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Adventures of an Amateur Naturalist in Mexico: The Imperial Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Revisited (NOW AVAILABLE)

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Adventures of an Amateur Naturalist in Mexico: The Imperial Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Revisited (NOW AVAILABLE)

Front cover of the newly released booklet authored in part by  The Devil’s Road  producer Todd Bruce

Front cover of the newly released booklet authored in part by The Devil’s Road producer Todd Bruce

Adventures of an Amateur Naturalist in Mexico: The Imperial Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Revisited

BY TODD BRUCE AND GEORGE B. WINTON

Buried deep within the archives of the Smithsonian Institution, a never-before-seen document was discovered by a team of film producers conducting research. This eight-page manuscript details the account of amateur naturalist and journalist George B. Winton, on expedition in the remote mountain ranges of Mexico’s interior.

Edward William Nelson and Edward Alphonso Goldman, two of America’s greatest naturalists, were dispatched to Mexico in January of 1892 under the employ of the U. S. Biological Survey. The pair’s assignment was to better understand this remote region of North America, providing studies on its flora and fauna and their corresponding geographical distribution. The findings of these field surveys were unprecedented, and would later be foundational to a conservation movement that helped solidify the work of conservationists like John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, and Gifford Pinchot.

In October of 1892, Nelson and Goldman made a particularly important stop in Patzcuaro, Michoacan, where they were joined by George B. Winton for an expedition into the Nahuatzen mountain range. It was on this collecting trip that the group came across, for the first time, several individuals of the world’s largest woodpecker: the imperial ivory-billed woodpecker (Campephilus imperialis).

Winton’s written account excellently portrays the mindset of the naturalist in the late nineteenth century, and provides a rare, detailed record of the sighting and the behavior of this fascinating and relatively unknown bird.

Paperback: 28 pages
Publisher: Black Swift Press (September 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0991450398
Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.1 x 10 inches

 

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A Look at ‘The Devil’s Road Experience’ at the California Academy of Sciences

A Look at ‘The Devil’s Road Experience’ at the California Academy of Sciences

The Devil’s Road production team at the booth at the California Acadey of Sciences.

The Devil’s Road production team at the booth at the California Acadey of Sciences.

Last week, the production team and contributing scientists behind The Devil’s Road: A Baja Adventure were invited to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco as the featured guests of the August 29th Desert NightLife event.  

Attendees sipped craft cocktails, grooved to some music, and paid a visit to The Devil’s Road booth beside the iconic Rainforest Dome.

Amid the Academy’s regularly scheduled programs, NightLifers caught a glimpse into Baja’s past through the retelling of an unprecedented adventure at the turn of the century—and our quest to recreate it.

Visitors took a peek at historic photographs from the original 1905-1906 expedition, along with bird and rodent specimens, collected by Nelson and Goldman and housed in the Academy’s archives, on display at the booth. The specimens included a species of cormorant, acorn woodpecker, warbler, and pocket mouse. With incredible preservation methods clear, some specimens dated back to the late 1870s.

Many mutual adorations for Baja were shared, as well as stories of adventures along the peninsula by travelers and scientists alike.

Later in the evening in Africa Hall, all seats were occupied for the anticipated panel discussion, part of The Devil’s Road Experience.

On the panel were JT Bruce, Devil’s Road Director, Greg Meyer, Devil’s Road Scientific Advisor, Moe Flannery, Ornithology and Mammology Collection Manager, and Shannon Bennet, CalAcademy Chief of Science, to speak to the film and its many themes, the collection of species, and conservation in Baja and the world at large.

Interspersed with short segments from the film and a longer sneak peek of the film’s first ten minutes. The discussion ended with a moving Q&A that offered a behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking process and attendees inquired as to how they can become involved in the protection of Baja’s ecosystems

Real stories like the many weaving throughout The Devil’s Road are vital in gaining public support to protect Earth’s ecosystems. It’s crucial to reach as wide an audience as possible.

Please consider supporting our project by making a donation.

 
The Devil’s Road booth just outside the Rainforest Dome at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

The Devil’s Road booth just outside the Rainforest Dome at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Standing room only in Africa Hall for the panel discussion.

Standing room only in Africa Hall for the panel discussion.

Filmmakers of The Devil’s Road Set to be Featured Guests of the California Academy of Sciences’ Desert NightLife

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Filmmakers of The Devil’s Road Set to be Featured Guests of the California Academy of Sciences’ Desert NightLife

Cal Academy Teaser Still V2.jpg

The filmmakers behind The Devil’s Road will be featured guests of the California Academy of Science’s August 29th “Desert” NightLife event.

The evening will feature music, cocktails, and intrigue, as well as give attendees a sneak peek of the feature-length documentary The Devil’s Road: A Baja Adventure, in addition to an exciting panel discussion with the filmmakers and scientists behind the film.

The filmmakers embarked on a 5,000-mile journey across Baja California to recreate the century-old expedition of two of the region’s most prolific—and obscure—naturalists. The film gives viewers an up-close and personal account of the history, culture, and biodiversity of Baja California.

Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution dedicated to exploring, explaining, and sustaining life on Earth. The Academy is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum—all under one living roof.

The event will also highlight a history on the Mexican agave-based spirit mezcal and will have on display unique specimens of desert climates from the scientific research collections.

 

Desert NightLife will begin at 6:00pm. The Devil's Road Experience screening and panel discussion starts at 8pm in Africa Hall.

To learn more about the event or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.calacademy.org/nightlife/desert-nightlife

 

 

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A Visit to the California Academy of Sciences

So what does the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California have in common with Nelson and Goldman and our documentary film, The Devil's Road? Aside from the obvious scientific research and the institution's exploration of our natural world, the connection was formed on a fortuitous day in 1905. Nelson noted in his 1921 book Lower California and It's Natural Resources that he “reached Ensenada on July 5th and found the schooner Academy, from San Francisco, in port on it’s way to the Galapagos Islands with a scientific expedition from the California Academy of Sciences.” Nelson had several weeks’ worth of specimens that he and Goldman had collected from northern Baja, and needed to have them shipped to Washington D.C. The crew of the Academy welcomed Nelson aboard, agreeing to stow his cargo, and Nelson enjoyed a fine supper aboard the vessel.

On July 11, 2017, our film crew had the honor of conducting an interview with several of the California Academy of Sciences research specialists. We were met at the back door of the Academy by Katie Jewett of the Press Office. She would accompany us during our tour of the Department of Ornithology and Mammalogy. In the basement of the museum we entered the climate controlled room full of specimen collections. Maureen “Moe” Flannery, the Collections Manager has been put in charge of the hundreds of thousands of bird and mammal specimens and introduced us to several specimens that Nelson and Goldman collected over one hundred years ago.

The first specimen was a Mexican cormorant that was collected in 1902 by Nelson and Goldman. The bird was incredibly well preserved. Next, we were shown specimens of seaside sparrows. The particular specimen that Nelson and Goldman procured was collected in 1874 in Washington D.C. and was donated to the Academy many years ago. The last specimen was a Bailey's pocket mouse, collected by Nelson and Goldman in December 1905 from a location just south of La Paz, Baja California Sur.

A well-preserved Mexican cormorant. Note the tag states "Nelson & Goldman."

A well-preserved Mexican cormorant. Note the tag states "Nelson & Goldman."

Seaside sparrow specimens, several of which were collected by Nelson & Goldman in 1874.

Seaside sparrow specimens, several of which were collected by Nelson & Goldman in 1874.

Maureen "More" Flannery, collections manager at the California Academy of Sciences, shows us the seaside sparrow specimens.

Maureen "More" Flannery, collections manager at the California Academy of Sciences, shows us the seaside sparrow specimens.

Specimens of the Bailey's pocket mouse.

Specimens of the Bailey's pocket mouse.

Jack Dumbacher, Curator of the Ornithology and Mammalogy Department, rounded off the morning with a well-presented perspective of what naturalists like Nelson and Goldman's fieldwork would have been like. He explained how they would have collected, preserved, and organized their specimens during an expedition. We also learned how valuable these specimens are to science. These thousands of study skins and mounts provide a glimpse into the past, how and where these animals lived, and even what they were feeding on when they were collected. As technology and new research methods change, their value will certainly increase over the next century and beyond.

Interview with Jack Dumbacher, Curator, Ornithology and Mammology Department

Interview with Jack Dumbacher, Curator, Ornithology and Mammology Department

We would like to thank the California Academy of Sciences for their continued support of Nelson and Goldman's work and of our film.

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"The Devil's Road" Main Expedition, Day 11

Sierra San Pedro Martir to San Quintin

It was cold last night. Sleeping among the snow patches at 9,000-foot elevation usually is not considered to be a warm and pleasant experience.

The moon was nearly full and at this altitude it looked bigger than ever. It was brighter, too. The giant log we threw on the fire had completely burned up and left a perfect bed of coals to restart the fire when I woke. I really did not want to get out of my sleeping bag. I grabbed the camera and went for a walk as the sun was rising over the mountains and spreading across the snowy landscape. It was quiet, the air crisp, and if I closed my eyes I would swear that I was in the Sierra Nevada.

This range is a separate island extension of the Sierra Nevada that broke off hundreds of thousands of years ago. The Jeffery pine, granite rocks, juniper, and other shrubs are all the same. Camping next to us were three young biologists and photographers that were there to photograph and study the environment. So we took full advantage to grab an interview and get to know these three men. One was a marine biologist, the other was a guide, and the third was a herpetologist that specializes in animal rescue where roads are being built. All were very knowledgable about the fauna of Baja California. 

As we were organizing and getting our riding gear on, I noticed a nail sticking out of my rear tire. With a 60-km drive to the nearest town, I was weary about pulling the nail out. My mind quickly went back to the repair seminar that JT and I received from Bob Davis of Davis Moto Works back home in Santa Cruz. How to fix a flat tire in the desert was highlighted, and eventually all the tricks came flooding back into my head. A swift pull with the pliers revealed only a flesh wound. Lucky for us, no air was leaking and we were on our way. 

After a quick stop to drive to the top of the mountain to see the observatory (it was closed and no tours were being conducted) we took a few photos and pointed the front tires down hill. JT and I enjoyed a family tradition of a snow cone! This time it was Baja style: Margarita! 

The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to finding a California condor to film. We think we got film of four soaring out over the edge of the mountain range, but they were too far away to confirm. Either way, with only 30 condors here in Baja, the odds were against us in getting a glimpse of them.  

We closed out the day at the Old Mill Hotel and Restaurant in San Quintin.

Looking for California Condors in the Sierra San Pedro Martir mountain range.

Looking for California Condors in the Sierra San Pedro Martir mountain range.

Hidden Gems Film Club presents a sneak peek screening of "The Devil's Road: A Baja Documentary"

 

SPECIAL "SNEAK PEEK" RECEPTION with the filmmakers of "The Devil's Road: A Baja Documentary” (In Production)

Saturday, February 25th | Aptos Branch Library

SCHEDULE:

4:30PM - Doors Open
5:00 PM - Screening
6-6:30PM - Q&A Session with the Filmmakers!
6:30-7PM - Reception with Light Refreshments

Please join the Santa Cruz Public Libraries’ Hidden Gems Film Club for a special sneak peek screening of “The Devil’s Road: A Baja Documentary” presented by Broken Wagon Films. Audience members will also have an opportunity to meet the team of documentary filmmakers in the midst of their filmmaking process.

In “The Devil’s Road,” local Santa Cruz filmmakers tell the story of over 100 years of ecological change on the Baja California while retracing the steps of renowned American naturalist Edward Alphonso Goldman — a relative of three out of the four production team members. The diverse geographic features of Baja California — from inhospitable desert, to high mountains, and picturesque coastlines — comprise a distinct ecoregion that is home to a number of endemic species, found only in Baja. Who is Edward Goldman and why is he important? What is the importance of Baja’s biodiversity? Is human activity tarnishing this unique place?

Come and learn about Baja’s natural history and its global significance, and the documentary filmmaking process.

Bring your questions for a special Q&A session with the filmmakers after the screening! Seating is limited. Light refreshments will be served.

Learn more about the project at www.brokenwagonfilms.com or follow the crew on Instagram and “like” us on Facebook.

Orchilla Lichen in Bahia Magdalena

19th century naturalists E.W. Nelson and E.A. Goldman investigated the cloth and dye manufacturing industry in Magdalena Bay that was driven by the harvest of the unique Orchilla Lichen. The industry crashed when manufacturers moved over to artificial dyes.

Episode 2: Isla San Martin

Episode 2 from the island expedition brings the Broken Wagon Films crew to Isla San Martín off the Pacific coast of Baja California.

Elephant seals, breeding sea birds, scientists tagging snakes, rugged lavascapes, and strange endemic plants are just a few of the wonders found on this small volcanic island.