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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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Saturday, March 18, 2006

 

-- 'Frontiers of Bird I.D.' Discussion --

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The "Frontiers of Identification" birding listserv has been airing an ongoing discussion of the Luneau video of late spurred by Kenn Kaufman (...and thanks to "The Birdchaser" blog for bringing this to my attention). Mostly interesting, varied posts, for the obsessed among us, with occasional 'different' points being made -- my only concern is that once again it almost exclusively addresses the visual evidence of the Luneau clip, and not Cornell's size or wingbeat analysis:

http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/FRID.html#1142634320

(check the "Re: Woodpecker I.D. " posts; and you may need to 'refresh' the page for most recent posts as the discussion is ongoing)
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Comments:
But Kaufman does point out another very serious problem with the Arkansas report:

"When R.T. Peterson went to the Singer Tract in 1942, there were no precise stakeouts, so he and his companions had to search for a day and a half. Once they found the birds, though, they were able to follow them for nearly an hour. Compare that to the recent episode in Arkansas, with the bird(s) supposedly evading an army
of searchers for two years, and it just doesn't make sense."

The Cornell team has been out there for the past 4 and a half months, and where's their bird? Where did it come from, and where did it go? Birds don't regenerate so it had to be the offspring of a mating pair. Where are its congeners? If the Cornell team can't find any solid evidence of Ivory-billeds when their search completes, they'll have to reconsider their earlier decision and admit that they may have made a mistake. They wouldn't be the first birders to do that.
 
Yeah, and while they're at it they can explain all of the kent calls and double-knocks they've recorded. After that they can explain why some of their top birding employees didn't see what they saw.

Fat chance.
 
Well I don't know how the 18,000 acre Singer Tract compares with
the 250 Square mile Big Woods.
Not to mention the other areas still being searched. But with 34 searchers it would take about 5 months to cover all 250 square miles ONCE if the birds call carries for a 1/4 mile. If the nesting area is nearby but not being searched... it would be easy to miss the bird. This is a long territory too. It's not very wide but the Big Woods is almost 90 miles long. 90 difficult miles.
The Singer Tract had a caretaker who knew approximately where the birds were. Furthermore in 1942, so much of the nearby tracts were cut that there was an artificial
surplus of IBWOs in the Singer
which was very good virgin habitat.
But I won't bore anyone with the math that shows that 250 square miles requires hundreds of miles
of searching per birder, assuming all 34 people are young, loose of limb, and don't travel in pairs.

Paul Sutera
 
Assuming you were working with 34 birders to cover 250 square miles, it wouldn't take them 5 months to cover that much ground. Assign each birder 7 square miles, and that could easily be covered thoroughly in half that time. Although it may be cumbersome for people to get around in the Big Woods, it isn't difficult for a bird. The ivory-billed supposedly would travel miles in a day hunting for food. If the bird travels that much, you wouldn't need to cover every square inch. Alternatively, assuming the bird is sedentary, there wouldn't be a need to cover all 250 miles. You would only need to cover a fraction of the territory in microscopic detail. Either way, a large bird like an ivory-billed could be found without much difficulty if it were there.
 
Ruminations on a Pileated Woodpecker.

This morning we were sitting in the rain at the famed hwy 17 bridge for one last look at the Bayou de View before driving to the airport, and home. A large woodpecker flew down the bayou (momentary excitment!), we saw it for about 2-3 seconds. Its GIS and flight pattern were that of a Pileated, and despite the rain we could easily see the trailing black secondaries on the underwings and all dark upperwings. A classic Pileated.

Why describe this? Well, basically a couple of average weekend birders ID'd a Pileated in very poor conditions with no problem. I am confident if it had been a Ivory-Billed we'd have gotten the ID. So even if the video isn't completely definitive, the seven or more clear sightings by experts since 2004 easily suffice for me to prove that the bird exists. I have high confidence in the veracity of their ID's.

Of course, I still agree with the skeptics on one thing; we do really need that clear and verifiable piece of evidence for all the world to see.
 
So even if the video isn't completely definitive, the seven or more clear sightings by experts since 2004 easily suffice for me to prove that the bird exists.

That "expert" term gets thrown around too much...but with that said, they were probably all experienced enough to know the difference.
 
I think calculating the number of watchers per acre per day makes a nice algorithm, but does not in any way reflect on the realities on the ground. Getting to and staying in search areas is a huge problem in itself, moving around and seeing things is another.

From what I've seen of the Singer Tract research, those guys could haul in wagon loads of recording equipment and move around with some speed. Whole different set-up.
 
From John James Audubon's description of the bird:

"No sooner has this bird alighted than its remarkable voice is heard.... Its notes are clear, loud, and yet rather plaintive. They are heard at a considerable distance, perhaps half a mile.... They are usually repeated three times in succession, and may be represented by the monosyllable pait, pait, pait. These are heard so frequently as to induce me to say that the bird spends few minutes of the day without uttering them...."

The birds called frequently all day, and the calls could be heard nearly a half mile away. If these birds were around, they'd be a piece of cake to find. With the army of birders Cornell is using to hunt for the birds, they should have been found by now. Maybe they have, and Cornell is keeping quiet about it. But if so, why bother submitting the recent rebuttal to Science magazine? They could have submitted more evidence in support of the bird's existence. I fear that the search for the ivory-billed is a lost cause.
 
I've been reading the frontiers of ID discussion. People are quoting a lot of similar pre-1940s observations of pairs or groups of Ivory-Bills flying around actively and calling frequently. It shouldn't be this elusive.

I have a concern then on the rejection of valid sightings. If the video and sound recordings are sufficiently contested the bird should not be "offically" relisted, as it has been. However, a number of people have seen and heard the bird. How valid are their claims? We accept sightings for rare birds, big days, lifers, and so forth all the time. So why all of a sudden are all the sightings since 2004 (and really before that) rejected out of hand? Should we reject all sightings we might disagree with, such as big day totals over 200? Should now all claims, even "unofficial" ones be substantiated by pictures?
 
Don

I have a concern then on the rejection of valid sightings.
However, a number of people have seen and heard the bird. How valid are their claims? We accept sightings for rare birds, big days, lifers, and so forth all the time. So why all of a sudden are all the sightings since 2004 (and really before that) rejected out of hand?
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It seems that the general rule of thumb on Ivorybill sightings is to reject out of hand first and ask questions later.
I have certainly found this to be the case, despite having reported very detailed information regarding my sightings. This information consisted of things observed that I could not have known without having actually seen these birds or having examined museum specimens (which, at the time I had not done). This data was recorded long before the 2004 sightings and all the recently published books/articles on this bird. Much of the info. in my sightings was not mentioned in the "common" birding books of the time.

It seems the Ivorybill is held to a different standard than any and all other bird species sightings.
 
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