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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.
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"....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






Saturday, December 31, 2005

 

-- Just a Little Meditation --

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Just a bit of meditative thought while awaiting more news....

The following quote is from an old meditation piece on the web (and expresses a thought common in meditation practice):
"Breath is also powerful because we share the air we breathe with every creature that has ever lived. The breath I take in at this moment may contain molecules that Lincoln or Jesus or Susan Anthony or the Buddha or my great, great grandmother or a giant T-rex breathed in and out. Breathing is a powerful expression of the interdependent web of all life."
And then today I couldn't help but notice that Laura Erickson, preparing for her own venture to Arkansas Ivory-bill country, ended a post in a similar vein with the following words:
"...I'm both hopeful and joyful. Whether or not I see anything at all worth reporting, I'm going to be spending time in Ivory-bill habitat, breathing air molecules that may have touched an Ivory-bill's feathers or glittering eyes..."
Good luck Laura... and breathe deep!

And elsewhere on the web I stumbled upon this quite wonderful sermon from a Unitarian minister on the Ivory-bill, with this same theme of the interconnectedness of all life -- even more amazing, it was inspired solely by Phil Hoose's book and delivered "April 24, 2005," the Sunday BEFORE the announcement out of Arkansas that would shake the ornithological world -- talk about TIMING!... (if you're staying home from church this New Year's Sunday I recommend this piece as your Sunday sermon).


...oh yeah, and HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

 

-- BirdLife Int'l. Year-end Report --

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The Ivory-billed Woodpecker... has company:

In their annual year-end review BirdLife International notes that several bird species were re-discovered in 2005 following decades of of absence:
"A number of birds were seen after decades without confirmed sightings, including the distinctive endemic Peruvian race of the endangered Southern Helmeted Curassow Crax unicornis koepckeae, not recorded since 1969. In Angola, the Orange-breasted Bush-shrike Laniarius brauni and White-headed Robin-chat Cossypha heinrichi (last seen in 1957), and the Black-tailed Cisticola Cisticola melanurus (last seen in 1972), were refound."

An interesting MSNBC report on the story (entitled, "Extinct Birds Are Making a Comeback") starts off as follows:
"Scientists beware: Don't count your extinct bird species, because one of them may hatch. Several supposedly extinct birds have recently been "rediscovered," raising hopes that others not seen for ages may still be taking to the skies. "The real message of rediscoveries is that we didn't look hard enough in the first place," said Nigel Collar of the British-based conservation group BirdLife International. "We think we've explored the planet when we haven't. We have this assumption that we know it all, but we don't."

....Amen
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Monday, December 26, 2005

 

-- Some More Views --

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Not too surprisingly, the Ivory-bill re-discovery has been ranked the #1 story of 2005 in cryptozoology at the site www.cryptomundo.com (...gotta love that URL name).

A somewhat interesting past post focussed on a Gene Sparling talk is at this site:

http://www.theageofpossibility.com/2005/12/11/wings-of-hope-or-despair/

Here's a bit from it to whet your appetite:
"When he returned from the trip, he posted a trip report on his canoe club’s web site. He told them about the beautiful spot, and made an oblique reference to what he’d seen. He wasn’t going to do anything more with the sighting, but a woman who read the report urged him on, telling him he had a duty to tell more people....
Sparling says that he almost let this amazing gift slip away “because I was too skeptical and cynical and afraid of being called a fool. I thought it was up to someone else to save the bird, that I wasn’t worthy of the task.”

“I learned two great lessons from this experience,” he continued. “I learned to believe that the most wonderful things can happen in this world. And I learned that ordinary people can have an extraordinary impact, beyond our wildest dreams.”

After Sparling concluded his tale, I leaped up—along with everybody else—to give him an enthusiastic standing ovation."

Finally, for a slightly different take on the Ivory-bill search area in Arkansas take a look at this Tenn. "swamper's" account from a recent day's visit to the Big Woods:

http://www.livejournal.com/users/bill_bill/101176.html

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

 

-- Mo' Readin' --

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Some more details on strategies being employed by Cornell during the winter search are available from one of the searchers here, and another more general Cornell newswire report is here.
And in case Ivory-bill news is just not enough for ya, turns out that now the Dodo has been rediscovered!... well, sort of... the bones of about 20 specimens of this little-understood flightless species have recently been found on the island of Mauritius -- quite a significant find actually. Read all about it. (...at least they're claiming they're Dodo bones; since there have never been any photos or videotape of Dodoes I'm not sure we can be certain the species ever really existed ; - )))
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Thursday, December 22, 2005

 

-- Upcoming, Friday Afternoon --

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Cornell reports that their Conservation Science Director, Ken Rosenberg, will be a guest on NPR's "Science Friday" Fri. afternoon, Dec. 23, from 2:00 to 3:00 P.M. (or whenever it plays in your area). With him on the air will be Audubon's Geoff LeBaron discussing Christmas Bird Counts and how the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has been added back to the list for the first time in many decades... but will anyone have the audacity to report it and face an inquisition?
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-- More On IBWO vs. PIWO Beak Gouging --

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"Fangsheath" on BirdForum has recently posted the following data from his own testing of Ivory-bill vs. Pileated tree gouging, coinciding more-or-less with ongoing work being done by Steve Holzman and Paul Sykes (see "Ivory-bill/Pileated Grooves" past post in left-hand side-bar). This is a new line of study which will hopefully prove helpful in the field at some point (if not already) :
"I have now completed synthetic beaks representing the largest published southern pileated and smallest published northern ivory-bill. With these and my previously fabricated beaks representing the averages for each species have have been gouging away in balsa wood. Here are the results for gouge width (n= 20 gouges for each data set). Five width measurements were taken on each gouge and averaged.

average pileated - mean = 2.93 mm, range = 2.44-3.40 mm
largest pileated - mean = 3.50 mm, range = 2.85-4.04 mm
smallest ivory-bill - mean = 4.20 mm, range = 3.74-4.64 mm
average ivory-bill - mean = 4.40 mm, range = 3.77-5.25 mm

From these studies I would expect some species overlap in gouge width on individual gouges, but this appears to be eliminated by measuring at least 10 gouges and averaging. To be safe I would recommend measuring 20 gouges. I understand that some people are searching for ivory-bills as far north as Illinois and Indiana (which I think is perfectly reasonable). The pileateds up there may be larger and gouge width correspondingly greater for that species. However, the wider gouges produced by ivory-bill beak are not merely due to its larger size, but especially the result of its distinctive flat-sided shape.

I reiterate that gouges consistently greater than 3.5 mm should be regarded as suspicious, those greater than 4.0 mm should be regarded as highly suspicious, particularly if accompanied by unusual sign such as scaling of very tight-barked trees or excavation of still-living trees."
Possibly some of you out there, depending on where you live, can start putting this sort of info to use immediately!
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

 

-- Dear Virginia... --

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The end of year is always a time for Top 10 Lists, so here goes....

--- Top 10 Reasons Why the Skeptics (Grinches?) are Wrong :

10. They forever underestimate the density, vastness, and inaccessibliity of the areas in need of searching.
9. They don't comprehend that large-scale, organized searches have never been conducted for this bird (Pearl River having been the largest, and now most of those participants saying it too was inadequate). You can't find something that isn't adequately and meaningfully looked for. (Skeptics think lots of individuals on their own meandering around the woodland over time constitute adequate searching.)
8. They presume there have been no sightings during the past 60 years simply because none of the 100s of reports to come in (let alone those sightings never turned in, in part, because of the ridicule people fear from skeptics) have been verified with clear photographic evidence -- has any other creature with so many claimed sightings, been so quickly written off as extinct -- it's easy to deny the existence of anything if you simply deny the validity of every report of it turned in.
7. They fail to appreciate the adaptability, tenaciousness, and instincts of long-lived creatures, perceiving them as simple automatons subservient to human analysis and prognostication.
6. They place tremendous trust in the unverified and often tentative conclusions/generalizations of a single grad student from 70 years ago and think them applicable to all Ivory-bills in all locales, while distrusting the claims of all other sighters since the 1950s.
5. They fail to understand that a bird which routinely perches high in tree canopies can see a human approaching long before the human sees it, and depart in an opposite direction... again and again and again and...
4. They don't realize that a bird inside a treehole (where IBWOs spend a fair amount of time) is completely invisible to human sight (...except for Clark Kent's).
3. There have been too many credible reports since the 1950s, not to mention the verified sightings in nearby Cuba in the late 1980s, for all of them to be shrugged off. Extinction, like the death penalty, should never be declared when 'reasonable doubt' (of extinction) still lingers.
2. They greatly overestimate the ease with which photographic evidence can be obtained. Most IBWO spotters of the past likely lacked cameras. Especially underestimated is the difficulty of photographing quick-moving objects in dense habitat, or of getting close enough to a bird even of IBWO-size to snap clear photos -- requires close proximity or telephoto lens (not to mention stealth, good light, quickness, balance, luck...). Tanner only got pics of IBWO in a locale where an experienced guide was able to lead him to them -- in his 3-year search, despite believing they still existed in both S.C. and Fla., without such a guide, Tanner, for all his supposed expertise, could neither find them nor photograph them.

1. Finally, if there are no more Ivory-bills out there then next thing you know Virginia, people will be saying there is no Santa Claus either!!! =: - 0
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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

 

-- This and That --

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Recent Washington Post article on the AR. search here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/19/AR2005121901218.html

The U.S. Gov't. never officially declared the Ivory-bill extinct, but that apparently didn't constrain the American Birding Association from designating the bird "extinct" at some point, for they now say they won't change their listing until there is "unequivocal proof that the species still exists." (For starters, "unequivocal proof" is a redundancy, what they mean is "unequivocal evidence" -- there is no such thing as scientific "proof" -- even mathematical 'proof' relies on UNprovable, axiomatic assumptions, as do ALL scientific beliefs, but enough semantics). However, ABA adds that if you think you saw one (an IBWO) it's fine with them if you go ahead and count it -- whewww, I'm sure Gene, Tim, and Bobby were much relieved to hear that!
(or is there some sort of doublespeak going on here...?)

Lastly, new blog on the block: Although I read several off-and-on, I don't usually plug other blogs here, as most of them (including this one) have a sort of inconsistent quality that makes me hesitate -- also, there are none that serve the very narrow focus/purposes of this blog. But.... many of you know Julie Zickefoose from her always wonderful nature writings and artwork (principally for Birdwatchers' Digest, which her husband edits), and she has started her own blog, which I believe (once she hits her stride) will be a wonderful place to start (or end) the day with that morning (or evening) cup of coffee. A-a-and she's a long-time Ivory-bill enthusiast to boot!! -- If you've never read this piece she wrote several years ago, before the current IBWO-fever, by all means give it a look. She has a great knack for being informative and entertaining at the same time.

http://www.juliezickefoose.com/blog/


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-- Re-discovery Anniversary --

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Y'all are invited to the "Ivory-billed Woodpecker Re-discovery Celebration" at the Brinkley Convention Center in Brinkley, AR., Feb. 23-25. Speakers, tours, vendors, seminars, field trips, and "celebration cake" (but hopefully, NO Ivory-bill stew)... :

http://www.ivory-bill-woodpecker.com/ivory-billed-convention.htm

...and if you haven't already seen it, "Birdchick" has posted a bit of the flavor of the town of Brinkley at her blog:

http://www.birdchick.com/2005/12/brinkley-its-helluva-town.html
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Sunday, December 18, 2005

 

-- AP Wire Story & More J. Jackson --

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Another AP wire story on the ongoing search here.

Jerry Jackson is due to have a 'revised' version of his Ivory-bill book out next spring (can Phil Hoose be far behind???)... of course with any luck by then there might be enough documentation of IBWOs in various locales to require a revised 'revised' version!!! Jackson will be searching himself this winter in potential Ivory-bill habitat in Florida (where he works), certainly as likely a place to find the birds as AR. As previously noted, he and John Fitzpatrick will appear on an episode of PBS's 'Nova'
in January, to offer their contrasting views (from separate interviews) on the state of the IBWO controversy. And also the Jan. 2006 edition of The Auk journal will reportedly have a lengthy paper by Jackson on the IBWO issues. Wouldn't it be wonderful if it was all a moot point by then.... (but if not, the more active, and promising, breeding season, ~ Feb.- Apr., is not too far off).
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Friday, December 16, 2005

 

-- 4th ! --

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I was (pleasantly) surprised a month ago when I heard that an upcoming 'Nova' edition would list the discovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker as one of the top 10 science stories of 2005. Now, the latest edition of Discover Magazine (Jan. 2006, pg. 31) lists the discovery of the Ivory-bill in Arkansas as its 4th TOP science story for 2005! Even I'M skeptical of THAT ranking -- I guess for those of us who have known all along that the bird was out there, the story seems big, just not THAT BIG!!
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Thursday, December 15, 2005

 

-- Another Idea... --

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As many of you know helicopters and small planes have often been used in the past to search for Ivory-bills by flying over large land tracts and watching for the birds to flush out of the forest canopy (in theory, viewing their size, shape, color pattern from overhead should make them easier to ID than spying from ground level) -- the counter possibility is that overhead airplane noise may cause the birds to hunker down and be less mobile. Anyway, a poster on the Arkansas bird listserve today offers a different approach I've not heard proposed before:
"Has anyone considered using hot air balloons in the search for IBWO's? Seems like it would be more effective than helicopters which were used in Louisiana. One could quietly drift over the Big Woods at low elevation covering a lot of ground. Cameras could be mounted on the bottom of the basket for constant filming as one drifted. When something flushed below it would be caught on film. Of course the winds would have to be just right to take you in the direction you want to go. Also, the balloon could be colored the same as the sky (blue for clear days, white for cloudy) to help camouflage it. Balloons could also be used as stationary observation posts that could be moved around to different places and raised and lowered to give the best view of an area. This would make an incredible observation platform as the balloon would be tethered to the ground and raised and lowered as needed."

I don't know enough about hot air ballooning to know if this is as practical, safe, or easy as it sounds, but seemed like an interesting thought.

Follow-up: David Luneau has responded with this note:
"Hot air balloons have been discussed as have ultralight aircraft. Some
ultralights may be used to fly some transects. (They are the ultralights
from the Whooping Crane migration.) With hot air balloons not only are you
at the mercy of the wind, but they are not as quiet for the operator as they
would seem. The periodic fiery blasts are quite noisy.
A helium balloon might be a good idea. Does anyone still fly them (besides
the big ones used by Goodyear, Fuji, etc.)?"

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

 

-- Last Minute Shopping? --

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Looking for a last minute gift for that Ivory-billed-obsessed friend??? One lesser-known volume they may be lacking from their bookshelf is "Ivory Hunters" by veterinarian Dr. Greg Lewbart. Little known, because 1) it's a NOVEL, and 2) it came out in 1996 long before the current hubbub over the species. The plot revolves around Ivory-bills discovered in the Big Cypress swamp of Southern Florida (a locale still of great interest/potential) and the good and ill-willed people who pursue them. You can check it out at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1575240092/103-0626673-4626246?v=glance&n=283155
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-- The Duck Stamp Program --

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Several recent articles have stressed the significant role played by hunters/fishermen in the salvation of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker through their purchase of yearly Federal Duck Stamps which help preserve wild habitat. And you need not even be a hunter/fisherman to purchase these handsome collectable stamps ($15). If you're interested in buying one or just want to learn more about them check 'em out here:

http://www.fws.gov/duckstamps/

(also, keep in mind that Ivory-bill conservation stamps are available through the site listed at bottom of the "links" section in left-hand margin.)
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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

 

-- More Reuters --

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"Here we look for A holes," he said. "An A hole in a swamp is a good thing, not a bad thing."

Uhhhh, that's a direct quote from another Reuters news story on the Arkansas IBWO search... you'll have to read the article for a clearer idea of what's being discussed (or make up your own joke) :

http://go.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=10577264&src=rss/scienceNews

For the time being there are several news-folk 'embedded' as it were with the searchers so at least for awhile there may be some frequent reporting, with or without solid news to add. Just maybe we'll get lucky and a real Arkansas A hole will be found soon.

Addendum: Yet another Reuter's article (Wed.) notes at end that 375 possible IBWO cavities have been seen thus far.

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-- Nature Conservancy Announcement & Partners --

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The official Nature Conservancy announcement of the 2005-6 winter search for the Arkansas Ivory-bill(s) is now posted, if you just can't get enough of these bulletins:

http://nature.org/ivorybill/press/press2174.html

Largely the same info that is already out there, but I did find the current list of "Ivory-billed Woodpecker recovery partners" rather impressive and noteworthy (the charisma of this bird can't be denied!):

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Partners

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Monday, December 12, 2005

 

-- IBWOs at Smithsonian/Cornell Bulletin --

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For your perusement: Here's a somewhat interesting read going back to last June which revolves around the apparently 18 Ivory-bill specimens housed at the Smithsonian in Wash. DC. My favorite lines are the very last paragraph:
"There's a lesson in all this. Despite our best efforts to eliminate its habitat, the ivory-bill nevertheless survived. As British zoologist Sir David Attenborough so fondly points out, life on Earth is tenacious. If it can find a way, it usually does, and if the ivory-billed woodpecker has been surviving for over 60 years without our help, maybe it should be left alone to do just that. Perhaps the "Lord God Bird's" love for deep-forest solitude is truly the key. It's payback time. Arkansas should be closed to humans, and all traffic rerouted."

Well of course THAT isn't going to happen, and here's a link to the last Cornell "Ivory-bill Bulletin" which gives a few more details of the search than many of the news-wire stories currently making the rounds :

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/field/from_field_html/nov1

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-- One More Episode --

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Last night, Jeff Probst hosted this season's final episode of CBS's "Survivor," that saw Danni Boatwright win $1 million for "outwitting, outplaying, outlasting" all comers during 39 days in the Guatemala jungle. Seems pretty clear we deserve a different episode of "Survivor," hosted by David Attenborough, and focussed on surviving 60 years in bottomland swamp... we already know the winner.
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-- huhhh...??? --

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Another news article (Reuters) on the Arkansas search with nothing much new to add, but a few lines struck me as somewhat odd:
"Asked what would silence all doubters, Andrew [of USF&W] said a bird in the hand would be definitive, but good, clear video or an eggshell fragment or feather would help put questions to rest.... What happens if they find one [an Ivory-bill]? 'The first priority is protecting the bird, and treating it if it is injured', Andrew said." (all italics added)


Where did that come from? Has there been ANY suggestion that this bird which is so adept at evading pursuers might be injured? Probably just some sort of meaningless slip of phrase in the rush of an interview, but seemed like an odd remark to me, and certainly hope it doesn't imply that any folks are looking for an excuse to take 'Elvis' into captivity for closer study.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

 

-- Ivory-bill VISA Card & eBay --

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I don't want to get too commercial, and I'm no great fan of credit card companies, BUUUT... I couldn't resist temptation -- had to order a VISA card graced with a picture of a flying Ivory-bill available through Birdwatcher's Digest. (Can't say any cashier has even noticed it yet, but still love flashing that thing out of my wallet.)

And of possible interest to some folks, another check of eBay found the usual array of enticing Ivory-bill trinkets (artwork, books, t-shirts, etc.) up for sale here. Included is another copy of J. Tanner's original monograph currently bid at just $69 (with 3 days of bidding left), and also another copy of the original Brinkley (AR.) Argus newspaper announcing discovery of the IBWO.
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Friday, December 09, 2005

 

-- Patience, Patience --

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I hear a lot of grumbling out in cyberspace among folks starving for a good photo or videotape of the Arkansas Ivory-bill(s). There is a low drumbeat of concern and nervousness. Please be patient and keep in mind that:

1. Virtually no organized searching took place during the hot uncomfortable summer months.
2. The winter search only recently got underway; the leaves probably aren't even entirely off the Big Woods trees yet, and all the logistics may still be getting worked out.
3. In 14 months and 20,000+ man-hours of previous searching, Cornell attained less than 2 minutes of sightings.

The task ahead, in short, is no cakewalk; only the sheer number of people now involved in this once super secret mission, gives raised hopes for an encounter... and even then, clearcut photographic evidence may remain difficult to attain.
Moreover, it is possible,
depending on the precise circumstances, that even if good documentation is gathered, Cornell might wait months to release it. The ultimate object here has to be to save the bird and its habitat, not to feed the appetite of the birding masses.
So take a deep breath everybody, and just know that the first truly large-scale Ivory-bill search ever conducted in a given area in human history is now underway.
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Thursday, December 08, 2005

 

-- The Jackson (Florida) Talk --

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I asked anyone attending Dr. Jerome Jackson's Ivory-bill talk Wed. night in Collier Cty., FL. to please send in a synopsis, and I've received one anonymous response, worth reading in the 'comments' section of that earlier post -- Here. Jackson appears to be as critical as ever of Cornell's work, and will apparently be countering Dr. Fitzpatrick on a PBS Nova episode scheduled for Jan. 10. (Geee... I may have to take him off my Christmas list!). Many have already speculated about the competing egos, personalities, etc. involved in the whole Arkansas IBWO debate. I don't wish to dwell on that here except to say that it looks like Jackson's talk does nothing to quell such scuttlebutt.
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-- My Christmas Wish List --

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Dear Santa, I have a short Christmas list this year, please do what you can:

1) New hiking boots
2) An Ivory-bill roosthole found in the Big Woods of Arkansas with a pair of birds photographed/videotaped by either Jerry Jackson or David Luneau (they deserve it), and other Ivory-bills spotted in Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi (...for starters). Safety, warmth, good health, and hot baths for all the staff and volunteers involved, and
give Gene Sparling WHATEVER he wants.
3) Chocolate
4) World peace
5) a nice slab of Crow baked and fricasseed to perfection for Tom Nelson for Christmas dinner.

Thanks, (please do your best -- but I do have a birthday in February, so some of these things can wait, if necessary... well, not the chocolate).

Cy
(p.s., I was a good boy for most of the year...)
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-- Shootin' From the Hip (...aka 'My Thoughts') --

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(warning: longish and rantish...!) :

The 'Rorschach' nature of the Arkansas Ivory-bill evidence continues to confound: I keep reading of folks who are swayed to IBWO 'believer' status by Cornell's acoustic evidence, which oddly, still strikes me as their weakest armament. The 'double-raps' released thus far seem to me unconvincing, and for now I trust my instinct on this -- in 2002 the only evidence brought forth from Pearl River was a 'double-knock' audio clip, which upon hearing, I was sure, was NOT an Ivory-bill (didn't know what it was, just that it certainly wasn't any IBWO); it took Cornell additional weeks of analysis to identify the sound as gunshots. It was hugely disappointing that after 30 days in the field this was the best evidence searchers could produce or that this was even perceived/offered as possible evidence.
Nor do I believe the Jan. 29 'kent' calls emanate from Ivory-bills (again, not sure what they are, just don't sound like IBWOs). The Jan. 31 calls are more intriguing and might rate them a 50/50 chance of being IBWO, but 50/50 is not as great as one would hope for.
The grainy Luneau film I think rates higher -- not because it clearly shows an Ivory-bill, but because (to my eyes) it DOESN'T look much like any of the alternative options. If I had to stick a number on it I might say 60-75% probability IBWO, based on the visual, and if you accept and add in Cornell's computed measurement data the probability goes up from there.
What continues to be most convincing for me (and yet is problematic for others) are simply the sheer number, details, credibility, and firmness of the various sighters across time -- essentially, what in an earlier era would have been a gold standard for acceptance -- only because we live in a now video-saturated world, and for 50 years people have been prejudiced/indoctrinated by a notion of IBWO extinction (despite little evidence for such), has that gold standard changed. What others speak of as brief, poor quality sightings, I view as repeated, consistent, and most importantly, credible (i.e. coming from people with experience, and familiar with Pileateds in the field). The talk of aberrant Pileateds has been somewhat confused and inconsistent -- if they are present why has no one (out of all the excellent birders that have been there) simply stated, "I saw something that looked like an Ivory-bill at first, but turned out to be a leucistic Pileated." I don't recall anyone specifically yet saying they saw an abnormal Pileated 'that if seen by others, could easily be mistaken for an Ivory-bill.' (...it seems to be just a given assumption, unfounded I think, that if abnormal Pileateds exist they will be easily mistaken for IBWO 16+ separate times, rather than recognized as abnormal PIWOs). And of course no photo of one.
Like 'creationists' who relentlessly and effectively focus on a few weakpoints and gaps to tear away at evolutionary theory (and in so doing make persuasive arguments to lay people), so too IBWO skeptics employ narrow arguments, I believe, to create doubts about IBWOs, downplaying the totality or breadth of the evidence. Unlike the Passenger Pigeon, the Carolina Parakeet, the Great Auk, the Heath Hen, Bachman's Warbler... the Ivory-bill has been reported repeatedly over decades by credible observers in various locales across it's former range -- this alone should be enough for faith in its presence, until proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt (by the passage of decades with NO such reports coming in from credible observers).
If the IBWO is finally verified, only to then die out years from now, it won't be the loggers and hunters and collectors of yesteryear who pounded the final nails in its coffin, but the 20th century ornithologists and skeptics who, upon such scant flimsy data, prematurely wrote the species off and failed to do the hard professional work needed to save it decades ago. For a scientist, a bigger sin is usually committed NOT by being SO open-minded that one accepts as possibly true, things which later prove to be false, but rather, the bigger sin is made when being so closed-minded as to dispute as false, things which are later shown to be true -- that is the error we ought be guarding against as birders, conservationists, and/or scientists.

Or,... so it seems to me. . . . .
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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

 

-- J. Zickefoose Observation --

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Artist/writer, astute observer, Julie Zickefoose, writing on the Birdchick blog, has a current note about Ivory-billed/Pileated comparisons in flight (as she works on a new painting of the former):

http://www.birdchick.com/2005/12/ice-white-wing-white.html
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Monday, December 05, 2005

 

-- Bob Russell's Top 10 Hunches --

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Mary Scott has finally posted long-time Ivory-bill researcher and USF&W employee, Bob Russell's 'Top 10 Sites' to look for Ivory-bills:

http://www.birdingamerica.com/toptenibwpsites.htm

Somewhat interesting that he ranks the Congaree National Park in S. Carolina above both the Atchafalaya region of Louisiana and the Apalachicola area in Florida. Not sure many would do that despite a lot of S.C. rumors through the years. And disappointed to see him 'definitely write off' Missouri and Tennessee, which, if only because of their proximity to northeast Arkansas and their great LACK of attention over the decades, I think deserve greater scrutiny. But nonetheless, a nice, compact, thoughtful list. Given that most folks tend to focus on areas of the most recent sightings/rumors, his mention of the Wacissa and Aucilla River Swamps in Fla., based on more distant history, is also interesting. And finally worth noting, the Cache River area falls into his also-ran category, not even breaking into the Top 10...

Read, enjoy, and contemplate....
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-- South Carolina Hopes --

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South Carolina has long been on many people's short-list of likely Ivory-bill homes (actually I have a rather longer list), since the 1930's when James Tanner named it is as one of only 3 states remaining he suspected of harboring the birds. The Santee and Congaree River regions have long been the source for IBWO rumors, and a credible-sounding 2004 spotting report of 2 IBWOs off the Waccamaw River near the Green Swamp area brought attention to that locale.
Cornell has earlier stated they would be conducting winter IBWO searches throughout the species' former habitat range (from S.C. to Texas), but Federal, State, and private biologists in S.C. apparently couldn't wait and are already organizing a search plan similar to Cornell's Arkansas efforts for their state:

http://www.charlotte.com/mld/observer/sports/outdoors/13323461.htm
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-- Epiphany --

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HEY, I suddenly realized last night that the name "Elvis" is an anagram for the word "lives" --- hmmmm... do ya sense some sorta Karma at work here...?!!
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Saturday, December 03, 2005

 

-- Jerome Jackson Talk --

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I mentioned some upcoming Ivory-bill programs a few posts back; here's another one: IBWO expert Dr. Jerome Jackson will be speaking at the Collier County Audubon Society (Fla.) on Wed. Dec. 7. What intrigues me is the stated title of his talk: "The Ivory-billed Woodpecker Lives !!" (...sounds like a good title for a blog : - )
Some have pointed to Jackson as a skeptic of the Arkansas findings -- actually, he has been more of an agnostic, pretty much stating there may or may not be Ivory-bills in Arkansas, and the Cornell evidence just isn't conclusive one way or the other. I would be interested to know if by now he has shifted his opinion, or is the title just in some way rhetorical, and he still has reservations about Cornell's specific findings (for anyone who doesn't know, Dr. Jackson has been the most consistent, prominent, vocal proponent of possible Ivory-bill survival over the last 20 years).
If any of my readers by chance attend that presentation I would certainly enjoy hearing what he has to say.
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Friday, December 02, 2005

 

-- Meet The Search Team --

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On this page Cornell introduces their current search team (paid staff, not all the volunteers) for the winter endeavor now underway in AR. Looks like a talented, skilled, yet diverse group of folks. May the force be with them! :

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/field/from_field_html/searchteam2005
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-- Field Museum Talk --

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Here's an article on the Chicago Field Museum talk of a couple nights back. Nothing too new, but a couple of quotes to whet your interest if you care to peruse it:
"Based on several sightings, evidence for one bird has been found, there is circumstantial evidence for the existence of three birds, and there is enough contiguous, old forest habitat, possibly, to support 12 pairs.

"He [Scott Simon] loves working in Arkansas and said scientists regularly find new species on their holdings."This year we found three species that were not previously known to science," he said. These include Pelton's rose gentian, a freshwater shrimp and a type of cave crayfish."
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Thursday, December 01, 2005

 

-- Arkansas Sighting Report --

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This report was part of a much longer post on the AR. birding listserv yesterday:
".....Met Dave Rogles looking over the gulls and we sat talking in the
horizontal rain. We naturally got around to the Ivory-billed
Woodpecker, and he still harbored some skepticism. My news for him was
that my friend in Eureka Springs, Dale Becker, had seen Elvis about ten
days previously, an excellent sighting of a flying and perching bird, in
sight for about ten, maybe more, seconds. At 50-70 yards. He'd seen
bill, crest, chin, back and flying wings as the bird moved from one tree
to another, each time quickly moving to the far side and peeking around
at Dale. When he called Cornell later, they said it was probably the
best sighting they'd had.... J Pat Valentik Nov 29 2005

PS. I'll have a transcript of Dale's notes sometime soon and will post
them, minus location info.

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