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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, 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???

I will be surprised if this kind of detail comes out of the Choctawhatchee. At one point in his book, Geoff Hill goes out of his way to note that the search being conducted there is not "science." I don't know if that was an attempt to lower expectations, or what, but I found it a little strange coming from an ornithologist. Iit might not be the type of science that Hill is used to, but I would hope that the search is being conducted in a methodical, scientific fashion.
I would just point out (and a lot of people don't realize this) that the book was mostly written well before the public announcement of the Choctawh. find was made, let alone before the current search got underway or was even planned. In that sense I think Dr. Hill can be given some slack between certain things said in the book and how things may be proceeding now.
Having said that, there are differences between the 'activity of birding' and the 'science of ornithology,' and before this story is over I think both may have important contributions to make.
This is, I think, an unfair and reductionist rendition of Hill's argument. There's nothing to indicate that it's a matter of lowering expectations. He's making the very valid point that searching is birding, not science, however logical and methodical the search may be, because "no hypothesis about how nature works is being tested," and logical, methodical processes are not the sole province of scientists. Another key component of his argument is that professional ornithologists, the scientists, are not necessarily, and frequently are not in fact, the best field birders. He contends that it's the role of scientists to study Ivory-bills once they are found, but that doesn't mean that scientists will be the ones who find them. These seem like very valid and reasonable points, not to mention candid ones, coming from a professional ornithologist.
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