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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

Thursday, October 27, 2005


- Picture It In Your Mind's Eye -

In about a week Cornell's winter search effort in the Arkansas Big Woods commences, focusing initially on a 20-kilometer radius around the locale of most prior sightings (Cache River NWR), and expanding outward along the Cache and White Rivers. Close to 20 full-time paid searchers are involved along with about 100 experienced volunteers who have signed on for two-week stints. Remote audio and video units will also be deployed in the most promising areas, and GPS units and aerial photography will help keep track of exactly what areas have been surveyed; all as part of the most systematic IBWO search ever conducted (and to run through next April 30). Still, a VERY large, dense, inhospitable habitat is involved, looking for a creature that, though big, can easily fly out-of-view or simply duck inside a tree-hole to become invisible. Were it the case that Cache River held the last 1-2 Ivory-bills on Earth it would not surprise me at all for them to escape further detection; but my view is that multiple IBWOs exist there (and in other areas as well), greatly increasing the likelihood of encounter, though not necessarily the chance of a definitive photo.

Though many of us KNOW better, among the most hardened skeptics, Donald Eckelberry's 1944 sighting of a lone female Ivory-bill in Louisiana's Singer Tract is still cited as the last authenticated sighting of an IBWO (Eckelberry, by the way, had NO photos, NO video, NO audio recording, and no other credible adult witnesses, but his tale is easily accepted). Here is his wonderful description of that 1944 experience: (Picture it in your own mind's eye...)
"She came trumpeting in to the roost, her big wings cleaving the air in strong, direct flight, and she alighted with one magnificent upward swoop. Looking about wildly with her hysterical pale eyes, tossing her head from side to side, her black crest erect to the point of leaning forward, she hitched up the tree at a gallop, trumpeting all the way. Near the top she became suddenly quiet and began preening herself. With a few disordered feathers properly and vigorously rearranged, she gave her distinctive double rap, the second blow following so closely the first that it was almost like an echo -- an astonishingly loud, hollow, drumlike Bam-bam! Then she hitched down the tree and sidled around to the roost hole, looked in, looked around, hitched down beneath the entrance, double-rapped, and went in."
....may the upcoming search efforts produce many more such descriptions! Godspeed to all participants...

Well, I wish them godspeed as well. I've signed up for the alerts, but frankly, I've given up hope that there is anything real, Ivory-bill-wise, in Arkansas. I still retain just a glimmer, a smidgen, of hope. A, perhaps, appropriate quote popped into my head:

Truth is the daughter of time, not of authority. --Francis Bacon

Time will tell, and I'm afraid a lot of time has already gone by without much to show from Arkansas. I was ready to go there, but now I'm not. I find neither the specifics, nor the "totality" very hopeful. I hope that I am wrong, I want to get that e-mail from Cornell about a nest found, or decent-quality photos and/or video. I'll even take decent field observations with convincing sketches of a bird seen for more than five seconds. Then I'll be hopping onto I-40 and heading for Arkansas.

If there is any hope I have for the IBWO still existing, it is perhaps Kullivan's report from 1999. Perhaps there are a few deep in Louisiana bayous. I've been hearing that for 30 years, and maybe there's been an inkling of truth all along, or perhaps not.
(Eckelberry, by the way, had NO photos, NO video, NO audio recording, and no other credible adult witnesses, but his tale is easily accepted).

There is no comparison between Eckelberry's Ivory-Billed sightings and those claimed by the Cornell team.

For one, he HAD another credible adult witness, Jessie Laird, who had been with Tanner and was very familiar with Ivory-Bills.

For another, they repeatedly observed the bird at close range, repeatedly saw each and every field mark, and made complete and accurate sketches.

They observed the bird making it's double-rap. They watched and listened as it made it's calls.

The Cornell team saw none of these things. Why?
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