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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






Thursday, August 31, 2006

 

-- RFI... George Lamb article --

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IBWO searcher Jesse Gilsdorf is trying to get a copy of an article by George R. Lamb on the Cuban Ivory-bill ("The Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Cuba") , and I'm letting this blog assist him. The article exists at the Smithsonian in D.C. if it is convenient for anyone to make a copy of it there to send to Jesse (or obviously if someone has a private copy they can xerox that would be even easier). He will reimburse for any copying/mailing expenses. Information on the Smithsonian copy is copied below. If you can be of assistance, contact Jesse at: gilsdorf@adams.net
If people occasionally want to network with one another about information or other sorts of assistance through this blog, email me regarding such requests.
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The publication you are interested in is owned by the Birds Library, which
> is a specialized collection within the Smithsonian Institition's National
> Museum of Natural History's Natural and Physical Sciences Department.
>
> Author: Lamb, George R.
> Title: The ivory-billed woodpecker in Cuba / / G.R. Lamb.
> Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Pan-American Section, International Committee
> for Bird Preservation, [1957]
> Description: 17 leaves : ill., maps ; 28 cm.
> Series: Research report / Pan-American Section, International Committee
> for Bird Preservation ; -- no. 1
> Research report (International Committee for Bird Preservation. Pan
> American Section) no. 1.

> Catalog Source No.: (OCoLC)ocm30055916

> The call number for this publication is: QL696.P56 L36 1992

> Richmond Memorial Library
> Division of Birds
> National Museum of Natural History
> Smithsonian Institution Libraries
> 10th and Constitution Ave, N. W.
> ROOM E609
> Washington, D.C. 20560
> reference telephone: (202) 633-1693
> <http://www.sil.si.edu/libraries/vz/index.htm#BIRDS
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

 

-- Rumor Wrapup --

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In response to ongoing emails seeking specifics about "rumors" afoot in IBWO-land, I'll just re-cap what I've essentially already reported here (many in the ornithology community already know more of the details than what follows):

[Multiple] IBWOs have been found in a non-Arkansas state (found quite awhile ago actually) by credible observers; actions are underway for the future study and conservation of these birds (and these things take time). An official announcement will probably follow within 5 weeks-or-so detailing the find, at which point all may assess the evidence. Whether all skeptics will be convinced I can't predict (although I believe some major skeptics of the Cornell evidence are already persuaded). From my personal standpoint there is little that is overly remarkable about this find, but I expect most others will find it quite stunning. To date, those involved have done a remarkable job of keeping the lid on things. There also remain other rumors in other locales, and only time will tell of their status. Now let's try, somehow, to talk about other things while awaiting official word -- it could be a long boring month ahead in the interim! (Lest anyone be concerned about leaks, the information in this post was okayed for disclosure ahead of time by those involved in the find, and there are many individuals out there who already know far more of the specifics than divulged here.)

...Ivory-bills live, as they always have; whether Man has the insight, ability, and will to safeguard their survival well into the future is another question entirely; the acute damage already done by skeptics, over decades, in impeding the process does not bode well.
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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

 

-- New Season Up Ahead --

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Mike Collins is preparing to return to the Stennis Space Center/Pearl River area to continue his study of Ivory-bills there. One of his recent posts at Birdforum ran as follows:
"Last year, I publicly guaranteed that I would find ivorybills. That mission was easy enough. This year's guarantee is that I'll get a good image."
From what I've heard I believe Mike may find more company than last year searching the Pearl; also more folks involved in searches of S.C. and Texas and at least one other locale (actually, probably several locales). On the other hand, Arkansas' Big Woods area will likely experience scaled-back numbers of searchers from last winter's Cornell effort, as focus shifts elsewhere.

....tomorrow: a brief re-cap of the main IBWO rumor afloat -- NOTHING new, just a capsule review (because of the ongoing email inquiries I'm getting) of stuff I've mostly already posted.
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Monday, August 28, 2006

 

-- Re-visiting Some Quotes --

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Seems like a good time perhaps to re-visit some prior quotes --

First, this famous one from John James Audubon describing Ivory-billed country:

"I wish, kind reader, it were in my power to present to your mind’s eye the favourite resort of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Would I could describe the extent of those deep morasses, overshadowed by millions of gigantic dark cypresses, spreading their sturdy moss-covered branchses, as if to admonish intruding man to pause and reflect on the many difficulties which he must encounter, should he persist in venturing farther into their almost inaccessible recesses, extending for miles before him, where he should be interrupted by huge projecting branches, here and there the mossy trunk of a fallen and decaying tree, and thousands of creeping and twining plants of numberless species! Would that I could represent to you the dangerous nature of the ground, its oozing, spongy, and miry disposition, although covered with a beautiful but treacheous carpeting, composed of the richest mosses, flags, and water lilies, no sooner receiving the pressure of the foot than it yields and endangers the very life of the adventurer, whilst here and there, as he approaches an opening, that proves merely a lake of black muddy water, his ear is assailed by the dismal croaking of innumerable frogs, the hissing of serpents, or the bellowing of alligators! Would that I could give you an idea of the sultry pestiferous atmosphere that nearly suffocates the intruder during the meridian heat of our dogdays, in those gloomy and horrible swamps! But the attempt to picture these scenes would be in vain. Nothing short of ocular demonstration can impress any adequate idea of them."
And then this, from another weblog from October last year:
"The reappearance of the [ivory-billed] woodpecker seems like a second chance -- a chance to expand its habitat, to get it right this time. Maybe that's what links the big surprises of 2005, this sense that there can be another unexpected round, the tenth inning in which the outcome could be different; that failure and devastation are not always final...
The woodpecker was a spectacular thing unto itself, but also a message that we don't really know what's out there, even in the forests of the not-very-wild southeast, let alone the ocean depths from which previously uncatalogued creatures regularly emerge. Late last month, University of Alaska marine biologists reported seven new species found during an expedition under the arctic ice that uncovered a much richer habitat with far more fauna than anticipated...

The woodpecker is a small story; the big environmental story of our time is about extinctions and endangerments, about creatures and habitats moving toward the very brink this bird came back from; but this small story suggests that there are still grounds to hope -- to doubt that we truly know exactly what is out there and what is possible. Hope is not history's Barcalounger, as is often thought: it requires you get back out there and protect that habitat or stop that war. It is not the same as optimism, the belief that everything will probably turn out all right despite your inactivity, the same kind of
inactivity that despair begets. Hope involves a sense of possibility, but with it comes responsibility." ( -- Rebecca Solnit)
....Amen
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p.s. -- if you haven't taken Floyd Hayes Ivory-bill survey yet
(see post for Aug. 25), just a reminder to do so, especially if you're a goil : - ) Some days back Floyd wrote at another website, "So far so good: 66 responses in 3 hours. The only surprise so far is the highly skewed ratio of men to women." (a couple days later he was approaching 300 respondents)
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Saturday, August 26, 2006

 

-- Hunting and the Ivory-bill --

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(Apologies to BirdForum
readers who've already seen me discuss this...)

I've argued for several years that hunting may have been a more important factor, and habitat loss a less important factor, in the Ivory-bill's demise than the standard literature portrays (at least I can find no evidence to refute the possibility), but I thought I was the only one making such a case. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when one of my readers sent along a 1933 article on the IBWO by no less than T. Gilbert Pearson which ends with this conclusion:
"The reduction in abundance of this species is due most probably to persecution by man, as the species has been shot relentlessly without particular cause except curiosity and a desire for the feathers or beaks." (National Geographic Magazine, April 1933)
This is written almost a decade before Tanner published his conclusions which would become unchallenged gospel. The point once again is that most everything we commonly believe today about Ivory-bills stems from one man's study. If he got it 100% right, there'd be no problem... but what are the chances of that. There's simply too much we don't and can't know with certainty. Or putting it a different way, it's not even what we don't know that creates the biggest problems, it's what we think we DO know that's simply wrong that generates the greatest errors. The point is, birds DIE when they are shot; they DON'T die when their habitat is destroyed -- they fly off looking for new habitat -- they may die later or fail to reproduce due to lack of habitat, but there is NO IMMEDIATE effect as there is with hunting; the effect of habitat loss is drawn out and indirect; still very powerful in the long term, but very different from hunting/collecting in the shorter term.
To whatever degree hunting played a major role in the IBWO's decline, its cessation gave the remaining IBWOs the opportunity to stabilize and recover their population -- I can't stress this point enough. Even Tanner concluded that in many specific locales after habitat loss had its effect, it was hunting/collecting that really drove the final nails into the IBWO's coffin. It is also possible that other factors of disease, in-breeding, and predation, could have played greater roles in the decline of certain IBWO populations than realized. In short, the incessant chant of "habitat-loss, habitat-loss, habitat-loss" may be convenient, but way too simplistic (although I don't want this in any way taken as belittling the overall drastic consequences of habitat destruction around the globe today).

--- As a sidenote I just recently learned that writer/ornithologist Noel F.R. Snyder is currently completing a paper on this very subject of the causes of the Ivory-bill's demise. Something to look forward to.
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Friday, August 25, 2006

 

-- Survey Time --

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Floyd Hayes requests that I link to an IBWO survey (college project I presume) asking for reader participation (please direct any questions/comments to Floyd, not to me):

....................................................................................................
A simple survey designed to assess opinions on the
currently available evidence for the existence of the
Ivory-billed Woodpecker is posted at:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=211781934539

If you would be willing to spend a few minutes
answering the fifteen questions, I would be grateful.
All responses are anonymous. At some point in the
future I will make the results of the survey public.
If others can forward this message to pertinent
listserves or blogs I would be most grateful.

Floyd E. Hayes
Department of Biology
Pacific Union College
Angwin, CA 94508, USA
..........................................................................................

...my guess is, that if the sample size is large enough (it may not be) the survey results will be strewn across the categories much more widely than some might anticipate (i.e., not just two polarized camps of 'believers' and 'skeptics').

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

 

-- Still More Luneau Analysis --

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Can't let Bill Pulliam's hard work go to waste, so I'll refer folks again to his ongoing further analysis of the Luneau video (which most know I'm exasperated with); the Mon. Aug. 21 entry, including comments, is particularly interesting; but again I think Bill is simply proving my point that nothing can be finally resolved by this film clip (...or it would've been by now!). And I'll stick by my own conclusion that even if the bird in question is a muscovy duck ; - ))), it barely makes a twit of difference to the overall Cornell evidence.
For the sake of accuracy and consistency though I do wish henceforth the birding community would require videotaping and field notes of all birds counted and turned in on future Christmas counts (sheeesh... talk about brief sightings and unverified data!).

http://bbill.blogspot.com/
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-- May As Well Check Elsewhere --

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Blog traffic has spiked up considerably this week which I presume is from people searching for additional Ivory-bill rumor info -- save the mouse clicks folks: probably won't be reporting any additional info or specifics beyond what I've previously posted or is floating around elsewhere on the Web -- if the story breaks in cyberspace before the principals make an announcement, it will be at some other newsgroup, listserv, chat room, or blog, not here (similarly, with but a few exceptions, I won't be adding further specifics in private emails either), though I might comment on info being reported if I think it is highly misleading or false. Otherwise will await the official disclosure by those involved, which might not come 'til the Oct. AOU Convention.
Of course many skeptics have already decided any such rumors are hokum anyway, and some of them no longer have much choice in what they think since painting themselves into a corner from which free unbiased thought is far more impossible than the survival of IBWOs. The pertinent questiion is not 'do Ivory-bills exist?,' but rather, 'in how many different locales do they exist?' And the other burning question that will eventually need addressing is, 'why did American ornithology so utterly fail this species for 60 years?'
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

 

-- Possibly Of Interest --

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Fielding Lewis (alias, "the Chief" of some IBWO literature) who took controversial and still unresolved photos of an Ivory-bill in the Atchafalaya region of Louisiana 30+ years ago which were passed on to premier La. birder George Lowery (largely bringing him scorn), authored a book later in life (1988) of his La. adventures, including some of his IBWO anecdotes: Tales of a Louisiana Duck Hunter. Almost by accident I just came across this site that currently listed several copies for sale ranging from $15 to $95! (didn't happen to look at Amazon):

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?&isbn=0533078431&nsa=1

(Tim Gallagher's book, The Grail Bird, has an entire chapter, entitled "The Boxer," devoted to meeting/chatting with Lewis.)
And still to this day, Louisiana's Atchafalaya region is one of the most likely (and difficult) locales which can be expected to harbor Ivory-bills.
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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

 

-- Just a Reminder --

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There are only a few ways to demonstrate the likely extinction of an entire species:

1. Await a long passage of time (100's of years) over which the species is no longer observed.

2. Conduct thorough searches of all locales the species might inhabit and find none.

3. Carry out some adequate combination of both the above (a shorter passage of time, but with an adequate search, and no reports).

Pterodactyls and Moas are thusly most likely extinct. Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, not even close. Everyone agrees they were around as recently as 60 years ago, and they have been reported repeatedly ever since, with thorough, organized searches being undertaken only recently in many quarters.

So just a reminder to those folks who are fond of saying, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" -- the extinction of an entire species IS an extraordinary claim, and yes, it requires extraordinary evidence. By all means, let me know when you have some; I'd be interested in seeing it.
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Monday, August 21, 2006

 

-- Wambaw Creek --

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I'll just throw this out for what it's worth to the powers-that-be, and especially to those involved in the South Carolina searches. I have an acquaintance who has said for years, based both on rumors and his own knowledge of the area, that the Wambaw Creek area off the Santee in S.C. may well harbor Ivory-bills (parts of it are almost inaccessible). I trust this individual's gut instincts a lot, and mention the area because last spring's S.C. search seemed to focus only on the Congaree, so I'm not certain how much attention has been paid to the Santee, and specifically, the Wambaw area recently. Bob Russell makes mention of Wambaw Creek in his list of top areas and Jerry Jackson also speaks favorably of it in his volume.
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Sunday, August 20, 2006

 

-- Golden Oldie --

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Once again I'll just return to a golden oldie post from about a year ago which was focussed on the Arkansas find, but the gist of which still holds true for all future finds:
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"There are many reasons to believe in the Ivory-bill's existence, but I've said for several years, that if I had to pick out just one reason it would be the VERY SAME one most birders use to argue for the bird's demise: HABITAT! Most folks claim there is no suitable habitat remaining for this species. To the contrary, the number of remote, little-accessed, dense Southern forest patches available that could sustain 1-2 pairs of IBWOs (not to mention non-breeding juveniles) has long been SIGNIFICANT and growing. In the current Smithsonian magazine (Aug. 2005), top-notch birder Scott Weidensaul says this:

"And there is another, far more potent reason for hope. I've birded all over the country, but the Big Woods area was a revelation to me -- a vast, beautiful chunk of wild land." (italics added).

If this area was a "revelation" to someone as knowledgeable and experienced as Scott, than how much other habitat has been ignored by the country's birders? Jerry Jackson argued for years that revised forestry practices have allowed possible adequate IBWO habitat to INCREASE substantially over the decades, NOT decrease, as people blindly presume.

A lot of headlines in ensuing months will go understandably to the Cornell guys (and gals), but truly MUCH recognition ought to also be directed to David Luneau, Bob Russell, Mary Scott, and others unsung who, in the presence of deaf ears, have been telling us for years that the habitat IS OUT THERE, and who specifically honed-in on the Arkansas region. THANKS guys, for leading the way when others, with their words... or their silence, failed to do so...."
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Actually, there will be yet some others, not commonly associated with Ivory-bills, soon getting headlines, but the basic above points still hold. As has been written before, in terms of habitat, both historically and currently, Florida most likely holds the most Ivory-bills, followed by Louisiana and Mississippi. At best, the Arkansas population may only be fourth on the list and it could conceivably be as low as 8th (behind Ga., Al., S.C., and TX.), though I'd be doubtful of that. Still, Scott W.'s insight should be a "revelation" for all.
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Friday, August 18, 2006

 

-- That Magic Guy (+addendum) --

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I'd been trying to avoid all this but for anyone not already aware of it, "Bill 'Magic Guy' Smith" has long claimed Ivory-bill finds in Florida and has now posted a fuller-sized version of his controversial photo from many months ago here:

http://www.birdforum.net/attachment.php?attachmentid=55456

His no-longer-active website is here:

http://billismad.tripod.com/mysearchfortheivorybilledwoodpecker/index.html

And if you haven't been following the current debate on BirdForum (Ivory-bill 'formerly Updates' thread) you can go here and read backwards to try and to play catchup on Bill's claims.

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?p=660169#post660169


I remain highly skeptical of his picture and reports for reasons I won't elaborate, but am glad to see he is at least finally taking time to defend his position publicly and thereby possibly persuading myself and other doubters of his unusual claims at some point. But I place the links here only for my readers' interest and so they can make up their own minds, NOT as an endorsement of his claims which I don't find credible thus far
(though I'd be thrilled to be wrong on this), and which will likely be made somewhat moot in the near future anyway.

Also, on another BirdForum Ivory-bill thread 'Insights and Current Reports,' for any obsessive-compulsive folks not already aware of it, there is ongoing discussion/analysis of Mike Collins' latest video claims from his Pearl River search last season:

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?p=660169#post660169


or, go directly to his site: http://www.fishcrow.com/winter06.html

ADDENDUM: I think I'll carry this one step further -- "Bill" has repeatedly indicated contacts with Fla. state officials (FWS and/or others) who are aware of his claims and know of the presence of IBWOs and may in fact even have their own photos. I would be interested... needless to say... to hear from any such official through email (confidentiality assured) who can verify the agency he/she works with, and who has met with Bill and is willing to vouch for the credibility/veracity/validity (whatever) of Bill's claims: cyberthrush@wildmail.com
Or, any such official who has met with Bill and cares to pass along information otherwise may also write.
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-- Attn: Boston Terrier Lovers --

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OFF-TOPIC Sidebar:

Many, if not most of you are familiar with Julie Zickefoose, fine bird artist, wonderful nature writer, (and IBWO enthusiast). You may or may not know of her adopted 4-legged child, "Chet Baker," a Boston Terrier who runs his own internet blog (but allows Julie to attach her name to it). Anyway, Chet is ill, causing Julie much high anxiety. If you're a pet-lover, dog-lover, or certainly a Boston Terrier-lover you might want to drop her a line with your positive thoughts:

http://www.juliezickefoose.com/blog/index.php
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Thursday, August 17, 2006

 

-- 1 Year Ago Today --

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Below is a verbatim copy of a post I made exactly one year ago (Aug. 17, 2005), worth repeating I think, because these 21 sightings represent only the tip of the iceberg of Ivory-bill reports over the years, and yet clearly indicate the potential breadth of distribution of this species, so hastily written off (again and again and again). Please show me a map of the credible reports of Passenger Pigeons or Carolina Parakeets over that same time period. I suspect the difference would be stunning, and telling:
"Planning your next IBWO search?: here's a link to a nice range map from Birder's World Magazine listing 21 of the most notable Ivorybill sightings since 1944 (out of 100's of reports that have been made over that time -- there have, for example, been many more rumors of IBWOs in Texas, South Carolina, and Louisiana than herein indicated). Map does illustrate how IBWO sightings have been distributed across a large chunk of the species' old range, and certainly not confined to any one state or area."
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-- Cha-Cha-Cha --

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just dancin' the night away (well, in my head anyway)... and noticing, for-what-its-worth, that American southern geography is chockfull of wonderful, choice-sounding names like, Chattanooga, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctawhatchee, Chokoloskee, Chatooga, Chipola, Chippewa, Chattahoochee. Charming, ehhhh?
Apalachicola and Atchafalaya kinda roll off the tongue real nice too, and several others too numerous to mention. So many places, and so many imponderables, and so little thyme... in the garden.

-- Ciao, or should I say, Cheers

... ohhh, on a side note, and sorry to get so commercial, but in case you're into juicing, I bought a Breville Juicer machine awhile back (available on the Web, if not locally), and highly recommend it -- has a large, accomodating food corridor that I just put an incredible 9 PEARS through; maybe even more possible... but enough marketing for the moment (you can always check out eBay for Ivory-bill-related items here).
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

 

-- Match Game --

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Pens and pads ready? Today, time out for a pop quiz ---
Can you correctly match up these first and last names of some accomplished birders/ornithologists from past and present:


1. Cliff ........................... a. Short
2. Steve ........................ b. McGowan
3. Lester ....................... c. Kroodsma
4. Joel .......................... d. Shackleford
5. Pete .......................... e. Parker
6. Theodore .................. f. Nowicki
7. Geoff ........................ g. Vleck
8. Donald ...................... h. Weidensaul
9. Clay .......................... i. Hill
10. Kevin ....................... j. Dunne
11. Carol ....................... k. Sutton
12. Scott ........................ l. Welty

============================================

correct answers below:
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

1d, 2f, 3a, 4l, 5j, 6e, 7i, 8c, 9k, 10b, 11g, 12h

Scoring:

10-12 right --- Excellent
7-9 --- Good
5-6 --- Fair
3-4 --- Not As Good
0-2 --- probably a Tom Nelson disciple
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

 

-- AOU Meeting --

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About a month-and-a-half ago a certain blogmeister up Minnesota-way wrote the following in reference to this year's American Ornithologists' Union upcoming October meeting in Veracruz (which he probably won't be attending, or having much fun at if he does) :
"Here is a link to the scientific program. I see some Cornell names there, but I don't see any mention of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Can anyone out there predict what (if anything) will happen, Ivory-bill-wise, at that meeting? "
I suspect by now some folks reading this could make those predictions... but geee... why spoil the suspense for him.
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Monday, August 14, 2006

 

-- The Power of the Web --

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Lo and behold (it's a little scary!)... back on July 20th I wrote a post in reference to an Internet outfit that was selling Ivory-bill-related T-shirts and rather tongue-in-cheek suggested several options they should add to their line-up. They've now actually added some of those:

http://www.cafepress.com/servopuff/1726766

...wonderful, the influence of the Web --- I don't have any connection/ties to this company, so go ahead and buy up a dozen-or-so of them T-shirts; they'll make nifty Columbus Day presents. And if any of YOU have suggestions you'd like to see reach fruition in the future just send them along to me on the back of a $20 bill and I'll see what I can do ; - )
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Link

Sunday, August 13, 2006

 

-- Another Anniversary --

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This month marks the 40-year anniversary since birders Bedford Brown Jr. and Jeffrey Sanders reported watching a PAIR of Ivory-bills scaling beetle-infested pines for 16 MINUTES near Eglin Air Force Base (1966), in a sighting that John Dennis regarded as valid. Somewhat interesting, for what it's worth, that Mike Collins' current IBWO claims come from near Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, and furthermore, in general, I now get an unusual number of 'hits' at my blog originating from military bases -- does the military or Air Force know something others don't, or just a lot of birders serving in uniform these days???
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Saturday, August 12, 2006

 

-- Gotta Have One --

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If you just kent get enough Ivory-bill wares to suit you, one of the companies making those plush little audible bird toys most of you are probably familiar with, has come out with a wonderful Ivory-billed Woodpecker edition. Look for it at your local retailer/bird store or go here on the internet:

http://www.tableandhome.com/prodhiagc

....and you'll probably want to purchase one before the price goes up.
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-- Varieties of Skepticism --

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There's skepticism... and then there's schlepticism ; - ), of the sort that overwhelms the Web. Many will be surprised to hear me say I know few people more skeptical by nature than myself -- only my skepticism runs the gamut across all of science (not to mention government, religion, business, art, and oh yeah, tarot reading). Long ago I cancelled membership in a well-known international "skeptics" organization having become too skeptical of their biases and approach to matters. Having worked most of my adulthood in genetics and medicine I remain highly skeptical of those fields (and the life sciences in general) -- they are chockfull of imprecision, built-in biases, unspoken assumptions, and poorly-thought-out methodologies (not to mention fudged data and experimentation), rarely acknowledged in public. Indeed, most money spent in science is poured down a rat hole... BUUUT, that's simply the price we pay for the brilliant and life-changing science which, through it all, bubbles to the surface -- still, few in the public understand the process.

Anyway, my skepticism doesn't begin in 2005 like so much of the Web-based blathering, or for that matter with Ivory-bill reports of the 1950's; it begins with the 1942 release of James Tanner's study and followup commentary. Once one realizes, critically, the weakness of the generalizations/conclusions in that work it changes how one approaches all future claims/reports/evidence on the subject --
extinction was a possibility, but in terms of probabilities, which is all science can ever go on, that possibility (of extinction) was slim given the multitude of ongoing reports to the contrary (technically, there is NEVER PROOF in science, only evidence and probabilities -- go channel Heisenberg, or better yet Godel, if you don't understand this... or just skip it 'cuz it ain't worth arguing over). For 60 years the evidence and probabilities have simply pointed opposite of what most so-called skeptics think about IBWOs. And so while schleptics continue to believe in something (extinction) that CANNOT be substantiated in the near term (and lacks any good evidence) I believe in something that can... and will.
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Friday, August 11, 2006

 

-- Mr. Cyberthrush's Neighborhood --

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Hey boys and girls can you say "c-o-n-s-e-r-v-a-t-i-o-n," or how about "l-a-n-d a-c-q-u-i-s-i-t-i-o-n," or maybe "r-e-g-u-l-a-t-o-r-y c-o-d-e-s," or "r-e-s-e-a-r-c-h p-r-o-t-o-c-o-l-s" --- these are a few of the important things that must be set in place before any local Ivory-bill recovery plans can be announced, and often they require time. Once accomplished though there just might be some supercalifragilisticexpialadocious news.
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Thursday, August 10, 2006

 

-- So Ya Wanna Be An Ornithologist --

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-- in that case you might want to check out all the graduate programs you have to choose from (...a lot more than just Cornell out there):

http://www.ummz.umich.edu/birds/Gradwinweb.html
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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

 

-- The Rumor Mill --

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Multiple rumors around this summer of Ivory-bill finds. The most detailed rumor/story will supposedly be released within 2 months (although, if real, I suspect, like the original Cornell story, it will break out over the internet ahead of time, though NOT at my site). While very hopeful, some of the specifics out there still sound a tad suspicious/fanciful to me, so as usual it's a waiting game for now
(I've been waiting 40+ years, another few months or yrs. is nnnnuthin'). Other rumors afloat are less fleshed-out and will probably require further follow-up through the winter months when leaves are off the trees. And for-what-it's-worth, all the buzz that I'm hearing is from NON-Arkansas states -- not too surprising (given the scarcity of summer AR. searching). No one ever said that documenting rare, endangered, sparse, cavity-dwelling, deep woods, swamp-loving, wary, quick-moving species should be easy... and, lo-and-behold, it isn't.
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

 

-- 'tis the season --

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Maybe I've stirred the pot enough for awhile (that was fun)... so will keep it short and simple today:

"To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose, under heaven"

~ Pete Seeger/Ecclesiates (...and hey, appropriately, made into a hit by 'The Byrds')
...'nuf said, for the moment.


(...tomorrow, probably a brief blurb about the rumor mill).
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Sunday, August 06, 2006

 

-- Why Skeptics Don't Get It --

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Hey, it's a tiresome job, but someone's gotta do it -- so for one last time I'll enumerate why skeptics have it wrong:

1. They greatly UNDERestimate the amount of adequate habitat available for Ivory-bills at any given time.
2. They greatly OVERestimate the amount of previous serious searching carried out (hardly any large-scale, organized searching before 2002); and with typical human arrogance place unwarranted faith in the competency and thoroughness of previous searching, when in fact very limited numbers birders have ever actually accessed likely Ivory-bill habitat for any significant length of time.
3. They wholly underestimate the tenaciousness and adaptability of living things in general, and this species in particular.
4. They fail to comprehend the tremendous ease with which winged creatures can both escape detection and seek out new habitat.
5. They fail to realize that with the elimination of hunting of this species in the early 20th century the remaining IBWOs were given plenty of 'breathing room' to stabilize and regenerate their population.
6. They falsely use a pre-conceived and premature notion of extinction to automatically discount future claims of the bird's existence; failing in short, to keep an open, objective mind (as scientists MUST do) regarding future evidence, yet blindly accepting, with no scientific critiquing, past conclusions/generalizations about the species, that lack a solid basis. In short, they fail to realize or acknowledge that it is ALWAYS easier to criticize, or offer alternative explanations for, any controversial viewpoint (such as Ivory-bill existence), than it is to conclusively substantiate the same. Many skeptics have simply never read the Ivory-bill literature either thoroughly or objectively or critically, but formed opinions based merely on what others say.
7. They utterly fail to comprehend the difficulty of getting photographic evidence of such a deep woods creature, falsely assuming any bird this large should be easy to capture on film. Indeed they seem to labor under the false notion that MOST birds in this country actually get seen and identified by birders, when in actuality most individual birds (including large ones) live their entire lives unseen by birders. Only a small percentage of what is out there is ever recorded by humans, let alone by cameras.
8. They consistently OVERestimate the physical similarity between Ivory-bills and Pileateds concluding (almost insultingly) that experienced birders could repeatedly mistake one for the other.
And so we are told to blithely accept the skeptics' cursory cerebral armchair analyses, while routinely discounting the direct on-site observations/conclusions of any others.
9. In a day of instant-this and instant-that, they lack the basic patience and persistence required of real science, and wrongly regard 60 years as a significant amount of time in the life of a species. They operate on the assumption that a lack of solid confirmation for a claim is somehow tantamount to refutation of the claim, and that because some claims were clearly cases of mistaken identification, therefore all were.
10. They ignore the 'law of large numbers' -- the more times an occurrence is reported (in this case, Ivory-bill sightings) the greater the likelihood that some of those reports are true. Co-current species to the IBWO like the Passenger Pigeon and Carolina Parakeet have been reported little over the same time period supporting the likelihood of their actual extinction, while the IBWO was being reported over and over and over again.
11. In the particular instance of the Arkansas claims they focused far too much time, energy, and thought on a single 4-second piece of video, rather than looking fully, objectively, at the entire range of evidence past and present.
12. And finally, they simply feed off each others' cynicism to reinforce their own preconceptions, rather than realistically assessing the probabilities of each new claim -- they are so deeply entrenched in their own regimented "groupthink," and fanciful notions, assumptions, and circular reasoning they fail to even recognize it. The key difference between myself and the skeptics, however, is not that I know more about Ivory-billed Woodpeckers than they do, but rather that I fully recognize just how little I (we) know about these birds, while skeptics continuously operate on the foolhardy assumption that they know a lot.
The loggers, collectors, and hunters of yesteryear may be forgiven for their actions, simply normal for their time; it will be more difficult to forgive skeptics however for their ruinously persistent failures should those lead to the Ivory-bill's final demise.

13. Oh, and did I forget to mention it, they are stubbornly boneheaded.

OR, ...so it seems to me.
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"The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge."
~ Daniel Boorstein

"Patience is a bitter plant, but its fruit is sweet." ~ Jean Jacques Rousseau
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Saturday, August 05, 2006

 

-- Just The Beginning --

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One thing I've found interesting over the course of the last year is the number of backwoods/swamper types who have come out of the Arkansas' Big Woods area (either on their own, or as part of the Cornell team) to say that the Big Woods is nowhere near as remote or dense or impenetrable as implied early on by Cornell, and that there were far more genuinely inhospitable bottomland/swamp areas elsewhere through the South. Whether Cornell intentionally painted an especially harsh picture of the Big Woods in order to dissuade large numbers of weekend birders from rushing down there, or whether the initial Cornell crew was simply too inexperienced with deep swamp habitat to recognize truly difficult and inaccessible woodland from more mediocre landscape, I don't know. But what is clear by now is that the Big Woods isn't the end-of-the-line of areas needing searching... rather, it is barely a beginning.
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Friday, August 04, 2006

 

-- Pre-think --

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Recent TV news segments have recounted how 10 years ago inept FBI agents took the easy, convenient route
(based on virtually no evidence) of pursuing an innocent Richard Jewell as the Atlanta Olympic Park bomber, rather than undertake the necessary homework to identify and catch Eric Rudolph who would turn out to be the real culprit and survive 7 more years of Federal blundering before finally being captured by a rookie local N.C. police officer. Therein lies a textbook case of false assumptions, narrow thinking, and the subjugation of reason, evidence, and responsibility to feeble presumptions. For lack of a better term, I'll call this "pre-think," when folks use ill-substantiated preconceptions to draw conclusions rather than engage in the legwork necessary to find the truth (kind of like our current Neo-Con leaders do in establishing policy prior to, and unencumbered by, the thought process ; - ) ...Today's Ivory-bill skeptics fall (or saunter sheep-like?) into the same category, narrowly, lazily stuck on notions spoon-fed to us since the 1940s. The claimed 'definitiveness' of James Tanner's study and resultant clamor of 'extinction' are powerfully biasing and presumptive notions if one allows them to be, impeding an objective, open-minded consideration of the full panoply of evidence out there... from the past, the present, and in all likelihood, still to come.
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Thursday, August 03, 2006

 

-- More On Habitat --

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This article out today on the use of laser-based technology to identify more possible Ivory-bill habitat:

http://newswire.ascribe.org/cgi-bin/behold.pl?ascribeid=20060803.075025&time=09%2028%20PDT&year=2006&public=0

...I'm bettin' they're still gonna miss some spots.
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-- Biding Time --

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Yo Verne, not a whole Hilluva lot o' hard news to report at the moment, so fer-what-it's-worth jest anutha IBWO article (ya-a-a-wwwn) from last year (May 2005) to peruse 'til things pick up a little, or a lot :

https://www.annistonstar.com/opinion/2005/as-editorials-0504-jflemingcol-5e03r1749.htm


...meanwhile, to any searchers trudging through this stifling heat and swelter, may the forest be with you!! ; - )

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

 

-- THE Man For The Job --

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Have been noticing lately the increasing number of Brits active on the 'BirdForum' Ivory-bill threads, and also witnessing a greater number of visits to my blog site from British URLs, and it got me to thinking that maybe we need to get all these rank-amateur, young American boyish whippersnappers (Fitzpatrick, Gallagher, Harrison, Jackson, Remsen etc.) off this Ivory-bill case and turn it over to the one man who can undoubtedly find and film these birds within a 60-minute documentary outing: 80-year-old Sir David Attenborough!! Wouldn't that be a fine way to cap his incredible career (which includes BTW bringing 'Monty Python's Flying Circus' to television). Yo David, it's just a thought if you're out there listening and sipping tea somewhere....

On a completely different note, at another blog, I just came across this older post (Nov. 2005) that includes links to several older, interesting but less-frequently-viewed articles on the Ivory-bill:

http://clarkmtnmusings.blogspot.com/2005/11/its-open-birdline-monday-special-focus_21.html
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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

 

-- More Flap-Rate Analysis --

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For those intrigued by wingbeat data of Pileateds vs. IBWO I'll refer you to this graphic analysis posted by Bill Pulliam:

http://bbill.blogspot.com/2006/07/woodpecker-wingbeats-without-comment.html

I'm somewhat agnostic about wingbeat analysis given the small sample size available and many uncontrolled variables involved, and Bill himself similarly cautions against reaching hard conclusions, but each piece of analysis is worth a look, and as with Cornell's analysis, Bill's graph indicates the flap rate for the Luneau videotaped bird possibly outside the usual range for a Pileated.

(p.s. -- I'm breaking my own self-imposed rule-of-thumb here in even making reference to the Luneau video which has been beaten to death.)
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