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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.

Web ivorybills.blogspot.com

"....The truth is out there."

-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

-- Hamlet

"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer

Monday, November 23, 2015


-- Heading Into Winter --


Just a quick update to say I've heard from two of the recipients of Dean Hurliman's M-A-A-ARVELOUS Ivory-bill sculptures. Delighted that they found good, worthy homes!
And I believe Dean plans to do one more batch of them sometime next year so stay tuned if you were wanting one and missed out.

Otherwise, just Happy Holidays to all, and I'll leave you with a couple of entertaining videos... the first is just various woodpeckers foraging (the caption for some reason, includes "Ivory-billed Woodpecker," but of course they aren't included), and the second is a Pileated Woodpecker having a face-off with a chipmunk!:


Monday, November 02, 2015


-- From the Mouths of Babes --



Wednesday, September 30, 2015


-- IBWO Wood Carvings... WOW! --


A midwestern duck carver named Dean Hurliman emailed me a short while back about a limited number of Ivory-bill wood carvings (IBWO in flight) he has in the works and willing to give away! I've often admired the work of duck carvers, and the above previous samples by Dean look darn impressive!

With his permission, I've posted below his initial email to me, followed by an original poem he sent along later (I've removed his physical address, but if you're interested and wish to contact him for further info his email address is:

I am a duck carver  who has an interest in IBWs having been to Arkansas twice on private searches.  I will complete three full-size carvings of flying IBWs late this winter.  I do not sell my birds, they are given away, postage paid.  But, only to fanatics, partisans, true believers, etc.  (I shed tears when rediscovery was announced.)  You seem to fit the profile.
You may E-mail me if interested, but to receive a bird, a letter of enthusiasm is required.

Lord God Bird
At last, elusive
holy grail!
Lord God
it was a thrill.
To hear the loud,
tin trumpet call,
and listen
to him drill.
To see aflight
among the pines,
the legend
living still.
A scarlet crowned
with ivory
for a bill!
    DSH  copyright 2011

Since receiving all this I looked Dean up on the Web and found a short blurb on page 2 of a local newsletter referencing him and mentioning that he has also done Pileated Woodpeckers and Passenger Pigeons (including picture of one of his Pileateds -- looks beautiful! -- link no longer available).  I'm amazed by both his talent and his generosity. If you're truly interested I'd contact him soon since I can't imagine these three carvings will take long to find homes they deserve!

Sunday, September 20, 2015


-- Weekly Bits... --


Fellow planning a future trip to Cuba to look for the Cuban Ivory-bill:

Lots of nice pics from the Carlisles' latest excursion in the Pascagoula (MS.):

Elsewhere, Mark Michaels' points out this 7-min. Cornell clip of a foraging Crimson-crested Woodpecker (Panama Campephilus species, smaller than a Pileated). Gives some inkling of what watching an Ivory-bill might be like:

My prior request to hear from any folks who continue to get in occasional searches brought responses from areas I already knew were getting some attention, so I'd still be interested to hear of any less prominent or publicized areas that someone is checking???

ADDENDUM:  some folks have emailed me about an "Expeditions With Patrick McMillan" episode on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (30 mins.) showing on their PBS channels this week. I don't own a TV(!) so didn't see it, but as far as I can tell this was actually recorded back in 2010, and is just a replay. I couldn't find it freely available on the Web anywhere, but if someone knows that it is, let us know.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


-- Where Oh Where --


Used to hear privately from folks doing occasional independent searches, but have heard very little in last year-or-more, and am curious what (if any) areas might still be getting checked (that aren't being reported on the Web)... even if you've seen nothing worth reporting.  So if any searchers have looked, even for just a weekend or two, in say the last 12 months, I'd like to get a better sense of which locales were involved... or, if someone has definite unannounced search plans for the coming winter months.

Am especially surprised to have heard almost nothing from the Congaree (S.C.), or classic sites like the Apalachicola (FL.), Atchafalaya (LA.), or Big Thicket (TX.) in last year (since I know individuals do still occasion those spots). But there are plenty of other areas as well, or if you've looked in some more offbeat region (western Tenn., SE Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama...) I'd be curious to know of that.  Email:  cyberthrush[AT]gmail.com

p.s... those folks who have written in the past to tell me of their IBWO sightings in Canada, Massachusetts, New York, Washington state, Wisconsin, Oregon, Colorado... probably don't need to update me ;-)

Friday, September 04, 2015


-- September Already --


Sorry, for long delay in posting anything but the IBWO dribs and drabs I'm getting just haven't seemed newsy enough to expend time on lately.  I should probably post something though just to let folks know I'm still alive... at least as of my last pulse-check.

Have noticed some recent edits to the Wikipedia entry for Ivory-billed Woodpecker; nothing significant, just odd to see folks even bothering at this late date; including some back-and-forth changes of the verb "was" to "is," back to "was," and back to "is" again. ;-) (As a former President once told us, I guess it all "depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is".)

Anyway, from other Web press there was this oddball retrospective summary in terribly broken English:

And the Project Coyote group continues their Web-reporting from Louisiana:


Finally, painter John Ruthven, involved in the Arkansas and Florida searches, gave this talk to a local Ohio group recently (and mentions he'll be going back to the Choctawhatchee in November to search again):


Friday, June 26, 2015


-- Some of Us Can Relate... --


Feel like I should post something before the month ends, so here's a quick story of a man with an obsession, that some of us understand better than others:


(somewhere in South Georgia)

Saturday, May 30, 2015


-- ....and more --


Further update on the Big Cypress wildfire here:


Meanwhile, don't know quite what this project is all about (but it won't make verifying Ivory-bill videos any easier!!), have come across this recent "animatronic" addition to YouTube:

(...and they have a second clip from the lab here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aepxT4ZUYrc )


Thursday, May 28, 2015


-- South Florida Burning --


The largest wildfire currently burning in the U.S. is unfortunately at The Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida (sandwiched between the Everglades and the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve), with over 35,000 of the Preserve's 700,000+ acres burned.  Started by lightning strikes earlier in the month, weeks later, it is still only half-contained. Smoke from the now multiple fires has carried 100+ miles to other Florida cities. More here:



The Big Cypress was home to Ivory-bills in the distant past, and even the setting for a 1996 novel about Ivory-bill rediscovery.

Best of luck to the firefighters and all involved!....

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


-- Anniversary --


In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the announcement that Ivorybills had been rediscovered, Arkansas Online ran a piece including updates with Gene Sparling and David Luneau:

(unfortunately, nothing new to report though)

On a sadder note, Mark Michaels relates the recent death of Edith Kuhn Whitehead, daughter of J.J. Kuhn, perhaps one of the most under-appreciated heroes and experts in the entire Ivory-bill saga:

Saturday, April 25, 2015


-- Fantasies ;-)) --


While awaiting any other news, perhaps just some entertainment today... 'tis the season of avian webcams. Bird nestcams are among the most wonderful, extraordinary uses of the internet. My favorite nestcams are of hummingbirds and Barn Owls (also enjoy European white storks on rooftops), but there are many other
fabulous ones including eagles, falcons, Ospreys, Barred and Great Horned Owls, penguins, and other species (including this year a popular Laysan Albatross nest). The best cams are live in real time, and often even include infrared photography for night viewing... a world that was largely hitherto unknown to scientists has been revealed by all this gadgetry.

The site below lists a GREAT MANY birdcams, though not sure how many of them are currently active:

Two of my own favorites are this Allen's Hummingbird in California:

and these Barn Owls in Texas:

The famous Decorah Bald Eagle nest in Iowa though has long been a crowd-pleaser as well:

(WARNING: these sites are addictive)

I mention all of this because of recently noting to an emailer my own personal fantasy for Ivory-bills from the last couple years... no reason not to share it, runs like this:

I wake up one morning and an email note, or science news headline, or an RSS feed, or instant message, or whatever, directs me to a new webpage... yeah, you guessed it, it's a live-stream website of a remote camera, deep in green-laden woods, on an Ivory-bill nest cavity. The parents fly in and out; two chicks occasionally pop their heads out the hole and look around... it's live, it's real, it's high-definition and it hardly even requires explanation.
There's no announcement from Wash. DC.; no friggin' article in a science journal; no press conference from the Cornell Lab; no ornithologists in research-disclosure mode; and definitely no description of where this location is; just the unmistakable visual evidence that nobody can discount and everyone can partake in 24/7 (...and a whole LOT of birders calling in to work sick for the following week)... ohh, and hey, maybe there's a banner above the page that reads: "Ivory-bills LIVE!!!" ;-)))

We can all fantasize.... (although as my emailer properly warns, marriages might be imperiled, if there ever actually was an IBWO nestcam!... be careful what you wish for ;-).

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


-- That Old Reward...? --


Many will remember the $50,000 reward offered in the course of the Arkansas Big Woods search for information that led wildlife officials to a living Ivory-billed Woodpecker. As far as I'm aware that reward STILL STANDS. If anyone knows otherwise please let me know (if it's changed or rescinded). Though the reward was initiated in Arkansas, I believe it applied to proof of the Ivory-bill's persistence ANYwhere (in the U.S.), and required one to lead officials to a living bird (simply providing photos/video or any other evidence, no matter how conclusive, was not enough, unless it led to a location of individual birds).
I also believe at least part of the reward was provided by a single private individual (who I assume, but am not certain, is still around).

Anyway, just want to nail that all down, since I consistently use the reward as an inducement to people who write me with claims of Ivory-bills, but don't realize the necessity of getting a photo/video (to get wildlife officials to pursue a report). Those claimants who write to me from Oregon, or Washington state, or Massachusetts, or Canada ;-) probably won't have much luck, but couple times a year someone writes from an area, and with enough detail, that I can't so easily discount, and a $$$ incentive may encourage them if they believe enough in their own claims.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


-- No, Nope, Nada --


Which is to say, thus far I've not found anything adding weight to a rumor previously referenced. Most folks writing me are speculating or making guesses about things I don't have answers for, since the rumor is so undetailed. All I'm really looking for is someone familiar enough with it to say it is bogus or already dispelled... OR, is still being actively followed-up on (will worry about additional details later). Anyway, will keep checking around a bit, but for the moment, not putting much weight on it.

Meanwhile, noticed that another site has re-posted an older podcast on cryptic/extinct animals which includes a segment with Cornell's John Fitzpatrick talking about the IBWO (that I've linked to previously). May be worth a re-listen. Fitzpatrick's segment begins at a little past the 26-minute point, and proceeds for about 11 minutes.
direct download here:  http://tinyurl.com/k7ae7um

or, it comes from this Webpage:

(I believe the recorded treetop call Fitz references from 2008-9, came from the Congaree in SC., though it sorta sounds from the interview context as if it was from the Big Woods, Arkansas, so am uncertain about that.) [...A respondent now writes me that the '08-9 audio was indeed from Ark. The somewhat similar incident I'm thinking of from the Congaree may have been 2010.  In checking my loose, disorganized notes looks like the Congaree case was spring of 2007.]

Monday, April 13, 2015


-- 10 Years and Counting --

"Every time my cell phone rang I expected it to be from someone in the bayou saying ‘We got it!'
The days were long but the excitement was in the air – it was just electric. It was thrilling to be with birders and impassioned conservationists all working together in the hunt to rediscover this bird that had been thought to be extinct." 
-- Cornell's Ron Rohrbaugh speaking about the original Big Woods search for the IBWO

We're approaching the 10-year anniversary of the USFWS/Cornell announcement that, for a short while back-in-the-day, set the birding world aglow. Meanwhile, not much good search-time remaining in the current search season.

I assume most readers continue to follow along Mark and Frank's searches in central La. Their last two search-entries here:


and an additional new post on bark scaling here:

As long as I'm citing Web material, should probably mention that Mike Collins continues to upload IBWO-related videos/mini-talks (on various aspects of the controversy) to his own YouTube channel:

Finally, I don't usually go public with such things, but have been trying without success (unlike in prior times) to nail down a loose, vague, non-public, slightly intriguing rumor that crossed my screen in March. If anyone knows something about it and can pass along any info (in confidence) to flesh it out a bit, would appreciate it: cyberthrush{AT}gmail{DOT}com  

Likely nothing to it, or it's already been dispelled, but would be nice to clear off my radar if that's the case... or, if still being pursued, to at least know that that is the case (...no need for guessing, and am unable to spell out any further details unfortunately, but if you've heard it, then you probably know the one I mean without any further details).  Vast majority of rumors I receive go nowhere, and this one is likely no different, but....

...On a complete sidenote, I was recently checking around for more recent pics/examples (since last time I checked) of leucistic Pileated Woodpeckers and lo-and-behold there's a doozy from just a month ago in Iowa:


(not a bird that could be mistaken for an IBWO, but just a gorgeous bird in its own right!)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015


-- Geoff Hill Returns to the Choc. --


By coincidence, while checking up on some current Ivory-bill doings, I just learned that Auburn's Geoff Hill started a new general ornithology blog last week, and it begins with his return to the Choctawhatchee last month after a multi-year absence. Nice pics, and good to hear from him, and his return to the swamp, if only sporadically!:



Thursday, March 26, 2015


-- Of Pileated Poopology --


Back when the major IBWO search was underway one possibility considered was to look for feathers from suspected-activity sites that might prove, through DNA analysis, to be Ivory-billed.  I don't recall what, if any other remnants for DNA analysis, were seriously considered at the time? And am not sure how practical it is to tease out from the various DNA in bird droppings the specific bird species involved. Anyway, just passing along this Julie Zickefoose post in which, about half-way down, she instructs on finding Pileated poop below Pileated workings:


I've often looked below Pileated excavations myself for feathers without success, and never even noticing poop being prevalent, but will have to look more closely next time.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015


-- The Cuban Ivory-bill --


I don't recall ever mentioning(??) this small book (covering Cuban IBWO searches between 1985 and 1993) that's been out for awhile, and popped up on my Twitter feed today:

"Looking for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Eastern Cuba" by Alberto Estrada

I guess I'm not sure how the Amazon preview system works?: The first time I "looked inside" the book, over 50 pages (text and pictures) of the 130 page book were available for viewing at the above link, but I just went back to it and only a few pages were available???

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


-- More Retrospective --


Mark Michaels has newly-posted a retrospective of Ivory-bill sightings (and other info/commentary) from 1944 - 2003 at the Project Coyote site:


Nice job Mark. Makes for a good adjunct-read to Chuck Hunter's historical review of the evidence in Appendix E of the "Recovery Plan For the Ivory-billed Woodpecker" from USFWS (starting on pg. 66):


And I agree with most of Mark's points, especially regarding scantiness of valid information, certain flawed analyses and assumptions, and the circularity of various arguments (though he's probably more favorably-disposed towards certain bits of evidence than I am). The bottom line for me still remains:
There have been a significant, even if rare, number of sightings over time (not always highly-publicized) from individuals (birders, wildlife officers, park rangers, etc.) who should be able to reliably recognize an IBWO apart from similar species. To which skeptics will frustratedly opine, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, so get a #$%@*^%!!! photo!" ...and I DO sympathize with them and several of their arguments. But the possible habitat of the IBWO is remote, dense, and neither visited by birders in great numbers nor with great frequency. My only excuse for the lack of a definitive photo by now, even when areas producing credible claims are scoured, is, as previously noted, the combination of the species' sparseness with a lifestyle, I think, spent mostly in the upper tree canopies, out of easy or good view.  So while hope fades, it is far from gone. And while I wish I had enough faith in the practice of science to draw a conclusion of extinction based on the evidence so far collected... I don't.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015


The Truth Is Out There....


As we approach the 11th anniversary, in a couple of weeks, of Gene Sparling's find in the Arkansas delta, couple of podcasts that pay tribute to our subject. First, a simple 5-minute retrospective of the 1935 Cornell expedition to see and record the Ivory-bill in the Singer Tract:

...and then, a 12-minute tribute to Brinkley, Arkansas ("...a place you can call a wrong number and talk for five minutes..."), and its 15+ minutes of fame (mixed with Sufjan Stevens' haunting song):


Sunday, January 11, 2015


-- Catching Up --


I assume that most follow the Project Coyote group updates, but in case not, there are a couple posted since their latest end-of-year searches in La.:

(I probably won't be reporting much though, in any ongoing way, on what few searches I'm aware of, unless something highly noteworthy pops up.)

The latest (February) issue of Birdwatching magazine includes a retrospective article by Jerry Jackson on the IBWO saga that started with the Big Woods announcement in Arkansas -- it's an indication of how far the Ivory-bill has fallen from grace, that despite Jackson's article being the longest in the issue, the magazine cover bird is a Hooded Merganser and not the IBWO; I s'pose at this point an Ivory-bill cover is just as likely to hurt sales as to increase them. Anyway, nothing too new in the piece, but if you wish to review some sketchy history, it's worth perusing. Like most former Ivory-bill optimists, Dr. Jackson has been pessimistic for quite awhile about the bird's chance of survival. He does however end the write-up with his now trademark thought of, "The truth IS still out there."

In the piece, Jackson reviews Cornell's handling of the whole affair from the same critical perspective he's voiced previously, including some focus on various distortions and weak science involved in the story.  Of course Jackson is mild, compared with those who, early on, ludicrously charged Cornell and the Nature Conservancy with perpetrating a hoax for fund-raising purposes. I'm not sure to this day that Cornell comprehends how badly the whole story was mishandled (starting from an incongruous, and failed, plan to have First Lady Laura Bush announce the re-discovery, and spiraling downhill from there).

Even with that said, I remain among, what Jackson (and others) call the "true believers," for reasons that aren't worth debating, and that admittedly dwindle with each passing year.

Birdwatching has posted a couple of IBWO web posts in conjunction with this article, and  these posts in turn, link to several of their older articles on the subject:


Lastly, on a side-note, Jackson mentions in passing that the IBWO story inspired several blogs (pro and con) along the way -- which made me think back to my own favorite (unmentioned) very short-lived, blog from 2007: it was called "IvorybilledSeptic" and was a parody blog of the rest of us bloggers -- gave me some belly laughs at the time, but disappeared in short order. Back then I sleuthed around a bit and thought I had it's author pegged to being 1 of 2 people, but could never confirm the authorship.
SOOOO, if anyone wishes to now fess up, lo these years later, and admit to having been IvorybilledSeptic, I'd be curious to hear ;-)

Anyway, next month marks 11 years since Gene Sparling's original fateful observation while out kayaking. Eleven years of sound and fury... signifying???

Friday, December 26, 2014


-- End-of-Year Notes --


Birder/writer Jim Williams recently reviewed a new bird book, but spent most of his time talking once again about the search for the IBWO:

And once again have to give Mike Collins an "A" for persistence (even if it seems misplaced)... Christmas Eve he posted the following to the birding "ID Frontiers" listserve group (a place he hasn't exactly had a warm reception in the past):

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


-- Holiday Note --


-- HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all! --

Whenever the world seems to trample on hope... we still return to it . . . .


We believe in things that we cannot see
Why shouldn't we, why shouldn't we
Hands that heal can set a chained man free
Why shouldn't we, why shouldn't we

We believe in peace within every heart
Why shouldn't we, why shouldn't we
Burning brightly, brightly in the dark
Why shouldn't we, why shouldn't we

So come on darling feel your spirits rise
Come on children open up your eyes
God is all around
Buddha's at the gate
Allah hears your prayers
It's not too late

And we believe in things that will give us hope
Why shouldn't we, why shouldn't we
Let your voice be heard, celebrate your vote
Why shouldn't we, why shouldn't we

We believe in things that make us all the same
Why shouldn't we, why shouldn't we
Love belongs to all in deed and name
Why shouldn't we, why shouldn't we

And we believe in things that can't be done
Why shouldn't we, why shouldn't we
Lift up your heart, put down your gun
Why shouldn't we, why shouldn't we

We believe in things
We're told that we cannot change
Why shouldn't we
We had heroes once, and we will again
Why shouldn't we

So come on darling
Come on children
God is all around, Buddha's at the gate
Allah hears our prayers
It's not too late

Why shouldn't we
Why shouldn't we
Why shouldn't we
Why shouldn't we
Why shouldn't we


Wednesday, December 10, 2014


-- Thought I'd Read It All... --


Thought I'd read all the old Ivory-bill stories, but this one from the Texas Big Thicket crossed my screen, and I don't recall it (IBWO part in second half of story):


Upon first reading, I figured it was some sort of fictionalized account or creative natural-history writing, but upon researching it, turns out to be a true story from 1967.

This old volume (among other places) on the Big Thicket references it:


The fellow took his specimen back home with him, and there was no serious follow-up or further indication of IBWO on his property, so I can't tell if there's any validity at all to the almost 50-year-old tale... it sounds a bit fishy, if only because it rings so much like a fabricated knock-off of the much-earlier Mason Spencer story from Louisiana (which of course is true)...  nonetheless, entertaining.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


-- Mike C. Back at Pearl River (last month) --


Mike Collins keeps re-posting various past videos at YouTube (perhaps to keep them appearing as 'recent' in the search criteria, or maybe he adds new commentary or footage, I'm not sure since I don't have time to check them all), but he's also added some fresh footage from his latest Pearl visit, two of which I include below. Nothing new, Ivory-bill-wise, but I did enjoy this first, almost meditative, 15-min. clip from one of his rigged treetops. Almost no commentary in it, and not much action to be seen, just a nice, tranquil canopy-view of the Pearl area in late fall. 

Don't know if he has new equipment or is simply more-practiced by now, but I was impressed with the film-quality and his ability to quickly maneuver/focus the camera in that tree'ed-position. Given that I now believe IBWOs may spend 80+% of their time at canopy-level, of course this tree-top view, and the panorama it provides, is all the more interesting (though it also means the viewer is locked in place, and with but one set of eyes, is missing much of that panorama at any given point in time). Will still take a great deal of LUCK to chance upon a clearly-photographable IBWO from that position. Anyway, this might bore most readers, but I enjoyed it:

The other (also 15-min.) video is from ground-level in a kayak, demonstrating Mike's "paddlecam" (camera attached to a kayak oar); more wildlife action here, and much commentary from Mike, so may be the more interesting clip to most people, though I preferred the first (and again, even with videocam attached to paddle and moving kayak, film quality surprisingly good):



Friday, October 31, 2014


-- Congrats Geoff!! --


A quick side-note today, as I just learned that Geoff Hill, known in ornithology circles for various areas of research, but familiar to most of us for leading the Choctawhatchee-area search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the Florida Panhandle, has been awarded the 2014 William Brewster Memorial Award of the American Ornithologists’ Union -- quite a lifetime honor! Way to go Geoff!


Interestingly, by the way, last year's recipient was J. Van Remsen of LSU, who also has a large body of research work, but is likewise especially well-known for past efforts within the Ivory-bill search arena.


Sunday, October 26, 2014


-- Passing Time --


Don't know when (if) there will be any major IBWO news to come along, but for now will simply refer readers here to the two ongoing searches already linked to:

Project Coyote has put up several new postings in last couple of months:  http://projectcoyoteibwo.com/

Additionally, they also have a Facebook page here:

And Chris Carlisle's Mississippi search continues with reports here:

Those appear to be the only ongoing searches with a Web presence. I continue to hear from brief forays into traditional IBWO search areas, but of course those have tailed off considerably by now, and are turning up nothing I've heard of.

Meanwhile, indefatigable Mike Collins has put up yet another YouTube recounting of his first 2006 video encounter with the big woodpecker (as best I recall this was the initial encounter that brought a lot of attention to Mike's efforts):

Otherwise, not execting to hear much new before the Jan.-Mar. winter period... and quite possibly, nothing then.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


-- I Get Emails (...plus IBWO Speculation) --


(1935 Arthur A. Allen, Singer Tract)

Several seabirds spend almost their entire lives far out at sea. Chimney Swifts spend a remarkable percentage of their lives in the air, coasting on the wing. Even warbler species have fairly specific physical niches they inhabit and don't depart from much… some rarely encountered more than 20 feet off the ground, others rarely found lower than 40 feet high. All bird species adapt to fit niches, sometimes narrow ones...

A couple of weeks ago someone sent me a picture of bark scaling, they thought interesting, at the base of a large tree trunk. I don't think there's any chance it's Ivory-bill work, but I'll get back to that in a moment.
Over the course of this blog people have occasionally sent me pics and audiofiles they find interesting of things encountered in their outings.
Unfortunately, in 9 years, hardly a single photo, kent sound, or double-knock sent my way has looked/sounded very promising to me. Double-knocks are hard to judge (and highly ambiguous), especially on often scratchy or muffled recordings so I can't rule out IBWOs on many of them… but I also can't rule out a multitude of other sound-alike alternatives. "Kent" sounds that people have sent along rarely sound like IBWO to me (sometimes I can't even tell why the sender finds it interesting); I can only remember one, or perhaps two, such recordings sent in that really made my ears prick up quite a bit (I've forgotten now if that was from Arkansas or Florida); and, in any event, again there are a LOT of ambiguous, kent-like sounds possible in the woods. Nor has any photo of a bird sent my way been cause for excitement. Lastly, folks send photos of cavities and foraging sign -- again, none very compelling (though some more interesting than others).  I don't want to discourage people from sending such things along (...I'd rather view 100 worthless pics, than risk missing out on the one photo that actually 'rings my chimes'), but I do want folks to realize that the chance of getting a positive response from me is incredibly slim, especially if you yourself can't determine what you have -- but if you do send something, please include as much additional information/details as you can that might add any significant context to the attachment that I'm viewing/hearing.

Anyway, back to the more recent (bark-scaling) photo… basically I don't believe that any current-day IBWO would forage low on a tree trunk for any significant amount of time -- depending on the nature of such scaling, there are numerous other possible critters from deer, bear, beaver, squirrels, wild boar, humans, that might cause such damage.
I'm in the camp that believes any remaining IBWOs have evolved heightened wariness and caution, and as such DO NOT spend ANY extensive time at ground level, where they would be far more vulnerable. In fact, I believe they are now almost exclusively residents of the upper canopies, other than when flying from point A to point B and requiring a clear pathway. While they might land momentarily lower on a tree, they probably spend most of their daily lives minimally 35+ ft. high up (maybe 50+ ft.) on tree trunks/branches and inside cavities, well above levels frequented by Pileateds and other woodpecker cousins (and generally out of easy sight-line for searchers). It's not clear to me how many of the remote automatic camera traps were ever set that high (though it's clear several were not). Like Swifts in the air and Albatrosses at sea, I think Ivory-bills may spend most of their lives solely in the canopies… if you send me a photo of foraging sign or a cavity or a fuzzy bird lower than ~35 ft. high, I probably won't take it too seriously (even though there are historical records of such cases), unless there are overriding additional details to catch my attention. If Ivory-bills currently lived and foraged below 35 ft. to any significant extent I believe we'd have the definitive evidence we need by now (well before now!); only perhaps as a denizen of the upper reaches might they be able to carry on successfully, while also evading encounters and detection to the degree they have.

I recall a veteran birder once imploring other birders (who missed interesting birds flying overhead), "always look up (...unless you're driving down the road!)" ...perhaps, just perhaps, in the case of the Ivory-bill no truer words apply.

Monday, September 01, 2014


-- Commemoration --





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