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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.

Web ivorybills.blogspot.com

"....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, April 30, 2007


-- Cornell Empty-handed --

Martjan Lammertink interviewed here, saying Cornell's search of parts of the southeast is over for this season and largely empty-handed of any new evidence for Ivory-bills. He remains impressed with the habitat of the Congaree area (S.C.), where he thinks he may have heard a lone Ivory-bill double-knock, but is unimpressed with the Choctawhatchee region (the Congaree also being one of Bob Russell's top spots for potential IBWOs). Cornell will no doubt release their own official preliminary report of the season at some point.
So far as I know only the Choctawhatchee team is continuing to search well into May of this search season, and Dr. Hill is due for an update-release, if there is any news worth updating.
Reminder that the ACONE automatic camera system in Big Woods is due for a new release tomorrow as well, but seems likely there will be no Ivory-bill photos/video out of this season.


Thursday, April 26, 2007


-- Whatever --

Not much substantively to report so I'll just pass along a tidbit an acquaintance sent along to me. It's from an April 21st post on a birding listserv group in which a novice S.C. birder birding the Congaree innocently mentions the following toward the end of a routine post:
"...A couple of photographers were standing along the Weston Lake Loop in stunned silence. one told me they'd heard such a strange sound and it came from up in a tree but they couldn't find its source. She said it sounded like a "horn". As I walked on, I, too, heard some non-melodic sounds from a distant tree but left the man setting up his camera to find and record..."
At least mildly interesting given the number of rumors hailing from S.C. over the past year (...and possibly also worth noting that following their sojourn in Texas/La. it was to the Congaree that Cornell's Mobile Team rapidly returned to).

A tad farther north Jerry Condrey (who claims an IBWO-pair sighting in 2004) continues to plan for further exploration of North Carolina's Green Swamp area (near NC/SC border). He notes that not only is the habitat good, but it is largely overlooked and under-searched (IBWO habitat-focus having historically rarely gone that far north).

Meanwhile Cornell has been largely silent on any results from the Big Woods this season. Given the bashing they've taken in some quarters one could expect they might not report any gathered evidence until absolutely all 'i's' are dotted and 't's' crossed this time, but more likely their silence reflects lack of anything to report.

Lastly, although there are really no new arguments to be made in the Ivory-bill debate, Brit Martin Collinson attempts to tie together the given skeptical arguments in the form of a speculative analogy here. From all sides of the issue it's all been said before. As long as sightings claims keep coming in all we can do is watch and wait for pictures. Field notes won't do it, sketches won't do it, lengthy sightings won't do it, audio won't do it, DNA won't do it (it will have to be dated and proven uncontaminated); pictures or a dead carcass are now required.

From Web Grab Bag:

Everyone loves a mystery (warbler):


...and a fun recent post from Julie Zickefoose here, if you missed it, combining Purple Martins and Elk of all things:


Tuesday, April 24, 2007


-- Chatter?... Not Much --

Chatter to my email box has dwindled to a pittance in the last month-or-so giving me doubt that there will be any substantial Ivory-bill news (meaning photo or video) forthcoming in the final weeks of this search season. Even a photo arising from Big Woods, Choctawhatchee, or South Carolina, at this point, could be a tad anti-climactic (...for some of us anyway), so much focus has been expended there. What would truly be exciting would be a photo coming out of a less publicized area of interest (southern Fla., Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Illinois, N. Carolina) --- not likely happening this go-around.
It may be worth noting again that other than sheer luck from an automatic camera unit (and BTW,
the next release of data from the ACONE automatic camera system deployed in Arkansas is scheduled for May 1st), the only likely way of attaining a clear, indisputable IBWO photo is to locate an active nesthole, not a simple task. In fact, FWIW, I often think it perplexing that in 40+ years of on-and-off birding, and living in various parts of the country, I've never even come across a Crow's nest, despite the fact that Crows are among the most common, noisy, large, and ubiquitous birds in every area I've resided; and I've certainly stumbled upon the nests of many far smaller, scarcer songbirds along the way; the nestsites of large birds can be surprisingly elusive however, let alone cavity-dwellers.

If no conclusive photographic documentation is impending, then final summaries this season from Cornell, Auburn, S.C., Texas, USF&W, and Cornell's Mobile Team, will be more important than ever in determining next winter's far more limited exploration. There remains plenty of time and habitat to search; funding though, is yet another matter... In the meantime, intrepid, independent individuals continue their own efforts in various locales as time and practicality permits.

Grabbed off the Web:

Need caffeine?... well, take a shower:


Got kids?... now you just know they want to dissect owl pellets:


Sunday, April 22, 2007


-- Happy Earth Day --

April 22, 2007:

No IBWO news at the moment; so just Happy Earth Day !!

Tomorrow, the annual convention of the American Birding Association opens in Lafayette, Louisiana for a week --- despite the location, no full-fledged Ivory-bill presentations on the agenda.

From elsewhere on the Web :

senior citizen" Whooping Crane dies:


...want a better sense of just how small we are, read on:


And moving to yet a totally different arena, a couple of newsbits of note here:




Friday, April 20, 2007


-- New Bird Genus --

Just a grab bag article today on yet another new bird genus discovered (assuming one even trusts such biological taxonomy schemes), this time in the South Pacific:




Wednesday, April 18, 2007


-- Chew On This... --

No matter where you stand in the Ivory-bill debate ya gotta love stories like this one:


Stay tuned.... (odder things have happened).


....but enough about eating Ivory-bills --- from the Web Grab Bag:

if you eat chicken, you might want to read this:




Tuesday, April 17, 2007


-- April Sound Detections --

New update from Auburn's Dr. Hill here reporting additional sound detections (double-knocks, kent calls) from April that as he says, have "re-energized the troops."
(BTW, this past weekend I finally saw Dr. Hill's book, "Ivorybill Hunters," at a bigbox bookstore, so if any of you were still waiting for it to appear in your local areas, might be time to check again.)

....and in the just-for-fun-dept.:

Stumbled upon this old limerick : - ) on the Limerick Savant's
blogsite from back when the original Cornell announcement was made:
"Extinction is Nature's home wrecker
But thanks to an Arkansas trekker
We could save "ivory-bills,"
And no little blue pills
Are needed to bring back this pecker."
...and here an old post from a physics professor with his take on the Ivory-bill saga.



Monday, April 16, 2007


-- 2004 Jackson --

A reader sends in this link to an old (2004), but worthwhile article focussed on Jerry Jackson. Interestingly, this was written many months after the Sparling/Gallagher/Harrison sightings, but long before they were publicly announced, or Jackson was aware of them.



From the Web Grab Bag:

thanks to Laura Erickson for calling attention to this fascinating report about the possible effects of cell phones on bees, and ultimately on human food production (....just one more thing for certain skeptics to busy themselves debunking I s'pose):




Sunday, April 15, 2007


-- YouTubing --

A couple of (documentary) Ivory-bill offerings from YouTube here:




From the Web Grab Bag:

hmmm... kiss this internet goodbye, maybe??? :


...and if you love parrots like I love parrots, might enjoy this website:



Friday, April 13, 2007


-- Into the Weekend --

Some photos from the Auburn Choctawhatchee camp site showing camp leader and Pomona College graduate ; - ) Rusty Ligon, and others here.


Web Grab Bag stuff:

Birder Jim Stevenson, discussed here awhile back for IBWO matters, has now been indicted for the killing of a feral cat in Galveston, TX. months ago, in a story that made birding headlines at the time:


...and to take you through the weekend some beautifully-striking photos of Pale Male and Lola, NY city's most famous hawks (kinda makes you want to be reincarnated as a red-tailed hawk someday):



Wednesday, April 11, 2007


-- Wednesday --

'Fangsheath' and Don Kimball of Ivory-bill Researchers Forum have put together a wonderful one-stop resource for various IBWO evidentiary material/links here (thanks guys!):


... and Geoff Hill is seeking to hire a "bird counter/ivorybill hunter" for a study during the months of June/July in the Auburn area (Alabama) and the Fla. Choctawhatchee region. See his announcement here if interested.

Appended to add this from the Web Grab Bag:

I guess we know that birding has truly gone mainstream when David Sibley makes it into The Onion ("America's Finest News Source"):



-- Independent Searchers --

Yesterday I mentioned that independent searcher Richard Lyttle was asking for help with his searches for IBWOs in South Carolina. In the past, Jesse Gilsdorf has sought helpers for intriguing habitat he covers in southern Illinois, and of course Mike Collins has requested others search areas of the Pearl River, Louisiana, where he has sighted Ivorybills. Additionally now, Jerry Condrey, who, with another fisherman, claims sighting of a pair of Ivorybills back in 2004 in the Green Swamp area of SE North Carolina, is also seeking assistance for further exploration of that habitat.

If any readers are able and interested in aiding any of these folks send me your name and contact info and I'll forward it to the appropriate person. Or if any other of the many serious independent searchers out there would like to be mentioned here as seeking assistance just let me know, especially if you are in an area not frequently associated with Ivorybill searches.

I have to admit I would be at least mildly flabbergasted, but obviously delighted, if an independent researcher is able to accomplish what an academic institution or government agency, with their resources and base of funding, has been unable to do, and attain the first definitive, indisputable documentation for the species. Go for it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


-- Mobile Team Checks In --

Cornell's Mobile Search Team finally checks in with their ventures for the last 3 weeks in parts of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and now back to the Congaree (S.C.). Nothing real head-turning in their reports, and so far, somewhat oddly, they have bypassed promising areas of central or southern Florida. A lot of continued emphasis on the Congaree which everyone acknowledges contains excellent habitat, but which has also been one of the more heavily birded of all potential IBWO habitat over the decades.

Addendum: speaking of South Carolina, independent searcher Richard Lyttle is seeking others to assist him in looking for the IBWO within the state:


From the Web Grab Bag:

1. Who knew...? deer as destroyers of bird habitat!

2. ...and most who want to know probably already do so, but I'll mention that writer/birder Laura Erickson, after walking away from her popular commercially-sponsored birding blog several weeks back, has re-established her own personal blog here if you lost track of her or need to re-bookmark her:




Monday, April 09, 2007


-- The Week Begins --

Latest update from Auburn's Dr. Hill here. Nothing very promising to report, except that he is committed to searching through May (later than most searches), feeling that spring foliage breakout does not significantly hurt sighting opportunities (because the Choc. canopy is high enough to allow plenty of viewable space below-canopy) --- he notes that, "
some of the best ivorybill sightings by Brian Rolek and Tyler Hicks in 2005 and 2006 were made when trees were fully leafed out. I think that leaves on trees will have only a minor negative impact on most ivorybill searches." --- he does grant that sitting still and quiet, watching for big woodpeckers, while being harassed by newly-partying mosquitoes can be a challenge, however.


...and from the Web Grab Bag this:

if you're a wine-lover, you might want to thank an owl...



Sunday, April 08, 2007


-- Florida News Article --

New Florida newspaper story here. Starts off as just another review piece on the Ivorybill search, but last half a bit more interesting in at least revealing an inkling of the personalities involved as they deal with thus-far disappointing results of months in the swamp.

Ta daaaaa... a new feature (...maybe):

There's just too many fascinating things going on in the universe outside the IBWO arena to pass up... So starting this week I'm going to try a new feature, called "From the Grab Bag," which will simply be additional postings or links scattered through the week to bring up anything of interest striking my fancy (likely bird or nature-related stuff, but could be anything). Hopefully, it will add a little quirky pizzazz to the blog and treat for readers, while those who stop by here ONLY for IBWO news can simply ignore it. (I'll give it a try for 2-3 weeks and then decide if to continue.)



Saturday, April 07, 2007


-- Remote Camerawork --

In a new post David Luneau links to a page explaining a little more about processing the remote time-lapse photography of chosen cavities and scaling sites in the Big Woods. Even with some realization of how time-consuming the work must be I was rather taken aback by his mention of "over 250,000 images" to sort through from 2 weeks ago and "over 100,000" from last week (and this is only from a couple of hours of camera use per day at each site). Hope he has more than a few grad students at his disposal.


-- Mist Nets --

This blog post from Chile shows a juvenile Magellanic Woodpecker caught in a mist net (usually used to catch smaller neotropical migrants for banding or other study). Mist net use has occasionally been brought up (not all that realistically) in the search for the Ivory-bill. An adult IBWO might well be able to break free of a mist net or become dangerously entangled trying, if you could even determine the best place to place one.
Somewhat interestingly, in handling the captured bird, this blogger mentions she was "somewhat afraid it was going to stab my eyeballs out with its huge, tree shattering bill." As an aside, this is in fact what happens toward the end of Greg Lewbart's old novel, Ivory Hunters, when one of the principal characters is killed by being stabbed through the eyeball by an Ivory-bill!


Friday, April 06, 2007


-- Looking To the Skies --

Of interest: David Luneau just recently linked to this page on the automated camera system
(reported on earlier) that is scanning the skies above the Big Woods (Arkansas) for large flying birds. Improvements continue to be made to the operation, although so far as I know there are no current plans to employ this system in any other Ivory-bill search area for the time being.


Thursday, April 05, 2007


-- What If... --

The big question looming for 'believers' now of course is, 'what if this season ends with no new photgraphic/video documentation for IBWO?' Skeptics have pushed the envelope to the point that any evidence or claims lacking photography is largely nudged aside. Interest and funds will diminish further if nothing more solid is presented this season than what has already been reported. Indeed, similar reports/claims could continue for years without swaying opinions --- in fact, skeptics will no doubt view such further reports, lacking in photographs, as yet more evidence for their rationale of human error and human expectancies run amuck.

It is possible that resolution will never come (although I still believe it will). And worse, if no definitive documentation is attained, skeptics will continue tooting the unsubstantiated notion that Ivory-bills died out in the 1940s. Those who believe the species persisted at least through the 50's, 60's and 70's may be left largely unheard in many quarters, all for lack of a clearcut photograph in the post-2000 period; this would be ashame, that such a likely myth might be continued. And in a sense 'science' has already lost out since both sides believe the other side is perverting science to argue its case.

Final summaries from Cornell, their mobile team, Auburn, South Carolina, and Texas, could contain several optimistic elements, and yet without the necessary photo not receive serious attention, and several other locales probably won't even be heard from this season. After 60 years of talk (or, more often silence), multiple, serious, systematic searches have finally begun, in at least some habitats; may we have the patience to see them through (...with, or without, a photograph in the next 30-60 days).

Monday, April 02, 2007


-- Entering the Final Stretch --

By May, Ivory-bill habitat will be getting dense with foliage (not to mention hot, buggy, and snakey) diminishing further the likelihood of clearcut IBWO encounters, let alone good photographs. So we may be entering the last month for hopeful documentation for this search season (possible sightings/claims continue to trickle in from disparate areas, but with the now-required photograph yet elusive).

By now too I would think there'd be a fair amount of data gathered from automatic remote cameras focussed on 'suspicious' cavities (in Arkansas, if not at the Choctawhatchee) --- it would be interesting to know how many of these cavities were found to be used by Pileateds, how many were never caught in use at all, and how many were used by other creatures, neither PIWO nor IBWO --- just to get a better sense of how accurate the classification of 'interesting' cavities is. Maybe such data will be in Cornell's season wrap-up report???

Sunday, April 01, 2007


-- April 1 --

The Dallas News checks in here on the Ivory-bill search.

I mentioned a couple days back reading John Brockman's latest book, What Is Your Dangerous Idea. In light of the rancor that sometimes overtakes the Ivory-bill debate I thought a short entry there from Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert possibly of some pertinence :
"Dangerous... means likely to cause great harm. The most dangerous idea is...: The idea that ideas can be dangerous.
We live in a world in which people are beheaded, imprisoned, demoted, and censured simply because they have opened their mouths, flapped their lips, and vibrated some air. Yes, those vibrations can make us feel sad or stupid or alienated. Too bad. That's the price of admission to the marketplace of ideas. Hateful, blasphemous, prejudiced, vulgar, rude, or ignorant remarks are the music of a free society, and the relentless patter of idiots is how we know we're in one. When all the words in our public conversation are fair, good, and true, it's time to make a run for the fence."
I don't think I even agree with this, but an interestingly-expressed thought nonetheless.

And hopefully there will be NO Ivory-bill sightings reported today... given today's date. . . .

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