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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 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.

Well the evidence is frustrating but one thing keeps me confident... my own inability to photograph birds well even with a telephoto lens. It's been dark and rainy in the South, so that would go double for the swamp forest.
I'm hoping for some good kent recordings. I can believe it's hard to videotape any birds in a dark forest. I don't think Mike is getting fooled by Pileateds and Blue Jays.
But it does seem amazing to many people that a bird who's number was
estimated by Tanner at 24 in the
late 1930s has made it this far.
I just bought Tanner's book for about $9.00 and it's good reading.
One thing I did read is that inbreeding doesn't necessarily affect birds negatively as it does mammals.

Paul Sutera, New Paltz, NY
I'm eagerly awaiting more expert analysis and commentary. But it seems that Mike has got a good location, and I suspect he'll come up with even better documentation in the very near future.
I tend to be a believer in the presence of IBWOs in Arkansas and perhaps in the Pearl, but this evidence is pretty weak. The video frames show nothing definitive and the audio sounds exactly like normal Blue Jay calls. He will have to do better than this
Saying he'll have to do better than this is prejudging the case, unless you have the expertise to do a spectral analysis and enhance the images. We'll see.
I can assure you he'll have to do better. Even if that were an Ivory-Bill, and that's a mighty big IF, I don't think we have any original recordings similar to it for comparison.

It follows the same pattern over and over, a flurry of excitement followed by a let down. Perhaps this time will be different, but the odds in favor are mighty long.

What is the point of showing us a video that is completely useless?
I am not prejuding the audio recording. I listened to them and they sound nothing like the known recording from the Singer Tract (which I have listene to hundreds of times). They do sound like the Bluejays in my backyard. Note that the one recording has a Crow calling. I don't think anyone would suggest you need a computer to indentify that. Likewise, the Ivory-bill call is quite distinctive
You are assuming here that the full spectrum of IBWO calls has been recorded and made public. This is far from clear. Upthread on birdforum, there's an indication that other ivory bill recordings have not been released by Cornell.

Both Mike and Choupique on birdforum state that they have heard Ivory Bills making this sound, and the preliminary spectrographic analyses are not consistent with blue jay calls.

There are certainly legitimate questions to be raised about this material, but to reject it out of hand without allowing for expert analysis is the antithesis of skepticism.
I only hope if Mike is hearing Kents that he is able to run a tape recorder all the time he is out there.
He doesn't make wild claims for his
evidence other than to say it's hard evidence... which seems a stretch.
I have never heard a blue-jay song/ recording sound anything like the Kents from the Cornell ARU. I've heard their mimicry, and it's rather sotto voce. I hope he isn't getting fooled by "swamp fever" ...those recordings of his are very ambiguous.
But we don't know what distant Kents sound like.

Paul Sutera, New Paltz, NY
Paul -- Mike stated that these are not kent calls but that he has heard IBWOs making this sound along with the kents in the course of his observation.

It is hard evidence in the sense that he's got both film and audio. It's not at all clear, however, how good it is and whether it's conclusive or not. It certainly won't convince all the skeptics, even with expert analysis, etc.
This is Mike's first set of recordings, put out there for evaluation and comment. Everyone knows it leaves much room for improvement.

Two of us have looked at these calls on a sonogram, and have both concluded they are not a good match for any Blue Jay calls we have found so far. I specifically compared them to known Blue Jay "bell" calls, the call that is most similar to my ears. The sonogram shows a clearly different harmonic structure between Mike's recording and known Blue Jay "bell" notes. More details have been posted at Bird Forum.
Yes, I'm sure IBWO make other sounds,
just like Pileated's have soft little sounds and gentle "yuk, yuk, yuks".
I'm just trying to figure out how he can keep a tape recorder going all day and realized it would take probably 100 AA batteries - bad for the environment. I've heard the Cornell "Kents" and they aren't blue-jays as far as I'm concerned.

Paul Sutera, New Paltz, NY
It would be a knee jerk reaction to automatically assume that he has not seen Ivory-Bills, just like it would be knee jerk reaction to assume he has seen Ivory-Bills because he believes he has.

I am no closer to believing, not because it's impossible that it's true, but because, once again, the photos are fuzzy and the observations incomplete and unsubstantiated.

Tanner had verifiable facts. I don't think it's wise to start rewriting his books before the first verifiable bird is found.
Come on. The audio files sound like a Blue jay. I can barely even find a bird in the video frames. I don't believe the IBWO is a sulker. They weren't for Tanner, Allen and company. What made them change?

I am sorry, just like the claims of the CLO, I will not believe until there is irrefutable evidence. Show the world a clear video or photo, then you will be onto something.

Keep on searching...this needs to be done (I am jealous as I would love to be down there). Best of luck to you!


Anyone who thinks they can determine definitely the source of those calls just from listening to the recording is being careless. As I mentioned above, thought they may "sound like" a blue jay, on a sonogram they don't "look like" one, at least not any of the common calls.
Both "verifiable" and "irrefutable" are in the eye of the beholder, and the goal posts are constantly shifting for the skeptics, many of whom strike me as less than intellectually honest.

Even the clearest photo can be refuted (in the minds of some) by claiming it has been doctored. Anything is possible with Photoshop, after all.

As to "verifiable", there were multiple sightings in Arkansas, including sightings with two people present and contemporaneous field notes, enough for a sighting to be "verified" in virtually any other birding context.

Speaking hypothetically, if Mike's audio evidence is verified by spectrographic analysis or several experts or both, will that be enough?

As to Tanner's study, it was indisputably very limited in scope, and concerned itself with one isolated population living under a particular set of conditions. It is the best we have at this point, but it is foolhardy to think of it as gospel. . .and we can now hope that it won't be the last word.

Skepticism is fine. I don't have any personal brief for MIke, but I'm inclined to think his evidence is pretty good. I also expect he will come up with more and better documentation. I haven't made up my mind about what he's got (regardless of my hopes and what I'm inclined to think about it), and I'm awaiting expert analysis before I do. Jumping to conclusions about the quality of evidence based on your own opinions is not skepticism, and is not scientific. At best, it's arrogance.
P.S. when I say I'm inclined to think his evidence is pretty good, it's because it was obtained in conjunction with an actual sighting. I also suspect that it's stronger than it appears at first glance, but I realize I may be wrong and am awaiting the opinions of people more knowledgeable than I am.
enough for a sighting to be "verified" in virtually any other birding context.

But apparently it won't be good enough for the Ivory-Bill. And it's not because people are against the bird (except for a few developers, no doubt) it's because there have been so many false alarms and it has been so long since the bird had been "verified" in the opinion of the majority in the birding world. Right or wrong, that's the way it is.

the goal posts are constantly shifting for the skeptics, many of whom strike me as less than intellectually honest.

Those dirty rotten liars! Just kidding. The goal posts haven't shifted one inch, at least for 99% of the skeptics, because they weren't skeptics when this began and there has been no evidence better then Cornell's for there to be any cause to move the goal posts even if one were so inclined.

Sibley's standard of birds seen REALLY WELL by INDEPENDENT observors is is a reasonable one. And I'm sure good photos from more than one source or a credible source will be accepted. Good video will be the best.

Speaking hypothetically, if Mike's audio evidence is verified by spectrographic analysis or several experts or both, will that be enough?

I can tell you in advance that analysis of audio won't be accepted as proof in itself, as it could be recordings of recordings, or recordings of altered recordings. A feather won't be good enough, because it could be from a museum specimen. People should remember that choupique1 has fooled birders into thinking they were hearing Ivory-bills by blowing a modified duck call. According to my reading of his story, he didn't tell them what he'd done. Probably most of them were credible and told about their Ivory-Bill encounter, and most of them weren't delusional or liars. Those that were fooled just misinterpreted the evidence and failed to explore alternative explanations.

It would be easy to argue that if Cinclodes' mystery call he recorded doesn't match any known bird call, it must be an Ivory-Bill. It could be many other things, too, like a hoaxer or even another critter. There have been Ivory-bill hoaxes, and they are even more likely nowadays with all the excitement. Maybe Mike C. will get video of the birds, although I think it's highly unlikely. If he does, he deserves to be a hero and for his name to be written down in the Birding Hall of Fame.
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