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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






Saturday, June 23, 2007

 

-- Bollocks --


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Very disappointing to see British researcher Martin Collinson post as "FACTS" on his blog, statements that are at best oversimplifications and at worst simply rubbish (don't know if he was merely trying to be provocative --- I've been known to say things on occasion just to stir the pot a bit ;-) --- or if he actually believes these falsehoods):
"FACT - IBWOs were never that difficult to see. FACT - their calls were incessant and carried over half a mile. FACT - their calls do NOT carry over 60 years echoing round the woods since the last ones died!"
Although there are some reports in a few distant historical locales of easy to find/see Ivory-bills this was not generally the case, and by Tanner's day (let alone decades later) they were quite difficult. Though convinced the species persisted in both South Carolina and Florida Tanner was unable to ever find them himself. Even in the Singer Tract he found them only with the aid of a guide who had essentially lived amongst them and knew where to find their nestholes; even then Tanner reports the birds were generally heard first and only later seen. Moreover, no one can say with any certainty whether the habits/behavior of tiny samples of birds residing in pre-1945 Louisiana can even be predictive of the behavior of any remnant population persisting today in various states.

The nature of their calls is also in wide dispute; while they could be noisy on occasion, when in pairs, it certainly is wrong to imply that calling 'incessantly' was the norm or even commonplace, nor did their calls routinely extend "over half a mile" by most accounts, and in any event this would clearly be dependent on habitat, terrain, and other factors. Finally, even if you believe them extinct, nobody knows when the last one died (60 yrs. ago, 30 yrs. ago, 10 yrs. ago, 22 days ago???), certainly not someone cloistered in Britain in 2007.

And still the skeptics think that just because alternative explanations of data are offered, those alternatives MUST automatically be opted for. What a wonderful world it would be if we all just got to pick our own alternative explanations for anything we chose, but that ain't science. If skeptics don't like the Arkansas and Choctawhatchee data then throw it out; ignore it; forget it ever appeared in print; it need be paid no attention. The sightings of this species in multiple states pre-2000 are alone enough to warrant extensive ongoing searches. What part of the full history of the Ivory-bill don't skeptics understand, that causes them to think its existence hinges on one blurry videotape or 2 locales out of the entire southeast.
Martin is right about one thing however, this issue will most likely eventually live or die "by empiricism".... now if only skeptics will permit empiricism to go forward.
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Comments:
Though IBWOs are/were feeding specialists they might follow the habitat patterns of some other birds. I have seen Parula Warblers singing and presumably nesting in deciduous swamps in mid June, for example but I have also seen them nesting in wind-blown pines near crashing waves on the coast of Maine.
Audubon's IBWO sightings were in yet another time when the banks of the Mississippi were mostly forested and he could see and hear IBWO's just by floating down the river. I believe I remember some of his accounts talked about IBWOs near the big muddy. It's something to ponder. If Cuban IBWO's diverged 1 million years ago
from C. Principalis couldn't Florida IBWOs behave someone differently from geographically
separate Texas/La IBWOs? We really don't know how much gene pool exchange happened within the C. Principalis species. Pileated's were divided into Northern and Southern races in the days of A. C. Bent Life Histories of North American Woodpeckers, 1939. A much less common bird might have had even fewer gene exchanges and evolved some habitat differences east to west across its historical range. One can argue these things in both directions, of course. Either they were highly nomadic and exchanged genes, or they weren't
very nomadic. A skeptic could run with that point to, so I'll mention it pre-emptively!

/Paul in New Paltz
 
as they say, learn something new everyday... I always just assumed that the term "bollocks," used not infrequently by at least one vocal British poster on BirdForum was simply the Brit equivalent of the American "bull...t" but come to learn, thanks to Martin, that it actually means "testicles" and nothing at all to do with 'merde' (if you'll pardon my French... although it's intent is still the same). Where the heck do those Brits learn English anyway?!

p.s. if I understand Martin's latest post correctly (or maybe I don't) he has sent a comment to my blog, which thus far has not been received??? a glitch in "Blogger" often requires a comment to be sent twice before it goes on its way --- if there is no "You're message has been sent..." at top of screen after hitting "send" button, then the message did not get sent.
 
Bollocks!
I'll try to remember what I said, but my original comment was a lyrical triumph of chemical insight, of which this is only a pale grey shadow of ineloquence. I'll try my best though. As I recall, it went a little like this...

OK I'll admit I skirted perilously round the edges of reason in that post, and oversimplified at best. Maybe the point was very much like a point I think you made a while back, viz. that the birds don't care what we think. They'll continue to do what they are doing, even if that is rotting and dissolving to oil, irrespective of our opinions and irrespective of the identity of any video or individual sighting. but fact 1 (maybe FACT 1 - it depends on how hard a day it's been) stands. I will agree that IBWOs were never that easy to see either, but fact (FACT :-)) is that they could be seen, well and repeatedly, with patience, and that there were people who could live and work among them even when their population must have been perilously, perhaps terminally, low. FACT/fact/lie 2 is an oversimplification, but IBWOs could certainly be very conspicuous at times without aspiring to this mythical will-o-the-wisp type level where you can only see them if you're not looking straight at them. I will accept FACT 3 is a little frivolous :-), but will contend that if IBWOs went extinct a few seconds ago, we still wouldn't hear them.

As of OCtober last year I was prepared to believe that although the Arkansas video was a PIWO it miught have inspired some birders to go out and find the real birds in Florida. I absolutely accept the contention that the American birding community gave up on IBWOs too soon. I think it stretches credulity to think that birds, including these hypothesised Florida 9 pairs, could escape the combined digital imagery of all the hair-trigger search teams and goodness knows who else for another search season. Except of course if they aren't there.

Where the heck do those Brits learn English anyway?!

Well I for one learnt it at Swiss finishing school of Upper Class girls. The first sentence of Swiss German they translated into English for me was 'Sir, if you don't stop looking through the window at the girls, we will have to arrest you.'
 
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