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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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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






Tuesday, January 31, 2006

 

-- Cornell Lab Update --

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The latest official update on the winter search from Cornell Lab of Ornithology is available at:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/...ml/bulletin_jan

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Monday, January 30, 2006

 

-- Southern Indiana History --

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A couple weeks back Steve Sheridan added an addendum to his webpage detailing 2 Ivory-bill sightings in southern Indiana by a Robert Creviston back in 1970 ( the same year Steve believes he first saw the species in S. Indiana -- outside its traditionally-defined range). Scroll down near the end of his page for the new info, or if you've never visited his site before you'll probably want to start at the top and read all the way down.

http://www.sheridanzoo.com/ivorybill.htm

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

 

-- Possible December Sighting --

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An article in an Illinois newspaper today details a Dagmar refuge Ivory-bill sighting by 2 fellows (independent of Cornell, but reported to them) back in December -- interesting (...but read with the usual caveats in place).

http://www.herald-review.com/articles/2006/01/29/news/local_news/1012728.txt

(...thanks to a BirdForum poster for calling this to my attention)
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Friday, January 27, 2006

 

-- L. Erickson's Summary --

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Laura Erickson has a summary, with lots of interesting/helpful tidbits, from her recently-completed sojourn in the Big Woods here, with more pics and details to follow later.
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Thursday, January 26, 2006

 

-- S. Carolina Search Planned --

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If you're interested in searching for Ivory-bills in South Carolina below is a link to a fairly detailed listserv post from US F&W seeking volunteers to join a search in the Congaree/Santee areas starting around Feb. 20.

You just may want to keep in mind that there have been many IBWO rumors out of S.C. over the years, it was one of the last locales Tanner himself believed supported the species, and Bob Russell rates the Congaree SECOND in his list of top 10 potential IBWO sites.

http://www.surfbirds.com/phorum/read.php?f=24&i=13588&t=13588#reply_13588

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

 

-- Update, Sort-of --

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Laura Erickson casually mentions in a post at her site today that Bobby Harrison now claims 5 IBWO sightings!!?? Cornell has basically intimated that any current anecdotal (non-definitive) sightings or auditory claims for the bird this winter, will not be released 'til the end of the search season in May (to avoid anymore of the controversy they are already embroiled in). It is less clear to me if they are saying that even a definitive video, if obtained, would also be held back for release 'til May or might be announced earlier??? In short, from all the hints/rumors out there, there seems little doubt that additional sightings and claims are being turned in, but whether a nest/roost hole will be found and photographic/video evidence attained, remains the critical question.
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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

 

-- More on Beak Gouges --

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Steve Holzman and Paul Sykes have put forth some preliminary results/information on tree gouge or groove
differences as potential diagnostic signs for Ivory-bill vs. Pileated presence. This won't be everyone's 'cup of tea,' but for those specifically interested in this area of study check out their thoughts here:

http://www.coastalgeorgiabirding.org/misc/grooves.htm

And "Fangsheath" on BirdForum has also been intensively pursuing the tree gouge measurement line-of-study and has an interesting recent post dealing with confounding issues of "pseudogouges" here:

http://www.birdforum.net/showpost.php?p=506963&postcount=1543

(If you're not already following it there may be other posts of interest to you on this particular thread of BirdForum, as well, so check it out)

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-- NY Times Coverage --

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New James Gorman article in today's NY Times on the IBWO controversy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/24/science/24ivor.html?_r=1

a couple of quotes of note:


"John W. Fitzpatrick, head of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y., coordinator of the search and announcer of the discovery of the ivory bill, said in an interview after he had read Dr. Jackson's article that he stood by the paper in Science. Dr. Fitzpatrick said, 'I have not yet seen any detailed scrutiny of the video that disproves our case.'
He said that what 'hurts the most' is Dr. Jackson's accusation that the Cornell Lab and other groups had been 'selling' the ivory bill to promote conservation and that this effort had taken over the science. 'We've tried very hard not to oversell what we know,' Dr. Fitzpatrick said."

and,
"Dr. Fitzpatrick said the goal of the search, run by his lab, was to find a roost hole or evidence of a breeding pair. 'We are still waiting for the prize,' he said. 'We have had a handful of moments when observers have seen what they are pretty sure is the bird. We don't have the next big clue, which is a roost hole.'
Dr. Jackson said in an interview: 'I am in no way saying that ivory bills are not out there. I really hope they are.' But he added that he had not yet seen convincing evidence."

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

 

-- JACKSON --

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"I have long believed that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers could have survived into the late 20th and early 21st centuries..." -- J.Jackson (The Auk, Jan. 2006)

...for obvious reasons, a much longer than usual blog entry today:

Dr. Jerome Jackson's Jan. "Auk" article is, as could be expected, a wonderful addition to the Ivory-bill literature, both as a good, terse summary of several key events/claims/'sightings' from the latter 20th century, as well as a commentary on the current AR. controversy that will make fine reading well into the future. Moreover, it drums home once again the incredible Rorschach nature of the 50 years worth of evidence that is out there open to individual interpretation.

Before addressing a few of his main points, I'll just mention 2 things we totally agree on:

1) In his opening remarks Jackson tells the story of the 1986 Gov't. Advisory Committee he served on whose function was to "officially" declare the IBWO extinct. Naysayer Jackson argued then that it was "unreasonable to declare the species extinct without ever making a serious effort to find it." NOTHING has changed in the 20 years hence, except that 2 locales (Pearl River and Cache River) out of millions of acres of possible Ivory-bill habitat finally received some 'serious' attention.
2) Another line of agreement comes on page 11 when Jackson writes simply, "There are so many things we do not know." -- THIS is the crux, and it is for this reason that we MUST err on the side of the species' existence, not because of what we know with certainty, but precisely because there is so much we don't know with any certainty; better to look for the bird 100 years beyond its extinction date than presume it extinct 50 years prior to the last wild individual actually expiring.

With that said, on to other points, as best I can touch upon them in a blog blurb:

After reviewing some Ivory-bill history Jackson starts off with 2 sections addressing why Ivory-bills 1)"should not" or 2)"should" be in Eastern Arkansas. The first section opens with, "There are many reasons why eastern Arkansas seems an unlikely place for IBWOs to have survived undetected for nearly 100 years." -- But NO ONE, to my knowledge, seriously proposes that the birds must have been there for 100 years. Any IBWOs existing there today may have arrived 2 years ago, 5 years ago, or 25 years ago, and are not necessarily the result of 100 years of continuous occupation. He goes on to talk of the many people who would have visited or utilized the area of interest in AR. over the years and yet never reported Ivory-bills (of course this line of argument holds for most potential IBWO haunts). Again, with no systematic or large-scale organized searches carried out it is difficult to know how meaningful the off-and-on presence of some humans over time really is, NOR does everyone who thinks they see an IBWO necessarily report it to any official agency OR get taken seriously, if they do. Moreover, in the very next section Jackson does make mention of a few anecdotal reports of IBWO presence over that time period; oddly though he leaves out any mention of a report, noted in his book, of 2 Ivory-bills in the area in 1986 (turned into Douglas James). In short, the section on why IBWOs "should" be in AR. seems to largely negate the very arguments he puts forth in his "should not" section.

Jackson makes some mention of the various suspicious changes/discrepancies/embellishments that occur in the AR. Ivory-bill story as it has been repeatedly re-told over time. Anyone who has re-told a story over and over again however knows how easily details inadvertantly get changed, and moreover anyone who has ever been interviewed by a reporter knows how routinely misquotes and inaccuracies occur. I have never been much concerned about these often pointed-to discrepancies which are inevitable in a press-infatuated story (Jackson himself calls it a "media frenzy"), nor does Jackson overly dwell on them himself, except to use them to feed into his notion that the AR. events are a case of "bad science" being used to promote a good cause (conservation). He talks much of the "attendant publicity and aura of authority" associated with the Cornell Lab and The Nature Conservancy (one can't help but wonder if there is a hint of jealousy that his own past Ivory-bill pursuits/writing didn't generate such press attention). He talks much as well of the large conservation funding resulting from the news and is justly worried what sort of backlash may occur if the IBWO is never confirmed in AR. -- at one point wondering aloud how much funding there would have been if Cornell had announced that "there might be IBWOs out there" instead of stating claims with such certitude -- with the evidence Cornell had at hand I believe such an announcement would still have generated enormous funding (such is the 'charisma' of this species) even if less than the total finally achieved. The implication that funding considerations played any significant role in the nature of Cornell's evidence presentation I think is misdirected, although other subtle peer pressures may well have had some effect. For me the funding issue is quite separate from the 'quality of evidence' issues, but Jackson paints them as linked, the former possibly driving the 'bad science' of the latter.

It is somewhat ironic that in a paper chastising Cornell for writing with such certainty about data that is ambiguous, Jackson goes on to state with great certainty his own belief that the bird in the Luneau clip is a normal Pileated. He believes the initial shot of it behind a tree shows a bird already in flight with a "vertical" underwing exposed flashing the large white patch of a PIWO. I do not understand the position of the bird that would allow for such a posture -- in flight, moving away from tree, vertical outstretched underwing showing? (I do understand how the wing could be horizontal, but then the patch as seen would not match either a PIWO or IBWO), and although he mentions having a figure demonstrating the proposed view, it unfortunately is not included in this paper (it may be in a future paper). The Luneau video is simply too ambiguous to say much definitively (to this day I'm still NOT 100% convinced that the bird filmed must even be a woodpecker, though likely it is). Oddly, Jackson does NOT address the size estimates and wingbeat calculations Cornell made from the film clip and which are quite crucial to supporting their interpretation (these arguments too may be addressed in another paper) -- in a more general way, Jackson does mention at a later point that IBWO flight pattern can not be used to conclusively distinguish between IBWOs and PIWOs, and I concur with that.

Of some side interest, Jackson has seen the Bobby Harrison video clip which dropped off the radar screen after being initially announced, and as expected it is wholly inconclusive as well.
Further, Jackson finds the acoustic evidence from the Big Woods inconclusive, as do I. As another side note though, I find it peculiar that Jackson, like Cornell, only mentions Blue Jays and White-breasted Nuthatches as having similar calls to IBWOs, when in fact it is RED-BREASTED Nuthatches that Tanner noted as having the most similar (though less loud) call to IBWOs. And he does not go into any detail regarding Cornell's technical acoustic analyses.

Speaking of the Ivory-bill AR. sightings Jackson writes, "I do not question the sincerity, integrity, or passion of these observers." These sorts of statements appear often from skeptics, and of course what they are leaving out is "competency," because THAT is exactly what IS being questioned. The bottom-line, is a matter of trust. Either you trust the competency/judgments of some or all of the people making these claims and those who interrogated them, or you don't. As I've written previously, if these sightings were equally brief but the names attached to them were, Sibley, Kaufman, Dunne, Ehrlich, Sutton..., instead of Sparling, Gallagher, Harrison...., does anyone seriously believe we would be having this discussion today? It would be over, signed and sealed. I think there is a bit of disingenuity (or maybe just politeness) when skeptics say they question the quality of the sightings, but at heart, rightly or wrongly, are questioning the quality of sighters. In a similar vein, Kulivan's 1999 Pearl River sighting WAS hands-down an EXCELLENT sighting (close-up, lengthy amount of time, clear view, TWO birds accurately described); it is only the quality/competency of the sighter (as a non-birder) that could be called into question at all.

Finally, Jackson argues that the size differential between IBWOs and PIWOs is not great enough to be easily discernible -- I think he is missing the point here -- if you see a large black-and-white woodpecker at a significant distance and size DOES NOT jump out at you, THEN, yes, size means nothing (it could be PIWO or IBWO), but IF you are accustomed to seeing Pileateds and in viewing such a distant (or close) black-and-white woodpecker you ARE IMMEDIATELY struck by it's unusual large size or bulk then yes, that does potentially mean something -- size is not a reliable indicator, that can always be discerned, BUT WHEN DISCERNED it may well have meaning. In a similar way, where I live, if you see a large dark raptor in the distance it might or might not be a bald eagle if size doesn't jump out at you; but if size instantly jumps out at you (and you're experienced) it greatly increases the likelihood that the bird being seen is an eagle and not a vulture, osprey, red-tailed hawk, or other alternative.

Before concluding, one last topic must be broached: the elephant in the living room as it were -- much chatter has been expended in various circles on the notion of "sour grapes" -- Cornell stealing Jackson's thunder, and any jealousies/resentments/friction resulting therefrom. Jackson may assume the role of objective scientist, but he is first and foremost a human being, and it seems only human that the situation that has transpired, could result in some conflicted feelings (and certain aspects of this whole situation probably even far pre-date the Arkansas circumstances). I don't wish to dwell too much on this topic, but nor do I think it can be ignored, and indeed others will raise it whether I do or don't here. Whether Jackson is significantly more critical of Cornell's work than he would've been had he been directly involved from the start (and the evidence been exactly the same), is a question no one can truly answer... and thusly a question that won't entirely go away. Does this make his arguments any less important or valid -- not necessarily; but it does toss a cloud over his ultimate scientific objectivity on this particular matter (...just as the objectivity of the Cornell team itself has been called into question -- indeed true scientific objectivity is a rare commodity under the best of circumstances, and these are not the best of circumstances). I don't write this in any way to fault him, but simply to say that at root we are all of us more human than we are scientists, and subject to human foibles and sensibilities.

I'll end with but one last thought: Does anybody seriously believe that in his (Jackson's) gut, and in his heart-of-hearts, when the scientific rectitude is laid aside, the necessary academic demeanor dropped, the procedural proprieties and rigor cast away, that Jerry Jackson really has any doubts but that IBWOs likely exist!??? I know what my answer is to that question, and I genuinely hope that Jerry finds the birds, this winter, several of them in fact, nest and all, tooting loudly, in Florida, his home state, where there could easily be 5 to 10 times the number in Arkansas... and moreover, I'm pretty certain Fox Muldaur would want him to find them there too, because as so many of us believe, not only is the truth out there, but it has been out there gloriously double-rapping away for 60+ years. . . .
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-- An Invitation... --

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Last week was designated by some blogs as "De-lurking" week in which blog readers were invited to "reveal" themselves in the comment section of blogs they read so blogmeisters had a better feel for their readership -- I don't usually partake in these various blog rituals, but this one seems not only to allow bloggers to know their readers better, but also allows readers, who share a common interest, to get to know each other better -- seems like a nice idea! This blog has a number of loyal, 'obsessed' readers from quite a ways back, as well as several newer readers, and also skeptics check in regularly, so I hereby open up the comments below for posts from any-and-all who simply care to introduce themselves and tell what brings you here, and if practical, maybe even network with others, who share your enthusiasm for the topic.
(Things you might want to mention are: a name, age, area you live in, how long you've been interested in Ivory-bills, have you ever searched for them or SEEN one, your background, degrees, or profession (especially if pertinent to your Ivory-bill concerns), other interests, hobbies, or whatever strikes your fancy that may be of interest to others; please, no phone nos. or street addresses, but you may post your email if you wish... and don't mind running the risk of increased spam!). I'll keep this post near the top of the blog for the next few days, and we'll just see what if any response there is???
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Friday, January 20, 2006

 

-- Texas Search Planned/Funded --

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We are approaching the season when the search for Ivory-bills ought be most productive and timely, and searches in Florida, La., Miss., S.C., and Texas (at a minimum) need to be organized. John Arvin reports on the Texas listserv today that he has received funding for a Texas undertaking. If you can assist (volunteer), get in contact; the more hardy, motivated souls the merrier!

For all those who emailed me that J.Jackson's paper is a 'bummer' -- No, no, it is a fine instance of academic writing -- keep in mind that while Jackson is highly critical of certain pieces of Cornell's specific evidence he has NEVER claimed that Ivory-bills are extinct or even non-existent in Arkansas, only that he finds several of Cornell's arguments too weak for the assertions being made (indeed, no one in academia, over the last 20 years has more persistently argued the case for possible Ivory-bill survival than Jackson). By Sun. I'll have more to say on the paper. Jackson himself will be actively searching in Florida this winter (Bob Russell, and others are searching there right now as well).
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-- Jackson Paper Available --

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Jerry Jackson's Jan. "Auk" paper (15 pgs.) is now available on the web (pdf file) through the AOU homepage. Haven't had a chance to read it entirely myself yet, so may say more later.

Addendum: stay tuned, I'll definitely have more to say about the paper before the weekend is out; in the meantime I highly recommend it to all.
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Thursday, January 19, 2006

 

-- Blog Impact !?!?!? --

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Geee, maybe blogs actually have impact (or incredible coincidence of timing?) -- within 24 hours of my mini-rant about the lack of communication from official agencies on the winter search, the Cornell Lab, Nature Conservancy, and even US F&W (after a mere 4-month lapse!), all put out updates! Nothing new in the way of sightings or significant findings reported, but at least it hints at some greater sincerity to keep interested parties informed. Here are a few of the questions I'd like to see addressed in future updates:

1) to what degree, if at all, have searchers moved out from the area of primary focus (of the '04-05 sightings), and are they moving in a certain direction or outward in concentric circles?
2) does Cornell/Nature Conservancy have team members active in any other states, besides AR., at this point, or at the very least are they in close contact with individuals who are on their own in other locales? With the breeding season approaching the need for active teams in many more places besides Arkansas seems paramount.
3) of the 100's of "suspicious" cavities surveyed in the Big Woods how many are currently under regular watch or remote camera observation?
4) are searchers' reports of any leucistic Pileateds being compiled for inclusion/discussion in any future updates?
5) in the event that definitive evidence of IBWO-presence is established are plans in place for how that information will be disseminated (or dependent upon exact circumstances): immediately, or at the end of the search season? through the press, or through a scientific agency/publication? Over the Internet?

And if you, dear readers, have questions you'd like to see addressed in future agency updates, feel free to offer them in the comment section below... ya never know just who might be reading them. . . . .
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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

 

-- L. Erickson Clarifies --

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Some days back I made reference to another blogger's wondering aloud about a post Laura Erickson had edited regarding her current search in the Big Woods area -- basically raising the question of whether information was being stifled. Laura has answered that question herself here, generally concurring with others that there simply is no significant news to report as yet out of the Big Woods so far as she is aware. In the meantime, there are at least some individuals actively searching in Florida now (where J.Jackson also intends to search this winter), and I imagine in the Congaree area of SC. as well.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

 

-- Silence Ain't Golden --

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This Arkansas Gazette update on the search basically says there is no significant news to date (secret or otherwise) to report from the Big Woods thus far. While it's not wholly unexpected that there would be little positive news coming out of Arkansas a couple months into the search... it IS disturbing how little of ANY news (positive, negative, OR neutral) has come out of the Big Woods area despite promises otherwise! Cornell's website has several pages which more-or-less pledged "frequent" or "regular" updates that simply have NOT transpired. Similarly, The Nature Conservancy site promised updates that have been scarce to this point, and finally the US Fish & Wildlife site which began with weekly updates, before going to bi-weekly entries, has not been updated since last September!! (there was originally an Oct. entry which was deleted). Some 'updates' that have appeared have been little more than warmed-over rehashes of info already out there for quite awhile. It would be wonderful to surmise that the available news is SO gooood, SO positive, and SO secret, that it can't be released in any detail just yet (the above article states unequivocally otherwise); BUT it is just as surmiseable that there is such a complete dearth of anything to report that pessimism is precluding anyone from even bothering to post basic information which might easily be disclosed and be of interest (without jeopardizing the ongoing effort). Maybe if enough folks grumble about the lack of communication some of these official agencies will be more forthcoming (...or just maybe, with my usual reverse Midas touch, by playing up the lack-of-news, something will break sooner than later).
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Sunday, January 15, 2006

 

-- Faux Ivory-bill --

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Mike McDowell has posted on his 'Birding and Digiscoping' blog a fake Ivory-bill photo just to demonstrate how easy it is to make such, exemplifying why I think the heavy emphasis on photographic or video (which with more difficulty can also be faked) is a bit misplaced. It still comes down to a matter of trust -- if you don't trust the individual turning in the photo/video it's worth MUCH LESS than a mere observational report from someone you DO trust. (I don't happen to think Mike's quickie example is all that convincing, but it indicates that, with a little additional time and effort, one could make it so.) I say all this only to make the point that, despite what is sometimes implied, photographic evidence will NOT necessarily end the debate; especially if it comes from anyone other than a trusted member of the Cornell team.
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Saturday, January 14, 2006

 

-- Just a Bit of Humor --

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On the website for PBS's "Nova ScienceNow" Ivory-bill segment (Jan. 11) there is a 'comment' section -- I thought this one was worth a small chuckle:
"I could not help but notice while watching the [Luneau] video that the two expert ornithologists [John Fitzpatrick and Jerome Jackson] would be hard to distinguish in a clip as blurry as the disputed woodpecker clip."

In case you're not aware of the surprising similarity that is being referred to go to this page for a good pair of pictures, that makes the commenter's case well:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/3302/03-ask.html

And on a completely different note, another one of those pesky leucistic Pileateds has been reported in Arkansas -- this one by Dan Scheiman (with the Cornell recovery team) on the AR. birding listserv:
"A woman near Heber Springs reported a partially leucistic Pileated
Woodpecker -- all white with a red crest. The photos are nothing more than
a white blob, but her inital impression of a woodpecker and her description
of the behavior are telling."
...actually, sounds more like a MOSTLY(not just partially) leucistic individual that no doubt could easily be confused with.... an Ivory Gull with a severe head wound, but not much else (...except maybe a leucistic Ivory-bill!). Anyway, still awaiting a good photo or videotape of one of these oversized leucistic Pileateds with symmetrical trailing white wing edges...

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Friday, January 13, 2006

 

-- IBWO Conservation/Recovery --

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"Bootstrap Analysis" blog has brought attention to a thoughtful essay regarding potential Ivory-bill conservation and recovery issues, published on the internet at:

http://www.ace-eco.org/vol1/iss1/art6/

....you may want to go to 'Bootstraps' comments first before reading the longer piece:

http://nuthatch.typepad.com/ba/2006/01/implications_of.html
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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

 

- Something New From M.Hendrickson -

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Mike Hendrickson has an 'update' of sorts at his "Mike's Soap Box Birding Blog" (go to the Jan. 10 entry) to the reports I posted a few days back from 'David Chaffin' of Tenn. of possible acoustic IBWO evidence in AR. -- depending on your perspective this is all very intriguing or further bizarre. Time will tell... (And I hope Mike, or Bob O'Dear, aren't disclosing more than they should have???)

Addendum (also Jan.10): and now another slightly intriguing post, this time from Mike McDowell on his blog, regarding a subtle change in a Laura Erickson post... maybe means nothing... maybe something. . .
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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

 

-- Nothing New On 'Nova' --

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If you missed the 'Nova ScienceNow' piece on PBS you can view it here... BUT, you didn't miss much. As I cautioned previously, in this necessarily very compressed treatment of the Ivory-bill story, there was nothing new reported nor any depth given to the arguments. Focus, as might be expected (in this video/audio-infatuated world), was on the Luneau clip and the 'kent' sounds recorded -- the very evidence I've consistently believed is the weakest (though still intriguing) in Cornell's arsenal.
Let me reiterate what WASN'T emphasized in this piece that I think bears repeating. FIRST there is simply the long history of repeated sightings of this bird over five decades, time and time and time again in various locales, no not confirmed, but repeated sightings by credible observers, probabilistically, MEAN SOMETHING!! -- they can't just be cavalierly blown off as non-existent by saying "never confirmed." Moreover, at least a few searchers had been wise enough to point to the Arkansas Big Woods area as a little-researched area of more-than-adequate habitat that could in fact support the species. SECOND, the specific number of initial credible sightings, 7-16, in a confined area is HUGE and would be difficult to dismiss as anything other than genuine under normal circumstances. Blithely explaining away these multiple sightings as "groupthink" is, in essence, to call the sighters and their interrogators, fools, despite their credentials. "Groupthink" is in fact what has occurred for the past 60 years by those declaring the species extinct based on NO solid evidence WHATSOEVER, and with little thorough reading of the thin literature available. THIRDLY, and largely overlooked, is the fact that many spotters immediately noted the large size of the bird seen as one of their first and major field marks; this is more important than any other field mark that could be witnessed other than the trailing white wing edges, which the sighters also concurred on. The FIRST thing any experienced birder would likely notice upon seeing an Ivory-billed Woodpecker would be the "Pileated-on-steroids" effect or "WHOOOAA"-factor. Yet little weight has been given to the consistency of this basic crucial field evidence, while picayunish details of little consequence have been belabored. (Again, the vast majority of bird ID's in the wild are made on the basis of a very few features and the 'jizz' of the bird -- one cannot suddenly change the criteria for this one species and claim any sighting not meeting the new criteria automatically lacks validity). One can only deal with probabilities, and if you consider the evidence of the last 50 years with an open, objective approach, instead of with a preconceived, biasing notion of extinction, then the probability is that Ivory-bills are in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and yes, Arkansas. When NO credible sightings/claims have occurred for 75 successive years THEN come talk to me about the likelihood of extinction... (of course by then I plan to be extinct myself).
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Sunday, January 08, 2006

 

-- Nancy Tanner Visit --

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A Saturday post on Bill Thompson's blog recounts a recent visit to his and Julie Zickefoose's home from Nancy Tanner, widow of James Tanner, who accompanied her husband on two of his Ivory-bill expeditions, and was among the last folks to see the Singer Tract birds.

http://www.birdwatchersdigest.com/blog/2006/01/mrs-ivory-billed-woodpecker.html

Addendum: Julie did another followup post on Nancy's visit on Sunday.

http://www.juliezickefoose.com/blog/2006/01/mrs-tanner-gets-chetted.html
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Saturday, January 07, 2006

 

-- D. Luneau's Field Note #1 --

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Ivory-bill principal David Luneau's first winter search field note on the Nature Conservancy website is now available at:

http://nature.org/ivorybill/current/art16915.html

I'm sorry to have to once again say there's not much real news here that wasn't already available, but am sure folks will want to keep up with David's field entries or any of the other searchers' reports that become available.
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Thursday, January 05, 2006

 

-- AR. Report & 'Nova ScienceNow' --

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The following report from the Big Woods area was posted this morning on the Tennessee Bird Listserv:
" You could have blown me over with a single breath, but at about 4:30pm
Central yesterday during the first day of a 4 day trip, Bob O'Dear and I heard the
bird[IBWO] three times. Twice, it was the single high pitched shrill note, while
the third time, it was the rapid fire cadence call. We are staying at
Mallard Pointe Lodge and Reserve, the only private land adjacent to the restricted area. We have not heard the double pecking notes yet nor seen the bird, which I still think is a long shot, but I now feel better about our chances.
A very memorable #799 ABA.
Will send more details as time allows."

David Chaffin
Cleveland TN
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Without any sight confirmation, don't want to put too much weight on the above report, but we'll see if there's any follow-up.

Also, a reminder of the 'Nova ScienceNow' episode of PBS coming up Jan. 10 in most locales (check your local listings), which will include interviews with Dr. Fitzpatrick and Dr. Jackson regarding the Arkansas IBWO evidence (not sure how far in advance these interviews will have been taped -- unlikely to contain any fresh material not already available -- but always fun to watch scientists present their cases first-hand). And who knows when there might be breaking news; heck, the current overall silence emanating from Arkansas is almost intriguing in its own right...

And, this won't be everyone's cup-of-tea (but fascinating to me), among the other top stories of 2005 that Nova will report on is the story of a Univ. of San Jose mathematician's insights into a "2,300-year-old mystery surrounding prime numbers" which may help "solve the elusive 'twin prime conjecture.'" (even more elusive than Ivory-bills).
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Link

Monday, January 02, 2006

 

-- For the Children --

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Terri Luneau (David's wife) has of course had a children's book on the Ivory-bill out for some time now, and recently IBWO-sighter Bobby Harrison also released a children's IBWO story. Now, more good news for the young set -- I hear that Lynne Cherry, conservationist and award-winning writer/illustrator of over 30 childrens' books (most famous probably for The Great Kapok Tree), is currently working on an Ivory-bill book for kids. No idea how soon it might be out, but it will no doubt get widespread attention and distribution.
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