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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






Monday, March 26, 2007

 

-- Whatever... --

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News story on the Texas Big Thicket Ivory-bill search here:

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Science/2007/03/25/3829397-ap.html

Update on Choctawhatchee acoustic detections from Dr. Mennill here:

http://web2.uwindsor.ca/courses/biology/dmennill/IBWO/IBWO07News.html

And cyberthrush rant here:

The Ivorybill debate includes ongoing disputes over blurry video, large cavities, interesting sounds, foraging signs, and other evidence that can be analyzed to death to little avail. My own quarrel with most skeptics though, boils down to more basic differences in perception: skeptics see "birders" as a large group of folks who, over time, have thoroughly surveyed prospective IBWO habitat; I see a relatively small group who only rarely venture into the more remote and interior portions of such habitat. Skeptics perceive 60 years without a clearcut photograph as a lengthy period of time; I see it as an insignificant amount of time, given the relatively recent emphasis on and availability of photography to most birders. Skeptics assume the Ivory-bill extinct and operate off that presumption; I've seen NO solid evidence for such an assumption and proceed otherwise. Though I typically view glasses as half-empty where others see them as half-full, in this lone instance the tables are turned, and skeptics see a glass as 9/10's empty, which I see clearly as 4/5's full!

Oddly, in all of this, IBWO skeptics seem to accept unblinkingly the validity and usefulness of routine bird counts, bird lists, species taxonomy and classification, most data in journal articles --- all of which I believe worthy of skepticism. But the one thing which carries weight for me, is the one thing they routinely dismiss: confident, repeated sightings of Ivory-bills by credible observers, who are well-acquainted with Pileated Woodpeckers, and who don't merely say, "I think I saw an Ivory-bill," or "I may have seen an Ivory-bill," but quite directly, "I SAW an Ivory-billed Woodpecker." I'm not talking here of the 100s (maybe by now 1000s) of reports by less credible figures over the years, which
ARE indeed mostly cases of mistaken identification, but am referring to the residue of dozens of reports across locales, across decades, and under varying circumstances, by experienced individuals who fully understand the seriousness of the claims they make, and feel certain of the sight they've seen. If all these individuals, with their credentials, are wrong time and time again, they are not merely 'mistaken,' as skeptics politely assert, but they must be, as skeptics surely believe, foolish, to account for SUCH a magnitude of error. One can argue the nuances of a video back-and-forth for the next decade, but faced with a knowledgeable person who tells you that they know they saw an Ivory-bill, you can only call them a liar or a fool... or, believe them; that is the fundamental choice before us.

So skeptics resort to notions of "groupthink," "wishful thinking," "self-fulfilling prophecy," arising over and over and over again, to explain this succession of errors, as if THIS is of higher probability than a bird simply being extant in wide expanses of habitat and evading documentation for decades (as other birds have done, and continue to do); so biased are they by an unsubstantiated notion of species-extinction and self-imposed reliance on photographic evidence --- and so (falsely) convinced are they of the thoroughness and infallibility of past human searches (...truly something to be skeptical of).

If there were NO sounds, cavities, and signs of interest it would cast a shadow on the plausibility of sightings, and so I am glad they are there and being studied, but they will not yield the definitive answers sought. 'Sightings' by knowledgeable observers, are what always have and will be, the crux of birding --- has any other species ever been reported so repeatedly and then been shown to be extinct? And should that indisputable photo or video arise 3 months or 3 years from now, what words will skeptics then use: "miraculous," "extraordinary," "incredible," "astonishing".... or the only word that might actually be apropos... "inevitable."

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Comments:
From Publisher's Weekly review of The Ghost with Trembling Wings: Science, Wishful Thinking and the Search for Lost Species:

Approximately 30,000 species of animals and plants go extinct every year. Weidensaul's narrative concerns those rare occurrences when a supposedly extinct animal makes a surprise reappearance, and the much more frequent occasions when scientists or civilians only think they've sighted a vanished creature. (My bold)

You are constantly asking skeptics to "open our minds." I think believers should open their mind to the probability that the Ivory-bill is, indeed, extinct.
 
CT: As one who has expressed some degree of skepticism regarding the multiple sight reports (most involving single observers) of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, I would feel better if they were submitted to the appropriate State bird records committees (i.e., Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana) for review and evaluation. In Ivorybill Hunters (p. 147), Hill specifically says that his team planned to seek outside opinions from experts such as Jerry Jackson and ask a "rare bird committee" (presumable the Florida Ornithological Society's Records Committee [FOSRC]) to review the evidence before it was published and that "If a reasonable argument could be mounted against our evidence, we would present the evidence that we had as suggestive, not definitive." Although Hill et al.'s paper in Avian Conservation and Ecology doesn't mention whether or not they actually consulted Jackson, the FOSRC, or other experts, judging from the title (i.e., "Evidence suggesting . . ."), they must themselves have come to realize that the totality of the evidence they presented (including sightings) was less then definitive.
 
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