What a treat. Our good friend Bobby Harrison stopped by for a visit last week. You know Bobby: In 2004, he and Living Bird editor Tim Gallagher spotted an Ivory-bill in Arkansas. Bobby's an associate professor at Oakwood College, a co-recipient in December of the President’s Award for Conservation from the Explorers Club, and most recently, the president and founder of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Foundation. He’s also a wonderful photographer who took one of the most memorable photos we've ever published in Birder's World: a Roseate Spoonbill with wings raised, tails feathers fanned, and legs dangling. We included it in our December 2006 issue (p.33).
Bobby told us he snapped the picture on Sanibel Island in the midst of an avian feeding frenzy. "All along the Wildlife Drive, there were thousands of birds everywhere. We got down to West Lake, just past the observation tower, and found spoonbills. They were flying in, just a few at a time, and I shot this one with a 500mm with a 1.4x converter. I think it was on my old Nikon F5. The wind was to my back, so the birds were coming and landing straight in front of me."
I told Bobby the bird's wings made me think of an angel, and that I had given the photo the label "Angel" for that reason. Then Photo Editor Ernie Mastroianni admitted that the photo made him think of another famous image. Was it the wings? Or maybe the shape of the bill?
"I’ve got three frames of this bird in flight, and one of my favorites is with the wings totally stretched out," Bobby said. "I never thought of Richard Nixon until Ernie mentioned it, but it is like him. I’ll never look at it this picture that same way again!"
Our on-the-record chat lasted over an hour. Bobby explained why he established a foundation. Why it's so darn hard to photograph an Ivory-bill. And what he really thinks of all those skeptics. You can read a transcript here. --C.H.