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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

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).

"The simple fact is that [Bigfoot] continue[s] to get reported by observers, and skeptics must explain why each and every one of those individuals is utterly wrong...."

Is each and every one of these reports wrong?

I'm generally 'agnostic' on Bigfoot and UFOs, and for that matter Eskimo Curlews and Bachman's Warbler, because I haven't studied them extensively enough to submit a strong opinion (and neither, I dare say, have many people who DO offer opinions!)
The one difference though making the Bigfoot case more difficult is that evidence for the prior existence of Ivorybills is agreed upon (as recent as the 1940s), whereas 'proof' for prior existence of a Bigfoot 'species' is not established.
Anonymous (quite possibly Amy Lester) forgot to add the following:

[head explodes]
"If skeptics are right, they have nothing to fear from further searches"

What we really fear is that scarce resources will continue to be wasted.

There have been many IBWO observers since 1944 but all of them are stringers and should be ashamed of themselves. Really good birders never report IBWOs!
ahhhh yes, 'string theory' -- in physics, interesting stuff, in ornithology, not so much.
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