forest. And what scattered patches of second growth that remain may or may not be enough to sustain a species that may or may not be extinct. But there is only one way to find out. Go and see if the damn thing is still there. And that is what Gallagher and a band of elite birders go and do. This crew ranges from a more local flavor of man. Think Mountain Dew and Taco Bell. To a more elite, academic type guy and gal. And guess what? When it comes to doing the hardcore bird thing, this formula works just fine. These folks go all in over an extended period of time. Responding in real-time anytime there is a suspected sighting.

But where this book, and this story, become interesting is when you consider what someone like this would have to do IF they actually see the bird. Think about it. Do you tell someone? And if you do, do you understand what that would mean? Thousands of birders descending on the scene. What about those who know what finding a rare species means for environmental preservation? If you make your living from the swamp, what happens if you can’t do what you were doing before? You see where this is going. In the words of John Rambo, “Nothing is easy!” There were takeaways here. What I took away might be different from what you would. But this book should remind us all where we were, what we did and what we need to be doing now.

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