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4th July, 2005

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Back from the brink?

Bird lovers' hearts fluttered wildly with excitement in April, 2005, when John W. Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, announced the rediscovery, in the Big Woods region of Arkansas, of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. The ivorybill was last seen for sure in 1944 in neighboring Louisiana. Finding the ivorybill is the birding world equivalent of finding Elvis alive. According to a new report, some skeptics have challenged the authenticity of the finding. Intensive searches will be conducted in the area through the northern hemisphere autumn of 2005 until the following spring. The first time I saw the similar but much smaller pileated woodpecker (model for Woody) I was amazed so gorgeous, so regal, so impressive. The sight of an ivorybill would be truly overwhelming.

Those who love God's creation cannot help but rejoice that this bird might still grace some untouched woods, eking out an existence on the brink of extinction. But the satisfaction hope brings is like a thimble of water in the desert. How much longer can the species survive? How many other species of birds,

Now that's carrying bird-watching
a bit too far

snakes, mammals and whatever you care to name, will cease to exist this coming year through the greed and carelessness of man? Tree-destroying man threatens many species in his endless thirst for newspapers, boards, and pulpwood. Foresters loathe the old snags, the diseased and dying trees that provide homes for so many creatures great and small. Groan! You probably get tired of those who continually paint the gloomiest of pictures for the future of our planet. Time will prove them to be either optimists or pessimists. Scripture gives us cause for both the gravest of concern and the wildest of hope:

Therefore the land will mourn; and everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air; even the fish of the sea will be taken away (Hos. 4:3)

Not much scope for hope here, it would seem. But contrast this sobering promise of end-time environmental destruction with the restoration that lies beyond:

This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes (Ez. 47:8-9).

These words, describing conditions in the new world order to be ushered in by Jesus Christ, suggest healing of the entire planet as the waters reach into earth's every nook and cranny and drop down onto the land in the form of rain. Surely, God will ensure that every magnificent creature He has created, great and small, will once again bring inspiration to earth's inhabitants. I can hardly wait to see a dodo!

For some old photos of ivory-billed woodpeckers, click here and follow arrows

For an interesting news item, see National Geographic News site


Since this blog was written, considerable controversy has arisen as to the validity of the sightings talked about here. See the December, 2006, edition of National Geographic magazine for a discussion of the debate. See also mongabay.com


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