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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."

-- 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






Sunday, March 05, 2006

 

-- Jaded or What??? --

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Over the years there have been 100's of Ivory-bill reports turned in, including outright hoaxes, innumerable mis-identifications, and many simply unconfirmable claims. With the advent of the internet any such report can now shoot around the birding community in lightening speed. But with all the current controversy have we now arrived at such a jaded "boy who cried wolf" state that sightings no longer command much attention unless accompanied by a close-up/clearcut photo or video???
I ask because I confess to being surprised at the paucity of interest shown across the Web in Mike Collins' Pearl River IBWO claims, especially the lack of coverage on the Louisiana and Mississippi Bird listserv groups (instead there have been a few harsh, caustic comments)? Because of previous historical IBWO claims for the Pearl and the Stennis region it makes sense for this area to be of interest, and one would think many involved with the unsuccessful 2002 Pearl search in particular would love to see that past effort vindicated. Are individuals who might otherwise show an interest simply too involved with the current Arkansas endeavor to divert attention to Louisiana right now? Or has the lack of minute detail in Mike's accounts hurt his credibility? The video is weak and ambiguous, but on close examination has enticing elements, or do doubters find it worthless??? Or, is there possibly more interest/activity being shown locally in the area than I am aware of?
I'd be interested to hear (either comment section or email) from folks, especially those closest to the scene in LA. and MS., as to the seeming shallow degree of follow-up to Mike's report, or correct me if there IS more happening -- (and I don't want simplistic verbal slamming of Mike, just civil, thoughtful opinions, please).

Here, BTW, is another one of Mike's ('cinclodes') posts from BirdForum this weekend:

http://www.birdforum.net/showpost.php?p=540235&postcount=3080
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Comments:
Louisiana birders are sleeping through the biggest conservation news in the history of their state, but that doesn't take anything away from the most incredible experience of my life. I don't think the video evidence is weak. It's actually stronger than the Luneau video. What does the Luneau video show? Wingbeat rate, size, and white in some of the right places. My video shows these elements as well as posture and wing shape. It also shows the white trailing edge going all the way to the base of the wing as it should. The quality is poor due to the light conditions, but the key is to get information not a pretty picture. It's the first video in more than 70 years of a perched ivorybill. What's this I keep hearing about details of reports, field notes, etc.? It's baloney. I described exactly what I saw in my reports. Anything beyond that would be phony.
 
You mentioned credibility. I consider the Cornell group to be about as credible as they come. What about my credibility? I have nearly 70 papers published in refereed scientific journals and I'm the best in the world in my area. I wonder how many others who have claimed to have seen ivorybills can top that. I was educated at MIT, which is the best university in the world. The type of person who can get into MIT and thrive there is also the type of person with enough drive and determination to find ivorybills. I don't like to flaunt my credentials, but you brought it up.
 
I think these two comments by Mike illustrate exactly why birders are not getting emotionally involved in the Pearl sightings.

Even if Mike did see IBWOs -- and reasonable minds can clearly disagree on that -- he is simply too invested in his sighting to discuss it rationally.

Perhaps Jerry Jackson was right when he used the term "faith-based" ornithology.
 
I've been following Mike's efforts, and I applaud him for trying, but to be honest, I find his attitude somewhat surprising, particularly for someone with his background in science. He's made a statement about not needing to take notes regarding the circumstances of the video he has obtained. Also, the apparent expectation by him and his more ardent supporters on BirdForum that we should take his claimed sightings as undisputed fact is naive at best.

I'm sure some of the lack of attention is due to the fact that Mike doesn't have the reputation that Cornell has. That's part of the reason that many people won't accept his sight records at face value. I have never heard of Mike before he began his search. I'm sure many others in the birding and ornithological worlds have not either. So we really have no idea if he's the next Roger Peterson or maybe he's the next "Magic Man" (William Smith?) of Florida. (And that's probably a big problem with the acceptance of Cornell's sight records, also. Despite Cornell's reputation, their people who actually have reported sightings are not well-known birders. In fact, those with national reputations in the birding world did not report any sightings.)

I've looked at Mike's videos a little bit on his website. To say that they're better than the Luneau video is a bit of an exaggeration, IMO. I have a hard time seeing the white trailing edge. At least in the Luneau video, you can always see white. That isn't the problem with that video. I intend to spend more time examining Mike's video in the future, so maybe I'll be convinced, but it's going to take a lot of scrutiny.

I by no means intend this to be an insult to Mike's efforts. I wish him luck with his search. I really do. But his apparent expectation that others take his sight reports and low-quality video as confirmation causes me to be suspect, as I'm sure it does others. Also, whether or not I believe his reports not the only issue. The hard cold fact is that the evidence he's gathered so far would not past muster for a peer-reviewed journal or in a court of law for something as spectacular as this. Yes, I realize journals always rely on the honesty of the person reporting the data and also assume that errors in obtaining data, but this is a special case. Right or wrong, that's just the way it is for something like this. Sure, it isn't as spectacular as proving the existence of extra-terrestrial life, but to quote Mike, it would be "the biggest conservation news in the history of [Louisiana]." It would be one of the biggest conservation news stories throughout the world.

One final thought, I know the argument on BirdForum is that no matter how good the photo or video, there will always be doubters, but there won't be as many as there are now.
 
A couple of responses to the two anonymous posts:

"he is simply too invested in his sighting to discuss it rationally."

I don't see anything irrational in Mike's comments. Some irritation and perhaps even anger, but (for example) he makes a very rational argument about why his video is stronger than Luneau's. You're free to disagree, but I think it's a pretty sordid tactic to attack his rationality.

"The hard cold fact is that the evidence he's gathered so far would not past muster for a peer-reviewed journal or in a court of law for something as spectacular as this."

This is just a rephrasing of the tired assertion that "extraordinary claims require extraodinary evidence." It is based on what I consider a false premise. There is nothing so extraordinary about the Ivory Bill's survival, except on an emotional level.

There have been numerous sightings in the Pearl in recent years, so the claim is arguably not spectacular at all, even if it is the biggest conservation news in Lousiana. In addition, time will tell if his evidence is good enough for a peer reviewed journal, if he chooses to go that route. Courts of law don't change their standards of proof on the basis of the spectacular or mundane nature of a case.

As to whether he's a famous birder or not, I don't see what that has to do with anything, though I do agree that the lack of attention probably has to do with the fact that he's not connected with an institution like Cornell. If you read his website, he has extensive birding experience and has seen other Campephilus woodpeckers in the field, which should count for something. He's been very open and forthright about his identity and credentials, not to mention his progress while searching, and to insinuate that he may be engaging in a hoax, without a shred of evidence to support this suggestion, is another sordid tactic.

I think his anger is not unreasonable under the circumstances. Those who come forward with Ivory Bill sightings have long been the targets of ridicule and abuse, and your post -- despite your claim that you don't intend it to "be an insult to Mike's efforts" -- is one more example.
 
"We have no idea... if he's the next Magic Man of Florida"

Uh, yes, you do. I didn't just make postage stamp sized photos available. I sent the raw footage to a biologist, who processed the video while I'm in the field, and then I posted it in full resolution. I have also made the raw footage available on DVD so that anyone can clearly see that it's not a hoax. The original digital video tape is available for inspection. I don't see how anyone not employed by George Lucas could fake such a video.

"To say that they're better than the Luneau video is an exaggeration"

I didn't say the video is better. I said it contains more information, and that's what is most important for indentification. Pretty pictures can wait until a nest or roost is found. In the Luneau video, the pattern of white on the wings is unclear. On my video, the trailing white edge on the upper wing is exactly where it should be. In the same frame, you can see white on the back where it should be. In the first and second videos, you can see evidence of the white triangle on the back (as the bird hitches up the tree in the first video and as it lands in the second video). My video also shows the wing shape. I'm working with a biologist who has done some comparisions with photos of ivorybills and pileateds. The wing shape is like the ivorybill's but very different from a pileated. The third video shows that the wingbeat rate is about eight flaps per second. It is hard to count this in the version on the web, but several birders have independently arrived at this number from the raw data on my laptop. My video also shows the posture of the bird, including at different times that are not shown in the video that is posted. The bird is always leaning way back in the posture of ivorybills photographed by Allen and Tanner (with the exception when they are peering into the nest or otherwise doing something other than just perching). Pileateds do this at times, but their usual posture is more parallel to the perch. The long tail is also evident as the bird takes off in the first video. I am going to measure the tree, which will give us more information. If you're looking for a pretty picture, you're not going to get it from either of the videos. If you're looking for information, I believe my video contains quite a bit more than the Luneau video.

"Some irritation and perhaps anger..."

The only anger is that every day I see truckloads of timber being removed from the Pearl. Katrina created ideal habitat for ivorybills. If action is not taken fast, much of it will be lost.

"...the evidence he's gathered now would not pass muster in a peer-reviewed journal..."

As a member of the editorial staff of a well-respected international journal, I disagree with this claim. My video contains more information than the video that was part of the Science article. My scientific credentials stack up very well against those of the authors of the Science article. Unlike most of those authors, I have seen the bird several times. Finally, there is really nothing remarkable about obtaining evidence of a second population of these birds. After they were found in Arkansas, everyone should have realized that many of the reports over the years were valid and that we should all do what we can to find other populations. I've done the best I can. It's not easy to find them.
 
I believe Mike and I believe Cornell.

Once you believe the birds are out there, seeing more craptacular video or hearing about more sightings in old places just isn't that interesting anymore.

The next interesting event is someone finding a roost or nest, or getting credible sightings from other places.
 
I think there is so much skepticism now. Apparently the biggest tenet of skeptical theory besides the lack of clear photos is that no IBWO can ever be in an uninvestigated place. This is that apriori reasoning of sitting behind a desk in a warm dry room and
imagining all of the delta area as some kind of picnic area that has been so thoroughly traversed. So much of the skeptical theory is based on conjecture and underlying assumptions. Let's remember that during the Pearl 2002 search, the birds were not there, groupthink did not take over. Gunshots that sounded like double-raps were quickly debunked. People can tell the difference between a Connecticut Warbler and a Comm. Yellow-Throat accurately within a few seconds, even with a poor look. Even without a Cornell degree. Even after drinking 2 beers. Somehow skepticism says: They're all mistaken. They saw a few white
feathers or a pinto-pileated and they ALL lost their minds repeatedly.
If all this skepticism
is causing Cornell to focus to hard in less promising areas while the Pearl gets cut down, it does do harm. Mike is putting himself out there and here as well. I saw enough white on the trailing edge
of those wings when I single-frame
the video in 2 frames to convince me
he's got the bird. I realize magic man did some damage but are we going to believe now that all who produce IBWO bird evidence are really just
narcissists? We can have fun questioning Cornell's evidence, but
why don't we all get out in the woods next weekend instead, get ourselves good and lost. I hope the glut of timber from the beetle ravaged forests of Canada will flood the market and slow down logging here.

Paul Sutera, New Paltz, NY
 
Regarding the logging of trees from the Pearl or anywhere else for that matter, this is what I'm talking about when I referred to this evidence not passing muster in a court of law. The fact of the matter is that, in its current form on the web, I'm having a very hard time seeing the white markings that Mike is talking about. I can't tell there if they're only there for one frame or more. So I admit that I'm going to need (and plan to) examine the evidence further. But if you want to stop logging or any other threat to the habitat of IBWO, the sad fact is that the video is going to have to be better (or you're going to have to present a lot more analysis to go along with the video than has been presented so far). If you're in court to get an injunction against logging, the defense would not have a hard time marching in a parade of experts willing to say that the evidence is false or inconclusive. Who's going to win the case? Probably the defense, even if it's a jury trial.

The fact that all the IBWO field marks are not readily apparent is the biggest reason that the birding world in general is not taking notice. Even if those white areas are in there, most people aren't really going to see it or believe if they aren't popping out at you.

Despite the fact that some of you insist on labelling everyone who disagrees part of the "vast skeptic conspiracy", it's not true. I am not a skeptic in the vein of Tom Nelson and his crew. I'd say I was a realistic believer. I think the Luneau video is an Ivory-billed, for example. But, the fact of the matter is that the continued existence of Ivory-billeds is extraordinary for most of us. Yes, I know there are reasons to believe it is not extinct, but that doesn't make it any less extraordinary. Furthermore, I don't fine the desire for an "indisputable" video to be a requirement for extraordinary evidence. After all these sight reports that have nothing (or almost nothing) in the way of a photograph or a video, you start questioning them all.

As I said previously, I really don't mean this as an insult of or discouragement for Mike. It's an explanation of why I'm not blown away by his video at the current time and why I'm sure there isn't more attention from the birding community in general. IBWO searchers need to realize that whether they agree or not, they'll need high quality evidence to be taken seriously.
 
Your comments about a court of law are pure speculation. More importantly you haven't really engaged the substantive responses to your post, which included a particularly egregious remark, one that leaves me very skeptical about whether you are arguing in good faith. Instead, you've changed the subject and made reference to things that have not been discussed in this thread -- this so-called "vast skeptic conspiracy."
 
Well Cyber Thrush I wonder if you asked this question because we backed off on Mike Collins ( like you requested) and now you are inviting us back in to discuss his discovery/evidence.

I read Mike's replies and I do not care if you have 5 degrees from all the ivy colleges plus a degree from MIT! That doesn't make you a better birder! I led many guiding trips with a lot of great educated people who have no idea what they are seeing or hearing in the field.

I read all of Mike Collins journals in 2005 and 2006 and even though I never met Mike Collins I walk away from his website thinking Mike has a great interest in the Pearl River area but has a limited knowledge of the birds in the area.

I seen all of Mike's evidence and to me the evidence is weak and shows nothing. Mike wants the birding communities in Lousianna or Miss. to take notice of Mike and his sighting(s) then Mike has to show them strong evidence. Mike if you want to stop the logging in the Pearl River than show some strong evidence! Mike if you want to get some respect in this Ivory-billed Woodpecker search than stop showing evidence of dark birds that look and act like Pileated Woodepeckers. Mike you keep mentioning in your journal that because the woodpecker in the film and in your jounrnal that the bird is shy and sneaky that is not evidence to prove its a IBWO. This behavior is not a ID mark for a Ivory-billed.

The field marks you need to mention in your website journal is the pattern of white on top of the wings and underneath the wings, bill color and shape of bill, hind neck stripes, the red crest shape and of course the call notes.

When I go into your website like the posting for 3/5/06 where it reads something like this -- "The ivorybills have been heard a few times this week but have not been seen since Feb. 20." Well explain what you heard! That is like me on mentioning on my blog " I took a trip to Galveston, TX and saw 2 Eskimo Curlews resting on a sand bar"

EXPLAIN in detail what you saw MIKE! Learn to take notes in the field and do not give me excuses why you cannot do this. Pretend the swamps in the Pearl is a classroom and when you kayak in swamp take your seat and take notes when you hear something or see something that might be or is a Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Then when you get home, take your notes and scan them into your computer. Then cut and paste the notes into your website! Really not that hard but I am sure someone is going to say " it's to hard, he's in a kayak, its hard!" BS! Pull over the kayak to the nearest shore and take notes!

The reason why the state listservs are not responding to your claims is because they do not know you because you are from Virginia (?) Why should they believe you? Because you are a top educated scientist or a MIT grad? I hate to say this but having a MIT degree does not make you a good birder. It may make you good at counting cards in Las Vegas (LOL) but not a birder.

You also said in this blog "That its not easy to find them" well that must be true because so far Cornell is striking out in getting the evidence they are looking for to back up the 2004-05 sightings in Arkansas BUT you are just heard one on March 5th and you have several sightings so far in Febuary alone! So to you they are not that easy to find.

That is why so many birders are having a tough time believing in you.

I want to believe in your sightings but so far all I see from reading your website jounral is a top educated man stumbling, bumbling in the swamp making a lot of wild claims with no evidence to back his claims -- and yes that includes your video.

I apologize if I sound mean but hey this blue collar guy with no degree from MIT has to set you straight or at least wake you up.


Stonecoldbirder
 
I don't like to get personal, but your screed is so self-righteous that I can't let it stand. You'd be a lot more convincing if you didn't rant on so, with such a preachy tone, and took some time to check your spelling. We all make typos, and there's no spell checker on this site, but "Louisianna". . .please. Maybe that's a sign of your "blue collar" authenticity, but to me it suggests that your thinking is as sloppy as your writing.

The bulk of your complaint is with Mike's failure to take field notes that satisfy you. We've been down this road before, and the fact is that some of Mike's notes do include field marks. On February 6, for example, he wrote:

"I clearly saw the bright white trailing edge of the wings. I noticed that the white patches nearly met in the middle."

He describes hearing "kent" calls and double raps. I don't know what more you want in that regard. To wit:

"2-3-00. Definite encounter. Early in the morning, I heard kents from very close range. I was birding near one of the canals that goes through pine forest at Stennis. The calls were coming from just on the other side of the canal and lasted for at least a few minutes. The calls were a dead ringer for the kents in the 1935 Cornell recordings. I tried to get into a position to look through the vegetation to the other side of the canal, but it was too thick. I walked along the canal to a crossing point, but the calls stopped by then."

"2-5-06. Definite encounter. I heard two very loud double raps come from nearby on a peninsula on the Mississippi side. The raps were clearly the result of something powerful hitting a hollow snag. The BAM-BAM was a dead ringer for recordings of the Pale-billed Woodpecker."

He also states that he has heard the kent calls interspersed with the calls he recorded. You're free to question the adequacy of his field notes, but please don't misrepresent what he's said on his website.

You either have not looked closely at the video or you're seeing what you want to see. The bird does not look or behave like a typical pileated, and Mike has explained that in some detail in his posts above. You can see whatever you choose, but it doesn't appear that you have taken the time to look very carefully. Nothing you have said refutes his points.

Take a look at Paul Sutera's response. He was initially unconvinced by Mike's video, but after reviewing it carefully, it appears he has changed his mind. That is what true open-mindedness is all about. Others also have seen the white trailing edge. You persist in seeing "dark birds that look and act like pileateds." And I submit it's because your mind is closed, and you have too much invested in your contrarian stance.
 
The bird does not look or behave like a typical pileated

I know it's been stated that there's more to the video than just the behavior of the bird, and I haven't looked at it as critically as I would like (which I will rectify soon), but I have trouble with statements like the one quoted above. Just because the bird isn't acting like a typical Pileated, doesn't mean that it's an Ivory-billed. Mike made a statement to the effect that, because the bird was hiding behind a branch and peeking around it to look at him, and since the Pileateds around that area are not wary, then therefore, it's an Ivory-billed.

Maybe I'm reading a little more into Mike's statement than he intended, but that's what I'm coming away with, and that causes me to question Mike's analysis. Isn't it just as likely that there's a Pileated there that actually is alarmed by his presence as it is to be an Ivory-billed?

I'm sure someone now wants to post a comment that the bird's posture is unlike a Pileated or something similar, but that's irrelevant to my point. I don't buy into some of Mike's logic, and like it or not, that colors my judgment on the rest of his sight reports.

Even if it seems otherwise, my purpose truly isn't to ridicule anyone. It's to put light on the fact that the non-believer world requires more. Maybe an in-depth presentation of the analysis of Mike's video will provide that, but barring that, the rest of the world won't be convinced without something more obvious. Otherwise, presenting fuzzy videos will do nothing except hurt the cause.
 
"Maybe I'm reading a little more into Mike's statement than he intended, but that's what I'm coming away with, and that causes me to question Mike's analysis. Isn't it just as likely that there's a Pileated there that actually is alarmed by his presence as it is to be an Ivory-billed?"

Mike has given a fairly detailed explanation of how the bird does not look or behave like a typical pileated - this includes posture, wingbeat rate, wariness compared to other pileateds in the area. I would add that the flight pattern is not typical of a pileated, though this is not diagnostic. It's not my place to speak for Mike, but I don't think it's fair to say that wariness is the only characteristic he's describing when he talks about behavior. He's talking about the overall picture, what some call the "jizz" of the bird. Read his posts of February 20, 26 and March 5 to see what I mean

There are non-believers of all kinds. There's an article in Harper's this month about the skeptics who persist in believing that HIV does not cause AIDS; I haven't read it, but it's apparently quite sympathetic to this perspective, even though it is almost entirely discredited. There are people who deny the holocaust. I suspect that "the rest of the world" believes Cornell. It's a small minority that needs a National Geographic cover shot. Sadly, it's a very vocal minority.
 
Sorry, Feb. 25 not 26.
 
Mike Collins journal lacks so much detail it's embarrasing that even a highly educated man like himself is as sloppy as I am.

For example.

"I clearly saw the bright white trailing edge of the wings. I noticed that the white patches nearly met in the middle."


Ok did the white trailing edge have a black edge on it. If not make note of it and tell us so. What is the middle? Middle of what? I think it's called the back of the bird or the mantle. The trailing edge does that also include the primaries or just the secondaries? How far up does this white patch go? Greater coverts, medium coverts or lesser coverts?

He describes hearing "kent" calls and double raps. I don't know what more you want in that regard. To wit:

Is the "Kent" call simliar to a White-breasted Nuthatch? Is the "Kent" call a high pitch note or a low note? Tell me why these call notes are not coming from a White-breasted Nuthatch, Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, a Blue Jay or from duck hunters using duck calls. DETAILS DETAILS!

"2-3-00. Definite encounter. Early in the morning, I heard kents from very close range. I was birding near one of the canals that goes through pine forest at Stennis. The calls were coming from just on the other side of the canal and lasted for at least a few minutes. The calls were a dead ringer for the kents in the 1935 Cornell recordings. I tried to get into a position to look through the vegetation to the other side of the canal, but it was too thick. I walked along the canal to a crossing point, but the calls stopped by then."

Mike tells us why they are a dead ringer for Tanner tracks? I have read many documents that go to records committees and the one thing a birder should never say in his report " it looked just like the bird in the book" or " it sounded just as described in the field guides" Many times mentioning this sort of stuff gets these records denied by records committees. The birder in his own wrods needs to exactly describe what he or she is hearing.

You either have not looked closely at the video or you're seeing what you want to see. The bird does not look or behave like a typical pileated, and Mike has explained that in some detail in his posts above. You can see whatever you choose, but it doesn't appear that you have taken the time to look very carefully. Nothing you have said refutes his points

What is typical behavior of a Pileated Woodpecker? Also tell me why the shape of the bird is not a Pileated Woodpecker! Guess what you can't because the bird in Mike Collin's video doesn't not rule out Pileated Woodpecker. the head shape, the profile, the tail length does not positvely rule out Pileated Woodpecker! You tell me why it is a Ivory-billed! Tell me what you are seeing that so many birders like myself do not see in those dark shape objects?

Take a look at Paul Sutera's response. He was initially unconvinced by Mike's video, but after reviewing it carefully, it appears he has changed his mind. That is what true open-mindedness is all about. Others also have seen the white trailing edge. You persist in seeing "dark birds that look and act like pileateds." And I submit it's because your mind is closed, and you have too much invested in your contrarian stance

Of course Paul changed his mind because he is on Tom Nelson's blog debating him over and over on every post Tom makes. If Paul changed his mind that is fine but just because Pau lchanged his mind doesn't mean I should! I looked at al the evidence on Mike Collins website and I know and even Paul knows that this evidence will not hold up on any records committee in the world!

Until I see something more concrete from Mike Collins, I will walk away knowing he has not seen nor heard a Ivory-billed woodpecker. You so far have not even told me why he has seen one or heard one. You just believe in him and trust he has. That is foolish!

Stonecoldbirder
 
It's a small minority that needs a National Geographic cover shot.

I don't need a cover shot, but I would like to see something that doesn't leave me wondering if I'm truly seeing a white trailing edge or some digital video artifact, at best.

At least with the Luneau video, I know at least that I'm seeing white and black.
 
". . .like Collin's video doesn't not rule out Pileated Woodpecker."

Ah. . .a double negative. So, you acknowledge that Mike's video rules out a pileated. Yeah, I'm being ironic, but again, your sloppy writing betrays your sloppy thinking.

It's really not worth debating someone who rants on and on in such a barely literate manner. And you demand better field notes from Mike!???? In the words of the old blues song: "Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself."
 
"I don't need a cover shot, but I would like to see something that doesn't leave me wondering if I'm truly seeing a white trailing edge or some digital video artifact, at best."

That's all well and good for you, but again, there are people who will suggest that even the clearest photos in the world are hoaxes. Someone (was it you?) hinted that about Mike's video earlier today.

I encourage you to examine what Mike has presented closely, and click through each clip, frame by frame. You've indicated you haven't done this (I think. I'm not sure which "anonymous" is which), so do it, and look closely.

I also encourage you to consider the entire picture -- Mike's experience in the field, his sightings on other days, the kent calls, and on and on.

I also believe that the actual video is, in some ways, more compelling than the clips on the website. But that's just my opinion.

At a certain point, one has to start applying Occam's razor and accept the simplest explanation. When you look at the entirety of what Mike has presented, other explanations -- pileateds, nuthatches, etc. -- are more far-fetched.
 
What I found to be interesting in this debate is that those who believe in Mike Collins are basing their decision on Mike's education background and his occupation.

Mike Collins has a MIT degree and he works for NASA and is also a highly respected person in his field. SO! Mike Collin's education background and what he does for a living should not give him carte blanche on this sighting! His evidence (again) is terrible and I will not believe a thing he says on his website until I see a clear photo or a video proving once an for all he has found a Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the Pearl River.

If you guys want to believe a man has seen or heard a Ivory-billed Woodpecker when he has not yet ruled out other similiar species that can sound or look like a Ivory-billed Woodpecker. That is your decision to make.

So far his only explanation on why the bird in the video is not a pileated woodpecker is because the bird is shy and secretive. Also there is no proof that based on the bird's profile in the video is a IBWO. I looked at all the still frames and video and nothing jumps at me that says IBWO and also the way the bird flit from tree trunk to tree trunk tells me that bird on the video is a Ivory-billed.

I am not basing my decision on this because I have some agenda against Mike. My decision is based on just going to his website and reading his entries and looking at his evidence. For the record I am Cornell's side that they have seen a IBWO and also I believe that the bird on the Luneau video is a IBWO. I just can't support Mike Collins claims. I am sorry.

Stonecoldbirder
 
"What I found to be interesting in this debate is that those who believe in Mike Collins are basing their decision on Mike's education background and his occupation."

This is such pure, unadulterated nonsense and such a gross misrepresentation of the argument that it's not worth discussing anything with you.

I know Cyberthrush asked us to be civil, but this is really beyond the pale. One can't debate with people who are so intellectually dishonest.
 
"What I found to be interesting in this debate is that those who believe in Mike Collins are basing their decision on Mike's education background and his occupation."

This is such pure, unadulterated nonsense and such a gross misrepresentation of the argument that it's not worth discussing anything with you.


I didn't write any of the above, but I believe there is some truth to it. It's been stated that I should take the totality of Mike's experiences as proof, that I shouldn't rely entirely on the video. The problem is that I don't know Mike. There is not much difference between the accounts on his website and on the Magic Man's website. A bit of faith (sorry for the use of that term) is needed to believe any of the accounts on a website. Either faith that the person writing it isn't committing a hoax or faith that the person is a competent field observer. It seems to me that there is an undercurrent, if not an overt sentiment, that Mike is competent because of his educational background. Unfortunately, there really isn't much connection between a person's education (particularly when it's apparently not in a biological field) and there ability to make field observations.

Therefore, the only thing we have as a measure of his competence is the physical evidence he presents, the video and audio recordings. I've looked at the video some more, and I'll agree that the wings do look a little long for Pileated and the wing beats do seem fast and consistent for Pileated. But that is at best suggestive. Other aspects of the video such as the birds posture aren't clear enough to make a statement one way or the other, and the suggestion of white on the wings is just that: a suggestion. It isn't clear if it's really there or not.

Regarding the audio, Mike only has recordings of an odd call. There aren't even any clear "kents" or double-raps. Maybe Ivory-billeds do make this sound, but other than a description by Tanner that might refer to this call, there is no reason to suspect that it's coming from an IBWO. It does sound similar to Blue Jay calls. So do you want to talk about Occam's Razor now?

Anonymous Guy 1
 
Mike's Soapbox made the outrageous and false assertion that those who believe Mike Collins are basing their belief on his background and credentials. This is simply not true. You can reinterpret his words and talk about undercurrents all you want, but that isn't what he wrote.

I don't think Paul Sutera based his belief on Mike's background. To repeat, he had his doubts but changed his mind on examining the video carefully. His postings on Tom Nelson's blog are totally irrelevant. And for my part, I'm not basing my belief on his academic background or credentials either. I'm basing it on the film itself and on my reading of his posts on birdforum. I have only learned about his credentials in bits and pieces, and most of what I know, I've learned after the fact.

Having said that, the totality is relevant in varying degrees. The fact that Mike has scientific training and knows something about the scientific method is somewhat relevant. The fact that he has access to restricted government facilities (Stennis) is somewhat relevant; you generally have to go through a pretty serious background check for that (I don't have personal knowledge that Mike falls into this category, but it's a reasonable assumption), so it's relevant with regard to his character. The fact that he has seen Campephilus woodpeckers in the field and has heard their double raps is highly relevant, as is the fact that he knows a pileated when he sees and hears one.

I don't know if Mike's Soapbox has seen other Campephilus woodpeckers, but I would certainly consider his field experience relevant to any consideration of evidence he presented, if he were the one making the report. His lack of academic background and poor writing skills would not influence my evaluation of his evidence in any way, and his posts have implied that there is some sort of elitism at work here. That's insulting.

But back to MIke Collins, he is a scientist and an experienced birder; he is not some anonymous person making vague claims on the net, along the lines of the Magic Guy. He is sharing information with others in the field - both ornithologists and birders, and he is making his raw data available on a regular basis, even as he continues to work on gathering supporting data (see his most recent post). Again, to insinuate that he may be committing any kind of hoax is unacceptable, particularly when he is being far more open about his ongoing work than researchers in any field would normally be. There is absolutely no basis for thinking he's committing a hoax. That's not a matter of faith. It's looking at the facts.

As to the calls, preliminary spectrographic analyses are not consistent with blue jay calls, and Mike has stated that he has heard the calls he recorded interspersed with kent calls, so yeah, I do want to talk about Occam's razor.

I think this topic is pretty well exhausted at this point.
 
I agree that the topic is pretty well exhausted, but it's fun to debate anyway...

The fact that he has seen Campephilus woodpeckers in the field and has heard their double raps is highly relevant, as is the fact that he knows a pileated when he sees and hears one.

Sure, it would be relevant that he knows a Pileated when he sees one, but when he continues to make a statement such as "There is no way that a pileated would be so wary (constantly peeking from behind branches) in a tree so far back in the woods. Pileateds in the Pearl are very tame.", I have to question his interpretations. I've seen Pileateds that were very tame, but I've also seen Pileateds flush at the first sight of me. I'm sure there's variation in wariness even among birds at the Pearl. There is no way that there is no way that a Pileated would be that wary. Based on statements like that, I have to question how often he truly is hearing kents or seeing IBWOs.

My point is that the reason I'm not yet ga-ga (is that spelled correctly?) over Mike's sightings and video is that 1) I question his eagerness about seeing and hearing Ivory-billeds, and 2) the video does not show enough unequivocal (IMO) characteristics of an Ivory-billed. And that gets back to Cyberthrush's original post on this subject -- I'm sure that's why the birders of Louisiana and Mississippi aren't embracing his reports for the same reason.

I'm not saying that ultimately my reluctance to accept Mike's evidence at face value is right. You can argue all you want that the evidence proves the presence of Ivory-billeds at Stennis. But my point is that most birders are NOT going to accept it for the reasons I mentioned. The lesson here is that whether you like it or not, those reporting Ivory-billed are going to have to better physical evidence if they want to be taken seriously. Yes, some will always claim that it's been faked, but if you had a semi-decent video, I'm sure the vast majority is going to sit up and take notice

Anonymous Guy 1
 
Your rationale for doubting Mike seems rather fluid. Now it seems you're saying, "he's too enthusiastic, so he may be deluded, and he made a statement with which I disagree, so I question his ability to identify sounds and everything else he's said." I note you haven't addressed the fact that he's seen Campephilus woodpeckers in the field and has heard double raps. Well, at least you given up the must reprehensible of your arguments.

At this point, there really is nothing left to discuss. You don't believe him, and you aren't convinced by the video. So be it.
 
You don't believe him, and you aren't convinced by the video. So be it.

And that's exactly my point regarding the lack of an impact of Mike's sightings. If any Ivory-billed hunter wants his claims to be taken seriously, he has to 'bring it'. Video that you don't have to say "if you look in this frame you can see a bit of white" or an audio clip have an audio clap that has kents and double raps interspersed.

You're not going to be able to change the way the rest of the world thinks about eyewitness accounts or interpretations of fuzzy videos. The only way to do it is through quality evidence.

Just for the record, I don't think I ever accused Mike of hoaxing us (though I'm sure it's hard to keep track of who said what with all of us Anonymouses). My point has been that Mike is an unknown to most people. I've been following his search on his website and through his posts to BirdForum, and I'm still not sure what to think.

It isn't terribly difficult to make a convincing claim that you've seen an Ivory-billed, especially with all the information about some of the finer ID points that is out there now, whether you're trying to intentionally mislead people or just because enthusiasm leads you to see or hear things that may not actually be there. Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't many of the regulars on BirdForum rather accepting of the Magic Man's stories and photograph before he posted the photo of the bird in the orange tree?

So again I return to my central point: Mike is largely an unknown commodity. One must trust that he isn't an overly-enthusiastic observer. One must also trust that he isn't trying to hoax us. (For me personally, I'm only concerned about his enthusiasm.) When you couple that with physical evidence that has a high degree of ambiguity, your sightings not be widely accepted. It's just not going to happen in this day and age -- and that's my reason for taking part in this discussion. I'm not trying to knock Mike down. My intent has been to point out that many of you have expectations of the acceptance of these reports that is unreasonably high.

Mike will be searching for several more weeks. I truly do wish him luck. If he really has seen and heard Ivory-billeds as much as he has reported, there's a very good chance he'll have another encounter that he'll be able to videotape or record. I will be following his efforts during that time.

Anonymous Guy 1
 
Okay. . .I still think that mentioning Mike in the same breath with that other person is totally unacceptable. There is simply no comparison in terms of transparency and specificity. Regarding the other account, I don't think most people on birdforum were "accepting". I think they were intrigued and possibly excited but far from convinced. I can tell you that my response to Mike is far different, and I think the same can be said for most others on that forum.

I also think that time will tell about Mike's video, and the transparency of Mike's approach is what has left him vulnerable to attacks that may well be premature. I suspect they are. There's a lot of analysis left to be done, and we'll just have to wait and see. You may end up eating "fishcrow" on this video alone, even though I'd love to see him get that 8x10 glossy.
 
"he's too enthusiastic, so he may be deluded, and he made a statement with which I disagree, so I question his ability to identify sounds and everything else he's said."

That is garbage! Anonymous Guy1 did not say this at all in his posting. You are nuts! Everytime you babble you always close it with " well now I spoke, this discussion is over with" To hell with you! Its not over yet--

Mike Collins could be a playing the "Ivory-billed Woodpecker card" to save the Pearl River. Remember Mike Collins made some strong statements about the logging operation going in the Pearl River in this blog. Yes we all want to save as many woodlands, swamps, prairies and in my neck of the woods I am trying to save boreal bogs. I am currently emailing as many people as I can to hault logging in these boreal bogs but I am not going to lie or make up sightings to protect that bog. I am not going to lie about seeing a protective species in this habitat to save it. I am going to try to save these bogs the right way and not the dishonest way.

Is Mike collins making this up? Maybe and I say this because no one here knows him. We have to trust his words and honesty! Why? Because he's a NASA employee? Because he's highly educated man? Because he writes well and sounds convincing in forums and in his website? Does that out weigh his evidence so far? Come on everyone --you telling me in the video that dark shape bird that looks like a average size large woodpecker is a Ivory-billed and not a pileated? The sound recordings Mike Collins made is a Ivory-billed? No kent calls were heard but instead we hear a high pitch notes that could be one of thousands things that could make that sound.

Mike Collins feels dissed because the nearby listservs are not biting on his sightings? Well maybe these people on these listservs know more about Mike Collins than we do? If Mike Collins wanted his sightings to be on these listservs then why not join them and post his sightings to them. Why do these good people have to come to him? It's as though Mike Collins is calling these birders in Lousianna and Mississippi fools for dissing his sightings and his website!

There is not one speck of solid proof that Collins has actually seen a IBWO and nothing on his website is telling me he saw one or the birding community he saw one as well!!

I have loads of field experience and I am a very respectable birder in my state. I bird professionally as I am a professional bird guide. (15 years of it) Many times this winter I visited feeders that were loaded with redpolls. Of course one of the target species is a Hoary Redpoll. Most times the client will see a bright redpoll and say " I see Hoary Redpoll" and if I was dishonest I could say " Oh yes you got one" knowing actually its just a Common Redpoll in the bright sun. That is not me. I tell them "no" and I walk them thru the process of seperating Common Redpolls from Hoary Redpolls.

Sure I could of use my position as being the expert and go along with them but that is dishonest. Instead I teach them and show them the many variables in Common Redpolls.

Mike Collins might be using his education and his position in NASA in just saying " I saw a Ivory-billed woodpecker" without telling me why he saw one. He is not walking me thru the process of why he saw one. He is not telling me why its not a Pileated Woodpecker or a singing White-breasted Nuthatch. He is making me feel I have to accept his sightings because he says so without reasons why.

Just because he says he saw "white wing patches" or "White trailing edges" is not good enough. There are aberrant plumage Pileated Woodpeckers and as much I would love to believe he saw one but he has to rule out aberrant plumage Pileateds as well! Since he did not see bill color, and Mike never mentioned the lateral striping down the back of the bird. He should of seen this since he able to see where the patches end on top of the bird as it flew away from him!!

This maybe ticky tacky but while he was filming the bird flitting from tree to tree, why did he not stop recording the bird and look at the bird thru his binoculars? Try to look for the field marks? Even in poorest lighting 8x or 10x binoculars would of picked up the white wing patterns, the underneath wing pattern, possibly see any color on the bill or at least tell if its a light color bill or a dark color bill and also you should be able to see the lateral striping on the back of the bird.

I can identify a Black-backed Woodpecker from a American Three-toed Woodpecker a long way off using my binoculars. Does Mike even bring binos in the Pearl River with him during his searches?

I know Mr. Anonymous is going to blow after reading this but Cyber Thrush wanted our opinions on Mike Collins and his sightings and I am just giving my opinions. I know my opinions will not sit well with some but all I am doing is pointing out some areas that are troubling with Mike Collins proof and also questioning his motives based on some comments he has made in these discussions.

Stonecoldbirder
 
I'm not going to blow, I am simply not going to dignify your insulting rant with a response. You have a rather inflated sense of your importance.
 
Oops. There was a run-on sentence in my last post. But see, I acknowledge my mistakes.
 
This morning, I heard something that is rarer to my ears than ivorybill kents-- the song of a Blue Jay. It's only the second time I have heard this song. ( Fishcrow 3/7/06 )

Does Mike Collins know that corvids do not have songs? They have a wide range of calls. Some of the calls are mimics of other birds.

An experience birder would of known that.

I did hear on the Blue Jay recording in the background were some Carolina Chickadees and a Downey Woodpecker. I wonder if Mike knew that?

Stonecoldbirder
 
Actually I have heard many people refer to the "whisper SONG" of the Blue Jay and have heard it myself. Maybe it is not technically correct to call it a "song" because it doesn't serve to declare a territory, but that kind of hair-splitting is a bit Ivy-League.
 
This maybe ticky tacky but while he was filming the bird flitting from tree to tree, why did he not stop recording the bird and look at the bird thru his binoculars? Try to look for the field marks?

I would disagree with this point. Even if Mike sees those field marks, it comes back to having to take his word for it. I see keep the video camera running. Screw the binoculars.

And I would say that Blue Jays do have a "song". It might not truly be the same thing as a song as in the oscines, but I have heard of a "whisper song" from Blue Jays before. (Can't say I've heard it though.)

Anonymous Guy 1
 
I meant to say "I say keep the camera running." Sorry about that.

AG1
 
Ornithologists may dismiss this evidence, but many of them no longer seem capable of approaching the ivorybill as rational scientists. As a scientist with a strong international reputation, I don't need the blessing of ornithologists

This Mike Collins has quite the attitude and a huge ego.

but I hope that some of them will review this evidence and help to ensure that ivorybill habitat is protected and expanded throughout its range. Following a brief discussion of the videos is a day-to-day log of my search for ivorybills in the Pearl. The brightness of these videos has been enhanced by David Martin. They are best viewed by stepping through one frame at a time. The raw footage is available on DVD and is also interesting to watch. The quality of the video is poor, but science is about obtaining information, not pretty pictures.

Mike, I hate to deflate your huge ego but your black and white video on your website has not raised any eye brows in the birding community.

On your website you are almost demanding that we MUST believe in your sighting or what is pictured on your video but so far the majority of us birders do not believe in you. So go back in the swamps of the Pearl River and deliver to us some "pretty photos" of the Ivory-billed woodpecker.

Evidence?

-the bird in the video is not conclusive to a Ivory-billed Woodpecker. The head shape, crest shape, bill size, tail length are not conclusive to rule out Pileated Woodpecker. Also noting white trailing wing patches on this bird in the video does not rule out abberant Pileated Woodpecker unless you saw the other key field marks of a Ivory-billed Woodpecker. So far you have failed in noting these key field marks or just seeing them thru your binoculars.

Your sound recording doesn't rule out Blue Jay or any migrant such as a Rusty Blackbird. Those high pitch squeaks on your recording could be anything but not a Ivory-billed.

You might be a very well respected person in your field at NASA but so far in the field of birding you are just a ordinary person stumbling and bumbling in the swamps of the Pearl River.

stonecoldbirder
 
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