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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

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!!

I'll be astounded if there is anything there that we've not already heard over and over. But it is good to get it in the formal literature.
Well they can certainly criticize the video all they want. But I hate to hear things like... "in sunlight, glossy black surfaces can appear white." Sure I see that in crows
flying over my head. But they don't morph into big white triangles.
I don't mind hearing it from Tom Nelson but somehow having an ornithologist publish the same
in a journal doesn't feel as good. I did read in Tanner's book that he believed there were IBWOs in Florida in the 30s and 40s even though he couldn't find them himself.
Of course he didn't have a kayak
or even a wooden canoe! But when confronted with "signs" and corroboration from less skilled people, he tended to be a believer.
He didn't return to the area of the
Singer Tract for over 40 years though he did search for Imperials in Mexico in 1962.

Paul Sutera, New Paltz, NY
As I recall Tanner wanted to declare the bird extinct 20 years ago, so it appears he had more faith in solid evidence than unsubstantiated reports, even if unsubstantiated doesn't necessarily mean untrue.

I believe it will be absolutely necessary for Sibley to discuss alternative hypthesis, including all reasonably possible sources of mistakes. It would be bad science if he didn't.

Anyway, people have been demanding that the skeptical view be published in a scientific journal, so I'm glad it's happening.
Well it is interesting, I mean a researcher in Salt Lake City claims to have a possible cure for HIV. If his research doesn't pan out I doubt there will be a rebuttal. Cornell seems to have raised so much ire with its methods and perceptions of its openness. People seem infuriated about the possibility that money <$1M will be spent on a phantom bird.
My point about Tanner is that beyond the 1940s, he didn't go back to where there had last been IBWOs.
And the force of his authority did carry a certain weight. He was
eventually quite convinced they
were extinct in his later life,
referring to himself as the most
reknowned authority on an extinct bird.
Even an ornithologist in the 1950s kept his 1955 Florida sighting a secret for 50 years.
He didn't want to be taken away in
a str8jacket! Maybe the spirit of the extinct bird has returned to
haunt us and teach mankind a weird lesson. Nobody even talks much about going looking for Bachman's Warbler or Eskimo Curlews, yet there have been occasional sight records of these. Perhaps they went more gently into that dark night of extinction.
(Bachman's in Cuba in the 70s).

Paul Sutera, New Paltz, NY
Paul S. wrote:
"...Nobody even talks much about going looking for Bachman's Warbler or Eskimo Curlews, yet there have been occasional sight records of these..."

...just on a side note here Paul, Bob Russell and MaryScott (with others) DID go look for the Eskimo Curlew a few yrs. back I believe, and a group in Texas is planning to look for them on migration again this spring.
With regards to Bachman's and Eskimo Curlew--you've all probably seen some of this:
Eskimo Curlew Search--from the 1980's? That is part of a series of web pages, Eskimo Curlew--A vanishing species?--from 1986
Environment Canada article--says they suspended searching in 1995.

Birdforum post says:
In the Spring of 2002 an extensive search for Bachman's Warbler was organized by biologists of the US Forest Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It was carried out in the Congaree Swamp National Monument [now Congaree National Park] in South Carolina. No Bachman's Warblers were found. The search was motivated by the reports of a birder from New Jersey in April 2000 and April of 2001. These reports included visual sightings of a female Bachman's Warbler and the hearing of the song of the male Bachman's Warbler in at least 3 separate locations in the Congaree NP.


With regards to the Singer Tract, I believe Tanner did not go back because the entire area was logged over. Though it is a National Wildlife Refuge now, at one point it was all cultivated land. That is my understanding.
Thank you for the additional information! I guess I should say
I wonder if these birds would ever
inspire a crusade like the IBWO.
Different birds. Eskimo was a super long distance migrant.
I keep thinking they should keep
an eye open for Bachman's just because. Too bad about him ..the
pics from the 70s were a rough call.
Gosh it's still cold here in the northeast. Nice to hear more birdsong though... probably really starting to pick up down south.

Paul S
On the Eskimo Curlew, there was a pretty good sighting from 2002 on Martha's Vineyard. The sighting was not accepted because there was no photo, but I believe the person who reported it was a very respected birder and head of a local Audubon Society. Haven't located all the details, but there's a mention of it here:


You have to scroll down a bit.

It's certainly not as imposing a bird as the IBWO and is a lot more easily confused with other species. It might survive and be overlooked, if only because it seems pretty easy to miss or mistake. You've really got to know your shorebirds to even think you've seen one.
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