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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






Thursday, June 28, 2007

 

-- Bye Ol' Bud' --

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You brought cheer into this world far out of proportion to your pint-size body, and you'll be missed....

A beloved pet passed away early this morning and I'll likely take a few more days off from posting than usual.

So a Happy Independence Day, July 4, to all
in the event I'm not back online before then (well, all except for my British readers that is ;-)))
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

 

-- Nelson Retires! ;-) --

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From The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission report for June 27:


"LITTLE ROCK (AP) _ As the outgoing chairman of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Sheffield Nelson has seen everything from wildlife management areas grow in numbers to the first of the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program state championships.
The Little Rock lawyer's term ends June 30. Nelson was appointed by Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2000...
During Nelson's tenure, the state received international attention when, in 2004, the ivory-billed woodpecker was found not to be extinct, but living in Arkansas.
The several sightings in Arkansas have been mostly in an area north of Brinkley near the Cache River and Bayou DeView."

Meanwhile, as we patiently await final report summaries for the prior search season, including full disclosure of all sightings and acoustic data, and automatic camera data continues to be monitored/processed, some skeptics are rushing to declare the searches forever done... in a manner more reminiscent of 17th century witch hunts than 21st century science, many continue to operate from wholly unproven (and unprovable) assumptions (about IBWO habits/behavior/needs) misleadingly offered up as facts. Here's a likely FACT: Most Ivory-billed Woodpeckers had feathers and two eyes! Skeptics' presumptions aren't even in the same ball park as true facts. For myself, I'll stick with the presumption that at least one of the sightings from the last few years is authentic, simple as that.

Russell and Whitehead spent a couple hundred pages proving that 1 + 1 = 2, as part of their effort (1000's of pages) to demonstrate that mathematics was a complete and internally consistent system of logic (...in the end they failed, once it was shown that unprovable assumptions always lurk behind the scenes). Unrecognized, deceptive notions underly all scientific debate, from truly rigorous fields like mathematics to the mushy likes of field biology... in the end, sometimes such assumptions turn out to be true; the problem is they can never be assumed so ahead of time while the debate rages; and yet that is exactly what many choose to do, rather than waiting for all evidence to be gathered.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

 

-- Pulliam's Take --

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Many know that Bill Pulliam has commented off-and-on for the last couple years on the Ivory-billed saga (I think with a reasonable amount of respect from both sides), so folks may be interested in his latest take on the subject here:

http://bbill.blogspot.com/2007/06/ivorybills-26-months-later.html

I would simply add the following to Bill's thoughts, regarding why after 2+ years of scrutiny we still lack an agreed-upon, clearcut photo of a living Ivory-bill (and I've said all this before):

this is a bird that likely spends most of its time high in the canopies, where it will be difficult to see or clearly identify, let alone photograph. Another chunk of time is spent inside tree cavities where it is literally invisible to human eyes. And so, not surprisingly, most sightings occur when it is in flight, which means quite naturally these are relatively brief encounters as so often experienced (and these birds can cover a lot of ground). Yes, one would hope to find the bird at a nesthole or a low foraging site --- indeed such is almost required to readily obtain the desired photograph --- but if the bird is exceedingly scarce in numbers in a given locale this too can prove keenly difficult... I see nothing extreme or outrageous in putting forth such an argument. IF, by now but a few Ivory-bills hang on in a few disparate locales, the pattern and type of occasional sightings claimed likely mimic what one might expect. Of course one hopes that somewhere there remains an ever-so-slightly more significant population, or else we may indeed be facing functional extinction, but in any event results thus far, while disappointing, are not that difficult to explain.

Needless to say, for a variety of reasons, I remain hugely optimistic that the species not only exists but does so in multiple locales; but the far-more-significant $10,000 question is, will they ever be documented well enough to persuade all cynics? I suspect my answer to that is also a resounding (if slightly more hesitant) yes... but I also suspect by that time, it may be too late to matter... and that is when certain skeptics, not the believers, will have an incredible amount of explaining to do.

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Link

Sunday, June 24, 2007

 

-- Birders World Redux --

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Might be a good time to review again some of the past Ivory-billed sightings of merit (there are 100's more claims, but these are a few of the more credible reports over the last several decades), as noted in this old Birders World article:

http://www.birdersworld.com/brd/default.aspx?c=a&id=471

I believe #13 is in error, or at least Jackson was not the observer so far as I'm aware. [edit: it IS correct as noted in comments below] What is important to recognize is the full range of territory these sightings cover (and none of the past reports from South Carolina are even included here, despite now being a hub of interest), and the implications that even this very limited survey has for how much searching may yet be called for.

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Link

Saturday, June 23, 2007

 

-- Bollocks --


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Very disappointing to see British researcher Martin Collinson post as "FACTS" on his blog, statements that are at best oversimplifications and at worst simply rubbish (don't know if he was merely trying to be provocative --- I've been known to say things on occasion just to stir the pot a bit ;-) --- or if he actually believes these falsehoods):
"FACT - IBWOs were never that difficult to see. FACT - their calls were incessant and carried over half a mile. FACT - their calls do NOT carry over 60 years echoing round the woods since the last ones died!"
Although there are some reports in a few distant historical locales of easy to find/see Ivory-bills this was not generally the case, and by Tanner's day (let alone decades later) they were quite difficult. Though convinced the species persisted in both South Carolina and Florida Tanner was unable to ever find them himself. Even in the Singer Tract he found them only with the aid of a guide who had essentially lived amongst them and knew where to find their nestholes; even then Tanner reports the birds were generally heard first and only later seen. Moreover, no one can say with any certainty whether the habits/behavior of tiny samples of birds residing in pre-1945 Louisiana can even be predictive of the behavior of any remnant population persisting today in various states.

The nature of their calls is also in wide dispute; while they could be noisy on occasion, when in pairs, it certainly is wrong to imply that calling 'incessantly' was the norm or even commonplace, nor did their calls routinely extend "over half a mile" by most accounts, and in any event this would clearly be dependent on habitat, terrain, and other factors. Finally, even if you believe them extinct, nobody knows when the last one died (60 yrs. ago, 30 yrs. ago, 10 yrs. ago, 22 days ago???), certainly not someone cloistered in Britain in 2007.

And still the skeptics think that just because alternative explanations of data are offered, those alternatives MUST automatically be opted for. What a wonderful world it would be if we all just got to pick our own alternative explanations for anything we chose, but that ain't science. If skeptics don't like the Arkansas and Choctawhatchee data then throw it out; ignore it; forget it ever appeared in print; it need be paid no attention. The sightings of this species in multiple states pre-2000 are alone enough to warrant extensive ongoing searches. What part of the full history of the Ivory-bill don't skeptics understand, that causes them to think its existence hinges on one blurry videotape or 2 locales out of the entire southeast.
Martin is right about one thing however, this issue will most likely eventually live or die "by empiricism".... now if only skeptics will permit empiricism to go forward.
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Thursday, June 21, 2007

 

-- Paradigm Shifts, Sightings, Field Marks, Oh My --

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a restful 3 days off from blogging turned into 6 --- anyway, loooong post... mostly stuff covered in the past:

Can't say I've ever
been a huge fan of Thomas Kuhn's work, but I would acknowledge that in a squishy, philosophical way, his idea of "paradigm shifts" does apply to some aspects of science history. If the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is eventually documented to everyone's satisfaction maybe what we'll need is a sort of paradigm shift in ornithology. Initially, there will be amazement voiced at the IBWO's persistence; words like "incredible," "unbelievable," and "miracle" being carelessly tossed about, especially by prior skeptics attempting to cover their own posteriors on the subject. BUUUUT again... there is nothing amazing in a creature adapted to remote swampland hanging on for 60 years in small numbers under the radar of Man's lackluster attention; though scientific hubris may make it seem so; nothing 'amazing' in recognizing that our knowledge and abilities are imperfect, and that needles in haystacks can be hard to find (let alone photograph).

"Extinction" is an extraordinary event, and IT requires extraordinary evidence, above-and-beyond conjecture.
Never again should the passing of 60 years without a photo constitute evidence for extinction of a species known to use such poorly-traversed habitat. Skeptics continue to knitpick the weakest data out there (sounds, foraging sign, cavities...), because it is easy to do, and I s'pose the more vocally critical they are the more untenable they think the IBWO's existence sounds (like focussing intensely on all the weak points/gaps/uncertainties in evolution in order to conclude that evolutionary theory is unsustainable). But what we have across all the decades are sightings, sightings, SIGHTINGS by individuals who are very familiar with Pileated Woodpeckers, yet who say they've seen Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. And sightings are the essence of birding.

A recent, widely-cited Audubon study reports huge declines in several US bird species over the last 40 years, yet it is based largely on BRIEF, UNDOCUMENTED, UNVALIDATED, NONREPLICATED sightings (from count reports), comparing data that is four decades apart!! The variables are immense and hugely uncontrolled. Scientifically speaking, one might make the case that this data is simply "crap," despite all the statistical manipulation they've done to it (...still impossible to weed out lies and mistakes from true and accurate sightings in count datapoints) --- but in truth, looked at broadly enough and with enough caution, count data over time often turns out to be quite good data, accurately reflecting identifications in the field, since, in general, birders are not liars! So a study that could be taken to task by knitpickers, will not be, and need not be, especially since it jives with what common sense, personal experience, and intuitions already told most birders beforehand. Unfortunately, in the Ivory-bill arena, common sense, personal experience, and intuition, lead different people to completely opposing conclusions.

Despite the emphasis often placed on "field marks" MOST bird identification is the result of 'jizz' or gestalt appearance, and always has been. Field marks came along as a nifty way to introduce birding to greater numbers of people and are certainly useful in cases of difficult IDs, but the typical bird identification in the field does not include running through a checklist of field marks --- and the Ivory-billed Woodpecker IS NOT a difficult ID for an experienced birder in any event. I would advise those who believe that "brief" sightings are soooo unacceptable to please eliminate them from your future count reports (since clearly you believe other possibilities cannot be ruled out under such circumstances) --- and this will greatly help out count compilers too, by eliminating probably 50+% of all reports they must sort through : - ). Here's a thought experiment:

You walk into a room of 30 people and scanning faces quickly locate your best friend; pretty easily done. But could you now write a description of that person's face good enough to allow a total stranger to walk into the same room, and by scanning faces alone, also pick out your friend? Assuming no defining characteristic (6" scar on left cheek, patch over right eye, 4 inch purple nose ring), I doubt it. In writing a "description" of your friend you are in essence writing "field marks" for identification, but your own recognition of the friend is based on a 'gestalt' recognition of that individual's appearance. What you can do in a moment by 'jizz' as it were, a stranger will have great difficulty doing using your 'field marks' and likely end up with several possible choices (because field marks are often LESS-defining than 'jizz' in many instances). Some recent bird volumes have re-focussed attention on the overriding importance of gestalt features in bird identification, because field marks, while crucial on occasion and wonderful as an initial learning tool, are, in the grand scheme of things vastly overrated and only occasionally employed in bird identification --- some might argue that they ARE routinely employed, but at a less than conscious level, but that merely reduces them to further gestalt qualities when they operate below consciousness.
Or some will counter that it doesn't matter if field marks are rarely used in bird identification because they ARE used in cases of rare or unusual sightings. But here's the rub: experienced birders usually know (or can look up) the key field marks for an unusual sighting. You either do or don't trust a fellow birder --- when they report such key field marks after-the-fact they can easily lie (or simply be the victim of false memory) --- IF you believe such a recitation, then you might just as well believe their ID'ing of the bird in the first place without the recitation; the case of the IBWO is illustrative: those reporting Ivory-bills but noting few field marks are told their sighting isn't valid, and those who report field marks are told they must be mistaken or lying, so tautological are the skeptics' biases (...essentially, boiled down, 'you couldn't have seen an IBWO because it is extinct, and we know it's extinct because no one has seen one').

Personally, I'm immediately suspicious of past IBWO sighting claims that include a litany of 'field marks' (as are many IBWO investigators) --- it is too easy to regurgitate these from a field guide or other source after-the-fact; so easy that such recitation becomes almost meaningless; yet in today's atmosphere just such a recitation is required, especially of any novice birder. No, what impresses me more (in general) are sightings by experienced birders, who say they saw an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and they knew it in a flash (before they even thought about field marks), because THAT is what the reality would almost certainly be, given the uniqueness of this species. THAT is the norm in bird identification. The 'jizz' and total context is primary; field marks secondary.

And it is not enough for skeptics to say that "everyone makes mistakes from time to time." Any scientific claim can be challenged in such a loose manner. Maybe this, maybe that, maybe, maybe... of course alternative explanations are always possible, but they too must be given credence, not hoisted out of thin air. Believers are told they must produce a photograph for their case, but skeptics too then must demonstrate that experienced birders who make Ivory-bill claims either have a history of lying or pattern of rash, mistaken claims; skeptics can't be allowed to simply conveniently write off these lone instances as ad hoc "mistakes" (occurring over and over)
if there is no history or pattern of such for a given individual.

So keep your eye on the ball --- sightings --- and don't get distracted by incessant blather over sounds, signs, blurry video, and other peripheral, even extraneous subject matter. Keep in mind too, that only a single sighting need be real for the Ivory-bill to be extant; whereas 100% of all sightings must be false, for the skeptics' case to hold forth (I like those odds :-). In the meantime there's a lot of habitat to check out (might even take more than a couple of weekends to do it), and waaaaay too early to throw in the towel in yet another rush to judgment on this species, thought extinct and re-found at least twice before in its history. IF the bird is indeed extinct searchers will simply keep building the case for skeptics (who should be eternally thankful for the assistance :-)).

I think I'll close with these famous words from Donald Rumsfeld, just for-what-it's-worth:
"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."
....here's hoping for a long, restful summer, and maybe a paradigm shift sometime next year. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Friday, June 15, 2007

 

-- YouTube Offering --

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More Ivory-bill reporting from Discovery News available on YouTube here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOqNJP8y7Ek&NR=1

Nothing new of course (except getting to hear Martin Collinson's fine British accent : - ), and solely focussed on Arkansas and the Luneau video yet again, but worth a look if you enjoy video.

--- All of which reminds me, that Cornell originally said they'd be replying to Collinson's analysis (Pileated vs. Ivory-bill flight comparison), but as yet I've not seen it --- if their rejoinder is indeed out there somewhere and I've missed it, someone please point me in its direction...

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-- Article On a Searcher --

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Article on searcher and grad student Chris Saker:

http://www.yorku.ca/yfile/archive/index.asp?Article=8643

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Link

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

 

-- Congaree Info --

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South Carolina was one of the last places James Tanner believed the Ivory-bill persisted 60 years ago, and the rumors/claims have never completely dwindled. Since it's looking like a lot of attention may get paid to S.C.'s Congaree Swamp next IBWO search season, might be worth reviewing the area a bit. Here's what USFWS employee Bob Russell previously wrote about the Congaree over a year ago at BirdingAmerica:
"The finest bottomland forest in the east, only 5,000 acres of the 20,000+ acres have been adequately explored botanically (let along for birds!) according to rangers in the park. Knowledgeable birders who enter the visitor’s center will be startled to see James Tanner’s photo prominently displayed. Tanner was greatly instrumental in helping set up this former national monument—did he know something we don’t or did he have suspicions that IBWO were in the area? We’ll never know but presumably he knew IBWO habitat when he saw it and this is the only existing site that rivals the Tensas swamp of old. Don’t bother with the boardwalk and developed trails but strike out on your own by kayak, canoe, or hiking (open understory, relatively easy to walk under the climax overstory) and check out remote areas of the park. Shouldn’t take you more than 2-5 years of your life.
Be sure to purchase John Cely's excellent park habitat map at the Visitor Center to hone in on some of the better old-growth stands. Use caution when approaching the too abundant wild pigs that forage throughout the park as some of the old boars are humongous and able to inflict real pain. Birders working this area in March through June should always be aware of the very slight potential for Bachman's Warbler in areas of native cane and swampy blackberry and greenbriar thickets."


some basic Congaree info here:

http://www.columbiasouthcarolina.com/congaree.html


... the page posted seeking volunteers prior to last season's S.C. IBWO search:

http://www.friendsofcongaree.org/ivorybilled/

maps/brochures for the Congaree available here:

http://www.nps.gov/cong/planyourvisit/maps.htm

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

 

-- More of Same From Cornell --

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Updates from Cornell have long taken on a tendency of divulging little new or encouraging information that was not already previously released. And such is unfortunately true of their preliminary report for the '06-07 season. Other than saying they will search further next year, very little in the way of encouragement here. Nothing positive to report thus far from all of the automatic cameras currently in place. A lot of emphasis continues to be put on the acoustic data ('kents' and double-knocks) --- as I've previously said, interesting but weak data upon which to build a case; certainly worth following up on, but, by itself, never diagnostic. Meanwhile, quite oddly, not a single team member sighting for the season is even mentioned in the report (do they regard none as credible?). Only the early season IBWO encounter claimed by a hunter in Wattensaw is briefly referenced. I assume their final report, whenever issued, will include several more details, but no greater weight of evidence.

Clearly,
in addition to Arkansas' Big Woods, Cornell does find much habitat of interest and worth further study. Key searcher Martjan Lammertink concludes, “We are encouraged by the good habitat we have found. I’d like to spend more time in the Atchafalaya basin, in the Pascagoula in Mississippi, parts of South Carolina, and in the Escambia, Apalachicola, and other rivers of the Florida Panhandle” (all, places already known to be of interest). Lammertink mentions being "impressed with the sheer size of the Atchafalaya basin in Louisiana," and being "awed by the quality of the habitat" in the Congaree (S.C.) --- frankly, it's a bit disconcerting that Lammertink, who virtually proclaimed the Ivory-bill extinct in the 1990's and is considered an expert on the species, suddenly is impressed with habitats that were there all along and referenced frequently in the past for their IBWO potential. Where's he (and a lot of other folks) been all this time, and if his judgment was faulty in the 90's might it still be wrong? How many locales of interest were totally bypassed given his mobile team's limited time in the field? There continues to be no mention of central or south Florida, nor several other areas that may be worth a serious look-see. Instead, just continued emphasis on the Congaree, where I suspect Cornell/FWS may shift much of their attention next year.

Long ago
I wrote I'd be amazed if an independent searcher accomplished what institution-based searchers, with their money, resources, and numbers, have failed to do (and document the Ivory-bill)... but... I'm beginning to wonder... In the meantime, other summary reports should be forthcoming through the summer. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

-- New Postings from Cornell --

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Cornell's preliminary summary of their 2006-7 search season has been posted (with the promise of more searching next season):

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/latest/0607summary/document_view

and updated Cornell analysis of auditory data here:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/multimedia/sounds/newsoundpages/index_html/document_view

(may have more to say about all this later, or may just wait 'til the other summary reports are released)

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Monday, June 11, 2007

 

-- Watchin' and Waitin' --

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...and waitin'... and waitin'...

Another search season ends with stiiiill NO evidence for the extinction of the Ivory-bill :-))) .... just further sightings claims and/or auditory encounters in at least 3 or more disparate locales. But for lack of a photograph many will choose to contend IBWOs must be extinct, not merely rare. Such contentions are easy to make, but when involving an entire species, rash indeed, while reports continue trickling in.

As I've said before (regarding false positives and false negatives, or, type I and type II errors), the most ill-consequential possibility in this situation is not in assuming a species lives only to realize later that it is extinct, but in assuming it's been extinct for 60 years only to then discover that it persists; a hugely serious blunder indeed.


... here, another photo of an Ivory-bill museum specimen I hadn't previously noticed:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/67388199@N00/397882868/ see ADDENDUM first!

ADDENDUM: THANKS!! (the internet is great) In case it wasn't clear to all, the reason I linked to this particular above photo was because of the peculiar lack of dorsal striping on this specimen --- didn't know if this could possibly result from the specific preparation techniques used, or if female IBWOs could be so variable as to not always clearly exhibit the dorsal striping, but thought someone seeing it might comment. Sure enough, the answer (which I didn't anticipate), sent in by a half dozen different folks so far, is that this is NOT an Ivory-billed Woodpecker afterall, but a MIS-labelled female Imperial Woodpecker. The incredible size of bill and feet probably could've been a tip off.
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from Web Grab Bag....

...not exactly breaking news but, American bird species are on significant decline:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/usnw/20070608/pl_usnw/analysis_reveals_startling_decline_of_america_s_common_birds

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

 

-- Verse --

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The bird that just keeps inspiring... One fellow's IBWO fantasy here:

http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=40423566&blogID=274021536
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And for further entertainment here's one of my favorite old verbatim articles on the captive-bred/released California Condors; sure to bring a chuckle or two:
 "Cocksure Condors"   By Bob Saberhagen Californian correspondent
Filed: 09/09/1999
"PINE MOUNTAIN — When former Sierra Club national chairman Les Reid helped
pass the 1992 Condor Range and Rivers Act to provide habitat for the
endangered
California condor, he never thought he would have them in his bed.
Monday, while
working at the computer in the downstairs den of his rustic
Pine Mountain home, the
84-year-old environmental activist heard noises
coming from the top floor.
There Reid was greeted by eight giant California Condors cavorting in his
bedroom.
They had ripped through the screen door leading from an outside deck
of the hillside
home nearly 6,000 feet above sea level.

One bird was carrying Reid's underwear around in his mouth, he said.
"It was a beautiful moment," said Reid. "They just stood there looking at me.

They weren't afraid of this old white-haired gentleman." The group in Reid's bedroom
was part of a gang of 15 young birds that invaded
the mountain community a week
ago and decided to stay.
The 15 are among only 29 of the huge vultures flying free
in California, part
of a recovering population that totals only 167 after nearly becoming extinct
in the 1980's.

Dubbed the "The Wrecking Crew" by biologists chasing them, the wandering
birds have
spent the past few days making their presence well-known to
residents of the mountain
community south of Bakersfield.
But so far, to the dismay of some residents, a team of biologists
from the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's California Condor Recovery Program has been
unable to chase the endangered birds back to the wild.

While many locals marvel at their graceful daily flights over the village, others are not so pleased.
The giant vultures, averaging 20 pounds each with wingspans of 9 or more feet, have been soaring
from home to home at the higher elevations, startling
several occupants with destructive, noisy —
and messy — visits to their decks
and rooftops. Homeowners report the birds have destroyed patio
furniture, potted plants and
insulated wires. They've also torn up roofing shingles while leaving huge
amounts of droppings in their destructive wake.

Recovery team members have been in hot pursuit, chucking pinecones at them when they land,
but the birds just flee from house to house.
Their apparent lack of fear toward humans has Fish and
Wildlife biologists
concerned for the safety of the group. The birds were born in captivity in San Diego
and released over the past three years in Lion Canyon near New
Cuyama in northern Santa Barbara County.

"If they keep this up they could end up back in captivity," said biologist Mike Barth who, with team partner
Tom Williams, has spent the past several
days trying to convince the birds to leave the area and shy away
from contact
with humans. Pine Mountain resident Patti Fields resorted to squirting them with a garden
hose after they ignored her shouts, but they continue to return to her home each time biologists flush them
from another.
"I just scrubbed the deck the day before they first showed up," she said, her nose wrinkled at
the mess on her roof and wooden deck. "They sound like an
army marching across your roof."

The birds can drop a cup or more of excrement at a time, Williams said. While undesirable, the group's
behavior is not all that unusual. Condors have
in the past been known to frequent areas populated by humans.
"It's normal for juveniles to hang out together and they have a tendency to tear things up," Williams said.
This group recently spent some time in the Stallion Springs area of
Tehachapi, where Fish and Wildlife workers
are presently going door to door
telling people not feed or encourage them. They have also visited homes near
Lake Cachuma. Recovery program officials said they are being tolerant — for now.

"We're hoping that when they start breeding they'll stop this kind of behavior," said Deputy Project
Coordinator Greg Austin. "We don't want to see
these birds doing these things. Right now we're giving
them some slack."
Austin said the birds, ranging in age from 2 to 5 years old, will reach sexual maturity
at age 6.
Only 167 California condors are in existence today. They were near extinction in 1987 when
the last of 22 remaining wild birds were captured and placed in
a captive breeding program. So far, 49
condors have been released to the wild
since 1992, when the first 13 were released. Twenty of those are
presently in
Arizona with the remaining 29 in California.

Ideally, biologists prefer the California-released birds remain within the 467,000 acres of habitat in
the Los Padres National Forest provided for them
in the Condor Range and Rivers Act. Outside
the wilderness the birds face a host of urban dangers. Condors have
died drinking anti-freeze, by
electrocution after landing on power poles, and
others have become ill eating carrion containing lead
bullets.
Many of the problems have been solved by using aversion training methods, including use
of mock power poles that jolt them with a low voltage shock.
But this group of juveniles seems to have
forgotten lessons taught in the
negative conditioning classes, especially the portion regarding fear of humans.

Among other perils they face here is the possibility they might collide with power lines during their low- level
flights through the community.
"They can spread their wings and electrocute themselves," Barth said. Austin
said efforts to train the birds are being thwarted by well-meaning
people who feed and encourage their presence.
Officials ask that residents stay at least 100 feet away from them. "If they approach, clap your hands and yell to
scare them off," said
Williams. Above all, don't feed them, he stressed.

Williams said condors normally feed up to twice weekly on the carcasses of deer, cattle and other large, dead
animals found in the wilderness.
Officers said they will continue attempts to persuade the birds to leave the
area where their activities will be constantly monitored.
"We're going to keep tabs on them, document where
they go and what they're
feeding on," Williams said. "We just want to keep them out of trouble," he added."
....and not a lot has changed since 1999; see here:

http://origin.sltrib.com/news/ci_6030030

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Friday, June 08, 2007

 

-- News Article From Florida --

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Newspaper article on Auburn search:

http://www.nwfdailynews.com/article/6477


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Link

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

 

-- Ivory-bill Light --

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Humor from Tom... NO!!, not THAT Tom... this is 2 years old, but somehow I missed it at the time:

http://www.msnbc.com/comics/editorial_content.asp?sFile=tt050503

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... and more math entertainment :

this is the well-known paradoxical 'game show' riddle of some years ago that many of you are likely familiar with (and which created a lot of controversy at the time); but if you're young enough or unmathematically-inclined enough, it might be new to you:

A game show host presents contestant Birder Bob with 3 doors, one of which has a brand-spanking new pair of Zeiss 10x42 FL T binoculars behind it, the other 2 have dead starlings -- the host KNOWS what is behind each door. Bob gets to pick a door and win the prize behind it (hopefully the binocs). The host asks Bob for his pick and he chooses door #3. The host, knowing where the starlings are, says I'll show you what's behind Door #1, and opens it, revealing a starling corpse. He then asks Bob if he would like to change his original door choice (to #2) or stick with #3, before revealing the prize. Should Bob switch, stick with his first choice, or does it make any difference (for his best odds of getting the binos)?

the answer down below:
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Statistically speaking, Bob essentially DOUBLES his chance of winning the binos by SWITCHING his door choice. I've changed some of the verbiage in the problem above, but for any disbelievers the problem and explanation in its more standard form can be found here:

http://math-play.blogspot.com/2007/05/monte-hall-problem.html

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Link

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

 

-- Rare Bird Collecting --

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The American Bird Conservancy talks about the collecting of rare bird species here:

http://www.surfbirds.com/sbirdsnews/archives/2007/06/should_the_last.html

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... and, 2 dozen new animal species found:

http://news.aol.com/topnews/articles/_a/scientists-discover-24-species-in/
20070604172109990001?cid=2194

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Link

Monday, June 04, 2007

 

-- Auburn Update --

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Latest post from Geoff Hill here:

http://www.auburn.edu/academic/science_math/cosam/departments/biology/faculty/webpages/hill/ivorybill/Updates.html

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from the Web Grab Bag:

Birds were once dinosaurs... errr, NOT so fast. In another example of widely-believed, but not-wholly supported ornithological gospel some contrarian scientists contend that birds did not evolve from ground-based dinosaurs (as the public likes to thinketh) who ran so fast they took to the air, but rather from small tree-dwelling reptiles.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/06/070601-dino-feathers.html

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Link

Friday, June 01, 2007

 

-- "Prime Season" --

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With summer's full splendor of foliage, heat, bugs, and snakes, fast approaching, most official Ivory-bill searches for this season have concluded. Mike Collins however, says "prime season" for searching has just begun as he continues his efforts in the Pearl River region (LA.). I suspect by this Mike is referring to the fact that nesting IBWOs would've likely fledged by now and be moving around in family groups, calling to one another, and foraging often and widely for foodstuff (although he can speak for himself if he means something else).

The nesting period unfortunately is likely when IBWOs are hardest to stumble upon (most birds are), and without a knowing guide, like Tanner had, to lead them to a nest, today's searchers have been out-a-luck for photos. Pre-nesting, when pair-bonds are forming and territories established should also be a good time for searchers, and only the sheer scarcity of individual birds likely accounts for the rarity of sightings in those months.

Mike would likely abruptly re-write the approach to Ivory-bill searching if in fact he documented the birds during the humid months ahead.
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This won't be for very many of you, but in honor of Mike being a mathematician, a couple of things:

If your interest runs to prime numbers, instead of prime search seasons, here's a website of interest with many links:

http://primes.utm.edu/


.... and now, a simple riddle (nothing to do with prime numbers):

"Three spiders named Mr. Eight, Mr. Nine, and Mr. Ten are crawling along a Louisiana swamp. One spider has 8 legs; one (mutant) spider has 9 legs; and one (mutant) spider has 10 legs. All of them are usually quite happy and get along amicably. Today however the heat is testing their patience.
"I think it is interesting," says Mr. Ten, "that none of us have the same number of legs that our names would suggest."
"Who the Hell cares?" replies the spider with 9 legs.

How many legs does Mr. Nine have?
[ the answer can be determined from the little information given, and there is only ONE correct answer? --- it's actually quite simple, but interesting how many folks have difficulty with it].

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