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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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


-- Zickefoose Cover Art --

Julie Zickefoose's blog today has a final installment describing how she completed her painting of an Ivory-bill for the cover of the Jan. "Auk" issue. I guess the only question remaining is whether her bird is flying over the Cache River or the Pearl!???



Monday, February 27, 2006


-- March SCIENCE --

Rumor has it that one of the upcoming March issues of Science Magazine will carry the long awaited/postponed rebuttal by David Sibley et.al. to Cornell's original IBWO Science article, and one would assume to the latest online Luneau film analysis as well. Indeed it will be interesting to see just how much time is spent in rebuttal of the film clip, which I still consider to be of only tangential importance anyway, versus the rest of Cornell's body of evidence.
At least the month ahead probably won't be boring... and the phrase "March Madness" just might refer to more than b-ball this year!!

Sunday, February 26, 2006


-- Pearl Video --


The following article talks about the official Ivory-bill search due to get underway in southeast Texas late this year:


For any who haven't been following the IBWO discussion on BirdForum (...if you missed the weekend posts you'll have L-L-LOTS of catching up to do -- around 200 entries over the weekend), a couple of folks have posted renditions of part of the video which Mike Collins took at Pearl River that has been the subject of much discussion, and I believe folks over at LSU are currently working on it as well. Take a gander and manipulate as needed to get your best looks, depending on what sort of screen and software options you have available -- people can certainly state their opinions, but I'd like to avoid drawn-out back-and-forth verbal matches from people seeing different things with different pieces of equipment and software; nothing will be definitively resolved here; but if you feel you have an important or new insight to make by all means bring it up! :





Thursday, February 23, 2006


-- White Pileated In Big Woods --

As if the waters weren't muddy enough (metaphorically speaking) Cornell has documented a mostly whitish (leucistic) Pileated Woodpecker at the White River Refuge in AR. as well as at least one other PIWO with additional white on a wing as had been reported earlier.


Worth reading for both the pictures and interesting commentary. While these birds don't look anything like an Ivory-bill they will certainly open the question among skeptics of whether there might exist a sibling or offspring (among the MANY Big Woods' PIWOs) that is marked in a more IBWO-like manner.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006


-- Searching Tips --

Today a BirdForum participant posted a list of tips for searching in IBWO country that I thought was interesting and worth passing along (in very slightly edited version below):

"1.Move slowly 10 steps... look around with your eyes - then your head.... then move again.. Don't bother looking around while you are moving.. LOOK WHILE YOU ARE STILL - you will see more..... WHEN YOU are moving look at where and what you are putting your feet on.. ie. branches, leaves etc...don't splash... walk in 3 or 4 step patterns.. ONLY humans walk in 2 step patterns...... 2 step walking alerts ALL animals to human presence.... It is painstaking to move like this.. particularly if you have never done it... BUT.. it is necessary...you'll be amazed at how much closer to birds and other wildlife you will get....
1.A.. when you stop it is best to have your sillouette broken up by a large tree or bush... stop in the shadows if you can..
1 B. before you move.. Locate your next stopping point.. and closely analyze the steps to getting there..... look for and plan for obstacles..
1.c.IF you are patient... you can step through weeks worth of dry leaves and still sound natural. poke your foot in with your toes..slightly wiggle your foot and CREATE A HOLE... DON'T go traipsing through sounding like a frosted flakes commercial...

2.wear a hat.... doesn't have to be camo.. but NO bright colors...

3. minimize unneccesary movement.. smoking, pointing with your hands at everything you see... describe it... sort of like... 2 o clock midway up that gum tree....

4. do the scratch test on everthing you wear..... scratch it with your fingernail... if you can hear it... YOU HAVE THE WRONG CLOTHES>> forget them.. start over.....

5. lay out all of your gear in the sunshine.... anything reflective.. replace it or leave it.. unless you can paint it.... this includes paddles.......

6. you may get wet.. but wear shoes that you can walk comfortably and quietly..... what's a little water? I mean really above 65 degrees is not at all uncomfortable....

7. whisper... don't talk loudly..... if at all. the human voice carries a great great distance.... and despite how much you like them... few wild animals/birds like us.....

8. tape loose ends of your clothing and gear... an untimely snag can ruin a lot of hard work..

9. if you have light skinned cheeks... camo face paint... in vertical stripes.....forehead and the backs of your hands too.... or better yet.. wear like mesh gloves....

10. and most importantly MOVE INTO THE WIND......looking back at nearly every reliable IBWO sighting..... the people were moving into the wind or across the wind.. why.... well... ALL predators move into the wind... the reasons are many.. but in our case here... sound is carried away from our target and not TO them... so moving into the wind minimizes your sound and scent pollution.(Based on what I know... ..about waterfowl and IBWOs... they use their sense of smell MUCH MUCH MORE THAN WE REALIZE...) additionaly.. if you are moving into the wind..you will see MUCH More wildlife than you usually do.. trust me....that always cracks me up when i see birders.. they generally just amble off..... hunters on the other hand... always approach from the downwind side....(well good hunters anyway)..

If you are paddling.... sound proof your paddle... have a towel to place your paddle down on so that it doesn't clang everytime you stop... also put foam pipe insulation at the points where it may hit the boat... and.... while paddling through prime zones.. ONE PERSON PADDLES WHILE THE OTHER PERSON LOOKS.. if by yourself.. 3-5 strokes.. drift and watch........

now.... a couple other points..... some things I always bring with me....
1. a whistle.... IF by some chance you need to contact other people.. whistles work much better than you screaming... and you expend a lot less energy.
2.a clean pair of socks......
3. a roll of duck tape.
4. a SHARP knife.
5. brush cutter shears (make blinds, shelter and clear paths).
6. hunter orange vest( I only wear it if I know there are deer hunters or hunting in the area and generally.. I see other hunters LONG before they are aware of me, I am an exception and not the rule......) but in an emergency hunter orange may save your life if people are looking for you...
7. bug spray... don't have it don't go.. even in winter.......
8.10 feet of rope.......
9..OH>. and your camera..... in a zip loc bag.. also ziploc your wallet, phone and always keep an extra zip loc....."



-- 'nother Get-together --

"The Call of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Celebration" begins tomorrow for 3 days in Brinkley, AR. with several of the now usual IBWO presenters participating. We'll see if anything new or noteworthy emanates therefrom.

If you're not already following the discussion of Mike Collins' ("Cinclodes") efforts in the Pearl at 'BirdForum' you may wish to check it out at:

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=33968&page=1&pp=30 (may need to 'refresh' page)

info, updates, and general thoughts are more frequent there than at Mike's own webpage (also worth checking daily).


Tuesday, February 21, 2006


-- More From Mike C. --

Mike Collins has posted some audio files and video frames of a Pearl River bird at his website:

http://www.fishcrow.com/winter06.html (Feb 20 entry)

Will probably require some expert technical analysis to say much about this preliminary evidence (certainly nothing earth-shattering yet), but with luck better material may be forthcoming.


Monday, February 20, 2006


-- Pearl Anniversary! --

Somewhat appropriately, today was the 4-year anniversary since release of the final report of the 2002 Zeiss/LSU Pearl River Ivory-bill search team following their month-long effort:


Under the circumstances just thought it might be timely to refer readers back to that search (and there's more about it on the web than this one official summary page), especially for any new readers who might not be fully aware of that study, or why the Pearl is an area of such interest. Several of the major players in that endeavor are of course also involved in the current Arkansas search.


Sunday, February 19, 2006


-- IVORY-BILLS IN THE PEARL!! + Jackson Searches --

Mike Collins is officially reporting having located a pair of Ivory-bills in a remote part of the Pearl River region he has been searching! Here is part of his post announcing his find:
"...I can now say with certainty that ivorybills exist in the Pearl. There is at least one pair. I am asking everyone to show the same restraint that you have shown in Arkansas. Please don't come here now. Wait until more is known about ivorybill populations. Wait until a blind is set up at a nest or roost so that ivorybills can be observed without disturbing them. Better yet, go find other populations of ivorybills. Coming here would be potentially detrimental to the birds. It would almost certainly be a waste of time. The Pearl is a vast area. The birds are in a remote location that is difficult and dangerous to reach. Even if I disclosed the location, it would be extremely difficult to locate the birds...."

His entire post is under "Feb. 18" at: http://www.fishcrow.com/winter06.html

A bit anti-climactical under the circumstances, but also worth reporting, that Jerry Jackson is actively searching the Fackahatchee Preserve area in Collier County, Fla. which he believes to be some of the best available habitat for the species. See:


Addendum: In response to some questions, Mike C. added a few more details to his info in a BirdForum post, as follows:
"There are two birds together. I don't yet know if they are a mated pair. Of course, I have attempted to get a photo and will continue to do so. I have invited two of the most well-known ornithologists. It is important that they act quickly. I thought hunting season was over, but some hunters remain in the area. Gunshots went off nearby when I heard the two birds together. Turkey season begins soon. It could very well be that these birds have had nest failures every year due to disturbances from human activities. The ornithologists have the power to ensure they are protected. In fact, they have that responsibility in my opinion. It would simply be a matter of closing the small area where a nest is suspected."


Friday, February 17, 2006


-- IBWO Recovery Planning --

Cornell has posted a new page summarizing current thinking about a recovery plan for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the result of an earlier February meeting of 70 members from the Recovery Team in Brinkley. Hope is that a "final" plan will be in place by June of 2007 after much study and public discussion. Of course much depends on just how many locales/states the species is eventually found in, and how many individuals or pairs can be located.


-- IBWO Impacts --

This article attempts to reassure Arkansas locals that documenting the Ivory-bill's presence won't substantially disrupt other land users in the area. This is a continual concern to some, especially as a lawsuit is pending over further construction of the Grand Prairie irrigation project which will likely impact IBWO habitat.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


-- Return To eBay --

Paid another visit to eBay today checking on their current Ivory-bill wares:


Lot of artwork, books, trinkets etc., but the item that most caught my eye this time were some front license plates from artist Larry Chandler (9 available at $20/each). Handsome...
As folks may know, the State of Arkansas is offering 'conservation' plates featuring the IBWO to residents this year, but out-of-staters are out-of-luck on those. These are a nice alternative, but only legal in the following states that permit front bumper auto tags: Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Lousiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia. Worth a look if you reside therein.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006


-- DNA Evidence ? --

The question of testing for the presence of Ivory-bills using DNA evidence has repeatedly popped up around the internet from time to time. Cornell says they have indeed been testing feathers pulled from suspicious bark scalings in the Big Woods and thus far all have proven to be Pileated. They are not able to get DNA from saliva (which birds don't have) or from "footprints;" they did not specifically mention beak gouges, but I suspect these likewise are not a suitable source for DNA. Further they note that it simply isn't "cost efficient" to test for Ivory-bill DNA by vacuuming up and checking material from the floor of interesting tree cavities (unless it is already visually known with high probability that IBWOs have used the cavity).

Saturday, February 11, 2006


-- Encounters...? --

Maybe they're feeling the pressure... after earlier indicating they would not report on non-definitive Ivory-bill enounter claims until the search season was over, Cornell has now posted a brief summary of IBWO claims since the winter effort began:


They cautiously report 6 possible sightings (from all the rumors, I'm a bit surprised it's not higher than that) and another 10 auditory encounters. Again, nothing definitive here, maybe just a morale-booster for those involved in the search, and always nice to get updates.

And Mike Collins has posted an interesting photo of some foraging sign in the Pearl area he is searching:


Unfortunately (does the ambiguity NEVER end) Pileateds are known on occasion to make these sorts of furrows, although I've never seen an example of this many in a single tree. It's difficult to deduce size from Mike's pic, but Holzman/Sykes have previously indicated that Pileated furrows are likely to be less than 3 ft. long, and anything over 3 ft. is highly suspicious (the top furrow looks over 3 ft. to my eye???).

And HAPPY ANNIVERSARY everyone!! -- it was two years ago today that Gene Sparling, kayaking "in a magical place," noted seeing "a large woodpecker and the black-and-white pattern seems reversed." Cheers to all involved! We're now entering the heart of the breeding season, so with luck, additional interesting reports will be forthcoming...

Addendum: 'Fangsheath' at BirdForum has posted the following links to examples of Pileated foraging not too unlike Mike's Pearl River find:




Thursday, February 09, 2006


-- And On a Lighter Note... --

I received a note from a graduate of Arkansas State University reporting a small move afoot to change the name (and mascot) of the ASU sports teams from "Indians" (no longer politically-correct) to "Ivory-bills," an idea
, as he says, that "would garner much free publicity for the school and do much to highlight the need for habitat preservation in the big woods located so close to the ASU campus." Possibly, there are folks out there (or ASU alumni) who want to get involved with this issue... but you'll have to convince folks to pass over such other suggestions as "Red Wolves," "Coyotes," "Snappers," "Farmers," and "Copperheads."
...Go, you fighting Ivory-bills!!!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


-- Cornell's Luneau-Clip Analysis --

Cornell has posted their promised in-depth analysis of David Luneau's film clip here:


--- fairly lengthy, extensive analysis; much of it repeats info presented in the original Science paper but in much greater detail; best part may be the more extensive use of actual film/photos of Pileateds in pertinent positions/poses. I think this presentation will be quite convincing to a great many folks, although still leaving room for doubt among hardened skeptics. Will be interesting to see if a planned skeptical rebuttal to the original Science paper is still published (or yanked), as it will now have to address this further analysis.
Personally, I still find it troubling that SO much weight has been placed on the Luneau video from the start --- 7-16 sightings by credible, credentialled observers should be convincing enough (and would be for any species other than the IBWO); the video is simply one additional piece of data.


-- Birder's World Input --

Birder's World Magazine has posted an article with 5 professional ornithologists commenting on J.Jackson's 'Auk' article with varying opinions (not clear how they selected this particular group of 5). Other Ivory-bill links on their site also available at bottom of this page.


On a side note, as if the pot wasn't stirred enough, word has it that the Sibley, et. al. critique (rebuttal) of the Cornell Arkansas data may be out in an upcoming Science issue.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006


-- This, That, & 'nother Thang --

Bobby Harrison is posting his own updates on the current Arkansas search courtesy of Eagle Optics at:


He has yet to see the bird this year but with sponsoring/funding from Eagle he's still hoping to get the killer video.

Meanwhile, Ivory-bill searcher Mike Collins continues his search in the Pearl River area where he believes he heard the bird years ago, and may have seen one just last week. You can follow his updates at:

http://www.fishcrow.com (click on the Winter 2006 search)

Finally, a Cornell student has posted a response regarding the nature of science and J.Jackson's 'Auk' article
here (a bit philosophical, but I think on the mark):


Monday, February 06, 2006


-- Foraging Sign Webpage --

As they used to say in the 60's, "groovy": Steve Holzman and Paul Sykes have summarized some of their preliminary woodpecker foraging groove information at their own webpage here:


Much of this info has already been previously reported, but nice to have a single reference page now to point to.


Friday, February 03, 2006


-- Zickefoose Tutorial --

Self-taught artist Julie Zickefoose has an interesting step-by-step post from Thur. detailing how she went about painting an Ivory-bill "booking through Bayou de View" for the cover of last month's edition of "The Auk" journal. Interesting read, and this is just her first installment on the story, so there may well be more coming today.



Thursday, February 02, 2006


-- Continued Debate --

A bit more of the back-and-forth debate between Cornell's John Fitzpatrick and a skeptical Jerry Jackson is found in today's Cornell Daily Sun edition; a nice read, though it won't settle anything. Interestingly, Fitzpatrick does mention a new website Cornell is designing to buttress their case by showing detailed analysis of the Luneau video with multiple comparative views of Pileateds in flight.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006


-- Luneau/Sparling Field Notes --

David Luneau and Gene Sparling have now posted some additional field notes to an online Nature Conservancy journal that David first posted on a couple weeks back:



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