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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

Thursday, May 31, 2007


-- For Fun --


Taking a cue from John Trapp at 'Birdstuff' Blog I took an online quiz to discover my "Power bird" and the result was interesting in several different respects I shan't explain:

Your Power Bird is an Owl

"You are beyond wise. You are so smart, you're almost prophetic.
Your inner voice always speaks the truth, and you take the time to listen to it.
You are good at seeing who people are... including the darkness of others.
As a result, you tend to have a rather dark -- yet realistic -- outlook on life."

(hmmmm... like that 'prophetic' part ; - )))

I suspect this may be whisking around the bird blogs in ensuing days....



-- Y-a-a-a-awn --

Are we having fun yet!? ; - ) .... A lot of idle chatter in some IBWO Web quarters for the time being, but mostly just repetitive chaff, yada, yada... probably won't be much new to utter 'til reports/summaries arrive from USFWS, Cornell, Auburn, S.C. As in decades past, the clamor of skeptics, stifles info from being released in any ongoing or open manner, lest it get nitpicked to death prior to full analysis and review.
Be calm, patient, focussed, while ALL new info gets evaluated and let skeptical sorts blather on yada, yada. I suspect once reports/data are adequately reviewed there will be further study of the Congaree next season, as well as some Southeast areas that didn't receive much publicity this go-around, while some of this season's areas of focus will clearly be scaled back for next winter; but that's just a current surmise (and of course it all assumes no Ivory-bills revealed by automatic cameras prior to fall). Meanwhile independent searchers will continue to explore some of the locales that institutional searchers lack time/manpower for. A lot of unknowns remain, for the moment, unknowns, as the science slogs on, and we talking heads flap our lips and keyboards.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


-- Crikey! --

Well, screw the 3 days off ; - ))) ....

For a change-of-pace today I'll start with the Web Grab Bag first (Main Post follows after):

2 NOT-happy stories here, but the first one is interesting and instructional about the Condor restoration project, and the second one deals with some bird cruelty most of us were unaware of in the pigeon world (if you're especially sensitive to animal cruelty topics though I recommend skipping it!) :

1) http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/northcounty/20070524-9999-1mi24condor.html

2) http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN2439565420070524

...finally, to offset those glum offerings, this verbatim parody of a Monty Python sketch
, quoted recently by some chap over at BirdForum using the initials T. Allwood. I'd acknowledge the originator of it, but don't know who he/she be (... if you're not a M. Python fan you may want to pass on this, but I admit to being a bit of a sucker for John Cleese, or just a British accent really):

"Fitzcrow: ....I wish to complain about this woodpecker what I discovered not less than 2 years ago from this very big woods.

Skeptics: Oh yes, the, uh, the Pileated...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?

Fitzcrow: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's not the Pileated he's the IBWO and no one , seems to believe me.

Skeptics: No, no, 'e's uh,...he's a Pileated.

Fitzcrow: Look, matey, I know an IBWO when I see one, and I'm looking at 6 pixels of one right now.

Skeptic: No no he's not an IBWO, he's, he's a PIWO'! Remarkable bird, the PIWO, idn'it, ay? Beautiful bill!

Fitzcrow: The bill don't enter into it. It's all about the white trailing edge.

Skeptics: Nononono, no, no! 'E's an PIWO, you're looking at the underside of the wing!

Fitzcrow: All right then, if we're looking at the underside, then what about the white stripes on the back
(cut to Fitzcrow deinterlacing the video).

Skeptic: You just put those on during processing.

Fitzcrow: No I didn't.

Skeptics: Yes, you did!

Fitzcrow: I never, never did anything...

Skeptics: (yelling and examining the footage repeatedly) 'ELLO PIWO!!!!!

Now that's what I call a extinct species.

Fitzcrow: No, no.....No, 'e's hiding!

Skeptics: Hiding?!?

Fitzcrow: Yeah! Hiding, IBWOs hate man. They take on the appearance of a PIWO when ever a human looks at them for more than 3 seconds.

Skeptics: That's insane

Fitzcrow: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the swamps.

Skeptic: PININ' for the SWAMPS?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why can't anyone photograph this bird, why can't we get video?

Fitzcrow: The IBWO's a magical bird. You must be in full ghillie suit and mask your scent to get but a glimpse. Remarkable bird, id'nit, squire? Lovely plumage!

Skeptic: Look, I took the liberty of examining the footage when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that you think it's a IBWO is that you can't tell dorsal from ventral

Fitzcrow: Well, if we admitted it was ambiguous we wouldn't have been given all these shiny new coins.
There are in fact many IBWOs from AR to LA.

Skeptic: "AR to LA"?!? Mate, this bird EXTINCT.

Fitzcrow: No no! 'E's pining!

Skeptic: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This IBWO is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker!

'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't deinterlaced the video 'e'd be pushing up the daisies!
'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig!
'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!!



but seriously... Main Post:

We don't yet know exactly what the final summaries from S.C., Auburn, and especially Cornell will report for this search season, but due principally to the lack of a photograph, a lot of folks are expressing dismay over the search season (except for certain skeptics who can barely withhold their glee at the scarcity of results). So though I've covered this ground before, probably time to cover it again:

1) many folks continue acting as if the Ivory-bill debate began in 2004 with Cornell's announcement at the Big Woods... it began at least 50 years earlier. And for those 50 years no one seriously suggested that Ivory-bills resided along the Choctawhatchee, and only a few suggested the bird would be found in Arkansas (at the far north end of it's primary previous range). In short, even ZERO results from these 2 areas, not on the IBWO-radar pre-2004, would do nothing to debunk the prior 50 years worth of evidence from far more likelier river corridors of the deep south. It remains amazing how much certainty regarding a species' extinction is being expressed in some quarters for lack of an agreed photo from the few search areas systematically studied thus far, even while sightings however rare, continue to emanate therefrom. If only science were that simple.

2) Skeptics continue to overgeneralize from Tanner's small sample, or even from other S. American Campephilus species, or from the many clearcut cases of mistaken identification, or from a few locales, to all Ivory-bills and all claims and all locales; a commonplace but acute fallacy. The simple fact is that IBWOs continue to get reported by observers, and skeptics must explain why each and every one of those individuals is utterly wrong, a more difficult task than explaining why there is no photograph as yet of a scarce, rapidly-flying, cavity-dwelling species in a large expanse of land. When skeptics can demonstrate the intermittent lunacy of Terres, Garratt, Agey, Eastman, Dennis, Stoddard, Kulivan, Gallagher, Hicks, et.al. or when they can show that the Chipola, Fakahatchee, Suwannee, Altamaha, Escambia, Pascagoula, Wekiva, Mississippi, et.al. river systems have been adequately searched and no evidence of IBWOs discovered, THEN they'll have some real, instead of superficial, evidence for extinction. I'm willing to wait for that... or, other evidence, to arise.

In brief, in two short years (only partially devoted to searching) since the Cornell announcement, not much has changed (occasional sightings occur, interesting sounds, holes, and foraging signs are noted, and no photograph attained), but some skeptics are ever more strident in their disbelief of something for which they can't be certain (meanwhile it IS certain that some birders report seeing Ivory-bills). If skeptics are right, they have nothing to fear from further searches in appropriate areas, just more and more evidence will be gathered to support their case; so maybe what underlies their stridency is the one thing they do fear... that given enough time they'll be proven wrong (because, as they keep telling us, birders are sometimes mistaken).


Friday, May 25, 2007


-- Memorial Day Weekend --

Happy Holiday weekend folks; no news and might not post for next 3 days...


... grabbed off the Web this old offering for any budding entomologists out there:


...or for any not-too-budding cosmologists this:



Thursday, May 24, 2007


-- Amen --


Bill Pulliam once more on digital video here.



Tuesday, May 22, 2007


-- Bird Life? --


Excuse my pessimism, but... :

BirdLife Int'l. now views 20+% of bird species worldwide as at "increased risk of extinction" --- What a bunch of starry-eyed optimists!! Such pronouncements often myopically gaze only a few human generations ahead. With the constantly accelerating rate of human-induced ecological changes
, well over half of all bird species could easily be threatened just a few centuries into the future. Within 300 years, I'd wildly guess that the primary land-based bird groups in the United States might be Corvids, Psitticines(!), and Columbidae, and not much else (the outlook for water and oceanic birds may be even more dire). Conservation efforts are wonderful and to be applauded of course, but likely doomed in the loooong run, against relentless human forces; simply postponing the inevitable.
So why try to save Ivory-bills (or Whoopers or Condors or Kirtland Warblers or Red-cockadeds or... ) ? --- not so they'll be here 500 years from now (fat chance of that), but more simply because it is a right thing to do, and (a tad more self-servingly), no one wishes to say 'hey, they vanished on OUR watch'.

From the Web Grab Bag a more uplifting, or at least interesting, story courtesy of 'Birdchick':




Sunday, May 20, 2007


-- Campephilus Imperialis --

And now FWIW an interesting (but somewhat undetailed) account of an Imperial Woodpecker sighting by an American Veterinarian back in 2002 (thanks to a poster on Ivory-bill Researcher's Forum for calling attention to this):


Not clear to me exactly when this page originally went up, though it was obviously posted well AFTER the 2005 Copper Canyon area Imperial sighting which received some press play and unsuccessful followup.


-- Deja vu, All Over Again ? --

Down memory lane: By this time last year Cornell had released it's preliminary statement of that season's Big Woods search as noted in this blog post from May 2006. One can't help but wonder if much of the same wording won't largely apply to this season's initial Cornell summary. My own understanding (BUT I've NOT heard it from enough sources to be confident of its accuracy) is that there were multiple sightings during the season as yet to be divulged, including some better than the one made public by Rich Guthrie, but of course none considered definitive, nor any photos attained. Nor has much been said of any purely acoustic data gathered this season.
On the one hand I don't think Cornell recognizes how much they shoot themselves in the foot by being so slow to release information, and tight-lipped about results; on the other hand, given the critical scrutiny they are under, and likely defensiveness at this point, the reluctance to reveal details until all information is thoroughly reviewed/discussed is hardly unexpected.

No idea what sort of timetable S.Carolina or Texas might be on for release of summary information from those states??? (if anyone knows and is at liberty to say send it along...). And the Choctawhatchee search continues a brief while longer.

From the Web Grab Bag, GOOD news (...even if we have to go to Japan to find it):


And BAD news:



Friday, May 18, 2007


-- The Weekend Cometh --


hmmm... the truth about what happened to Ivory-bills? :


otherwise, things are looking up this weekend.... Wolfowitz is OUT!, Gonzalez is hanging by a gossamer thread, George Tenet's book tops the NY Times bestseller list, and President Cheney is royally pissed off by it all (even while he chortles at the ten Republican wannabees wasting their time/breath vying for the position he intends on holding onto himself). And "W" remains forever clueless...

And on a lighter note, grabbed off the Web for anyone interested, an old article on feral Peach-faced Lovebirds in Arizona here. I probably shouldn't, but I confess I love stories about wild psitticine populations in the U.S. We usually hear about feral Monk Parakeets or other conures, but this is the first I'd noticed of Peach-faced Lovebirds, one of my favorite species.


Thursday, May 17, 2007


-- Fla. Wildfires Killing Birds --

Let's hope THIS isn't how we find an Ivory-bill:


Only a couple of weeks left for the Choctawhatchee search, although they'll have PLENTY of photographic disks from time-lapse cameras yet to analyze through the summer. Possibly just a few loose ends to tidy up in S.C.; otherwise all other institutional searches done for this season I believe; the question being where and how scaled-back will any searches be next winter --- probably months before any preliminary reports even give a hint about that. Meanwhile, independent searchers in several states continue operating on their own timetables.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


-- Ambrose Bierce deja vu --

As a public service for the newbies to this whole Ivory-billed Woodpecker debate, I've compiled a brief glossary of some terms one ought be acquainted with:

"Groupthink" --- A process of blind thought which 'Party A' accuses 'Party B' of engaging in, all the while that 'Party A' is wholly immersed in it.

"Field marks" --- Specific plumage characteristics/markings used to differentiate Ivory-bills from all other birds... except for briefly-glanced, over-sized, bi-laterally leucistic Pileateds.

"Luneau video" --- A modern-day ornithological Rorschach test; 4 seconds of cryptic, enigmatic, pixelated mystery.

"A-hole" --- The classification that Cornell gives to those large tree cavities which, upon several criteria, show the most promise of being associated with an Ivory-billed Woodpecker... or, a loose, non-technical term occasionally used in reference to certain participants in the IBWO debate.

"kent... kent" --- the sound that Blue Jays repeatedly make... when they're imitating certain specific woodpeckers of the deep forest.

"BirdForum" --- internet site where some Brits (not all) get to regularly exhibit flimsy knowledge of American swampland, bird identification, and scientific method, and pat themselves on the back while doing it.

"Cornell Lab of Ornithology" --- the renowned professional bastion of knowledge and expertise in North American ornithology... or... not.

"Ivorybilledskeptic blog" --- a non-Shakespearean tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing (...but hey, I mean that in the nicest way).

"field biology" --- the "science" in which limited observations of small, generally non-random sample sizes are routinely used to draw inferences about entire populations.

"extinct" --- the state of being of any lifeform refusing to subject itself to current photographic representation.

"Tyler Hicks" --- one first-rate birder and third-rate photographer.

"the non-commutative law of mistaken identifications" (or, the one-way direction of mistaken identifications) --- out of dozens of brief "Ivory-bill" sightings ALL can be assumed to actually be Pileated Woodpeckers, but out of 1000's of brief sightings of Pileateds none could ever be an Ivory-bill.

"rare" or "endangered species" --- honest, competent, or ethical Republicans

"there's always next season" --- the rallying cry of Chicago Cubs fans and Ivory-bill fans alike.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


-- Suppose... --


Suppose one looks at a typical collection of 100 Ivory-bill reports/claims... Some skeptics, even without much knowledge of the sighters, will quickly discount all 100 claims based on the presumption that Ivory-bills are likely extinct... and create alternative explanations for the claims willy-nilly.
On-the-other-hand, in reviewing 100 typical reports I'm more likely to find 60-70 that don't seem credible (to me), 5-10 that are credible enough for further study, and the remainder (which is a significant chunk) neither believable nor discreditable based on available details --- and therefore also in need of further scrutiny.

The point is that each and every sighting ought be adjudged independently based on the merits of it's own circumstances and the skills/experience of the observers, not dealt a knee-jerk reaction based on presupposition as is too often the case.
And some claims remain forever of uncertain credibility, which does not mean they are not credible, but only that certain information is lacking to tell.
Skeptics insist on saying that it is up to sighters to 'prove' their case... but it is just as true that skeptics must 'prove' their case, faced with so many repeated reports over the years. They must illustrate the inexperience, dishonesty, incompetence, or foolhardiness of all those who feel certain of their claims; one cannot simply postulate or assume these qualities for individuals without any basis for doing so. Casting such aspersions with no demonstrated basis is simply too easy.
It is one thing if someone merely says, "I think I may have seen an Ivory-bill;" it is quite another when someone states, "I'm sure I saw an Ivory-bill." Either show me such an individual's lack of bird knowledge or their previous history of error-proneness, rash conclusions, delusionary nature, prankish tendencies, or outright pathology... or, if you can't do that, then you really have little to offer on the matter; maybe best just to remain silent.

On a sidenote, Cornell's 'Team Sapsucker' won the World Series of Birding for a second straight year with 230 species (...that is, if any of them are to be believed), here and here.

Monday, May 14, 2007


-- New Hummingbird Discovered --

Another too-good-not-to-pass-along story, for everyone who loves hummingbirds (EVERYone here, right). A new exotic (Colombian) hummingbird discovered, called the "gorgeted puffleg" (gotta love that moniker). A few links here:




Friday, May 11, 2007


-- Guthrie Interview Archived --


Rich Guthrie's NPR interview now available on archive here.


from the Web Grab Bag:

those gol' dang pesky 'buzzards' here.



Thursday, May 10, 2007


-- Of Extraterrestrials and Extinction --


Do you believe there is intelligent life anywhere else in the Universe? I suspect most scientists think there is, not because there is any hard evidence for such a belief; there is NONE (no documented crashed saucers with little green men, no radio signals received despite decades of scanning for such, no messages in cosmological bottles saying 'Hi ya Earthlings!'). Yet most scientists likely believe such because of the probabilities involved --- given BILLIONS of stars with potentially BILLIONS of planets, the likelihood that we reside on the absolute only one to harbor advanced lifeforms (....and yes, I'm assuming there IS intelligent life on Earth ; - ) is so miniscule as to be beyond debate.

I mention all this because the Ivory-bill debate is of a similar form. The scientific evidence supporting Ivory-bill existence is weak... but it is head-and-shoulders above the huge absence of evidence for Ivory-bill extinction. For the umpteenth time --- NO solid scientific evidence has yet been presented for the extinction of this species; NONE, EVER, NADA, ZERO ACTUAL EVIDENCE, just speculation and conjecture. And when I ask people for evidence, all I get is a recitation that persons A, B, and C, went looking for IBWOs in places X, Y, and Z, and couldn't find any. Well, DUUUUUHHHHHHHH!! Meanwhile persons D, E, and F claim they HAVE seen them and places T, U, and W haven't even been adequately searched... EVER. As long as skeptics start with an unproven and biasing assumption ('Ivory-bills are extinct') they will lack the objectivity and open-mindedness required in a scientific review of evidence. You can't declare things extinct that are being repeatedly reported, without thorough searches. Some want to believe that a lone grad student (a grad student mind you!) did such an infallible study with flawless conclusions, that no IBWOs could have persisted through the 1940's. I'll remind folks yet again of the MOST important passage in James Tanner's entire monograph (from his "Introduction"):
"The chief difficulty of the study has been that of drawing conclusions from relatively few observations, necessary because of the extreme scarcity of the bird. My own observations of the birds have been entirely confined to a few individuals in one part of Louisiana... the conclusions drawn from them will not necessarily apply to the species as it once was nor to individuals living in other areas. The difficulty of finding the birds, even when their whereabouts was known, also limited the number of observations. Especially was this true in the non-breeding season. With these considerations in mind, one must draw conclusions carefully and with reservations." [all italics added]

"Draw conclusions carefully and with reservations" --- hmmm... what a novel idea!!!
...And the skeptics' current mantra that anything which hasn't been photographed by humans doesn't exist should be of interest to physicists who tell us that over 90% of the universe is made up of "dark matter" never seen (let alone photographed) by human eyes.
But seriously... the arrogance and ego-centrism underlying certain skeptics in their persistent judgment that ALL sighters (every one of them over 5 decades) must be wrong, mistaken, foolish, incompetent, dishonest, fanciful, delusional, crazy, or worse, while they, as armchair skeptics often far from the scene, of course know better, is also NOT a part of good science.
I need only believe one claim in the last several years; skeptics must disbelieve thousands of claims (and yet those same skeptics will readily accept and turn in brief and undocumented sightings for bird counts all the time, with no verification whatsoever that the spotters even left their living room, let alone saw the species being recorded).

Most English words are vague and ambiguous --- "extinct" is NOT!! It doesn't mean there are less than 30 left, or only 5, or maybe only 1; it means there are ZERO left, zero anywhere. It is a word to use with utmost care, given the difficulty of 'proof.' Obviously, the documentation of a single Ivory-billed Woodpecker will mean the species isn't extinct and NEVER has been. All of us in the birding community should have a vested interest in this species being found and protected (even though it will likely be too little too late); too many on the skeptical side have so painted themselves into corners by now that they have a vested interest in the species never being documented. Pity. (...or so it seems to me).

And just to play catch-up on a few things:

1) as far as Rich Guthrie's claim, I find it credible, but still don't have enough details to be fully convinced --- and it is really somewhat inconsequential since photographic documentation is now required; ALL sightings are immediately considered suspect in too many quarters.

2) An Oxford University Press interview here with Auburn's Dr. Hill: http://blog.oup.com/2007/05/birds/

3) And with summer approaching, if you like trashy pulp fiction you may wish to read this science-fiction offering:


ooops, gotta go now, there are some little green men knocking on my window....

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


-- Mobile Team Update --

Likely the final update from Cornell's Mobile Team now posted here, as they finished out their season in South Carolina (mostly the Congaree). Here's part of their summary statement:

"Our Mobile Search Team did not see an ivory-bill, but we are encouraged
by finding several sites with high quality habitat. In many promising places we could only spend two to twenty days on the ground with a small team and we feel that we have barely scratched the surface in searching these areas. Often it took a large proportion of our time to locate the best forest in a region, giving us only several days to search parts of the better sites. Even in the Congaree National Park, where we spent most time this season, we do not rule out the existence of a few ivory-bills. More work is needed in places like the Apalachicola, Escambia, Pascagoula, and parts of the Atchafalaya and South Carolina, before it can be said whether ivory-bills are to be, or not to be. "
They covered a lot of ground in a relatively short time, and certainly are to be hugely applauded for their efforts. Having said that, and in no way meaning to detract from their work, I am still especially disappointed that they did not venture into various parts of central and south Florida, and bypassed most of Mississippi. Parts of Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee,and N. Carolina, may yet require more attention as well. But one heck of a good start... just too bad that start didn't come 40 years ago.


-- Silence... --

The silence from Cornell this season has been deafening... sometimes silence is golden, and sometimes silence is... well, just silence. Anyway, Rich Guthrie's interview on NPR, regarding his Ivory-bill experience with Cornell, will be on a show titled "Vox pop" from 2-3pm EDT today, here (NY station; I assume it will be archived for those needing to tune in later):




Tuesday, May 08, 2007


-- Yet Another Sighting (Arkansas) --

New York birder Richard Guthrie reports seeing an Ivory-bill in Arkansas while volunteering for Cornell in April. Look for his original post here:


Thus far, few details given, but note he says he will be on a NY NPR station tomorrow to tell more, or go to the May 8th entries here for more info:


Addendum: Rich has added another post now at the above listserv including a few of the details already available at his blog (still, a lot of details missing) --- I would think the NPR program tomorrow might flesh out more specifics, or maybe Cornell will post their own summary of the sighting at their site (and maybe even ACONE will update their site at some point!! ; - ) Still awaiting possible news from one other state as well as summer approaches.


-- Too Good Not to Share --

Not specifically IBWO material, but over at Ivorybill Researchers Forum a poster gives a fascinating account of a Pileated getting attacked by a snake --- no video but some nice photographic stills (I've never heard of a snake taking on a PIWO before):



Sunday, May 06, 2007


-- Past Luneau Interview --

A 2-page January interview with David Luneau here. Worth a read.

Things are largely settling down for the summer. There's one bit of loose ends yet to be tied up, but then I suspect we're in for several mostly slow, boring months ahead.

....And from the quirky side of the news, "GrrlScientist" over at
"Living the Scientific Life" notes that at 3 min. and 4 seconds past 2 o'clock this morning the time could be recorded as: 02:03:04 05/06/07 : - )



Friday, May 04, 2007


-- If Only Cheney Would Follow... --

Of note: Interior Dept. official Julie McDonald, who oversaw USFWS endangered species policy, resigned her position last Monday under a cloud (...is ANYone in this Administration NOT under a cloud???).



Thursday, May 03, 2007


-- Moving Toward the Weekend --

Dr. Hill has posted what is likely his next to last post for this search season here. Nothing significant to report. Sounds like much of the last few weeks will involve foot searches along the Choctawhatchee. Listening deployments will end come the last of May (and Dr. Mennill is out of the country, delaying release of some of the acoustic analysis). With luck, camera deployments will continue through the summer. Hill hopes to release a summary of the season's efforts as soon as possible in the summer, and will be speaking at the August AOU conference in Wyoming on their findings. His reports and updates have generally been far more punctual than Cornell's.
Speaking of which, the ACONE update of automatic remote camera findings in the Big Woods, promised for May 1, has yet to appear (not sure why they even announced a precise date, if there was any uncertainty as to fulfilling it?). Cornell's Big Woods' season also officially over (camera deployment continuing there as well).
While there is some chatter coming out from another locale at present, such is the case every few months, so nothing I'd call substantive as yet, and of course independent searchers will be continuing various efforts in other habitats.

What we have now is no longer the saga of, or obsession over, a single species, but rather a lesson in how real science proceeds and plays out when allowed to. It's a story (determining the existence of a species) that in large measure has barely begun and could go on for quite awhile (...or, be over soon, with but a single photo), and it is critical in it's longer-term ramifications. All "science" includes unprovable assumptions and no "science" includes 100% certainty... ever. But possibly more on all of that later.
from the Web Grab Bag:

Australian cockatoos are probably my fa-a-a-avorite birds in the world. This touching, several-paged story of a pair hopscotched around the internet quite awhile back, but in case you missed it:



Wednesday, May 02, 2007


-- A Reader's Thought --

I thought I'd heard it all before, but today a reader sends in this simple thought I can't recall ever running across:
"Your message today about numerous vast areas
for searching brings me back to an idea I
have had a long time, the use of dogs
trained by scent to search large areas for
the IB. I know from personal experience a dog
can quickly make the invisible appear.
Goodness knows there are too many
stuffed specimens from which to get
the scent. A dog multiplies the searching
power of human by one thousand percent."
I can't imagine this is practical or someone would've considered it before now, and I'm doubtful a dog can pick up a scent from a decades-old museum specimen, but what do I know... Any thoughts from folks who know about such matters? There's also the whole issue of dogs making their way through very brushy and/or swampy habitat I s'pose.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


-- Sooo Many Places... --

Skeptics will have a field day if no solid new IBWO evidence arises by the end of May following this year's searches. Of course just a few years ago this year's two areas of greatest focus, the Big Woods and Choctawhatchee, weren't even on the Ivory-bill radar, though many other areas were. Moreover, I continue to hold the somewhat contrarian view that, for multiple reasons, the Congaree (S.C.) and Texas Big Thicket are not likely to yield IBWOs either --- but the point is that there remain so many other areas in need of thorough searches in other states. Why the Cornell Mobile Team spent no time in Fla. outside of the Panhandle I can't fathom, nor the short shrift they gave to Mississippi --- but of course they had limited time to briefly explore some widely spread out areas.

Over a year ago Bill Pulliam posted a state-by-state listing (
and he didn't do all pertinent states) of areas that he deemed potentially IBWO-worthy using Terraserver. My own belief continues to be that Fla., MS., and La. are the states of greatest immediate interest (though there are several others).
Below are just the listings Bill came up with at the time for Florida and Mississippi (I have copied them verbatim, but you can go to his site here to review both these two states and the others he analyzed). In short, there is much exploration still needed, and of these locales I wouldn't even be focussing necessarily on the ones of best habitat, but rather on the locales of least frequent human use or trafficking:

Just the major areas; there are hundreds of small batches of nice bottomlands

Pensacola Bay tributaries --

1. Escambia River (entire length) quite nice
2. Yellow River (entire length) plus Titi Creek and lower Shoal River
3. East Bay River

Others --

4. Choctawhatchee River (entire length) plus Pine Log
5. Appalachicola River, entire length but especially below Bristol; extensive swamps in lower delta.
6. Ochlockonee below Lake Talquin, plus Bradwell Bay and other flatwoods swamps around lower portion


7. Extensive coastal flatwoods from in Taylor, Dixie, Levy, and Citrus counties. Large continuous forest areas from just behind the saltwater line for 5-10 miles inland, plus a large patch in east-central Levy county inland of highway 19.
8. Suwannee River (entire length) plus lowermost Withlacoochee River and Santa Fe River below I-75, contiguous with the coastal forest
9. Withlacoochee River (not the same one as #8) along the Citrus - Sumter county line
10. Upper Hillsborough - Withlacoochee area in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Polk counties.
11. Peace River from Bowling Green to Charlotte Harbor

SOUTH FLORIDA (below Lake Okeechobee):

12. Corkscrew Swamp. Beautiful and famous but more fragmented than I expected.
13. Big Cypress area. The largest patch in Florida. Especially north of Highway 41, including the Seminole and Miccosukee Reservations and Fakahatchee Strand.
14. Northeastern Hendry county, a lot of interesting looking areas, mixed forest and open land, hard to interpret from the air -- Devil's garden, Wild Cow Island, places around there.
15. Loxahatchee NWR (though it seems pretty unlikely they'd have been overlooked here)

This is some awfully heavily settled country for much to have been overlooked, but there is interesting habitat:

16. Upper St. Johns on Orange/Brevard county line.
17. Spruce Creek Swamp, southern Volusia county
18. Middle St. Johns from estreme eastern Lake county to areas surrounding Lake George and Crescent Lake. Quite a lot of nice swampland but fairly well-populated with those hairless ape creatures too.
19. Ocklawaha River in central Marion county.

And finally...

20. Lower Nassau River along the Nassau/Duval county line (including Timucuan Preserve). Fairly small and isolated.

Some interesting areas that I've heard little about.

1. Mississippi mainstem from Bolivar to Tunica counties -- many smallish forest fragments, more than in other states.
2. Delta National Forest and Panther Swamp NWR -- some of the largest forest patches in the Mississippi Alluvial corridor.
3. Big Black River, Mathiston to I-20 -- narrow but very long.
4. Mississippi mainstem and lower Buffalo River in southern Adams and northwestern Wilkinson counties -- rather extensive forests. Worth noting that this along with LA areas #9 and #10 forms a pretty good size area of almost interconnected forest.
5. Pearl River below Columbia to highway 90 (also in LA) -- primo area, very extensive, goes far beyond the portions that have been intensively explored by birders recently. Reports of possibly two Ivorybills from this area in the past few weeks.
6. Leaf and Pascagoula Rivers from McClain to I-10 -- another large area."

in short, there's a tad more work to do folks, no matter what this season's outcome (not that everyone will want to hear this)....

And from the Web Grab Bag:

NY TImes covers the sex lives of ducks here.

...or, if you can't access NY Times site go here for same story:



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