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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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


-- Summer Doldrums --


Summer rapidly approaches with full leaf-out, heat, humidity, bugs, snakes, Zika! etc... a time of diminished IBWO searching, so not expecting to post much in next few months. Obviously, very few areas even getting much organized attention these days. As I'm too busy with other things right now, maybe just as well.
Anyway, IF the blog goes silent for a good while, I'm still around, but just not finding much to get excited over. We'll see what, if anything, transpires next winter. Meanwhile, continue to follow some of the left-hand IBWO links for any updates.


Thursday, April 21, 2016


-- Cuba Narrative --


New Audubon Magazine journalist's account of the Ivory-bill quest to Cuba:


ADDENDUM: after just 2 weeks, Tim Gallagher wraps up the failed, pessimistic Cuba search here (but vows to continue searching areas of the U.S. Southeast):


Monday, April 11, 2016


-- On To Cuba --


With American-Cuban relations thawed, Tim Gallagher, veteran of the Arkansas Ivory-bill search (and others) has gone to Cuba with Martjan Lammertink and others to again look for the elusive species.
Audubon begins reporting on his effort here:

And Gallagher's own journal entries will be here:

I'm not overly hopeful of a small team finding the birds in Cuba (not clear to me how long the team will spend?), even on the slender possibility of some remaining there, but it will at least add one more data point to the few searches remaining in the American Southeast. Wish them well.


Monday, April 04, 2016


-- Mark Michaels on the Radio --


Project Coyote's Mark Michaels was on the radio tonight for 40 mins. discussing the Ivory-bill and their Louisiana search:

I tend to assume that most readers here do check the Project Coyote site on a regular basis, but in case not, the last posting (regarding an area of plentiful bark-scaling) is here:

I'm continuing to keep "comments" off for awhile, though folks can always email me if necessary.


Wednesday, March 02, 2016


-- Back To 2005 --


Today, re-running an entry I posted here over 10 years ago!
Recently Mark Michaels linked to an older Geoff Hill review of a Noel Snyder monograph where he [Snyder] argues that hunting played a much greater role in the demise of the Ivory-bill than generally recognized (definitely worth reading):

I made the same essential argument here a decade ago (in a different post), and to give people their due, Mike Collins made a similar argument as far back as 1997. At the time I utilized this quote from T. Gilbert Pearson, one of the foremost naturalists of his day:
"The reduction in abundance of this species [IBWOs] is due most probably to persecution by man, as the species has been shot relentlessly without particular cause except curiosity and a desire for the feathers or beaks." (National Geographic Magazine, April 1933)
The reason I bring it up now is to again reiterate my belief that very little that is concluded in the literature about the behavior or needs of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, based on Tanner's work, can be assumed true for currently surviving IBWOs. I don't even believe Tanner's conclusions for the Singer Tract birds automatically generalizes to any Ivory-bills that then survived in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, or elsewhere -- we just don't know -- the sample size, studied largely by a lone individual, is simply too small to be very meaningful (p.s., I DON'T blame Tanner for this; it is common practice in field biology to draw over-reaching conclusions from inadequate sample-sizes -- nor do I mean to imply that the historical studies lack any merit, but only that they must be viewed cautiously, instead of as gospel fact).

Anyway, here's what I wrote, more generally, back in 2005, in the post "Science and Sample Size":

One of the fundamental tenets of science methodology concerns having adequate sample sizes from which to draw conclusions/generalizations. In the years since James Tanner's dissertation on the Ivory-bill (based on but a handful of birds), notions that Tanner himself often recognized as tentative became hardened into unchallenged dictums without a good basis for doing so. There is in fact little that can be stated with certainty about the Ivory-bill's diet, behavior, habits, or requirements for survival, even though such statements are rife in the literature. (If one were to intensely study a dozen people and then write a report generalizing to the entire human species the weakness would be readily apparent.) This is all especially true given that any Ivory-bills still around today may in fact have survived specifically BECAUSE they came from individuals with significantly DIFFERENT characteristics/behavioral traits from their brethren, which increased survivability for themselves and their offspring. At least Tanner got it right at the end of his original introduction:

"The chief difficulty of the study has been that of drawing conclusions from relatively few observations... My own observations of the birds have been entirely confined to a few individuals in one part of Louisiana... the conclusions drawn from them will not necessarily apply to the species as it once was nor to individuals living in other areas. The difficulty of finding the birds, even when their whereabouts was known, also limited the number of observations. Especially was this true in the non-breeding season. With these considerations in mind, one must draw conclusions carefully and with reservations." (italics added)
The problem with our knowledge of Ivory-bills is not simply how little we know, but rather how much we think we know that might just be utterly wrong for any birds remaining today...

Monday, February 08, 2016


-- Intermission --


One quick 'housekeeping' note:
I don't mind anonymous or pseudonymous commenters, but would prefer if folks adopted a consistent identifying sign-off (fake name, initials, whatever), just so we can keep track of which anonymous comments hang together from the same individual, and which are new/different commenters.
But otherwise continue the comment discussions below, and meanwhile, enjoy a video:


Thursday, February 04, 2016


-- Explaining the Inexplicable... --


"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool."
-- Richard Feynman

[There's ongoing discussion for readers to follow, in the comments to the prior post (which I'm trying to stay out of!), but I will here further explain my own speculations a bit...]

Whenever I've asked participants in Cornell's Big Woods search whether they thought the search was adequate or suffered major problems, I've received a similar answer: the effort had issues/flaws, but nothing that any large, similar project wouldn't experience. Generally, most felt the search was good enough that IF the birds were there they would've been found and documented -- of course Cornell didn't survey the entire Big Woods area, but did cover what they felt were the most promising areas. (It's even slimly possible that, as Cornell always acknowledged, the one IBWO initially reported, was the very last of its kind and deceased by the time the major search was underway.)

Similarly, Auburn's organized Choctawhatchee search began with high confidence and ended unsuccessfully, despite a lengthy, systematic effort.  David Kulivan's rather astounding 1999 claim for the Pearl (La.) was followed (after some delay) with an extensive search of those woods, unable to verify his claim. And I've lost count of how many missives I've received over the years from people telling me, 'Ohhh, that woodpecker, I know where they are; I'll get the proof, it'll be easy; those other bumpkins just don't know where to look.' And of course none of these folks EVER get back to me. None, NONE, NONE, NONE, ZIPPPPPO....

So I well understand why almost every individual I knew growing up who seriously believed there was a chance of IBWO survival no longer thinks so. The exasperation is palpable. We don't need reams of evidence for this bird, or pages of info, or 100s of hints or claims or recordings, nor DNA evidence, nor even a nice video... we just need ONE clear, indisputable photo in 70+ years to get this story out of the starting gate, and nobody can do it... even in a day of excellent, lightweight, prolific, easy-to-operate, point-and-shoot cameras, not a single individual has been able to pull it off, even... one... friggin'... time.  Probably no other woodland bird in the history of the planet (certainly not of this size, loudness, distinctiveness) has EVER proven this elusive to so many searchers. There has to be an explanation for such an outcome.

For decades I presumed the difficulty of proof was a reflection of the bird's scarcity and remote habitat. But following the Kulivan, Big Woods, and Choctaw searches (in combination with all the smaller searches over time) I find that, while not impossible, increasingly implausible -- it requires a remarkably fine balancing act for there to be enough Ivory-bills continuously reproducing successfully over 7 decades, yet so few as to be undetectable or little encountered. The bird gets seen, but then rarely re-seen; it is heard, but then rarely found; its sign is observed, but it doesn't return to it; it is spotted by a single individual, but virtually never by a group, nor remote camera -- this species either does NOT exist in the places we are looking for it, or, if present, it is essentially invisible to human eyes... and of course it can't be literally invisible -- my speculation (prior post) is merely a means to explain such "invisibility."

Either the photos taken by Fielding Lewis in the early 70's, with a Brownie camera no less, within yards of an Ivory-bill, (and in the presence of dogs no less), are absolute frauds (stuffed specimen), or remaining Ivory-bills have markedly changed their behavior since then. My outside-the-box view is simply that few of the habits, behaviors, requirements recorded for prior IBWOs (which are based on an exceedingly small sample anyway) can be assumed to hold true today for any birds remaining. Loud, mobile Ivory-bills, scaling downed dead trees are a creature of the past, replaced by relatively quiet, reclusive, canopy-dwelling denizens (so I'm hypothesizing, until someone can persuade me of a better alternative). (It all reminds me a tad of white-tailed deer evolving nocturnal habits as a sheer survival mechanism... and yet, when a herd is hunted repeatedly at night, they will switch back to daytime activity; animals continuously adapt for survival.)

Millions of dollars spent, 1000s of man-hours expended, yet we seem no closer to finding Ivory-bills today than we were 10 years ago. The failure is STUNNING! One goal I expected that even a failed Cornell effort would accomplish was to delimit the search for IBWOs to perhaps no more than 3 states and a few locales. Instead, we remain stuck with at least 7 states (perhaps more) and dozens of tracts that might be home to the species... little has been ruled in or out, and paltry little established with certainty after all this time and money.

Having said this, I STILL believe IBWOs ARE out there (and likely in multiple states) -- but the near inexplicable situation we have cries out for an explanation (other than as skeptics wish to explain it). My own belief (in persistence) rests almost entirely on the tiny trickle of good sightings of this almost unmistakable bird that have transpired over the years; beyond that I see no strong evidence for the species (though there are intriguing bits in association with some of those sightings). Many disagree, and regard the sightings themselves as very weak evidence (if the IBWO is ever confirmed, a serious, clarifying discussion of the crucial nature of sightings and field-identification ought occur) -- for now, my engagement with this topic is so deep it's difficult, any longer, to even judge my own objectivity on those few pieces of evidence I'm relying on. We need always keep Feynman's admonition fresh in mind, for we most risk being fooled... by ourselves.


Tuesday, February 02, 2016


-- Speculatin' --


I hear from skeptical sorts from time-to-time who clearly think (without saying it out loud ;-) that I'm a misguided idiot for keeping this blog going, and maintaining hope that IBWOs could possibly still persist.
Oddly... I beg to disagree ;-)  (even as my confidence declines each passing year).

...Certain things though DO have to be accounted for, if Ivory-bills persist... and two I find particularly troubling are:

1)  Why, after soooo many searches, over decades, as well as birders' repeated recreational presence in suitable areas, have there been so few direct encounters with Ivory-bills, especially close or lengthy such encounters? Even when birders flood into an area relatively quickly after a sighting, repeat sightings are rare???

2)  Why, despite 100s of attempts (and millions of snapshots), has not a single clear Ivory-bill been captured on film by remote, automatic cameras trained on cavities and foraging sites deemed Ivory-bill-like? Even if humans can't encounter an IBWO, surely by now a robotic, automatic, non-tiring camera should've?

In the past I've offered two potential explanations to account for these dilemma and I'll re-state them here:

1)  Possibly the vast majority of IBWO sightings are young, dispersing birds (or otherwise nomadic birds searching for new food sources) that don't actually reside in the territory where they are spotted. They are just passing through an area, but actually settling 25-100 miles away.  And so, even if searchers flood into a locale following a sighting, they are simply searching the wrong place. While this might account for a lot of search failures, though, I'm doubtful it can account for all over the years.

2)  My pet theory for awhile now is that remaining Ivory-bills have, through self-selection over decades, grown very wary of human activity. Both Noel Snyder and myself have hypothesized that it was hunting, and not habitat destruction, that finally drove IBWOs to near-extinction in their latter years, and the birds that survived would be those that learned to avoid humans.
The way to avoid humans is not only to inhabit remote woodland (which still gets visited by humans on occasion), but to occupy the most out-of-reach levels of that woodland -- the upper seasonally-leafy canopies of hardwoods; perhaps even spending more time inside cavities than was historically the case -- essentially out-of-sight of ground dwelling humans, who can, by the way, be kept under surveillance at great distance from such heights.
The birds might still visit ground-level for brief water or food excursions, but not to spend extensive time scaling bark, at a level that leaves them highly vulnerable, when perched. A lot of searches may simply be focusing on forest levels too low for where IBWOs spend perhaps 80-90% of their time (and the higher reaches are barely accessible to humans). There are several bird species that specialize in either upper or lower stories of forest habitat; why not the IBWO. (I previously had hopes for Mike Collins' novel tree-scaling methodology in the Pearl, but of course one individual can only cover a limited tract of area at any given time... and still can't see that well into leafed-out canopy). (...A separate, further problem, by the way, has been the frequent unreliability of most of the automatic camera systems deployed, even if we could actually recognize IBWO sign.)

It is always hugely speculative to hypothesize behavior changes in a species over time, but I think it also logical, and to-be-expected that any Ivory-bills remaining today, MUST have evolved changes from their early 20th century counterparts, or those few that Tanner witnessed at the Singer Tract. If they did not adapt such behaviors than I expect they are indeed extinct right now. (Even Tanner's Ivory-bills had likely evolved different behaviors from IBWOs populating North America a century or two earlier.)

If Ivory-bills are ever documented, the frustrated cry arising from the ornithology community will be, "How could this possibly be? HOW could we have missed them along the way!?" But some relatively small assumptions (about behavior and habitat requirements) can account for it... Nature is subtle, but persistent; humans on-the-other-hand are rarely as competent as we think we are. (Of course, if Ivory-bills are never indisputably documented, then yes, we "believers" will go down in history resembling 'misguided idiots.')

Friday, January 22, 2016


-- For the Conspiracy Theorists Out There --


Every couple of months I hear from someone who thinks I may have special, privileged information relating to Ivory-bills being found. Occasionally they've even seen something on the blog they think is a hidden message of some sort. When I recently changed the icon on my Twitter account (something folks pretty routinely do from time to time), I received multiple inquiries in one day, as to what it meant... I WISH it were so!! (i.e., that there was some sort of significant, definitive evidence lurking out there beyond public purview).

I've not seen any compelling evidence that Ivory-bills will be documented ANYtime soon. In the last 5 years not a single photo sent to me has been even slightly intriguing; not a single double-knock tape emailed my way has been convincing, and only a couple of 'kent' sounds, out of MANY, have been at least a little tantalizing. The likelihood of sounds, foraging signs, or cavities (pics sent through email) being convincing of IBWO presence is minimal. What is needed, short of finding a roost or nest hole, are multiple clear, somewhat lengthy or close-up sightings, preferably by multiple and experienced sighters. And it hasn't happened... in 70 years. Is it any wonder the skeptics are legion...

Since the USFWS/Cornell/Auburn searches closed down, I've had a few, but paltry few, intriguing bits of evidence hit my Inbox (and even after all this time and discussion, I still hear from folks who have no clue that there is a confusing species, the Pileated Woodpecker, out there, or that the IBWO was never west of the Mississippi Rockies). It's fine to send along claims and pieces of "evidence" (indeed, I enjoy perusing all of it), but realize that, short of a clear photo or video, the likelihood of a very positive response back from me is slim. (Yet I still believe, for now, that a documented Ivory-bill discovery could occur in a number of locations at any time).

This is all just to say that when I write folks back that I haven't seen anything terribly promising it is only because... I truly haven't seen anything very promising (the one rumor I heard last year that I found intriguing, completely fizzled). Indeed, most of what I'm seeing increases my pessimism, except for the fact that there remains soooo much habitat still not getting much coverage. But no, there are no conspiracies afoot.

Anyway, I meant to end 2015 with Sufjan Stevens melancholy tribute to the Ivory-bill (which I try to post at least once each year)... but in the hubbub of the holidays I completely forgot, so, before January gets away...:

"In the delta sun, down in Arkansas
It's the great god bird with its altar call...


Tuesday, December 15, 2015


-- December Notes --


Last month, writer Pat Gillum repeated an IBWO tale he told back in 2013 (it's never been clear to me if this is a piece of creative fiction or a true-life story?):


(and Part 1 of the tale is HERE.)

==> ADDENDUM: a reader contacted Pat and received confirmation that the above story actually happened; worth noting it takes place in a locale that, so far as I'm aware, has never received much attention.

Meanwhile, at the Project Coyote website, Mark Michaels puts some flesh on the notion, many of us hold, that Tanner likely underestimated the number of Ivory-bills remaining when he guessed there to be around 22 left in the entire Southeast at the time of his study:


(==> ADDENDUM: Mark has now added another post regarding Tanner's conclusions here:
http://projectcoyoteibwo.com/2015/12/18/not-so-virgin-forest-the-singer-tract-myth-debunked/ )

The one thing I would add is that it is possible for a relatively long-lived creature, as I consider the IBWO to be, to exist in a state of population-equilibrium for long periods of time, neither gaining nor losing numbers (i.e., reproducing at a rate that simply replaces the number dying off). This can't go on for centuries, but for decades yes. Such a small steady-state population may remain few enough to evade detection, yet large enough to sustain itself, occasionally dispersing young to new or adjacent territories. Short of finding a roost or nest hole, dispersing birds are the most likely (though still very rare), to be spotted.

And finally, Chris Carlisle has plenty of scenic pics from one of his recent excursions around Mississippi's Pascagoula WMA:


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.


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