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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, March 03, 2007

 

-- The Catch-22 of Searching --


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First, new article here on the Choc. search --- an interesting read, but once again largely re-hash, so on to the subject I'd rather currently address:

Bobby Harrison, Mike Collins, and a few others have argued that sudden influxes of noisy humans into the woods simply spook wary Ivory-bills making documentation less likely. Others (including myself) believe the likeliest way to document IBWOs is indeed with large-scale, systematic searches involving many individuals (in fact, I've long regarded the lack of solid documentation from the past as a result of failure to do such systematic searches). Both arguments have some merit. The IBWO is most likely a wary creature that will detect humans long before humans detect it, either ducking into a cavity or flushing well ahead of searchers (...like the bird in the Luneau video). However, the sheer size and difficulty of the land tracts needing exploration make successful 1 or 2-man outings unrealistic in many regards, basically requiring incredible 'luck' --- though from a root-for-the-underdog mentality I'd be thrilled to see one rugged individualist-type put the institutional teams to shame by being the first to attain unarguable photographic evidence of this quarry.

Still I expect the team approach to work best while acknowledging it creates the greatest disturbance for the birds (and in the end, a remote automatic camera may yet be the eventual winner). Search "teams" sometimes operate out of a base camp from which searchers fan out in spoke-like manner to appointed positions, again risking any IBWOs flushing well ahead of the human activity and out of an area. Once a 'hot zone' is determined teams should be posted to the north, south, east, and west of the area, to the degree terrain/topography allows. Then, as searchers advance forward, a suspected IBWO flushing in any direction may yet come into sight-contact with other searchers. The downside may well be greater disruption to the bird itself, and I fully respect those with a view that increased disruption ought not be risked.

On a different note, Bobby Harrison continues to utilize hand-crafted decoys in his searches for the IBWO, while Auburn is now emphasizing man-made 'double-knocks' trying to 'draw in' Ivory-bills to photographic range --- it's odd/disappointing how little such techniques have been employed in the past 60 years --- some have occasionally tried playing "kent" recordings which probably is NOT a good idea --- there are a paucity of kent recordings to choose from and we don't really know what those past recordings may even "mean" to another Ivory-bill; i.e. in 'Ivory-bill language,' for all anyone knows, those recordings may be saying, "THIS is MY territory, all the rest of you IBWOs stay OUTTA here" : - ] Again, too much we simply don't know...

Within a few days, time for another report from Cornell's 'mobile team' with their latest efforts in Mississippi. Their's is largely a scouting and information-gathering mission, and will probably have a lot to say about future searches once this season ends, whatever its results.
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Comments:
Cyberthrush,

Have you seen any of the extant Campephilus? I've seen five species and can assure you they are not wary of humans.
 
historically, various individuals, including both Tanners, say they were wary, and no telling how much warier a remnant population 60 years later might be.
You are engaging in the sort of OVERgeneralization that typifies much field biology -- ascribing to ALL, characteristics that apply to some individuals -- sometimes such generalization proves true, but it can't be assumed carte blanche. It is flawed science.
 
You know what's really flawed science? Making up all kinds of "facts" based on ZERO confirmed sightings, especially when those "facts" refute the findings of people who actually did study living birds. Of course you have to make up facts or this whole tale doesn't make any sense.

Are those birds ducking into cavities to avoid the automatic cameras? How about the people sitting quietly in the shadows in ghillie suits? Are the birds covering vast areas to feed, or aren't they?

Did the Tanner's say they were relatively wary, or so wary it was impossible for anyone to get a good photograph for decades? I remind you the Tanner believed the Ivory-bill was extinct a long time ago so he clearly wouldn't buy the "wariness" excuse.

Can you tell me why, with all the recording devices in the woods, they're not picking up on the noisy flight of Ivory-bills?

How about this for a generalization: "Every Ivory-bill is supernaturally wary, all the time"?
 
I agree there are few "facts" regarding the behavior/lifestyle of the IBWO -- there is just evidence and speculation. Tanner directly compiled evidence and speculation on a very few birds in a single location (while also seeking out reports of others in other locales).
Obviously, we can go round and round forever on the interpretation of such evidence and speculations. But as I've stated many times previously, given that evidence, I'm willing to risk the error of believing IBWOs exist for 50-100 yrs. beyond their actual extinction; I'm UNwilling to make the error of giving up on them only to find 20-30 yrs. later they were extant and we did nothing. It's little more than a risk/reward ratio (like so many decisions in life), or statistically-speaking a type-1 or type-2 error. As also previously stated, I truly believe the species exists, but EVEN IF I DIDN'T, I would argue we must proceed as if it does, until better evidence (more wide-scale, systematic searches) shows otherwise.
 
You avoided most of the questions like those on wing noise, avoidance of automatic cameras, whether the birds cover vast areas, etc.

It's going to be a pretty hard sell to convince most people that speculation based on theory is as valid as conclusions drawn on observations of live birds. At least it should be.

Specifically, why aren't the listening devices hearing the loud "wooden" wing noise?
 
I 'avoided' them because they have all been dealt with here or elsewhere ad nauseum; it's like arguing forever whether the glass is half-full or half-empty.

Since you seem adament about the 'wooden' wing noise I'll respond to that, but I'm not going to then go thru a laundry list of every little point skeptics raise with certitude where no certitude exists. As far as wing noise, few early students of IBWOs noted anything significant about wing noise from IBWOs; it seems to come mostly from a single auditory recording in the 30s, and is not at all clear if it is a general characteristic of their flight or only occurs under certain circumstances, or only upon landing or taking off. Almost certainly even if it occurs it wouldn't carry great distances thru woods in the manner of double-knocks and "toots" (which also may not carry far under many circumstances -- I don't even know, that the acoustic tapes are being analyzed to listen for wingbeats to any significant degree). Again, we are dealing largely with an unknown and treating it as if all parameters are known, fixed, and understood for all birds all the time; if only it were so simple.
It is always an easy thing to plant skepticism over a scientific finding -- few of us have ever seen any 'proof' whatsoever that men landed on the moon -- we believe it because of simple trust ('faith' if you will) in those who tell us it happened and who put forth the evidence they claim is valid. But if you wish to believe it all lies and 'smoke-and-mirrors' there are plenty (including scientists) willing to support you in that cause. In IBWO matters we need to let the scientists complete their field work, HOWEVER long that takes, and then review the evidence again, and in my view we ought be encouraging them.
 
In having actually heard the sound of the bird's wings in flight, it is a noticeable noise. I do not think it would carry over long distances. I also do not know if it is always present in all flight styles, I would guess probably not.
Steve Sheridan
 
I believe in the moon landings. Plenty of solid evidence of those. You'd have a hard row to hoe trying to plant skepticism in my mind on that issue.

The difference between you, Cyberthrush, and most skeptics is that we will change our minds if some solid evidence is produced, the kind of evidence that is routinely produced for real rare birds. You won't change your mind for the rest of your life no matter what.

when 100 years have passed with no credible sightings, I'll pay heed and take note of it

Tanner's reports of hearing wing noise during scores of encounters carry a great deal more weight than your speculation on why the wing noise hasn't been encountered in any recordings. No birds/no wing noise/no recording seems a pretty clean theory.
 
You still haven't answered my question Cyberthrush.

How many Campephilus species have you seen?
 
unlike Terres, Dennis, Gallagher, Harrison, Hicks, etc. etc. I've seen zero, that I'm aware of.
 
For what it's worth, I've seen two Campephilus......and have heard the laud wing noise on one of those sightings. I would not describe it as "wooden", that does not seem to relate to the actual sound. The sound, however, is indeed pronounced upon deep downward strokes of the wings.
Steve Sheridan
 
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