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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






Monday, July 31, 2006

 

-- Google Trends --

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Taking a cue from John Trapp at his 'Birds Etcetera' blog** I checked "Google Trends" to see what cities were showing the most interest in the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (i.e. generated the most Google searches for "Ivory-billed Woodpecker"), and found the results a little disappointing, though not surprising. Not too unexpectedly Little Rock, AR. was BY FAR the city with the most searches for our favorite topic. A little scarily though, second in the rankings was Minneapolis, MN. home of a skeptically-minded blog that shall remain nameless -- or maybe folks there are just trying to get at the truth and away from some of their hometown blather ; - ) The top 10 list for Ivory-bill-interest from Google Trends rounds out as follows:

3. Denver, CO.
4. Wash. DC.
5. Atlanta, GA.
6. Seattle, WA.
7. New York, NY.
8. San Francisco, CA.
9. Chicago, IL.
10. Toronto, Canada

I suppose it's not unusual that the list is dominated by large, northerly metropolitan areas, but still would've been fun to see some of the smaller southern Gulf Coast towns that really ought to have an ongoing interest in this bird show up out of nowhere. How's about it, Naples, Pensacola, Jacksonville, Fla., or Valdosta or Albany, GA., or Mobile or Auburn, Alab., or Pascagoula, Vicksburg, or Natchez, Miss., or Slidell or Baton Rouge, LA., or... or... or... Don't you feel the least bit ashamed being beat out by the likes of Seattle, San Francisco, and that long-time bastion of Ivory-bill lore, Toronto, Canada!!
.............................................
( ** as an aside for those with general birding interests I'll note that John maintains one of the best lists around of other birding blog links on the right side of his blog -- worth a gander.)
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Sunday, July 30, 2006

 

-- Fly, Fly Miss American Pie --

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'Helter skelter in the summer swelter...' Rumors of Ivory-bill reports continue to dribble in from multiple areas even through the hot, steamy summer months, when it helps to be just a tad crazy to even be out there looking. MUCH habitat remains in need of thorough checking -- not as large and extensive in many cases as one would like, more fragmented than would be ideal, but nonetheless potential habitat. The early-on notion that Ivory-bills required virgin forest for survival simply lacks any necessary proof, as if the first thing a bird does upon entering a patch of woods is to ask, "let me see, are you a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-growth tree?" Most of the animals, and all of the other woodpeckers, of the early American woodland adapted as needed when America's virgin forests declined. Adaptation, far more than specialization-to-the-point-of-extinction, represents the history and nature of living things in general. When the Ivory-bill is documented (in multiple locales probably) cries of "miracle," "incredible," "mind-boggling," will go up across the land in many quarters, though there will be nothing unusual about it, no miracles involved, just creatures doing what they have done for millennia, whilst Mankind falsely assumes that he knows and understands all there is of relevance worth knowing and understanding.
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Friday, July 28, 2006

 

-- Looking Back --

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Around the turn of the 20th century A.T. Wayne was one of the most active hunters/dealers of bird specimens in America and his prized item-for-sale was the Ivory-billed Woodpecker at a whopping $22 (compared to $3.50 for a Carolina Paroquet and $2.50 for Bachman's Warbler!). And among his chief customers was William Brewster who eventually ended up with 61 Ivory-bills in his collection.

Thankfully, times do change... just not always soon enough.
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Thursday, July 27, 2006

 

-- Looking Ahead --

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For those thinking of searching on their own this winter it might be a good time to review the information/thoughts posted awhile back by Bill Pulliam and Bob Russell :

http://bbill.blogspot.com/2006/03/potential-ivory-billed-woodpecker.html

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

I'll just add for any mavericks out there that parts of southern Georgia, southern Alabama, and western Tennessee (maybe even southern Illinois, Missouri and western Kentucky) which are relatively neglected by searchers just might nonetheless be of interest for varying reasons.
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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

 

-- A Bit o' Science and A Bit o' Humor --

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Here's a relatively recent online paper (pdf) in which the authors report evidence from the mitochondrial DNA of both the N. American and Cuban Ivory-bill to measure their relationship to one another, as well as to other Campephilus woodpeckers:

http://www.hmnh.harvard.edu/ivorybilled.pdf

--- a bit technical, but among other things they do make the point that they have established a "DNA barcoding resource" which can be used in identifying the source of future (genetic) material that might require testing.

...and now for something totally different,
have to give credit to "DocMartin" over at BirdForum for giving me a chuckle on Tue. with the following:

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- Knock knock

- Who's there?

- Ivor

- Ivor who?

- Ivory-billed Woodpecker

- Can you prove that?

- No I kent
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...okay, so maybe I'm an easy audience, or just not getting enough sleep lately!!

anyway, for now, back to sipping some (cheap) red wine, munching M&Ms, and looking over some maps of the southeast U.S., while doing a little arithmetic.
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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

 

-- Odds/Ends --

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I didn't cover the decision of a judge last week to halt a multi-million $$$ irrigation project in Arkansas that might impinge on Ivory-billed Woodpecker habitat, because it was a "temporary" decision and I knew it would simply promote controversy. I do find it interesting though that the numerous vocal critics of the decision seem very quick to assume that they are privy to all the evidence that the judge had at his disposal. Perhaps, perhaps not.

Tomorrow will be the 33-year anniversary since a father and son, both bird-banders familiar with Campephilus woodpeckers in Argentina, had a credible sighting (and hearing encounter) of an Ivory-bill along the Ogeechee River, about 25 mi. west of Savannah, Ga.; but what the hey, that wuz 33 yurs ago, probly dun't mean a durn thing these here days, huhh Verne.

...speaking of skeptics, how many skeptics does it take to screw in a light bulb? Apparently 2; one to screw the bulb in and one to videotape the whole affair to prove that the first guy did what he claims he did. -- Actually, kinda wondering just how many (don't send in your answers,
it's a rhetorical question) self-proclaimed skeptics will even be left standing (in quicksand) by this time next year? ...with them in mind, lastly, some light verse from poet Robert Service:

"They have cradled you in custom.
They have primed you with their preaching,
They have soaked you in convention through and through;
They have put you in a showcase;
You're a credit to their teaching;
But can't you hear the Wild? -- it's calling you.

Let us probe the silent places,
Let us seek what luck betides us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There's a whisper on the night wind,
There's a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling... let us go."

-- Ciao.
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Monday, July 24, 2006

 

-- Book Look --

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Just came across this acceptance speech that Phillip Hoose gave
earlier in year upon accepting the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for his volume "The Race To Save The Lord God Bird;" a good read:

http://www.hbook.com/publications/magazine/articles/jan06_hoose.asp

Speaking of which, updated editions of both Tim Gallagher's "The Grail Bird" and Jerome Jackson's "In Search of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker" are readily available on book shelves now as well; and at least one more exciting Ivory-bill volume will likely be out before year's end, but more on that at a future point.
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Sunday, July 23, 2006

 

-- New Article, Old Speculation --

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New article today in the Palm Beach Post:

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/accent/content/accent/epaper/2006/07/23/a7d_roncol_0723.html

Addendum: Tom Nelson's response to this article underscores the skeptics' clear dependency on treating a single individual's (Tanner's) observations of a half-dozen Ivory-bills, in a single location, 60+ years ago, as gospel truth for all Ivory-bills, for all time. Were we to take observations (no matter how good) of 6 human beings (from 60 years ago no less) and generalize them to all humans the potential fallacy (absurdity?) of this approach would be obvious.
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Friday, July 21, 2006

 

-- Happy Anniversary!... To Me --

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Can anyone guess what Monday is?:

a) my 39th birthday
b) your 39th birthday
c) the beginning of the Martian New Year
d) the 1 year anniversary since Bobby Harrison quietly discovered an Ivory-bill roost hole that he's been surreptitiously videotaping ever since
e) the one-year anniversary of 'Ivory-bills LiVE!!"

...if you guessed "e", you're right! (go buy yourself a 3-layer white cake with butter-creme frosting, some candles, and a magnum of Champagne... and send the bill to Tom Nelson). (And if you answered "a," God bless you...)

It's been one year, 300+ posts, and 40,000+ site visits (thanks to the 8-or-so folks who check in ~20 times-a-day), since this blog started, on a wing and a prayer so to speak, not knowing if there would be enough material to do regular posts on such a narrow topic; and also not knowing of the severe challenges that would come Cornell's way.
It's been a fun and fascinating, if frustrating and unfulfilling (in terms of outcomes) year. I could never have foreseen 12 months ago the traction that Ivory-bill Skeptic Blog would take on or the intense controversy that would ensue (have a hunch some folks in Ithaca, NY, didn't foresee it either!). And yet, then again, this is pretty much par-for-the-course for this particular bird throughout recent history. So, what else is really new?!
Originally, this blog was conceived to disseminate information on active Ivory-bill recovery efforts -- as unforeseen events transpired however, it's become more of a 'cheerleader' for the IBWO and its believers, and counterweight to the other side. Thanks to all you loyal visitors and interested parties (of either persuasion), as "Ivory-bills LiVE!!" enters another year of debate and search. At different times, I've tried to be informative, speculative, entertaining, serious, provocative, irksome, and unpredictable (but never all at the same time)... expect more of the same in the months ahead! ...and do keep the faith; the truth IS still out there, double-rapping away and thoroughly oblivious to our contentious, simple-minded human debates. . . .
Have a good weekend all; I know I intend to.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

 

-- Market THIS! --

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Aaaaackkkkk! Ivory-bill Skeptic's Blog is now actually influencing the marketing of goods, in this case t-shirts etc. (see: here). I think this Internet store ought to consider some additional t-shirt captions:

Ivory-bills LiVE!!
Ivory-bills Rock!
Ivory-bills Flying Free
Ivory-thrills!
Wild About Ivory-bills
My Ivory-bill Is Smarter Than Your Skeptic
Lord of the Swamp
One Big Pecker
Back From the Brink
Swamp Thang
Pileated?, My Ass!

and of course the ever popular,

If I've Said It Once I've Said It Approximately One Thousand Times (Maybe More) Previous To Today, Ivory-bill Skeptics Suck!

; - )))
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-- Old News, Old Blues --

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Most readers undoubtedly already know of this, but for newbies to the topic a little over a year ago prolific singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens composed a lilting ode to the Ivory-bill for National Public Radio; if you're into acid rock or heavy metal, probably can give this a pass; otherwise take a listen, available for download here:

http://anon.npr-mp3.speedera.net/anon.npr-mp3/atc/20050706_atc_godbird.mp3

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

 

-- Right and Wrrrong --

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Just 'nother a little thought exercise, while biding time:

S'pose enough searchers cover enough areas over the next two years, without positive results, to convince a majority of 'believers' that Ivory-bills are truly extinct. Still, no one would know exactly when the last bird died. Was John Terres wrong with his sighting in the 50's; Dennis wrong in the 60's; Lowery wrong in the 70's; Kulivan wrong in 1999? Not to mention dozens of other names along the way. When exactly did the last of the species perish making all believers wrong? (does anyone seriously believe they were all gone in the 40's???). We can never know; the final passing of a species is almost never precisely known.

But what if even a single living Ivory-bill is documented in those next two years -- then one thing IS for certain: the extinction-proponents of the 40s, of the 50s, of the 60s, of the 70s, of the 80s, of the 90s, of today, were ALL WRONG; insidiously WRONG... impatient, simplistic, and humiliatingly WRONG.
It's conceivable we might never know the truth of the Arkansas sightings, nor ever know when the last Ivory-billed Woodpecker died, and thusly never know at just what point-in-time skeptics got it right and believers wrong -- that is one possible scenario. B-u-u-u-t... the other simpler, more conclusive scenario is that in time we will find a bird (it only takes one) and then we WILL know, with absolute certainty, that the Ivory-bills-are-extinct, follow-the-leader crowd, every one of 'em, were undeniably NOT RIGHT. Time remains on our (believers') side, and as indicated before it's almost an unfair fight:
in the near-term, skeptics can't be proved right, and believers can't be proved wrong; only the reverse has any likelihood of transpiring.
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Monday, July 17, 2006

 

-- The Rodney Dangerfield of Blogging, perhaps --

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Just some miscellany today:

From the "Hey-I-Take-Umbrage-At-THAT" Dept.: it has been brought to my attention by more than one person that sometimes when they type "cyberthrush" into a search engine, it inquires of them "Did you mean 'cybertrash?' -- sheeeesh... I don't get no respect 8 - ((

And on a totally different note, from the "Why-Why-Why" Dept.: the most frequent question I'm probably asked is, "Why are you soo-oooo fascinated with this one individual bird?" I can only answer that question with a question myself (and a majority of the readers here no doubt already understand this): "Why am I fascinated with this dramatic, charismatic denizen and largest woodpecker of the North American woodland, this handsome 'Lord God Bird,' this elusive, primeval-like, 'Ghost Bird' of storied history, singular 'Holy Grail' and ongoing mystery of American birding, not to mention tragic, haunting symbol of past human failure and short-sightedness; why?... HOW could one NOT BE!!???"
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Friday, July 14, 2006

 

-- Heading Into the Weekend ; - ) --


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Just to show folks that I AM open-minded, I think it's time that I state right here and now in print some of the things that could transpire which would make me reconsider that Ivory-bills might really be extinct:

10. The editors at SCIENCE EXPRESS finally admit that they originally accepted Cornell's paper for a special April Fool's issue, but due to a production snafu it didn't show up in print 'til their Apr. 28 edition.

9. George Bush goes to the U.N. to proclaim that Woodpeckers of Mass Destruction have been documented in Arkansas... no doubt about it.

8. Someone discovers a suicide note with a 45-caliber revolver next to an Ivory-bill in the woods that reads, "Good-bye cruel world, I was the very last of my kind."

7. A n unannounced raid of David Sibley's painting studio by Federal agents finds shelves and shelves and shelves of stuffed Ivory-billed carcasses with time, date, and place of collection meticulously recorded, but none more recent than Sept., 1989.

6. Immigration papers reveal that Mary Scott's REAL name is Svetlana Scamtewski, famous escaped Russian con-artist of the 1970's.

5. It turns out that, unbeknownst to one another, as an unusual hobby, 87% of the residents of Brinkley, AR., enjoy constructing and flying paper-mache models of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in their free time.

4. A behavioral field ecologist from a major Ivy League university discovers wholly unexpectedly that Pileated Woodpeckers have a keen and demonstrable sense of humor, and that their favorite prank (after a few too many fermented ivy berries), is to dress up like an Ivory-bill and go swooping through the woods.

3. The participants on "BirdForum" take a secret poll and lo-and-behold find out that, to their amazement, everyone there actually thinks that every other poster there, except for themselves, is full of crap!!

2. John Fitzpatrick makes a surprise announcement at the next A.O.U. meeting that Cornell has documented a small population of Moas residing deep in the heart of Staten Island (...though the videotape is a tad fuzzy).

1. A snowball makes its way through Hell unscathed.


(....with apologies to David Letterman)

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

 

-- Speaking of Nestholes --

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In response to my Wed. post someone emailed me (I think they were being facetious, but not sure) that they realized I HAD TO post that disclaimer to misdirect people and quash any info about the discovered nesthole from leaking out too soon!...

Anyway, nest/roostholes are actually worthy of further discussion, because the absence of such is one of the strongest elements in the skeptics' arsenal. One can explain away the lack of verifiable sightings or photos or video or auditory encounters over the years, or lack of feathers or carcasses, but the lack of an active nest or roosthole (which can't move and which is the one thing that would lead to those other things) is troubling; troubling that in 60 years no one has, by sheer accident, come across an active nest/roost given that adult IBWOs would have to spend a couple of months out of the year going back-and-forth working on such cavities and caring for young once they arrive on the scene (the actual incubation period is more likely a time of great quiet and secretiveness), and such a site would be a hub of much IBWO activity. The simplest, but saddest, explanation may be that the total number of IBWOs remaining is so slim (even if stable) that the number of possible cavities to be found, relative to the amount and depth of habitat to be searched, are absolutely miniscule. Additionally, unlike the territory entered for foraging and dispersal, nest and roost sites may reside in the very remotest, least human-accessed parts of habitat. Even if found, such holes are likely out of reach for easy inspection, and would require continuous day-long surveillance for confirmation, something that was not practical before the advent of automatic camera set-ups. Nest and roost sites thus remain in many ways the ultimate crux of the issue, with so much else being attributable by skeptics to smoke-and-mirrors. And when one is finally found and videotaped... well, THEN WHAT???!
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

 

-- Quelling Rumors --

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No, no, no, (sorry) -- I have had some email inquiries since changing the I.L. logo from the old Audubon print to a more updated Julie Zickefoose rendition of Ivory-bills at a nestsite, wondering if the change might cryptically signal that I (...or Julie) know of such a nest having been found and being closely monitored (but not released publicly). Such is not
the case (just thought summer would be a nice slow time to make some changes). First, of course, we are well past breeding season for IBWOs. Second, although there are often rumors being checked out in confidence in the field, given the current state of affairs I suspect any definitively-confirmed finding of roost or nestholes at this point would fairly quickly make its way into public knowledge (not preceded by another year of secrecy). Conspiracy theorists on both sides can probably cool their heels...
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Monday, July 10, 2006

 

-- A BirdForum Post --

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The following thoughts of interest were posted by a relative newcomer to BirdForum today:

"Many of the first-order features of [Cornell's] initial presentation carried troubling parallels to well-known scientific debacles. Science by news conference has not a particularly good history, marked by Fleischmann-Pons' cold fusion and the infamous NASA Martian meteorite episode. It may well be necessary to hold a news conference to get out ahead of a major story that is about to leak, but in the scientific community there will be instant suspicion. I'm sure the Cornell story carries some of these associations.
Perhaps Cornell went this route with the reasonable expectation that the Killer Photo was imminent and any questions would soon be moot. At that time they had a fair number of good sightings and an idea that those birds were breeding locally, so good field ornithology should quickly lead to photo ops at roost or nest holes.
As the sightings declined rather than increased, undue attention fell on the Luneau video which... has only enough resolution to be highly suggestive but not conclusive of IBWO. After having been questioned publicly by household names such as Sibley, the Luneau video now carries a certain flavor shared by fetishes of the tinfoil crowd such as the Zapruder film or even the Bigfoot movie. People get very nervous when the zealots fight pixel wars.
With such associations, and a sorry history of other IBWO claims, many minds will be closed to anything less than incontrovertible proof.
But sometimes I wonder if an additional source of resistance may be in the status of IBWO as an iconic failure of wildlife conservation. Could it be that many who were raised on this sad tale are unwilling to consider that the species may have survived after all?"
....or possibly unwilling to accept their role, through cynicism and inaction, in the species' eventual demise if it survived well passed its 1940's presumption of extinction.
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-- Tanner... Legacy and Myth --


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James Tanner wrote one of the best natural history monographs of all time with his 1942 dissertation on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. But as good as it is, it may NOT be as good as often given credit for. Tanner's study took three years, and many think this more than adequate time to produce a definitive/all-encompassing work on a scarcely-existing species -- an unwarranted assumption. Tanner spent much of those 3 years in Ithaca, NY, site of Cornell University where he received his PhD. By his own account 21 mos. were spent "in the field," with the bulk of that time spent at the Singer Tract in La. where all his direct observations were made. This leaves a relatively small amount of time to cover the entire rest of the South, or specifically, the other 44 locations Tanner reported visiting, most of which he spent 3 or fewer days in (and generally limited to winter or spring months). Upon first arriving at a new area he spent significant time conversing and note-taking with locals and other cursory investigation. Quite simply, sleeping, eating, planning, writing, and traveling (poor back roads) would have consumed another large chunk of his time. In short,
one wonders, outside of the self-imposed months at the Singer Tract, how much time did Tanner actually spend deep in the field/woods/swamps of the South in search of Ivory-bills -- possibly relatively little, considering how much ground there was to cover (and his La. studies had already biased him to summarily discount much Southern habitat that didn't fit preconceived notions). This is NOT a criticism, but simply an acknowledgement of the impossible task he had before him as a single searcher (with occasional local guides). Tanner did as good a job as any one man could've done in those days, with the equipment available, and time and financial constraints -- I find no fault with him, but I do question the wisdom of those who followed him and, without question or debate, elevated his meticulous, thoughtful grad student work even beyond what it was or could ever have been. They turned a wonderful and interesting thesis study into gospel beyond discussion (in part because the urgency to save the species took rightful precedence over any critical review of Tanner's findings/conclusions/techniques).
In 2006 though we have the luxury, indeed necessity, not to assume that every conclusion/generalization of 60+ years ago, must be true for the species today (if they ever were), and there is a need to approach each new claim open-mindedly. We have the luxury to do so, but do we have the will and patience....
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Saturday, July 08, 2006

 

-- Worst Case Scenario --

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Let's take the worst case scenario: Ivory-bills are never confirmed in the Big Woods of Arkansas -- no..., we'll make it even worse: the original Arkansas sighters all relent and say they are no longer certain of the bird they saw in 2004-5; it may very well have been a Pileated (normal or abnormal) afterall; and advanced techniques in analyzing pixels come along demonstrating conclusively that the Luneau video captured a Pileated on tape; and Cornell retracts their original SCIENCE article now wanting to set the record straight and move on. Where does that leave us...?
Right back at May (or thereabouts), 1999.

In Jan. 1999, most serious Ivory-billed Woodpecker seekers believed any remnants of the species would most likely reside in Florida, Louisiana, and/or Mississippi. Texas and South Carolina were still considered possible by many, and maybe even Georgia or Alabama. At best, for most IBWO students, Arkansas was rarely higher than 8th on the list of possible locales.

April 1999: David Kulivan claims to see 2 Ivory-bills in the Pearl River region of La. (and adjacent to Miss.) generating much new hope for the species, though in the end no confirmation follows -- it is difficult to evaluate how meaningful the results of the extensive search done by LSU almost 3 years later are, since the 2 birds from 1999 could easily have departed the area by then, or never have resided there to begin with (only dispersing or passing through when encountered by Kulivan). In 2006, researcher Mike Collins insists there ARE IBWOs in the Pearl R. area.

Where are we if the Arkansas searches continue to fail -- right back at the need to focus on FL., LA., and MS., and possibly as many as 4 other states that were well ahead of AR. in speculation prior to Apr. 2005 -- which is why those already searching such areas need to be encouraged to continue, not stigmatized by any perceived (or even actual) failings on Cornell's part. If the above worst case scenario were to arise, skeptics would try to generalize from the specific AR. circumstance to any and all other Ivory-bill claims (known as the "hasty generalization" fallacy in formal logic), but neither science nor fairness give a basis for doing so.
And, if continued credible sightings (confirmed or not) DO come out of AR. then other nearby states, southern MO., IL., Tenn., KY., not previously paid much attention, need to be taken more seriously as well.

In short, in a worst case scenario.... not a whole lot really changes, and much work remains to be done.
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Friday, July 07, 2006

 

-- Summer of 2006 --

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The philosopher Schopenhauer wrote that "Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world," and so it is in the world of Ivory-bill skeptics -- the summer will likely be a time of little 'hard' news (there continue to be reports/rumors of sightings and signs, mostly outside Arkansas, that are being checked upon, but nothing substantial), and a good time to relax until the winter searches begin anew. So I find it interesting/entertaining?? that The Ivory-bill Skeptic blog and its loyalists continue to paint themselves into an inescapable narrow corner pounding away at Cornell, now dredging up old re-hashed material to try to bolster their skeptics' case; and in using words like "fraud" resorting to a near ornithological McCarthyism; their case still primarily built all around disputing a 4-second video that can't be resolved (but that Cornell has analyzed for more hours, with more personnel, and with better equipment probably than all the skeptics combined have access to). They are even calling for a "retraction" of Cornell's original SCIENCE article (do they actually realize HOW MANY life science articles would have to be retracted from SCIENCE if every one with possible flawed data or methodology had to be disallowed -- MOST of them). Unless/until the original IBWO sighters change their stories there is little to retract. As I said previously, the skeptics' only real hope is that they find and document somewhere still alive in Arkansas a leucistic symmetrically-IBWO-white-wing patterned Pileated to possibly account for those prior sightings (and of course there are still the other 3-7 states that IBWOs could easily reside in to take into account) -- short of that their case is simply built on giving easily-concocted alternative explanations -- indeed, the permanent debate over 'evolution' is the result of the ease with which holes can be found in data/evidence presented and alternative explanations proffered. For the first time in history some of the vast amounts of difficult habitat that deserve serious searches are getting the extended attention needed, and skeptics, once again, seem intent on stifling it. And the beat goes on....
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Thursday, July 06, 2006

 

-- Humor Break --

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A break from the business of he-said-she-said-they-said-we-said Ivory-bill discussion today for a few general birding chuckles courtesy of columnist Joe Walljasper (actually, thanks to John Trapp for calling attention to this a week or so ago):

http://www.columbiatribune.com/2006/Jun/20060625Spor001.asp

...tomorrow we may ponder how many skeptics it takes to screw in a light bulb (...or screw up a rare bird species). . . .
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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

 

-- Post-Docs: Take Note --

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The following post-doc opportunity with the Government was posted
(about 1/2 way down) last week at this webpage (thanks to some chap named Tom Nelson for originally calling this to my attention...)

POST-DOC OPPORTUNITY at the USGS National Wetlands Research Center - Application of Remote-Sensing Imagery and Associated Models in the Recovery Planning for the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, long suspected to be extinct, is now known to persist in remnant lowlands of the Cache River, Arkansas. Planning efforts are in progress for extensive searches to find more birds in Arkansas and other river bottoms of the Southern US. Anecdotal reports of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the southern US continue to this day. Geographic areas where potential ivory-bill habitat may exist is vast throughout the southeastern US and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas. Research opportunities are available to develop methods for the integration and operation of remote-sensing resources with ground data and other ivory-bill habitat analyses to identify and characterize a range of potential suitable habitat for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. A team of forest ecologists, ornithologists, and geographers at the National Wetlands Research Center conducts a variety of avian habitat investigations, and works cooperatively with the Lower Mississippi Valley and Gulf Coast Joint Ventures. Project activities will be conducted in collaboration with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Plan--particularly, the Planning and Assessment Framework. The recovery team has identified several primary challenges: (1) how can we develop useful models of ivory-bill habitat relations, (2) how can the US Fish and Wildlife Service and others predict and evaluate the effects of forest management on potential ivory-bill habitat, and (3) the need to develop spatial models that integrate remotely sensed data bases to study the distribution of potential suitable habitat. Outcomes of meeting these challenges will include new knowledge of Ivory-billed Woodpecker habitat relations, facilitation of rapid and efficient search protocols for ivory-bills, contributions to useful forest inventory and monitoring procedures, and development of predictive models to inform decisions on forest management. The primary need is the development of methods to produce maps of forest structure, forest composition, and forest health (dead/dying trees) with GIS and remote sensing imagery/data at multiple scales and resolutions for regional, landscape, and local applications. Model output should be in the form of variables whose values can be measured in the field during forest inventories. Variables derived from digital imagery and data from LIDAR, ALI, Landsat, Hyperion, AVIRIS, and aerial photography will be provided by USGS. Interested applicants should contact WYLIE BARROW, USGS-National Wetlands Research Center, Lafayette, LA (PH: 337-266-8668; EM: wylie_barrow AT usgs.gov), or LARRY HANDLEY, USGS-National Wetlands Research Center, Lafayette, LA (PH: 337-266-8691, EM: larry_handley AT usgs.gov). For application details, see: http://www4.nationalacademies.org/PGA/rap.nsf/ByTitle/90.17.01.B6406?OpenDocument
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Monday, July 03, 2006

 

-- The Ivory-bill Leak --

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Ya-a-a-awn.... I don't find it of any real significance, but there has been some Web discussion of late concerning the timing of the original story 'leak' that caused Cornell to make their public announcement (April '05) of the Ivory-bill's re-discovery earlier than originally planned -- this seems to be just another attempt to cast aspersions and tarnish the credibility of Cornell's Dr. Fitzpatrick or others involved. Otherwise, not sure what importance the details of the leak actually have (except to conspiracy-theorists seeing money-grubbing skullduggery behind every Ivory-bill curtain), but may simply make interesting reading as outlined in John Trapp's blog post today (...reads like a classified CIA report, names expunged to protect their cover):

http://birdstuff.blogspot.com/2006/07/ivory-billed-woodpeckermore-on-leak.html
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-- Back to Pete Dunne --

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Have now read Pete Dunne's piece in (August) Birder's World alluded to earlier -- for regular readers of this blog, nothing new, since Pete's arguments have all been made here repeatedly over the last year. Worth reading though for Dunne's inimitable writing style, and hey, higher credibility than coming from Cyberthrush! Hooray for Pete for speaking up in print against all the 'nattering nabobs of negativity' (S. Agnew's phrase, NOT Pete's) out there ...if someone finds the piece on the Web somewhere, let me know and I'll link to it.
Dunne draws a distinction between a birder's perspective (his) and a scientist's perspective (skeptics) -- but the line between the two is more blurry than he implies, and at this point much of what passes for science in the IBWO debate seems little more than pretense and posturing in the face of hardened stances.
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Sunday, July 02, 2006

 

-- $10,000 Reward Re-visited --

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My initial gut reaction to a monetary reward offered for information leading to the confirmation of the Ivory-bill in Arkansas was one of leery skepticism. Birders/conservationists should not require such an incentive, and other more dubious types may wreak mischief from such motivation. However, on further reflection I feel better now about the 'bounty' approach in this instance. One of the thoughts over decades, has been that the very individuals, hunters, fisherman, swampers, who would be most likely to spot Ivory-bills would never report it due to their fear of the 'Feds' stepping in to tightly regulate the land they hold dear. To the degree that the financial incentive is aimed, not at birders, but at securing the cooperation/aid of 1000's of Southern outdoorsmen bearing such fears, just maybe it will serve a purpose overriding its potential downside.
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Saturday, July 01, 2006

 

-- Pete Dunne's Take --

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In a post today Laura Erickson alludes to the newest (August) edition of "Birder's World" (due on newstands shortly) which includes an article by Pete Dunne, one of my favorite birder/writers, giving his take (as a believer) on the Ivory-bill's existence. Article not yet available on the Web so far as I know, but magazine sold at many birding supply stores and big chain bookstores.

... with this post, as previously indicated, I'll hereby re-open the 'comments' section of blog in 'moderated' mode. Try not to feed the trolls too much or too often...
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