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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






Saturday, June 10, 2006

 

-- Of Sightings, Sounds, and Videotape --

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rant, rant, rant, rant.....

I'd prefer not to even reference the Luneau video anymore (what's left to say that hasn't already been said somewhere), but with others linking to its further discussion on "Frontiers of Bird Identification" I can't ignore it completely; again, this is only for the compulsively obsessed:

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

My genuine relunctance to draw attention to this discussion is because such focus on David's clip simply furthers an inference that the existence of Ivory-bills in AR. hinges on the ID of a bird in a blurry 4-second clip, which is COMPLETELY FALSE and misleading. The clip cannot be definitively resolved by techniques currently available (argue about it for fun and mental gymnastics if you wish, but it will not progress the IBWO debate at this point). In the long run sound recordings may prove more valuable, although for now I remain dubious of them as well due to the innumerable variables involved in their analysis and the very tiny sample of old IBWO recordings for comparison. No, for now, the important 'data' I'll continue to maintain (as in the vast majority of birding instances, where other evidence is unavailable) are the 7 eyewitness accounts used for original publication, and the judgment of those who interrogated/interviewed the claimants assessing their competency/credibility -- THAT is the central evidence (in conjunction with all the other credible historical claims) that must be shaken by 'second-thoughts,' self-doubts, retractions, or the like on the part of the sighters which hasn't happened; all the rest is mere window-dressing required for publication, but actually rather inconsequential (keep in mind David L. never originally claimed to have filmed an IBWO -- he didn't know what had just flown in front of him at the time -- only when Cornell failed to capture an IBWO on tape heading closer toward publication did they RE-visit David's clip, and upon finer analysis, conclude they'd gotten 'Elvis' on tape afterall).
The vast majority of birding is based quite solely on eyewitness report by competent/credible observers, and in a case where realistically there are only 2 likely possibilities even spotters simply noting that it was NOT "A" (...Pileated), leaves "B" (...IBWO) as the only probability. The sightings may be relatively brief (like MOST bird sightings) and of course can be questioned (it's easy as pie to invent skeptical scenarios for any event or claim), but they come from multiple, apparently steadfast, able, and knowledgeable observers; in the past little more would be asked for. The skeptics' case continues to rest entirely on the rubric of "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," which in turn rests on an assumption of extinction based upon 60 skimpy years of data (really a few years-worth of skimpy data and 50+ yrs. of non-data) and a typical rush to judgment. Conclusions reached in science depend as much on initial assumptions as on collected data. 60 years might represent a big chunk in the life of a human, but it's a moment in the life of a species. While our grandchildren may be able to intelligently discuss the extinction of Campephilus principalis; for us to do so remains but presumptuous and unfounded speculation....
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