"....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
Sunday, March 04, 2007
-- 'Millions of Birders' --
Probably the single most repeated argument I've heard over the last 40 years as to why Ivory-billed Woodpeckers must be extinct is simply that, 'with so many millions of birders active through America a bird this large couldn't have escaped detection.' To which I politely respond, 'BULLLL-DOOOOKEY!' I see estimates ranging from 24 million to 40+million birders presently in this country, but of course, MOST of those 'birders' will never in their entire lives set forth even momentarily in habitat that might harbor an Ivory-bill. Some will never go beyond their local park or greenway (I'm not critiqueing them for that -- I encourage ALL levels of birding, but just saying...). Only a tiny fraction of birders will spend any significant amount of time in IBWO-like habitat (although certainly more now, than in the decades previous to 2000), so it is hugely disingenuous to imply that huge numbers of knowledgeable people have spent countless hours roaming woodland tempting an encounter with the Lord God bird. Yes, lots of birders have spent some time looking for IBWOs in some places (what I call mostly 'spotchecks') over the decades, but the "millions" of hobbyists around these days is a meaningless figure.
In fact, one could presume that 200 years ago (even though there were far FEWER 'birders'), MORE people who knew what Ivory-bills were (even if they didn't know them by that name), routinely spent far more time in IBWO habitat than do so today even with millions more 'birders' present to do so.
And in a tangential vein one might want to read this recent post by 'Fangsheath' over on IBWO Researchers' Forum which has some relevance here:
If you haven't been following matters at that Forum 'Fang' is back from an exploratory trip in Louisiana, and you may wish to backtrack for some of his informational posts since returning (mostly in the "Louisiana" thread).
I just can't understand the point of searching in areas like Congaree, SC, birded all the time. (Trip reports from the Carolina Birds list, for instance. Christmas bird counts are done there too. Pretty much the same considerations apply for White River NWR in Arkansas--plenty of observers, serious birders even, over the years.) If the birds move around, as many hypothesize, and there were enough for a viable population all these years (10-20?), how could they avoid flying over a nature trail with a bunch of birders? It just boggles my imagination that it never could have happened all these years.
And one last thought: how many of those 1000s of birders over the yrs. have momentarily glimpsed big black-and-white woodpeckers in such areas and jotted down 'Pileated' in their notes? -- if we are told we can't believe a brief glance of a large woodpecker can be ID'd as an IBWO, than how can we assume a brief glance can be accurately ID'd as a PIWO... when it just might have been something else???
I've been alert to the possibility of an IBWO all of my life, and I'll bet you have, too. I scrutinize every Pileated I've seen in the South with great interest, always looking for a different wing pattern, a white bill, etc. For 42 years I have done so.
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