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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






Sunday, April 30, 2006

 

-- More Commentary From J. Jackson --

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Readers will be interested in the following recent comments from Jerry Jackson (pers. communication) now that the winter IBWO search is largely over. (Not everyone will agree with everything he has to say here, but always worth hearing his latest take on matters.) Dr. Jackson continues to straddle a delicate position between cautious and fading hope. Further updated commentary and analysis is included in the new paperback version of his book soon to be out (which, by the way, he warns me still has several typos in it, caught too late, though many errors from the first edition have now been corrected):

"In March, Dr. Peter Pechacek, a German woodpecker specialist, and I spent time in Bayou DeView, White River, the Singer Tract, and the Pearl River Swamp. We were interested in getting a close juxtaposition of those habitats in mind.... same season, etc. Bayou DeView (where I've been several times since October 2005) simply doesn't offer much of the right kind of habitat. White River has some wonderful habitat, but lots and lots of human visitors... Interestingly, Some of the habitat at White River is very much like that at the Singer Tract. Both were cut over at about the same time in the late 1930s and both have been more or less protected (some commercial logging) ever since. Species composition and presence of some nice large old trees are similar. If the birds are anywhere, they could be in either area. A key question is "What happened to the birds from the Singer Tract?" They could have just died, but I doubt it. Life is too resilient ... the will and urge to survive, too strong. The Singer Tract birds could have moved north along the Mississippi, ending up in White River, or they could even have remained in the "wings" at Singer Tract.... just to the south along the Tensas or elsewhere nearby. There's no evidence of Ivory-bills in recent decades in the Singer Tract, but I wouldn't discount the possibility. The habitat has been improving for more than 60 years and I believe they easily could survive there now. A pilgrimage to search for Ivory-bills should include time in that area.

We went into the Pearl River Swamp with the generous help and company of Mike Collins. The area was simply devastated by Hurricane Katrina... most large trees are on the ground. We kayaked up the Pearl River and into the swamp and I saw nothing that looked very promising, although habitat might be better in a few pockets deeper in.... not to say that they couldn't have been there or that they might not still be hanging on and trying to survive... but I'm not optimistic.

The bottom line is that we simply don't know and that the odds of there being Ivory-bills anywhere are rapidly fading as more and better search efforts come up empty-handed.

The Fakahatchee Strand area was cut over in the 1950s, although there are still a few bigger trees in there. It and the adjacent Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, Big Cypress National Preserve, and some good private lands offer some hope.

I feel that the Congaree is possible too, but perhaps less of a possibility than more southern areas... don't know. I haven't been back there in nearly 20 years, though I'd love to get back there.

The Big Bend Area of north Florida (Aucilla, Wacissa, Apalachicola, Chipola, lower Suwannee rivers) was once the IB capitol so too speak.... more specimens from there than anywhere else. It still has some remote, more or less suitable habitat and offers possibilities as good as anywhere. But a lot of that land is owned by St. Joe Paper Company and is currently being sold off for "ranchettes."

I would be hard-pressed to say that any one of the sites I've mentioned stands above any of the others in terms of hope for the Ivory-bill.... they're all slim possibilities that deserve the search efforts going on. The efforts are needed now because habitat is being destroyed or isolated rapidly in many areas.

I'm also not discounting a few areas in Mississippi and eastern Georgia.

I want to believe.... and I'll keep searching and following leads."

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Friday, April 28, 2006

 

-- The Cuban Ivory-bill Pursued --

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Though not verified in Cuba since the late 1980s, a renewed search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker on that island nation is commencing in a portion of its eastern mountains that had been off-limits to scientists for decades.

http://www.cubanet.org/CNews/y06/apr06/28e13.htm
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Thursday, April 27, 2006

 

-- Another Ivory-bill Website --

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Ivory-bill searcher Chris Geraghty of Canada has established his own IBWO internet site to report on his own searches as well as other basic information and links:

http://www.birdviewing.com/?page=ivorybillcenter
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

 

-- Arkansas News Article --

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Below is a Wed. news article out of Arkansas as the IBWO search winds down for this season, and we await Cornell's summary of the number and quality of sightings attained as well as any additional acoustic evidence to be presented (according to the article Cornell will be holding a series of public meetings in May in AR. reporting their findings -- a number of other talks around the country on the Ivory-bill are scheduled in May as well).

http://www.arkansasleader.com/2006/04/from-publisher-woodpecker-search-takes.html
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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

 

-- A Comment on Comments and... Come May --

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Even though the majority of commenters are respectful and thoughtful, as a result of the number of trolling comments, repetitive comments, quickly deteriorating civility, and personal attacks, I've again cancelled the 'comment' feature to the blog for now. I tried running the blog in "comment moderation" mode whereby all comments are okayed or rejected ahead of publication with the intent of simply picking out a few of the better comments representing different viewpoints and discarding the rest -- even this however has proved impractical and time-consuming. However, if you feel you have something truly important or new to say you can still email it to me, and if I find it worthwhile enough I can transfer it to the comments section myself or to a post -- if you do send something via email for possible inclusion in the blog, please sign it as you would want it posted (name, "anonymous," or whatever other designation).

With snake and mosquito season rapidly approaching the official Arkansas search will soon end for this season, and unless Cornell has a surprise up their sleeve, there may be only further less-than-convincing, undefinitive sightings and recordings to summarize, which will give skeptics yet a further adrenalin boost. There are however at least 3 obvious explanations proposable:

1) (the skeptics' favorite) the original claims were mistaken IDs, followed by Cornell painting themselves into a corner from which they could not release themselves, and there are NO Ivory-bills in Arkansas.

2) the Ivory-bills in the Big Woods are fewer than we had all hoped for and it will take far more time to document them in such a large area.

3) the few Ivory-bills that were spotted in the Big Woods in 2004 have since departed the area and none are left there currently.

In any event, the search continues in multiple areas that, previous to 2004, were considered far more likely to hold IBWOs than Arkansas, and the Arkansas search itself (whatever this season's results) will commence anew next winter.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

 

-- M. Collins Returns Home --

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Mike Collins has ended his stint in the Pearl River region of Louisiana. His last post (4/20) runs as follows:
"After an 1100 mile drive, I made it back home to Virginia. I'm pleased to report that my wife still recognized me, even though I never took the time to get a haircut during nearly three months in the field. I will now get to work seriously analyzing the data. I thought about this during the drive home. The white trailing edge of the right wing and the left dorsal stripe are clear and unambiguous in the video. Various counter arguments have been put forth, but they don't hold water as I will show. Thanks to all for your support."
http://www.fishcrow.com/winter06.html
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-- Paperback Jackson --

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Tim Gallagher's book (The Grail Bird) has been out now for awhile in paperback, and Jerome Jackson's book, In Search of The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, is due out May 9th in an updated and paperback version (the hardback version appeared prior to the Arkansas excitement); seems like odd timing given that Cornell's initial summary of the winter search will just be coming out in May and likely be fodder for yet another updated version (unless Jackson is fully privy to what those findings will have to say). No telling who else may be working on a volume on the subject at this point.
At any rate, if by any chance any reader doesn't already own a copy of Jackson's work, I highly recommend you get the paperback for its comprehensive account of Ivory-bill history (no matter what you think of Jackson's published views of the current AR. evidence).

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060891556/sr=8-2/qid=1145720838/ref=sr_1_2/102-7770595-9031309?%5Fencoding=UTF8
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Friday, April 21, 2006

 

-- Light Weekend Fare --

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We'll approach the weekend on a light note -- a recently published poll ranked the "most beautiful" birds in North America and I was a bit surprised (considering how few of us have seen one) that the Ivory-bill made it onto the list which ran as follows from the referenced article:
"Just as People magazine annually crowns the most beautiful people, six of the nation's leading ornithologists have selected the most beautiful birds in North America. There were several ties, so 15 birds emerged as winners: <>

1. Scarlet tanager
2. Blackburnian warbler
3. Golden-winged warbler

4. Prothonotary warbler

5. Baltimore oriole

6. Green jay; swallow-tailed kite; wood duck

7. Harlequin duck

8. Chestnut-sided warbler

9. Magnolia warbler

10. Hooded warbler; ivory-billed woodpecker; northern cardinal; painted bunting"

One could certainly debate over which species did and didn't make the cut (although I think generally it's a pretty fair list), and with some additional sightings and glossier video/photos, a few years hence the Ivory-bill may be even higher up in the rankings!

Full article here:

http://www.centredaily.com/mld/centredaily/news/opinion/14391831.htm

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

 

-- Spring Break Ain't What It Used To Be --

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Another Cornell volunteer recounts his search participation at White River NWR during spring break for 2 weeks. Good variety of pics...:

http://www.angelfire.com/ab6/birdpics/ark.html
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-- Couple of Things --

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Article from a Wed. Pittsburgh paper by another professional ornithologist and Ivory-bill searcher with a possible prior Big Woods sighting:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06109/683110-115.stm

and here's a listserv post of interest from Tim Barksdale (associated with the Cornell team) which is several weeks old, but I just now discovered:

http://www.surfbirds.com/phorum/read.php?f=94&i=17583&t=17583
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

 

-- Yo, Guinness!... --

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...might be a day or two before I have any new posts while I'm busily engaged collecting, sorting, scrutinizing, collating, and running multivariate analysis on a data-base gathered for submission to the Guinness Book of Records regarding trolling of the inane, insipid, boneheaded variety. In the meantime just sit tight and continue to assume that Ivory-bills Live! since there's never been any solid evidence to the contrary....
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Monday, April 17, 2006

 

-- More Talks --

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Bobby Harrison's comrade, Tim Gallagher, is speaking at another birding festival in Carbondale, IL. near the Illinois Cache River wetlands on the evening of April 28:

http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/illinois/press/press2389.html

and, author Phil Hoose will be speaking at an Audubon meeting in Brunswick, Maine on April 25:

http://www.maineaudubon.org/merrymeeting/mmauct.shtml

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-- Hype or Hope --

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While we await Cornell's May analysis/summary of their current search evidence we can also wait for a presentation by Ivory-bill sighter Bobby Harrison on May 5 at a Birding Festival in Decatur, Alabama. Bobby, of course, has been travelling around giving his version of events to enthusiastic crowds for quite awhile now, but this particular talk is promoted with a bit more promise than the usual presentation:
<>
"Harrison said presently he can't comment about whether he's had more bird sightings, but he said he will show new video that proves the bird's existence.
'One of the videos has not yet been made public and will be shown for the first time during the catfish and barbecue dinner,' he said."

http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/news/060417/woodpecker.shtml

Addendum: here are some additional talks Bobby has scheduled in May:

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Friday, April 14, 2006

 

-- This and That... --

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Someone in a 'comment' farther down makes reference to the URLs, www.ivorybilled.org and www.ivorybilled.net, which had come up from a different commenter some time back; these domain names (and possibly others), as I understand it, were acquired early on by Cornell before they knew for sure which URLs they would actually most utilize (they would naturally want to gain possession of many of the pertinent URLs ahead of time) -- I don't know (and doubt) that they have any special use in mind for these addresses. If anyone knows better and wishes to correct me feel free.

CAUTION... CAUTION... oh yeah, and CAUTION... I hesitate to even report this, but I did recently become aware of 2 more Ivorybill sightings in the Big Woods, on April 7 and April 9, which include sight and sound info, and still photographs (bird in fllight), which unfortunately once again are not definitively decipherable as IBWO. The party involved was independent of Cornell but made a full report to Cornell. April will likely be a month of several reports/claims/rumors/hearsay and once again I'll preach patience until we get Cornell's assessment in May of the quality of the various sightings they have had turned in (and it may be well passed May before they have their reams of acoustic data fully analyzed).
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Thursday, April 13, 2006

 

-- An Arkansas Post --

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A new post by Joe Neal on the Arkansas bird listserv is worth a gander (and expresses several of my own views), especially as it relates to so many folks getting hung up on a single 4-second video, amidst all the available evidence out there (historical and current):

http://www.surfbirds.com/phorum/read.php?f=66&i=5936&t=5936

Also, worth noting that the latest "Auk" journal (from AOU, April edition) is now out, with a rebuttal to J. Jackson's January IBWO piece, but thus far haven't found it available online.
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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

 

-- Carolina Searcher --

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While larger-scale active searches proceed in several southern states that have long held potential for, and rumors of, Ivory-bills, one intrepid lady is making time to search the southeast corner of North Carolina, which despite a few scattered claims in recent times, has never been as high on peoples' lists of prospects (farther back historically, the IBWO did have a presence there). If anyone out there has previously searched in the Cape Fear/Waccamaw, SE area of N.C. (or NE corner of South Carolina), you might want to contact "Christen" and trade any notes/ideas/info:

http://www.carolinaivorybills.blogspot.com/
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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

 

-- Unsung Hero... --

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Since the Ivory-bill's rediscovery many have pointed out the important role played by hunters and other outdoorsmen in preserving land like that in the Arkansas Big Woods. This somewhat interesting blog post focusses on the role played by one particular persistent individual, Rex Hancock. (And at bottom of post is a link to another lengthier review article from NWF.)

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-- Georgia Search in Press --

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The search for the Ivory-bill in Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp is being covered by Associated Press:

http://www.macon.com/mld/macon/14312722.htm

The most interesting line to me is as follows (italics added by me):
"While we believe it is unlikely ivory-bills have survived in Georgia, we do expect to identify locations with habitat that could support an ivory bill," DNR spokesman Ben Johnson said Monday. "We hope that years from now we might be able to reintroduce ivory bills into Georgia."

I'll assume this is just an off-the-cuff remark and doesn't mean that any capture-and-release or captive-breeding programs have been discussed by authorities?
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Monday, April 10, 2006

 

-- BirdForum Post, and a Quick Disclaimer --


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Thought this post today on BirdForum from "Humminbird" succinctly covered some important points and deserved a wider audience:

http://www.birdforum.net/showpost.php?p=566577&postcount=346

And as a side note just a general disclaimer since this comes up occasionally in email I receive from folks assuming I have posted a "comment" under the "anonymous" heading: ALL comments I post on the topic of Ivory-bills both in this blog and the few times I post elsewhere on the Web are written under the "cyberthrush" name; I don't post under any other name or anonymously (of course, often anonymous posters do write things that reflect my own thoughts on a matter)... just for the sake of clarification.
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Sunday, April 09, 2006

 

-- Kansas City Star Article --

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An article in the Kansas City Star is largely on skeptic Mark Robbins and written from the skeptics' viewpoint, but with these few lines of counterbalance toward the end:
Searchers have seen ivory bills this winter, officials say, and some recordings are promising. “But we haven’t got that 8-by-10 photograph we need as hard proof,” said Gene Sparling of Hot Springs, Ark., who is credited with the ivory-bill sighting in early 2004.
Sparling now makes speeches about ivory bills for the Nature Conservancy, a private, nonprofit conservation group with bottomland forest projects in the search area.“It doesn’t surprise me that it’s taking a lot of time to find this bird,” he said. “We’re looking for a few birds in a half-million acres, swamp land that is difficult to search.”A winter drought left the marshes too dry for canoe travel, but still too boggy to walk on, Sparling said. That has hampered searchers.Search crews can cover only about 8 percent of the potential habitat a year, said Jay Harrod, director for the Nature Conservancy in Arkansas.“The habitat is nearly the size of Rhode Island,” Harrod said, “and it’s swampy.
It's looking more and more like, other than the sort of unsubstantive rumors, hints, etc. that are to be expected, there is likely to be little solid IBWO evidence brought forth in the final few weeks of this search season in Arkansas. We can all wait for Cornell's release of their summary data/reports in May, at which point the debate will continue, but for the next few weeks I suspect skeptics will be getting the bulk of press time.
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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

 

-- Happy Aprilversary --

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April is happy anniversary month for several of the key Big Woods Ivory-bill sightings from 2 years ago. Today was the 2-year anniversary of Jim Fitzpatrick's (brother of the Cornell Director) sighting; April 10 will mark 2 years since Melinda LaBranche's report of an IBWO in flight, which was followed one day later by Melanie Driscoll's sighting. And finally, it was on April 25 that David Zapruder, er... uhh, I mean, Luneau captured the 4-second clip that would change his life.

BTW, here are a few of the other famous April happenings from Ivory-bill history:

April 1924: Arthur Allen locates/photographs a pair of Ivory-bills in central Florida.

April, 1932: Mason Spencer shoots an Ivory-bill in the Singer Tract and delivers it to a game warden to prove that the species which ornithologists believed was long extinct (but La. backwoodsmen knew full-well wasn't) was still around.

April, 1944: Donald Eckelberry views and sketches an Ivory-bill at the Singer Tract which some come to accept as the last confirmed sighting of the species in the U.S.

April, 1955: author and past Audubon President John Terres reports having seen 2 Ivory-bills fly over a highway near Homosassa Springs, Fla.

April, 1956: in the press, an Ivory-bill is reportedly shot in North Carolina though no evidence comes forth to support the claim.

April, 1966: an Ivory-bill is reported in the Neches River swamp area of east Texas.

April, 1967: the first of several sightings of Ivory-bills over a couple of years by H.N. Agey and and George Heinzmann in Polk County, Fla.

April, 1985: Dennis Garratt reports an Ivory-bill in Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Fla.

April, 1999: David Kulivan reports 2 Ivory-bills in the Pearl River refuge of southeast La.
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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

 

-- President's Award For Conservation --

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New posting today at Cornell's website details the "President's Award For Conservation" awarded to Gene Sparling, Tim Gallagher, and Bobby Harrison for their sighting of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Arkansas. Worth visiting the page just to see these 3 in formalwear and bowtie -- not likely to ever happen again (they look more at-home when in camo and swamp mud)!

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/latest/explorersclub
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Monday, April 03, 2006

 

-- Condors Today, IBWOs ....?

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Not Ivory-bills, but too good not to pass along, this recently-released uplifting photo of a rare captive-released California Condor currently nesting in an also rare California Redwood in the Big Sur area of Calif.; something not seen in northern Ca. for a hundred years :

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/03/0330_060330_condors.html

Any chance an Ivory-bill at a nesthole in AR. could be next....?

BTW, since suggesting that Harrison Ford could play Cornell's Dr. Fitzpatrick in the yet-to-be-made "Ivory-bills Live! -- The Movie," I've had a few more suggestions via email; the cast is shaping up as follows:

Gene Sparling -- Gene Hackman
Bobby Harrison -- Kris Kristofferson
Tim Gallagher -- Ron Howard
David Luneau -- Kevin Bacon
Jerome Jackson -- Robert De Niro
David Sibley -- Matthew Broderick

: - )
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