"....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.”
"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, May 02, 2006
-- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly --
It was a little over a year ago that birding websites, listservs, email boxes, newsreaders and the like went nuts as rumors flew that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Nature Conservancy were about to announce the rediscovery of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Arkansas (...will any of us ever forget that evening or next day!) -- now, a year later, after the first real widespread interest in, and search for the species in 60 years, and an ensuing controversy that no one foresaw, we await release of Cornell's current findings.
Rarely has ornithology seen a rift of such major proportions, with so many major players painted into opposite corners, and so widely covered in the media. For the still-perceived-as-genteel hobby of birdwatching we have the equivalent of a backyard brawl. The academics and professionals however can take care of themselves; what has been even uglier to see, and somehwat surprising, is the degree of animosity, aspersions, and frequent incivility generated across the internet at the lower levels of the birding avocation, as the controversy plays out (with the possibility that it may never be resolved, although I still believe it will).
Further, on the bad side, all indications are that Cornell will have no photographic or video evidence, no found nest or roost holes to report, when they release their summary for 6 months of searching (but, hey Cornell, feel free to 'make my day!'). The question in the public mind will be how they could've had 16+ sightings in the course of one year (several in a single month) and established a "hot zone," and then come up with so little on this go-around (except for a fine picture of a very leucistic Pileated, a sort of needle-in-a-haystack itself, shortly after finding it) -- there are possible explanations, but they won't play well in the public arena.
On the good side, there are several additional 'sightings' to report (the number and quality no doubt open to debate), further acoustic evidence to analyze and release, and Cornell remains steadfast in the integrity and accuracy of their original evidence. In short, there will be enough to report to support continuing interest and a second season of searching next winter (and of course other areas outside Arkansas are still to be heard from as well). Moreover, I understand there will be at least some continued monitoring of automatic camera units in the field in coming months, though physical searches have largely halted for the summer. The story is a long way from over, but unfortunately I suspect believers need to brace themselves for yet more skepticism and controversy in the next month rather than less.
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