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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.

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

Saturday, January 12, 2019


-- New Year, New Post --


Sorry for long news-less spell but just not catching drift of any new significant information that isn’t readily available on the Web (and the occasional non-credible tweet of an Ivorybill sighting on Twitter doesn’t cut it ;). 
Anyway, a long-time IBWO seeker retired from USFWS, informs me he'll be leading a small group to several key areas of La. over upcoming weeks, and is also giving the Big Cypress and Myakka River areas in Florida another look.
Wouldn’t get expectations too high, but at least good to know that some additional serious searching will take place early in the year, when leaves are off the trees and any remaining IBWOs ought be actively out-and-about seeking mates, courting, nesting, carrying on, and basically easier to spot (and photograph!) than at any other time of year.
I occasionally hear from folks who are spending a 3-day weekend somewhere looking for IBWO, but if anyone else is doing some more extensive independent searching over the winter months and wants to let me know, feel free to drop a line with whatever details you're willing to share (even if you're unsuccessful I'm interested to know what areas are even getting any attention these days).

ADDENDUM for proprietors of the IBWO Researchers’ Forum site & anyone having difficulty accessing that site:

Recently I discovered slightly more info on my year-long difficulty accessing the IBWO Forum site (probably 9 out of 10 attempts with either Safari or Firefox browsers fail for me; Chrome used to be equally bad, but recently succeeds slightly more often). Anyway, I recently dug a little further on Chrome after getting the message that there was “No page information” for the Forum site and got these further messages:

“It means that the website prevented Google from creating a page description, but didn't actually hide the page from Google.If you own this page you can improve this result either by letting Google read the page to create a good description, or hiding the page entirely from Google Search results. Read below to learn how.
The page owner partially blocked this page from Google, so we couldn't create a good page description. Unfortunately there's nothing that we can do ourselves. If you know the site owners, tell them they are blocking Google with a robots.txt file, which prevents Google from creating a page snippet.”

So apparently some sort of robots.txt file is the root of the problem (though I don’t know how easy that is to locate?); have also recently realized that the Forum site is still under a http:// url listing rather than the https://. that is now commonplace (I don’t know if that is a source of any difficulty?). And still not clear to me why access might differ from one computer to another, or from one ISP provider to another???

Anyway, after reading the above, I brought up the Bing search engine (instead of Google), searched for “ibwo.net” on it and when it was brought up clicked on it, and that accessed the site for me! (I tried some other search engines, but they didn’t immediately work consistently, while Bing worked fairly well) — probably worth trying for anyone else having repeated difficulties with access to ibwo.net

Sunday, September 09, 2018


— Report and Suggestions From A Searcher —


Soon the leaves will be off the trees and we’ll be headed into prime winter IBWO search season. John Williams, “Motiheal” on the Ivory-bill Researchers’ Forum, asked me to direct folks to two of his previous long posts there that detail a couple of his past trip experiences and ideas for search methods, focusing on tape playbacks.
The posts are here:


[Note: Due to some glitch I actually have a great deal of difficulty opening the Forum site these days; IF you too experience problems accessing the site or these two particular links I won’t be able to help you, other than to say keep trying at random times.]


Monday, August 20, 2018


-- Choctawhatchee Redux --


Mark Michaels reports on a claim from the Choctawhatchee:


Friday, July 06, 2018


-- IBWOs in Your Backyard or Den --


Several of you already have received Iowan Dean Hurliman’s handsome, hand-made life-size craftings of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. He recently wrote me to explain that he would likely only complete 8 more of these beauties, and will be looking for homes for them.
He then sent along the following message that he requested I print verbatim, which I am happy to do:


“And then the man he steps right up to the microphone
And says at last just as the time bell rings
Goodnight, now it’s time to go home
And he makes it fast with one more thing”

       “Sultans of Swing”  — Mark Knopfler

Last Call For Free Flying Ersatz IBWs

Currently, I have 8 IBWs ready for assembly and paint.  However, after August, I’ll no longer have internet access.  So if you want a bird—scroll back to Sept. 2015 for particulars.  If you’re tardy—call or write.
Thanks gracious ct for the use of your blog.  Because of it, over 50 of my IBW carvings will be on display in private hands and public institutions where they may play a small part in a greater appreciation for our beleaguered natural world.
These final words from poet Dylan Thomas are directed to the undaunted believers and searchers.  But most of all, to the “Lord God Bird”, itself: 
    Do not go gentle into that good night…
            Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dean S. Hurliman
Burlington, Iowa


Here is the Sept. 2015 post to which Dean refers (and which includes his email for contact purposes).

Dean sent me a list of the public sites/institutions that have already received these gorgeously-crafted pieces, and it’s thrilling to know that such life-like visages will be keeping the IBWO alive in peoples’ minds long after this saga is over.
I certainly hope his last 8 treasures find fitting homes as well…
And with only 8 available I recommend contacting him soon for all the specifics.


ADDENDUM:  At the very end of the below post you can see two of Dean's beauties that were received recently by a couple of intrepid Mississippi searchers:

Monday, July 02, 2018


-- A Summary From Louisiana --


Mark Michaels summarizes 9 years (thus far) of IBWO searching in central Louisiana (Part 1):



Saturday, June 09, 2018


-- Animatronic Delight --

In case it's the best we ever get, may as well post this ;) :



Wednesday, May 30, 2018


-- Jackson Roe in Arkansas --

Some will remember almost 10 years ago a young Jackson Roe and his father searching for IBWOs in the Big Woods area.  Jackson recently notified me that he is back at it in Wattensaw and has renewed blogposting here:

He was particularly interested in getting opinions on some trailcam photos of 2 distant birds in his 5/29 entry. As usual not good enough for conclusive identification, though I don't think they're Ivory-bills; but feel free to send Jackson your own thoughts, questions, ideas.

By the way, I'd be interested to hear who else is still doing any regular searching (and how often) in the Big Woods area (perhaps Mike Brown???), since I no longer hear much from that area at all, though I'm sure some individuals do at least sporadically venture there.


Sunday, April 29, 2018


-- Louisiana Doings --


You can read Mark Michaels' latest encounter with a woodpecker in central Louisiana (with more to come later)… and, with a person-of-interest here:


Sunday, March 11, 2018


-- Mike Collins' Latest --


Mike Collins has a new piece out on the use of drones to search Ivory-bill habitat:

(...haven't yet thoroughly read it myself or perhaps I'd say more)

Mike has uploaded various drone flight examples over different areas to YouTube, including this example from the Choctawhatchee region:


Friday, February 02, 2018


— A Trip Down (bad) Memory Lane —

Wow, there are so many episodes (for lack of a better term!) going back over the whole IBWO saga in just the last dozen years! I see over on Facebook they have brought up the “tmguy” or “Bill Smith” story from very early on. I don’t participate on Facebook (for all the reasons despisers of FB normally give), but I’ll try to offer a little off-the-cuff back-story here — I say “off-the-cuff” because I used to have quite a few notes on “tmguy” which I’m now too lazy to try to find, so will simply go on memory, which I hope is mostly right (but no guarantees):

Here’s the photo (he actually had a couple of photos, but this was the main one) that bought him his 15 minutes of fame over 12 years ago (OK, actually the controversy went on for quite awhile, though most everyone concluded this was a painted decoy or model of some sort, in an orange tree no less?):

“tmguy” stood for “that magic guy” because, as a hobby he was a stage magician; his full name was “William Frank Smith” and he emerged out-of-the-blue to claim many encounters with IBWOs in Florida. I think he was from the Lady Lake area of Florida, and at least some his claims/sightings (NEVER-ever verified) may have come from the Green Swamp area — though I may be confusing him with another claimant in that regard.
I communicated with him a few times, never getting very detailed or satisfactory answers; always a noticeable bit of evasiveness, though he’d stick to his basic storyline. He did seem to have some sincere interest and knowledge of wildlife in general, and while I could give him little credibility on his IBWO tales I was willing to look at the book he promised and promised and promised for 2+ years that would detail his Ivorybill exploits (including more pics) — the book of course never appeared; for a long time he had limp excuses for its delay, but eventually he just faded away after the beating he took online.

Even then I continued to follow his online behavior on aquarium forum sites that he frequented — he actually owned/ran an aquarium shop for awhile (in Tampa perhaps?, before it went out-of-business) — his fish comments were almost always reasonable, intelligent, helpful, upfront… but of course one can be an honest, upfront person I s’pose in one area of their life, and a total prankster/doofus in some other area. 8-/

To my utter amazement I just checked and much of his original site is still up! (though most of the pictures are long gone):

...note too, his URL was "bill is mad dot com" -- which I dare say many of us began taking literally!

That's about all I recall at the moment; if I think of more of pertinence or run across my old notes I might add more here later.


....on a side-note:  I don't know how many folks have had difficulty bringing up the Ivory-bill Researchers Forum site recently (I've had major difficulty with it for over 3 weeks), but I contacted one of the proprietors this week, so they're at least looking into it (I'm not sure how aware of a problem they even were?).
In fact if any reader here has been successfully loading the site, with no problems, the last 3 weeks I'd be curious to hear what browser you are using, what time of day, and are you using mobile or desktop...

Thursday, January 18, 2018


-- Nice Stoddard Tribute --

Herb Stoddard's claims for Ivory-bills in Georgia in the 1950's are among the last ones that some people take seriously. ICYMI, hat tip to Mark Michaels for pointing out a new account of Stoddard in an ejournal freely available here (the Stoddard piece beginning on pg. 38):


It all kind of reminded me of a post I did almost 6 years ago that I'll re-link to for entertainment:


[...on a sidenote, some folks have emailed me asking about the Ivory-bill Researchers' Forum being down -- I don't know anymore than you do, except this has happened before, and it's usually a temporary glitch, so just keep checking back on it.]

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


-- Where Oh Where… --


Mark Michaels continues his historical look at Ivory-bill data here:

The history is of course interesting, though I’m not sure it will help find IBWOs today, but his main point that IBWOs likely succeeded in a greater range of habitat than Tanner would later imply, still holds (especially if you go back far enough). Mark also adds this original mapping of historical claims or specimens from uncharacteristic habitat:


In this regard I’ve previously mentioned that I thought Bill Pulliam’s writings on western Tennessee (and other claims for there) of some interest, but there are many other such odd or outlying areas as well (over the years I’ve had reports sent to me, that I couldn’t always completely discount, from southern Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, and parts of Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina outside the traditional IBWO range). One of my hopes for the widepread USFWS/Cornell search was that it would at least narrow any possible IBWO persistence down to a very few (perhaps 2-3) localized areas; instead the failed endeavor left open the possibility of 2 dozen or more (sometimes little-birded) areas that scarce IBWOs might conceivably utilize. The lack of a single Ivory-billed Woodpecker appearing on remote, automatic cameras by now at more traditional and well-searched areas remains a pretty devastating obstacle to hope for the species… unless indeed it has found a home in the canopies of less-obvious, lightly human-trafficked woodlands.
I don’t want to hold out too much false(?) hope for this species, but on the other hand I believe most southeast woodland habitat is rarely birded in any regular or significant fashion and the vast majority of individual woodland birds are never systematically recorded — moreover, the ornithological literature is rife with weak, unscientific conclusions/generalizations/assumptions about bird behavior, and perhaps even bird biology. There's just a lot we don't know, while pretending we do.


Monday, October 02, 2017


-- Collins on "Periodic and Transient Motions of Large Woodpeckers" --


Here is Mike Collins’ latest publication regarding his Ivory-bill data:

…and he lists his other major summaries of data in this bird listserv posting:

--> One reader reports the above link not working fully for them, so the 3 summaries are here:




Sunday, August 27, 2017


-- Very Sad News… Bill Pulliam passes --


One of the more intrepid participants in the Ivory-bill debate (and more generally, a very active-and-respected Tennessee birder) has passed on at the too-youngish age of 56. For those who followed the IBWO debate closely early-on, Bill is probably well-known, though in recent years he was more quiet about the subject. I never met Bill, but in those earlier years some of my most interesting (and enjoyable) backchannel encounters were with him… we didn’t agree on everything, but we agreed on a lot and I hope he respected my opinions as much as I respected his.

More recently, he had tweeted about suffering through a tic-borne illness, but apparently that turned out to be an aggressive, undiagnosed form of lung cancer that he succumbed to a few days ago. A tremendous loss of an intelligent, independent, entertaining cuss, if I dare say so!

I always wished that he had pursued more searches of the Ivory-bill in western Tennessee, following up on some claims, but if he did he never reported it back to me. At one point he indicated IF the bird was there it ought just be left alone.

When Bill's father died a few years back I sent him this well-known poem I've always enjoyed and sent to many over the years upon such occasions. I feel odd using it again, so soon, but in his honor, and for his loved ones, I will: 

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die. 

-- Mary Elizabeth Frye

eBird, where Bill was very active as a regional editor and more, has posted this memorial:

...and now Mark Michaels has penned some further tribute here:

Tuesday, August 08, 2017


— Still On the Prowl —


Mike Collins persists with his efforts to document the Ivory-bill, now heading to Arkansas with plans to utilize a drone for above-canopy forest surveillance (he’s done this before in Louisiana). His notice to the Arkansas listserve group is here (not sure what sort of reception he’ll get from them, but if anything significant, I may add it to this post later): 


You can see a sample of his drone explorations (at the Pearl River area) here:
...and he'll no doubt add his Arkansas video, once completed, to the same YouTube site.

ADDENDUM: oy, trip off; Mike now reports the following to the listserv:
"Thanks to all who replied, but my plan to visit Arkansas has hit a snag. I had a small window of opportunity, but there isn't enough time to obtain permits for using a drone in the area. This is unfortunate because a drone is a small battery powered aircraft that has no effect on habitat or wildlife."

Monday, July 31, 2017


-- What Are the Chances.... --

Mark Michaels summarizes a lot of useful information in a lengthy posting today:



Monday, July 10, 2017


-- Whatever... --


Not Ivory-billed material, but in the meanwhile, a kind of interesting, fun read about the Passenger Pigeon here:


Saturday, June 24, 2017


-- Pileated Flight --


Myron Wasiuta has posted on YouTube the below brief flight of a departing Pileated Woodpecker:

This may well be the first such video I’ve seen that shows in at least some individual frames the sort of broad white visual effects that Sibley/Jackson/et.al. posited in critiquing the Luneau video. Hard to compare completely since angles/heights/speed vary somewhat, and only certain frames pertain, but still interesting (Luneau video below):


Monday, May 22, 2017


-- USFWS's Bob Russell Speaking --


I see Bob Russell, retired USFWS official and long-time IBWO searcher, is giving a talk this coming Thur. night (May 25) at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Center in Bloomington, MN.
If any readers here happen to hear his presentation please let us know whatever he has to say about the current outlook for the Ivory-bill.

Monday, April 03, 2017


-- A Few Notes --


A nice article on Iowa wood-carver Dean Hurliman for the many who know of him through this blog… and I can’t help but note that it ends with him saying, “I plan to do 10 more ivory-bills.” 10 more lucky people or groups out there somewhere.


Meanwhile, Project Coyote folks in central Louisiana are promising more discussion/analysis soon of recent kent-like sounds they’ve recorded in their search area.

And finally for your entertainment and discernment (nothing new here, but good bit of history) a recent 14-minute podcast on our favorite subject:

Saturday, April 01, 2017


-- South Carolina Claim --


FWIW, long-time searcher George DeBusk reports a possible sighting in South Carolina (Francis Marion National Forest) on March 28 :



Tuesday, March 28, 2017


-- A Shout Out to Bill Pulliam --


No IBWO news, but a quick shout out to Bill Pulliam today... just noticed that his small Tennessee community (and house!) took a direct hit from an EF-1 tornado yesterday. All's well with him as best I can tell, but no doubt a bit unnerving (I've only been in some wicked wind shears before, never a tornado, and those are scary enough!).
Many/most here, know that Bill has been a stalwart in the IBWO debate going back a long while (and is also very active in Tennessee birding).
I don't have a habit of citing events in people's personal lives here at the blog, but since folks haven't heard from Bill in a long while, just thought I'd give this update and wish him well.

Sunday, March 05, 2017


-- Bark Scaling Ideas --


Recent post from Mark Michaels on bark scaling, especially of hickories, will be of potential interest to any ongoing searchers out there:


Wednesday, March 01, 2017


— Mississippi Tweeting —


Just passing along this bit of Twitter trivia…

Occasionally people on Twitter report seeing an Ivory-billed Woodpecker (either recently or in the past), but rarely have any details lending credence to their claim. Once-in-a-long-while I see a tweet that may have some bit of plausibility. This week a scientist (astrophysicist) casually mentioned having seen an IBWO back in 1980. He was probably quite young back then and unaware of Pileated Woodpeckers, but nonetheless I explored it a little further and he writes “it was definitely an Ivory billed Woodpecker.” 
It was in a heavily wooded (and still today, he says, undeveloped) locale “in the area between the Tallahala Creek and Chickasawhay River” (southeast corner of Mississippi). That all makes it a bit more interesting since there was an official claim of an Ivory-bill for the large De Soto National Forest in that area in 1978, and probably more anecdotal claims for that area since.
Even if the claim is accurate, what, if anything, it means for us 37 years later I don’t know, but there it is.


Saturday, February 18, 2017


-- Drone Views From Mike Collins --


Mike Collins has posted 30 videos (at current count) from drone flights over potential Ivory-bill habitat -- primarily sections of the Pearl River, but a couple of clips from Florida's Choctawhatchee, and a couple from the Apalachicola area (I assume, but don't know, that Mike took all these himself):


Very pleasant, even mesmerizing, to watch, though hard to tell if such overview flights could ever give the resolution necessary to permit identification of an Ivory-bill below (unless by sheer chance one flew immediately beneath the drone)... in the 40-or-so random minutes I've viewed I've only seen one bird at all! IF a narrower area of potential IBWO activity was isolated then one can imagine flying the drone lower in a more concentrated way and perhaps picking up activity; also of course the views are better when the foliage is off the trees, as in the sample below:

Anyway, check 'em out for some relaxing viewing.


Saturday, February 04, 2017


-- And the Beat Goes On --


I’ve been hesitant to link to this since it’s a lot of sound and fury that’s been argued before, but some may want to see it before it fades from view (and they are about to close out the thread), so I’ll note that the birding “ID Frontiers” listserv has had ongoing "discussion" (much of it superfluous) of Mike Collins’ latest piece here:

Mike, as usual attempts to reply to doubters, and interestingly one of the better known critics of Cornell’s original work, Martin Collinson, even weighs in cutting Mike a little slack.

On a separate side-note, Mark Michaels informs followers that Frank Wiley, of their search team, is in a hospital in Louisiana with a systemic infection. Am sure we all wish Frank a full recovery, and his family well:

ADDENDUM 2/5/17:  Sadly, Mark now reports that after taking a turn for the worse yesterday, including emergency surgery, Frank passed on this morning... Condolences to his many friends and family... I'm happy he was one of the recipients of the beautiful Ivory-bill sculptures given out by artist/carver Dean Hurliman... perhaps that piece can hold and represent many memories of Frank's passion, for his loved ones. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2017


-- Mike Collins Persists, With Open Access Paper --


Once again Mike Collins has put together his evidence for Ivorybills in a published conservation paper, this time for an online, open access science journal (from Elsevier) called Heliyon:


(shorter news release here: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-01/e-rcf011717.php)


ADDENDUM:  “Concolor1” emailed me that he had some sort of difficulty posting a comment (don’t know if anyone else has?) but he wanted to provide a link to one of Mike’s YouTube videos, which was this one from Florida:

Mike has a LOT of YouTube videos under his “IBWOvids” channel, but if I were going to point people to just one I would pick the discussion of his so-called “fly-under sighting” here (rather than the Florida vid):
(I think many consider it to be his single best piece of evidence, while still not entirely convincing.)
Also, do note that if you scroll all the way down on the Heliyon article linked to above, under “Supplementary Content” Mike has 21 films that can be linked to.


Saturday, December 24, 2016


-- Goodbye To A Year That Will Live In Infamy --


Feel like I should post something before end-of-year just to indicate I remain alive... or at least had a pulse last time I checked; so here's a fun, sped-up video from Tara Tanaka of a Pileated Woodpecker making a tree cavity:

Timelapse of a Pileated Woodpecker creating a cavity, shot in 4K with the GH4 from Tara Tanaka on Vimeo.

It's not the video I'd most like to see of course, but still fun to watch. The few remaining publicly-reporting searches continue to post occasional updates, but I've not heard anything promising in private email for a long while. 
Good Holidays to all.


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