White River ARUs

February 22, 2006

The Redhead Lodge

The Redhead Lodge in the White River National Wildlife Refuge is the new home of the full-time search team. It is a great improvement from their previous home, and offers the searchers at least a little privacy, something that was almost impossible to find in their old digs.

I only had one day to spend with the full-time searchers, and the weather was still not cooperating. The ARU (Autonomous Recording Unit) team was undeterred by the somewhat intimidating forecast and agreed to allow me to tag along as they set out to retrieve 3 ARUs located somewhere in the 200,000 acre White River National Wildlife Refuge.

Here's what they show you in the travel brochures. The smiles are part of the trap designed to lure unsuspecting volunteers, like myself, into participating in the placement or retrieval of ARUs. (Left: Brad Alexander and Right: Brian Gill)

This is closer to the reality of the situation. There's nothing like being on an already cold river in a 30-degree wind-whipped rainstorm. 

Deep into the White River wilderness, we locate the first of three ARUs. Brad and Brian know about where the ARUs are located, and guide the boat to general locations.  From there, they use their GPS units to find the exact locations of the ARUs. Without the GPS units the ARUs would be impossible to find in the vast, heavily wooded areas. 

All three units are being retrieved for relocation. After they have been returned to the Redhead Lodge, the audio recordings will be copied from the ARU hard drives and sent to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York for analysis. If the ARUs were going to remain in their current location, the recordings would be copied to a notebook computer for eventual transfer to the Lab.

Join us for a quick trip on the White River and meet Brad Alexander as he provides a brief overview on the operation of ARUs.

After a hard day in the field search team members relax in a variety of ways.  Alyson Webber plays a mean game of Scrabble and Jeremy Russell is accomplished on the guitar.  Many members of the search team have hidden talents as well as a vast array of ornithological knowledge and experience. We'll be covering some of their experiences in future reports.

Tomorrow morning I head back to Brinkley and the first annual "Call of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration."

Photos © Sam Crowe/Cornell Lab of Ornithology