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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."

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“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






Monday, January 30, 2006

 

-- Southern Indiana History --

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A couple weeks back Steve Sheridan added an addendum to his webpage detailing 2 Ivory-bill sightings in southern Indiana by a Robert Creviston back in 1970 ( the same year Steve believes he first saw the species in S. Indiana -- outside its traditionally-defined range). Scroll down near the end of his page for the new info, or if you've never visited his site before you'll probably want to start at the top and read all the way down.

http://www.sheridanzoo.com/ivorybill.htm

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Link
Comments:
I find these southern Indiana sightings really impossible. he will need solid pictures or videos. There is no way anyone will accept such unlikely sightings. No way. He needs to prove it. There are people who swear they have seen bigfoot and the loch ness monster. Without real proof, he will fall into this category.
 
To anonymous

Would you also find cougars in Illinois, White Pelicans in Illinois and Blackbears with 30 miles of Louisville, KY to be impossible? You are entitled to your opinion, but in regard to the Ivory-bills, they were indeed there at the time stated. These two Ivory-bills simply failed to read the guide books on where they were allowed to be, they also did not know they were supposed to be extinct. If my family had been more knowledgeable of the bird in 1970, we would have had a photograph. Before 2004, I would suspect there were many people who did see Ivory-bills without having any idea of what they were looking at.

sincerely, Steve Sheridan
 
Cougars, Black Bears and White
Pelicans do not require old growth
forest in order to survive - Ivory-
billed Woodpeckers require large
tracts of old growth forest
in which to breed and maintain a viable population. The last extensive stand of old growth forest was cut in the early 40's. No proof of nesting by Ivory-bills has been found since that time. In order for the birds to exist today there had to be many successful nestings over the past several decades - where are they hiding? All of Ivory-bill reports since the 50's have involved 1 or 2 birds - no family groups have
been reported.
 
Hello again Anonymous

A. writes
"Cougars, Black Bears and White
Pelicans do not require old growth
forest in order to survive - Ivory-
billed Woodpeckers require large
tracts of old growth forest
in which to breed and maintain a viable population."

S. replies
This follows the "Old line of thinking" in reference to the Tanner data/Singer track. Tanner did an excellent job in documenting the Ivory-bill, but his data certainly is not chiselled in stone for this species. There have been mentions of several recent southern Ivorybill sightings occurring in young upland pine forests. I find it hard to believe that this species is unable to adapt and alter its behavior in reference to changes in its environment. My Indiana sightings prove that the bird is a great wonderer. Those two birds did not breed or linger in the area where I saw them, they came from elsewhere (almost surely dispersers).

A. writes
"The last extensive stand of old growth forest was cut in the early 40's."

S. replies
On what do you base this......and in what states?

A. writes
"No proof of nesting by Ivory-bills has been found since that time."

S. replies
The fact that an Ivory-bill exists in Arkansas is proof of nesting. I doubt that bird is over 55 years old! I have talked with some of the CLO team members regarding Arkansas sightings. I find them to be believeable.

A. writes
"In order for the birds to exist today there had to be many successful nestings over the past several decades - where are they hiding?"

S. replies
They are not hiding, they have been seen repeatedly and continously by individual since the 1940s. Many of these sightings have been dismissed out of hand without investigation, despite some being very credible.

A. writes
"All of Ivory-bill reports since the 50's have involved 1 or 2 birds - no family groups have been reported."

S. replies
None-the-less, these birds are being seen and reported, so they are obviously breeding. There are many species of wildlife I have seen in the wild without ever seeing family groups or juveniles for the species in question, yet I know they exist and breed.

sincerely, Steve Sheridan
 
Anonymous wrote:

"No proof of nesting by Ivory-bills has been found since that time."

"All of Ivory-bill reports since the 50's have involved 1 or 2 birds - no family groups have been reported."

Both assertions are misleading at best. The list of sightings at

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

includes the following:

Pair sighted in Thomasville, Georgia in 1958 and a pair sighted near Eglin AFB, Florida, 1968.

In addition, Heinzmann's 1967-1969 sightings (which included the recovery of a feather) were of a pair. The controversial Fielding Lewis photos were also of a pair, as was Kullivan's 1999 sighting.

While I'm not aware of any reports of "family groups", the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. The fact that there have been several sightings of pairs and multiple sightings of individuals in various locations around the South suggests that there may be scattered small breeding populations. There have simply been too many sightings by experienced observers to draw an analogy with bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster.

As to Steve Sheridan's sightings, they are within the historic range of the Ivory Bill, and if you read his description, it is quite detailed and convincing.
 
AA Allen edited books had the bird's range as including Indiana. Reading the old literature (before the Ivory Bill was declared extict -- I believe that has happened three times now) showed the bird was in Indiana, and certainly as far north as St. Louis, Missouri. I see no reason to say it was not in Indiana. The proof is otherwise.

Just as people found it impossible to believe that the Singer Tract had ivorybills until one was shot and brought in as proof we will always have people that demand to place their hand into the wound on the side...
 
The habitat described by S. Sheridan and the other witness from his website seem inappropriate for IBWOs. One sighting was a bird flying across a marshy area. S. Sheridan had one in his backyard on a stump eating ants? I know Pileateds frequently do this. What kind of trees were these birds in? Was it bottomland forest, tupelo, cypress or upland oak? It just seems far-fetched. A picture would be worth a million words in this case. Get a picture/video and the world will believe. This is also the standard that everyone has...even in the "proper" habitat and range by the experts. Go for it....
 
Well, in Cuba and Florida, IBWO's seem to have fed on pines, and there's ample evidence of Ivory Bills having a varied diet. The demand for photographs strikes me as disingenuous, since the doubters will just dismiss them and claim they are faked.

I have no particular brief for Steve Sheridan. I have exchanged a couple of emails with him but nothing more. I don't know what to make of his sighting, but I don't think it deserves to be lumped into a category that includes bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.

More generally, I think the voluminous evidence for the IBWO's survival places the burden of proof on the "skeptics", not the other way round. The skeptics are proceeding from an assumption that the ivory bill is extinct, make conclusory statements, and dismiss evidence to the contrary without examining it in depth or challenging it in a methodical way (Jackson's Auk article is a case in point). This is a faith-based, dogmatic approach, not a skeptical, scientific one.
 
I am sorry. The burden of proof clearly lies on those who have claimed to have seen it. Show the world proof...a video, photo and repeated clear sightings(not fleeting glimpses) in the same locations by a multitude of observers. This has not happened since the 1940s. If the IBWO survived without detection all these years, it would be a miracle. The skeptics don't have to prove anything. there really is no way to "prove" extinction. That is not the issue. I guess a wooley mammoth could technically still be found in some remote steepe area in Asia that nobody has ever been to or some remote island in the arctic. I think the chances are exceedingly small...just like the claims that the IBWO lives(d) in Indiana.
 
You're moving the goalposts and imposing a standard that doesn't exist for other species. This is not Calvinball; it's supposed to be objective, scientific inquiry.

There is ample evidence -- video, albeit poor and at least open to challenge, multiple sightings by knowledgeable and experienced people, most of whom are very familiar with pileateds; in some instances, there has been more than one person present. The sound recordings have been supported by spectrographic analysis. Again, this is not conclusive proof, and perhaps none of these things taken alone would be persuasive, but taken as a whole, this amounts to a good deal more than a preponderance of the evidence.

The sound recordings and the multiple good sightings (not to mention the feather found in Florida in the '60s) are, if anything, more convincing than a mere photograph, which could easily be dismissed as a hoax, just as the Lewis photos were. I'm not saying I'm convinced those photos were genuine, just that the skeptics rejected them out of hand, based on what strike me as conclusory statements about the positioning of the bird.

The skeptics have nothing but the presumption that the Ivory Bill went extinct in the '40s.
 
Well, in Cuba and Florida, IBWO's seem to have fed on pines, and there's ample evidence of Ivory Bills having a varied diet. The demand for photographs strikes me as disingenuous, since the doubters will just dismiss them and claim they are faked.

Not if they're good, particularly if it's a video.

From another post: There is ample evidence -- video, albeit poor and at least open to challenge, multiple sightings by knowledgeable and experienced people, most of whom are very familiar with pileateds; in some instances, there has been more than one person present. The sound recordings have been supported by spectrographic analysis. Again, this is not conclusive proof, and perhaps none of these things taken alone would be persuasive, but taken as a whole, this amounts to a good deal more than a preponderance of the evidence.

How about getting just one more poor video? I'd believe it then.
 
This is addressed to the first anonymous

Steve Sheridan replies;

Many people have contacted me regarding the data on my website, many believe it, some are indifferent, a few do not believe it. Discussion and constructive criticism are healthy learning processes.

You have questioned many of the things relating to my two Indiana sightings in the 1970s. I respect your opinion and will try to address your questions. I would also like to say that if I had never actually seen these two birds, I would also have a hard time believing an Indiana sighting. However, that being said, I did indeed see these birds so must address the difficult issues their existence has caused me.

You state that the habitat I have described for the sightings seems to be inappropriate. I must agree with you on this, however, I maintained that these birds did not live in this area, but where dispersing through it. Lack of supporting sign (scalings, calls) also supports my transient theory. If these two birds were dispersing travellers, then the habitat point is a moot one. Birds will indeed disperse through areas that are not suitable, they just do not settle in these areas. If these birds where dispersers, this would certainly be supported by the proximity of the Ohio River. Ivorybills are known to use waterways as travel corridors, this could certainly explain how they arrived at my sighting location.

Regarding the male bird seen on a stump feeding on red ants, here are some more details. My mother’s backyard (then) was largely in the woods, not at all a developed area. I, and my brother Ben, saw firsthand that this bird was feeding on red ants. Whether ants are a normally suitable food or not, this bird was certainly eating them. If this bird was again a disperser in an unfamiliar area, it may have had to feed on whatever food sources were available to it.

Regarding getting a picture - had my family known the significance of what we were seeing in 1970, we would have had a picture. We did not have a clue at the time of the significance of our sighting.


Some points to ponder;

Could we get a picture - At the present time, absolutely not. Thirty-six years have passed since the first sighting. The area has been developed into subdivision and is certainly not suitable for Ivorybills, but not that it necessarily ever was. Picture yourself trying to get a picture of a bird that is passing through an area as a rare occurrence as opposed to a bird that lives in an area full time. At the time of the sightings personal cameras where not of the quality that they are now. Video cam corders were virtually non-existent unless you had a huge disposable income to purchase one. Regarding photos, they will not stand up as proof, this has already been proven by previous history.

Is it possible that four people were mistaken - extremely unlikely, based on their identification of this bird while actually looking at a field guide, then back at the living bird.

Is it possible that one person, Rob Creviston, was mistaken on his two sightings - this is possible, but I found him to be very believable. I found him to be very familiar with a largely unpublished flight pattern of this bird. I also find it very significant that he had two sightings within the same year as my first sighting and within 18 miles.


Additional points to ponder;

Could I, Steve Sheridan, have fabricated at all this - that has to be considered a possibility, but consider the following issues.

Would it be likely that I would have gone to all this trouble to document this data in such detail if it were fabricated.

Details of this data were sent in the the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in December 2004, well before the news releases. Very specific details were recorded that where not typically shown in field guides of the times. I did not realize the significance of several of the details I recorded until I was educated on them by people far more knowledgeable than me. An example of this is the white at the base of the red crest of the first male Ivory-bill. How could I have known of this feature and recorded it without having read any of the “new” detailed books on Ivorybills or examined museum specimens?

If I had fabricated my sightings, would I have recorded details that deviate from the norm. The pale grey bill and the dark nasal bristles (probably from staining) would have been a pure ivory bill and white nasal bristles if I fabricated this data.

If I had fabricated my sightings, the flight pattern which I describe as NOT STRAIGHT flight, rather like a ravens (before anyone else had described Ivorybill flight as like a ravens) would have been straight as an arrow, like the flight of a Pintail duck. I also want to state that the raven-like flight mentioned here is nothing like the flight of a common crow.

Why would I take the time to record this data with such deviations from the accepted norm if it were not from real sightings. If I decided to fabricate this data, you can bet it would have been text book Ivorybill data conforming very closely to the accepted norm.

I hope this clarifies some things for you. I will be happy to discuss my data/sightings with anyone interested. I have really enjoyed reading your posts and entering into this discussion with you.

sincerely, Steve Sheridan
 
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