Displaying items by tag: fort sanders
The ivory-billed woodpecker is officially extinct, and it strikes a chord in Knoxville
Clinging to a maple in the bayou, Jim Tanner finally had the rare nestling in his grasp.
He fitted it with a numbered leg band and placed the bird back in its hole high off the ground.
But true to its seldom-seen self, the juvenile ivory-billed woodpecker squirmed free and fluttered to the base of a giant maple tree in a southern Louisiana swamp owned at the time by the Singer Sewing Machine Co.
The year was 1936, and Jim Tanner was in the midst of doctorate research at Cornell University funded by the Audubon Society as part of a push to prevent the pending extinctions of multiple bird species, including the California condor, roseate spoonbill, whooping crane and ivory-billed woodpecker. Eighty-five years later, the regal woodpecker would be the only one grounded for eternity.
In the heat and rain of mucky, gassy bayous, Tanner compiled data on the range, population, habitat and prevalence of ivory-billed woodpeckers. He camped for weeks at a time in the swamps of the birds’ original range.
On this day, his only goal was to band the bird but he rushed down the tree and picked up the agitated but uninjured woodpecker.
He also wanted photographs.
Tanner took advantage of the moment.
He placed the bird upon the shoulder of an accompanying and accommodating game warden for 14 shots from his Leica.
They were probably the first, and perhaps the last, photographs of a juvenile ivory-billed woodpecker photographed by Tanner in its natural habitat. He named the bird Sonny, and he was the only known member of the species to be banded with a number.
The regal, smart, athletic bird, which peaceably flew over its small slice of Earth for some 10,000 years, was declared extinct last month by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Twenty-two other species also qualified for removal from the Endangered Species List — in the worst possible way.
The ivory bill inhabited the swamps of the Deep South, far removed from Rocky Top, but old visages of the departed were found in Little Switzerland in South Knoxville. The work of Tanner, who would go on to complete a rich ecological research career at the University of Tennessee, has been memorialized by a talented East Tennessee science writer.
And the Southern Appalachian region has other long-gone kinships with species that vanished from the Earth a long time ago.
What stories could the lonely Fort Sanders Hellmann’s jar share about its weekend excesses?
(Note from the author: This piece is about my neighborhood — Fort Sanders in Knoxville near the University of Tennessee. I wrote this for my environmental journalism class with Dr. Mark Littmann. We were tasked with writing a sketch about the world around us. I wanted to paint a picture of what I see outside every day when I walk around Fort Sanders.)
There’s a half-full jar of mayonnaise in the front yard.
Its lid is gone, nowhere to be found. Next to it are a trio of Bud Light Premium glass bottles, lounging in the mud.
Up the street are two smashed cans, three Styrofoam to-go containers, and a smattering of cardboard, all left out in the cold to weather the harsh judgement of Sunday morning.
Every few feet more treasures appear. Cans, bottles, broken glass, clothes, needles, and old furniture. None of it looks out of place here. The green crab grass grows through the pull tabs and gray squirrels play with leftover food on the sidewalk.
Nothing is where it should be, but it all feels right; it’s an extra blanket of junk tucking the earth in for bed.
Except for the mayonnaise jar in the yard.
Collecting these treasures off the street feels hopeless. The moment a piece of garbage makes it into the trash bag, two more pieces appear.
Memories of Saturday night are left out in the gutter, no one to share them with. It happens every week. Stories of a fun night with friends cast aside into the storm drain. A nice meal left out in the rain. Cigarette butts from a moment alone.
What story does the mayonnaise in the yard have to tell?