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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.
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"....The truth is out there."

-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

-- Hamlet

"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer






Saturday, March 31, 2007

 

-- Apalachicola --

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Article on the ongoing search in Florida's Apalachicola/Chipola region (about 90 mi. east of the Choctawhatchee area) here:

http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007703310321

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Friday, March 30, 2007

 

-- A Dangerous Idea? --


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I seem to be promoting a number of books/writers lately who I happen to enjoy, so yet another: Over the last 10+ years, (nonscientist) John Brockman has edited several wonderful anthologies of short essays by top-notch scientists/thinkers on all manner of cutting edge thought. In fact he runs a website, edge.org, that brims with mind-expanding offerings from major scientists for lay readers (and each other). I just picked up his latest volume, in which scientists were asked to pose a "dangerous idea" they had that just might turn out to be true (in a sense, these are largely ideas that might prove to be scientifically valid, but 'culturally' or 'politically incorrect.').

Anyway, in leafing through the book, it occurred to me that for many the idea of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker yet being alive in multiple locales and having escaped human detection for decades, may in fact be a 'dangerous idea' (ok, not truly in the sense Brockman uses it) --- the notion that so many (humans), could've been so mistaken, for so long a time, about such a significant case, is just too much for some scientists (especially if they're in that group) to acknowledge as a real possibility, and they cling to the more comforting and committed view that the species is extinct, lest ornithological gospel and texts have to be re-written. Indeed, if they are wrong in this instance, how many other long-held beliefs about animal behavior/cognition/adaptation are wrong as well...? But in actuality this is often how science progresses, not by being right all the time, but by discovering where it is wrong, and working to avert such error in the future.
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Thursday, March 29, 2007

 

-- Again, Into the Mire --

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In a post entitled "Walking through the Luneau mire" Bill Pulliam once again walks us through his interpretation of the Luneau video, or maybe more appropriately, the Luneau artifacts and shadows; interesting, if only because his view doesn't totally coincide with Cornell, let alone with any of the skeptics. But clearly folks will take issue with some of his notions (at least folks who can bear to read any more Luneau analysis... and we're still waiting to get the official Cornell rebuttal to Collinson as well). I continue to believe that the issues are unresolvable, and that yes, it is possible under some circumstances for a Pileated to appear IBWO-like in fuzzy video (though based on the amount and positioning of white on the Luneau bird, the 'oaring' motion of wings, and wingbeat frequency, "Ivory-bill" remains the best fit for that particular blurry image). What is important is that people realize we are still dealing with a very open question here, and not permit skeptics their rashness of referring to the Luneau video as "debunked." Neither it, nor any of the Cornell sightings, nor any published sightings since, have even been close to debunked, just because it is possible to manufacture alternative explanations. Oh and by the way, let me tell you what really happened when the American Gov't. claimed they landed men on the moon...

One thing I do wonder though, is to what degree the so-called "Sibley" position, was actually generated by his co-authors, and David granted first-authorship simply to add more gravitas to their case (and if that was the plan, it worked!) --- David is recognized for his on-site field expertise, which doesn't even necessarily translate to any more skill in interpreting blurry film than possessed by any number of amateurs out there, let alone the team at Cornell. And on and on it goes....
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

 

-- FWIW --

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Of interest, this posting by Harry LeGrand on the Carolina birding listserv:

http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/CARO.html#1175046101

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

 

--"Awareness of how little we really know and understand" --

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Sorry, just another diversion today, to a blog post by one of my favorite science writers, Chet Raymo, (not directly IBWO-related, and yet, I would argue, not entirely disconnected either):

http://www.sciencemusings.com/blog/2007/03/shaving-close.html

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Monday, March 26, 2007

 

-- Whatever... --

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News story on the Texas Big Thicket Ivory-bill search here:

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Science/2007/03/25/3829397-ap.html

Update on Choctawhatchee acoustic detections from Dr. Mennill here:

http://web2.uwindsor.ca/courses/biology/dmennill/IBWO/IBWO07News.html

And cyberthrush rant here:

The Ivorybill debate includes ongoing disputes over blurry video, large cavities, interesting sounds, foraging signs, and other evidence that can be analyzed to death to little avail. My own quarrel with most skeptics though, boils down to more basic differences in perception: skeptics see "birders" as a large group of folks who, over time, have thoroughly surveyed prospective IBWO habitat; I see a relatively small group who only rarely venture into the more remote and interior portions of such habitat. Skeptics perceive 60 years without a clearcut photograph as a lengthy period of time; I see it as an insignificant amount of time, given the relatively recent emphasis on and availability of photography to most birders. Skeptics assume the Ivory-bill extinct and operate off that presumption; I've seen NO solid evidence for such an assumption and proceed otherwise. Though I typically view glasses as half-empty where others see them as half-full, in this lone instance the tables are turned, and skeptics see a glass as 9/10's empty, which I see clearly as 4/5's full!

Oddly, in all of this, IBWO skeptics seem to accept unblinkingly the validity and usefulness of routine bird counts, bird lists, species taxonomy and classification, most data in journal articles --- all of which I believe worthy of skepticism. But the one thing which carries weight for me, is the one thing they routinely dismiss: confident, repeated sightings of Ivory-bills by credible observers, who are well-acquainted with Pileated Woodpeckers, and who don't merely say, "I think I saw an Ivory-bill," or "I may have seen an Ivory-bill," but quite directly, "I SAW an Ivory-billed Woodpecker." I'm not talking here of the 100s (maybe by now 1000s) of reports by less credible figures over the years, which
ARE indeed mostly cases of mistaken identification, but am referring to the residue of dozens of reports across locales, across decades, and under varying circumstances, by experienced individuals who fully understand the seriousness of the claims they make, and feel certain of the sight they've seen. If all these individuals, with their credentials, are wrong time and time again, they are not merely 'mistaken,' as skeptics politely assert, but they must be, as skeptics surely believe, foolish, to account for SUCH a magnitude of error. One can argue the nuances of a video back-and-forth for the next decade, but faced with a knowledgeable person who tells you that they know they saw an Ivory-bill, you can only call them a liar or a fool... or, believe them; that is the fundamental choice before us.

So skeptics resort to notions of "groupthink," "wishful thinking," "self-fulfilling prophecy," arising over and over and over again, to explain this succession of errors, as if THIS is of higher probability than a bird simply being extant in wide expanses of habitat and evading documentation for decades (as other birds have done, and continue to do); so biased are they by an unsubstantiated notion of species-extinction and self-imposed reliance on photographic evidence --- and so (falsely) convinced are they of the thoroughness and infallibility of past human searches (...truly something to be skeptical of).

If there were NO sounds, cavities, and signs of interest it would cast a shadow on the plausibility of sightings, and so I am glad they are there and being studied, but they will not yield the definitive answers sought. 'Sightings' by knowledgeable observers, are what always have and will be, the crux of birding --- has any other species ever been reported so repeatedly and then been shown to be extinct? And should that indisputable photo or video arise 3 months or 3 years from now, what words will skeptics then use: "miraculous," "extraordinary," "incredible," "astonishing".... or the only word that might actually be apropos... "inevitable."

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Friday, March 23, 2007

 

-- Articles --

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Recent Ivory-bill article from long-time birder/writer Jim Williams here:

http://www.startribune.com/418/v-print/story/1065193.html

And story on biologist and Cornell volunteer Leah Filo (including audio) here:

http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news.php?getnewsfordate=1&mm=03&dd=23&yyyy=2007#8902
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Thursday, March 22, 2007

 

-- Snowflakes... Off-topic, Maybe Not --

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One of my readers sends in this surprisingly long N.Y. Times article on snowflakes (specifically, giant ones):

http://news.aol.com/topnews/articles/_a/snowflakes-as-big-as-frisbees/20070320114909990001

Pertains to probabilities and rare occurrences... the very last line from an amateur weather watcher certainly applies to the IBWO saga:
“It’s a matter of being at the right place at the right time,” Mr. Close said of the unusual show. “Sometimes you get lucky.”
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

 

-- Auburn Update --

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Dr. Hill gives another update from the Choctawhatchee here, reporting on a couple of specific auditory encounters outside of their main focus area (no photo/video). Also, notes that potential IBWO sounds have declined in March from February, as might be expected if the birds have gone to nest... and an active nesthole of course would be the ultimate coup for any search group.

If you haven't yet got your hands on Dr. Hill's book you might want to read this posting from Fangsheath over at IBWO Researchers Forum, which summarizes a few of the notions therein:

http://www.ibwo.net/forum/showpost.php?p=1450&postcount=27

Dr. Hill is also due to release at some point their early IBWO video from the Choc. which was never deemed of sufficient quality for publication. Certainly we all enjoy seeing every shred of evidence available for these birds, but I'd caution folks not to expect too much from this piece of data... except likely more argument over 'artifacts,' 'shadow,' 'bleeding,' 'angle,' and the like.
BTW, I think Dr. Hill is to be highly commended for the openness and regularity of his public communications with interested parties --- a much higher frequency and degree of
disclosure than seen from any other organized search group (having said that, there are good reasons for the non-disclosure of information in certain circumstances).
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-- Jackson Talks of Pascagoula --

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Short but interesting interview with Jerry Jackson here.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

 

-- Obits --

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The Choctaw. Team Nokuse blog has some links to stories about the unexpected Saturday death of wildlife artist Larry Chandler, whose depictions of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker are, by now, familiar to most (I have his license plate rendition and it is one of my favorites of the many IBWO portraits now available).
In an odd quirk of timing, the very following day, long-time birder and outspoken Ivory-bill skeptic Noel Wamer died at home in Florida; no details known to this writer.


...Another aside: feel compelled to pass along a new blog encountered while following some Ivory-bill links (it happens to have one IBWO-related post, but the blog looks interesting in its own right):

http://pinesabovesnow.blogspot.com/index.html

It's hosted by a writer I'm not familliar with, Julie Dunlap, but if you're a nature-lover or a Thoreau-lover, as I suspect many of my readers are, it looks of interest.

...and one final aside: a car in front of me today bore the following bumper sticker: "We're creating enemies faster than we can kill 'em" --- boy, if THAT doesn't sum up the achievements of an Administration 'twisting slowly, slowly in the wind'.....
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Monday, March 19, 2007

 

-- Atchafalaya and... --

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Another letdown in-so-much as the Cornell mobile search team doesn't say much IBWO-wise from Louisiana's Atchafalaya --- habitat not as impressive overall as one might've expected. They also spent some time at the Red River Refuge farther north --- I would hope this means they also took a look-see at the adjacent Three Rivers WMA, although they don't specifically mention it. Nor do they say where they are off to next (Texas Big Thicket, or staying in LA. a tad longer???). Their latest report here:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/current0607/MSTtravellog/document_view

So, with a slow news day, I'll throw out a couple items of personal interest that recently caught my attention, but are totally non-Ivorybill-related (one of the perks of doing a blog, no matter what you claim your topic is, you can, on a moment's notice, promote some personal interest to a captive audience : - ))

1) I think Douglas Hofstadter (computer scientist, Indiana University) is one of the most wonderful and original thinkers of our times (which is NOT to imply that I comprehend even 50% of what he writes!) --- he has a new volume out on human consciousness, I Am A Strange Loop. If the workings of the human mind are of interest to you I suspect this volume will offer MUCH food for thought, and if you're already a Hofstadter fan than I need say no more, it'll be a must-read.

2)...and, something completely different: did we all have an ant farm as a kid? MY favorite insect is the Praying Mantis (I mean are they CO-O-O-O-L or what...), and I've sometimes thought, semi-seriously, that they would make great pets!! So yet another of cyberthrush's million-dollar ideas has been absconded with! --- I just noticed there are now "Praying Mantis Kits" in the toy stores that offer you a praying mantis environment to set up, and then apparently send away for an egg case they will mail you to put in place and watch the little guys from hatching thru jaw-chomping adulthood. Some may think it a bit exploitive, but I gotta think it beats ant farm. The box says for ages 8 and up (...hey, that's ME!!).

Tomorrow... hopefully back to the Lord God Bird.
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Sunday, March 18, 2007

 

-- Lord God Bird Film et.al.--

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Once again, back to John Trapp today, who has an interesting review of sorts of George Butler's unfinished "The Lord God Bird" documentary over at his "Ivorybillsetcetera" blog (just kidding):

http://birdstuff.blogspot.com/2007/03/i-just-saw-lord-god-bird.html

I know several folks have gotten Geoff Hill's new Ivorybill book over the Web, but still hearing from others who can't find it in local bookstores, and last I heard even Dr. Hill hadn't yet received his copies from Oxford Press. Don't know what that's all about. Nor since chancing upon the one lone copy I purchased have I seen it in my own local area; so for those having trouble finding it apparently you're in good company.

Surely this coming week we'll get updates from both Auburn and the Cornell mobile team...?

And heyyy, what's happened to the Septic? Wherefore art thou Ivorybilled Septic??? I'm having to revert to 'Dilbert' for my daily chuckles.


Addendum: On a sad note, David Luneau notes that Larry Chandler, who was responsible for some of the most widely seen Ivory-bill art since the Arkansas rediscovery, died March 16 from pneumonia complications.
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Saturday, March 17, 2007

 

-- ...And Just For Fun --

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For the gamers amongst us! :

I s'pose it was bound to happen, although I still never would've predicted it --- John Trapp alerts us to a new PC birding simulation game in which the ultimate prize... of course... is re-discovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker! (I'm sure this moves rapidly high up onto T. Nelson's next Christmas list! ; - )
Check out more of the details here:

http://birdstuff.blogspot.com/2007/03/stealth-bird-watching.html

(Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I'll probably stick to Scrabble and gin rummy...)

In the meanwhile, what's taking the Cornell mobile team so much time in the Atchafalaya...?
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Friday, March 16, 2007

 

-- Collinson Followup... or, Let's All Move Along --



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By a sheer quirk of timing apparently, David Sibley et.al. have just published another letter in SCIENCE (which M. Collinson says makes his paper "irrelevant") asserting the Luneau video bird to be a Pileated. And (surprise, surprise) there is a rejoinder by Cornell's Fitzpatrick et.al. --- deja vu all over again!!??? (...It is somewhat interesting how much publicity these skeptical pieces attain while the rejoinders don't garner such news coverage; and Cornell is also preparing a rebuttal to Collinson, BTW). Again, all of this wearisome, obsessive focus on a narrow unresolvable argument leaves me reeling a bit from the tediousness of it all, the heat generated in place of light as it were. But hey, it does also send a couple of off-hand thoughts across my mind... :

1) Long ago I recall reading a 'spoof' scientific article using physics and complex math to 'prove' that it was impossible for heavier-than-air man-made objects to fly. And the authors predicted that with the article's publication planes would drop out of the sky with the new realization that what they did was impossible : - ))) Well, that's sorta how I feel about these latest articles --- searchers should start scouring the ground for Ivorybills, because from all the ('Ivory-bill extinct again') headlines I'm reading the birds will surely start plopping out of trees and to the ground any moment now when they realize they are all dead! ; - )

2) And a second thought --- quite awhile back, tongue-in-cheek, I wrote something to the effect, "the Luneau bird is a Muscovy Duck; now can we all please move along..." --- and I didn't receive nearly the press that Collinson is receiving!!! : - (((...BTW, if someone out there has a video of a Muscovy in retreat-mode please send it to Martin for analysis).

'Let's all move along' though really is the only take-home message I see in all of this 2-year-old video debate over a singular bird in a singular set of circumstances that will likely never be duplicated, with a host of uncontrolled variables. IF Ivory-bills are documented in Florida, or S.C., or Texas, or even in Arkansas or ANYwhere else, guess what? --- it will have NO specific bearing on the Luneau video -- THAT bird will remain debatable for eternity, so what is the point, really, with so much data yet to come from the field....

But I know I'm speaking largely to deaf ears.
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Thursday, March 15, 2007

 

-- M. Collinson Paper --

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First let me say, that Dr. Collinson has presented an excellently-written/argued paper for BMC Biology, which 1+ years ago would've brought much to the discussion (I think overall it is better than either the Sibley or Jackson pieces). And I don't want anything said here to take away from the quality or eminent fairness of his presentation, nor the effort that clearly went into it.

I s'pose rules are made to be broken, because long ago I wrote that I would not discuss the Luneau video any further since there was NOTHING left to say --- it is unresolvable and further inconclusive debate is largely futile... yet I'm now forced to revisit it again, as Collinson presents but another analysis of that Luneau film via use of a fleeing Pileated video for comparison. Others will debate many of the technical points Martin lays forth (and which are debatable), I'll only lend a few broad thoughts here.

In the end Collinson says (in that wonderful British way of understatement), that concluding the Luneau bird is an Ivory-bill, is "probably unsafe" --- I totally agree; in fact I'll go farther than that --- long ago I wrote (and my view hasn't changed) that it is NOT 100% certain that the Luneau bird is even a woodpecker --- the ASSUMPTION that this bird is clinging to the side of a tree trunk at the onset of the video remains for me unproven --- it is behind a tree, and the precise orientation of its body, not to mention the placement of its feet, are UNKNOWN. (I think the evidence is 'good' that it is a woodpecker, but by no means a certainty, and IF a woodpecker than the IBWO vs. PIWO debate can go on endlessly). Further, it is vitally important, given the headline summaries of this article flying around the internet, to realize that Martin does NOT say the Luneau bird IS a Pileated Woodpecker (though he clearly favors that), he essentially says that it is not at all INCONSISTENT with being a PIWO. Moreover, in his abundantly fair conclusion Martin writes:
"This does not of course necessarily imply that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is extinct, nor indeed entirely rule out the possibility that the bird in the Luneau video was one. There appears to be no reason to question the anecdotal sight records of Ivory-billed Woodpecker presented in Fitzpatrick et al [1] (or in many online sources), because some of them appear credible, albeit brief... The Ivory-billed Woodpecker may persist in continental North America, and there is enough anecdotal evidence to make this a possibility, but the Luneau video does not support the case. The balance of evidence would suggest that the bird in the Luneau video is more likely to have been a Pileated Woodpecker, but the search for Ivory-billed Woodpecker should continue."
Cornell might, but I have no problem with this conclusion at all.
But here IS the problem --- the Luneau video is but one tiny bit of evidence, yes, ONE tiny bit, out of 50+ years worth of sightings/claims; this continual emphasis on it makes it appear to an unwary public (including many birders) that if IT is debunked than the Ivory-bill does not exist afterall. In actuality, the ENTIRE Cornell case can be thrown out and there would still be enough evidence to justify the current widespread searches throughout Southeastern N. America. Even though he didn't intend it, I fear the Collinson paper once again draws attention away from the breadth of evidence out there and back onto this one pinpoint of interest. And in doing that it creates a lot of sound and fury, but signifies little that hasn't already been said many times over, just without the particular piece of evidence (David Nolin film) Collinson employs.

A final note: On his webpage at one point Dr. Collinson describes himself as not so much an Ivory-bill skeptic as a "universal data skeptic"
--- I like that. That's very much how I see MYself --- having worked in biology or medicine most of my adulthood and probably never seeing a set of data I was comfortable with. And with the paucity and age of data available on Ivory-bills (their sounds, behavior, habits, cavities, etc.), and even Pileateds for that matter, I think it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about so much of the evidence placed before us --- which is why we ought proceed with utmost caution, and with serious consideration of the one thing that has always been central to birding, sightings, and thusly await patiently the completion of rigorous, systematic, thorough searches of appropriate habitats however long that takes --- I'm not sure, but I have a feeling Martin just might agree with that...
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

 

-- From Across the Pond --

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Haven't seen it yet, but British birder Dr. J. Martin Collinson will have a skeptical piece on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker
appearing in Thursday's edition of the online journal "BMC Biology," and including yet anutha analysis of the Luneau video --- should be worth a gander...

And, any numerologists out there...? --- I don't know what it means, but Wednesday (today) the main Ivory-bill thread over at BirdForum had its 10,000th post, and Thursday this blog is scheduled to get its 100,000th visitor (hmmm...may just mean a lot of us need to getta life! : - ))) --- or... someone amongst us needs to getta photograph.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

 

-- "Citizen Science" --

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Article here on Cornell's desire to engage "citizen science" in their search for the Ivory-bill.

Ohhh, and hey, check out this recent addition to David Luneau's website (but don't spill your coffee while looking, not worth it):

http://www.ibwo.org/reconyx5.html
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Monday, March 12, 2007

 

-- Upcoming --

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We're about due for another report from Cornell's mobile search team to see what they have to say about Louisiana's Atchafalaya Basin, generally considered one of the best habitats for Ivorybills, and most difficult for searchers, in some parts.

And Thur. the "DC Environmental Film Festival" opens for a 10-day run (Wash. DC.). One of the many highlights will be George Butler's work-in-progress "The Lord God Bird" (if any DC readers see it and want to send in their impressions feel free). A possibly similar offering is "Rare Bird" about the "Cahow" or Bermuda Petrel, thought extinct for centuries before its documentation. Honestly, the Festival appears filled-to-the-brim (115 films) with excellent offerings. Dr. E.O. Wilson, Dr. Craig Venter, and one of my personal heroes, Dr. David Suzuki, will be in attendance among an outstanding crowd of folks. DC-ers are one lucky bunch --- can't imagine how people will even pick out what NOT to see!

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

 

-- A Few Thoughts --

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Too much in Dr. Hill's new book for a blog review but I'll mention a few thoughts from a first quick scan of the volume:

1) more information than I've seen elsewhere on Tyler Hicks (for those who need a fuller picture), as well as other figures in the Choctawhatchee story.

2) Like Gallagher's book, a number of interesting yarns related here, I'd not heard elsewhere. The Ted Kretschmann story in chapter 7 is a particular one (I won't spoil it for you), and there are a number of other stories to tell and academic politics or behind-the-scenes activities to relate.

3) Different folks will enjoy different chapters, but I particularly like chapter 5, "Is It a Miracle," where Geoff tackles some of Tanner's generalizations and what I've long regarded as the absurd myth that this species lacked the habitat to survive for this long or couldn't have persisted without being seen. Among other things Geoff notes that Tanner's "one-man inventory of all Ivory-billed Woodpeckers and ivorybill habitat in the United States was perhaps the greatest folly in the history of Ivory-billed Woodpecker conservation and one of the greatest follies in the history of U.S. bird conservation" (while still recognizing the great, but imperfect, job Tanner did). And Hill further concludes that the Choctaw. finding was not so much "miraculous" or "astounding" as it was "inevitable."
Chapter 9, "Good Science, Bad Science, or No Science At All," I think will also be of particular interest to many, dealing with scientific argument, methodology, and evidence, and chapter 10 summarizes the "tangible evidence" compiled from the Choctaw.

4) In chapter 14 there is the first discussion I've seen of the video which was attained of purported ivory-bills in the area but never published due to its quality. And there's a lot more food for thought and debate, depending what your particular interests are, in various other chapters than I can indicate here.
On a complete side note, it's a very handsomely, stylishly (I think) done book, especially coming from an academic publisher.

Near the conclusion Dr. Hill voices a very optimistic note (written before the Choctawhatchee find was publicly announced, let alone the current search season begun) --- I don't know if he still feels comfortable with these words or not, but for 'believers' they are certainly uplifting:
"What I am sure of is that the ivorybills are there. Not one bird. Not a single pair. At least a half dozen pairs and perhaps tens of pairs of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the extensive swamp forests along the Choctawhatchee River. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is not extinct. It isn't even hanging by a thread. It has a toehold in the forests on the Florida Panhandle."
...May it be so.

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-- It's H-E-E-E-R-E! --

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Just saw Dr. Hill's Ivory-bill book (Ivorybill Hunters: The Search for Proof in a Flooded Wilderness) in stock at a local Borders Bookstore.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

 

-- New BIRDING Articles & addendum --

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Over at BirdForum Rick Wright has alerted people to a new Birding Magazine (from ABA) edition with several Ivory-bill related articles available on the Web:

http://americanbirding.org/pubs/birding/archives/index.html

I don't see anything particularly new here, other than Floyd Hayes' summation of his study of people's perceptions within this whole debate --- even here, in a quick once-over, I don't see much that wasn't fairly predictable, although it may still make for much water-cooler banter in some Ivory-bill quarters. Nonetheless, interesting (and good) to see the major birding forums (ABA) still spending so much time on this story, and on a closer read maybe I'll find something more significant to comment on therein.

Addendum: I've looked over the Hayes' piece a bit more closely now. I'm very skeptical of survey research in general, and even moreso when it's done over the Web, but having said that, it's a fun read with various nuggets to chew on --- of course it adds nothing substantive to the evidence for-or-against Ivory-bill persistence, so probably won't dwell on it further here, but will refer folks to the comments of Bill Pulliam over at his blog, since they mirror in part some of my own thoughts.
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

 

-- Search Methods --

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A new thread of interest (just 3 posts at this moment) was started today on IBWO Researchers Forum dealing with methods employed to search for Ivory-bills:

http://www.ibwo.net/forum/showthread.php?p=1338#post1338

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

 

-- Nothing Extraordinary Here --

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Alert readers have sent in this link (and others) to another extinct bird find-of-the-week, a Thailand reed-warbler missing for a mere 130+ years, as it went about living out it's normal life.
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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

 

-- Pascagoula, plus... --

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Cornell's mobile search team has posted their experience in the Pascagoula River Basin of Mississippi here, and is now off to survey the Atchafalaya in Louisiana --- one might expect this to be one of their most interesting explorations. Obviously, stay tuned...

Addendum: ...and now Dr. Hill has posted his latest update on the Choc. search here.
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Sunday, March 04, 2007

 

-- 'Millions of Birders' --

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Probably the single most repeated argument I've heard over the last 40 years as to why Ivory-billed Woodpeckers must be extinct is simply that, 'with so many millions of birders active through America a bird this large couldn't have escaped detection.' To which I politely respond, 'BULLLL-DOOOOKEY!' I see estimates ranging from 24 million to 40+million birders presently in this country, but of course, MOST of those 'birders' will never in their entire lives set forth even momentarily in habitat that might harbor an Ivory-bill. Some will never go beyond their local park or greenway (I'm not critiqueing them for that -- I encourage ALL levels of birding, but just saying...). Only a tiny fraction of birders will spend any significant amount of time in IBWO-like habitat (although certainly more now, than in the decades previous to 2000), so it is hugely disingenuous to imply that huge numbers of knowledgeable people have spent countless hours roaming woodland tempting an encounter with the Lord God bird.
Yes, lots of birders have spent some time looking for IBWOs in some places (what I call mostly 'spotchecks') over the decades, but the "millions" of hobbyists around these days is a meaningless figure.
In fact, one could presume that 200 years ago (even though there were far FEWER 'birders'), MORE people who knew what Ivory-bills were (even if they didn't know them by that name), routinely spent far more time in IBWO habitat than do so today even with millions more 'birders' present to do so.
And in a tangential vein one might want to read this recent post by 'Fangsheath' over on IBWO Researchers' Forum which has some relevance here:

http://www.ibwo.net/forum/showpost.php?p=1294&postcount=7

If you haven't been following matters at that Forum 'Fang' is back from an exploratory trip in Louisiana, and you may wish to backtrack for some of his informational posts since returning (mostly in the "Louisiana" thread).
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Saturday, March 03, 2007

 

-- The Catch-22 of Searching --


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First, new article here on the Choc. search --- an interesting read, but once again largely re-hash, so on to the subject I'd rather currently address:

Bobby Harrison, Mike Collins, and a few others have argued that sudden influxes of noisy humans into the woods simply spook wary Ivory-bills making documentation less likely. Others (including myself) believe the likeliest way to document IBWOs is indeed with large-scale, systematic searches involving many individuals (in fact, I've long regarded the lack of solid documentation from the past as a result of failure to do such systematic searches). Both arguments have some merit. The IBWO is most likely a wary creature that will detect humans long before humans detect it, either ducking into a cavity or flushing well ahead of searchers (...like the bird in the Luneau video). However, the sheer size and difficulty of the land tracts needing exploration make successful 1 or 2-man outings unrealistic in many regards, basically requiring incredible 'luck' --- though from a root-for-the-underdog mentality I'd be thrilled to see one rugged individualist-type put the institutional teams to shame by being the first to attain unarguable photographic evidence of this quarry.

Still I expect the team approach to work best while acknowledging it creates the greatest disturbance for the birds (and in the end, a remote automatic camera may yet be the eventual winner). Search "teams" sometimes operate out of a base camp from which searchers fan out in spoke-like manner to appointed positions, again risking any IBWOs flushing well ahead of the human activity and out of an area. Once a 'hot zone' is determined teams should be posted to the north, south, east, and west of the area, to the degree terrain/topography allows. Then, as searchers advance forward, a suspected IBWO flushing in any direction may yet come into sight-contact with other searchers. The downside may well be greater disruption to the bird itself, and I fully respect those with a view that increased disruption ought not be risked.

On a different note, Bobby Harrison continues to utilize hand-crafted decoys in his searches for the IBWO, while Auburn is now emphasizing man-made 'double-knocks' trying to 'draw in' Ivory-bills to photographic range --- it's odd/disappointing how little such techniques have been employed in the past 60 years --- some have occasionally tried playing "kent" recordings which probably is NOT a good idea --- there are a paucity of kent recordings to choose from and we don't really know what those past recordings may even "mean" to another Ivory-bill; i.e. in 'Ivory-bill language,' for all anyone knows, those recordings may be saying, "THIS is MY territory, all the rest of you IBWOs stay OUTTA here" : - ] Again, too much we simply don't know...

Within a few days, time for another report from Cornell's 'mobile team' with their latest efforts in Mississippi. Their's is largely a scouting and information-gathering mission, and will probably have a lot to say about future searches once this season ends, whatever its results.
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Friday, March 02, 2007

 

-- Harrison Interview etc.--

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Lengthy online interview with Bobby Harrison from Birder's World magazine here. (May require free registration).
Plenty of grist for the mill here.

And Cornell has placed online the newly-discovered photos of the Cuban Ivory-bill (likely a distinct species or subspecies from the N. American IBWO) they had recently published in their Living Bird Magazine.
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