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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, September 27, 2007


-- Indeed --


...from the Web Grab Bag, check here to see if the movie "No End In Sight" is playing in your area:


Monday, September 24, 2007


-- Sam Keen on the Ivorybill --


American best-selling writer and philosopher Sam Keen has a short new book out called "Sightings," on his experiences as a birder... from a philosophical slant. The next to last chapter tells an anecdote from his childhood of a possible, though unlikely, encounter with a shot Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Pikeville, Tennessee, in 1942. An interesting, entertaining (or, if truly an Ivorybill, quite sad!) read. Ironically, the essay was originally written in March of 2005... one month before Cornell's original jolting announcement.

....and from the Web Grab Bag, this homage to the Passenger Pigeon from "10000 Birds" blog:



Sunday, September 23, 2007


-- A Few Spots Here and There --


From the analysis compiled for the official IBWO Draft Recovery Plan, here are some of the areas mentioned, state-by-state, as potentially worth a further look-see for presence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker:

Alabama: stretches of the Tombignee, Alabama, Sipsey, and Buttahatchie River systems


White River NWR
Cache River NWR
Wattensaw WMA
Bayou Meto WMA
Dagmar WMA
Benson Creek Natural Area
Rex/Hancock/Black Swamp WMA
Steve Wilson/Raft Creek Bottoms WMA
Henry Gray/Hurricane Lake WMA
Bald Knob NWR


Apalachicola and Chipola River swamps
regions of the Aucilla, Wacissa, Wekiva, and lower Suwannee River watersheds
Fort Drum Swamp
Fakahatchee Strand
Big Cypress National Reserve

(Choctawhatchee and Escambia river systems should also be included here but are not part of the analysis.)


Ogeechee-Savannah River basin
Altamaha River Basin
Okefonokee Swamp
Red Hills Region


Atchafalaya River Basin
Pearl River Basin
Tensas River NWR and Big Lake WMA


Pascagoula, Mississippi, and Pearl River floodplain areas
Delta National Forest
Panther Swamp NWR

North Carolina: Waccamaw and Lumber River drainage areas, and Cape Fear River system

South Carolina:

Congaree-Wateree-Upper Santee River region
Savannah River and lower Santee River
Waccamaw drainage complex


stretches of Hatchie River
Chickasaw NWR
Meeman Shelby State Park
Reelfoot Lake

Texas: lower stretches of Neches, Sabine, and Trinity Rivers

(Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma were not considered in the analysis).

....oughta keep some folks busy for awhile longer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


-- A Little Bit of Knowledge --


Einstein knew a lot about physics... but there was far more he didn't know. Some folks reading this blog know a lot about Ivory-billed Woodpeckers... but there's a lot more they don't know.

Whether one's name is "Einstein" or "John Doe" we are, all of us, ignorant about most things, i.e. on any given subject, what we don't know far exceeds what we do. Einstein, and all true scientists, understand this implicitly (but science-amateurs do not!). So the naivete displayed by skeptics at times concerning Ivory-bills, and bird behavior/cognition in general, is of little note (we all share in it) --- what IS noteworthy however, is the ignorance they often display... of their own ignorance --- their willingness, based on scant information, to state with certainty, things impossible to know with certainty.

It's oft' said that 'a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing,' and it's certainly true with the thimblefull of knowledge we possess regarding Ivory-bills. Given the number and variety of credible sightings over time in various locales by various people, the greatest probability is that some of these birds yet exist, and no amount of skeptical circular arguing, conjecturing, selective use of data, or singular focus on photographic evidence, will change that in the short term.

For believers of Ivory-bill persistence the worst that can happen is that the species is never definitively documented, and we are left forever wondering, as an unanswerable question, when truly did the last individuals die. For certain of the skeptics however, the worst calamity would now be for the species
to be conclusively found (heaven forbid!!)... leaving their credibility in a shambles, and that previously-disguised ignorance exposed for all to view. And should that point arrive, keep in mind, that they painted themselves into a corner of their own free accord; no one pushed them.

...hey, but seriously, I don't often promote commercial products here, but to my surprise in the last year have fallen in love with these : (light, mind-boggingly comfortable, sturdy, easy-to-clean, vegan-friendly, simple, many styles)


or, if you're in college, may want to check out these versions.


Saturday, September 15, 2007


-- ...and From the Pearl --


Persistent, indefatigable IBWO searcher Mike Collins, in a post to BirdChat offers to accompany other birders out to his previous "hot zone" for the birds along the Pearl River (La.), when he returns there next month for work. He can take people through his workplace, Stennis Space Center, offering easier access than would otherwise be the case.

He identifies the approximate location of this 'hot zone' with this map linked to from his website:



From the Web Grab Bag:

American Airlines take note: A record-breaking Bar-tailed Godwit was recently tracked as flying over 7100 mi. non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand... without losing any luggage.


The spreading menace of red fire ants are having highly deleterious effects on songbird nesting success according to this report:



Thursday, September 13, 2007


-- Reminder --


Taking a cue from Dalcio Dacol over at IBWO Researchers Forum....

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is asking for public comment on its Ivory-billed Woodpecker Draft Recovery Plan until Oct. 22. The Plan (~170 pgs.) is available by download at:


or you can simply request a hard copy from US F&W at this address:

646 Cajundome Blvd. Suite 400
Lafayette, La. 70506

I'd urge all favoring the effort to be heard by contacting US F&W with positive comments, or even just a line or two of encouragement. You can put that in writing for snail mail, or simply email to:

Support from the public can definitely help.

And if your thoughts be not so positively-inclined... well, then... nnnnnnevermind! ;-)


...from the Web Grab Bag, yet another piece from the NY Times on Alex, the African Grey Parrot:




-- Hill To Speak --


Auburn's Dr. Hill speaks to the Linnaean Society of New York on the search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker at 7:30 pm. on Sept. 25 in Lindner Hall of the AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY (free admission if you're in the area). Other talks by previous searchers are scattered around the country between now and then as well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


-- 3 Thought Experiments --

Another ramble:

1) Virtually every day while driving or walking a roadway around here I spy a few deer emerging from the woods' edge. Yet these are but a tiny fraction of the 1000's more present I don't see. In fact, I see more deer from the roadways then I ever see when actually in the woods, where they no doubt hear/see me first and scamper before being viewed --- if seen at all it is usually a brief fleeing view (hmmm...). They are easily the largest creatures in our woods and yet I observe very few of these prolific, land-based mammals considering how many are actually out there --- should it really come as a surprise then that a very scarce, flying, tree-dwelling bird could stay out-of human sight with far greater ease?

2) Imagine that your lifetime experience and knowledge of birds is what it always has been EXCEPT that you've never seen nor heard of hummingbirds EVER! What would you think, then, if someone came along and told you all about hummers, their description and behavior? You'd think they were NUTS!! There couldn't conceivably be a BIRD like that. Either the reporter was a liar or idiot, or was describing some sort of large insect, certainly not a bird. THAT'S what prior entrenched experience would lead you to believe because your ability to comprehend all the possibilities for birds is so limited.

3) American crows are common in my area. If I said I saw 3 or 5 or 10 crows yesterday I'd be believed without a speck of documentation of any kind; no questions asked. But if I said I saw 50,000 crows yesterday, it wouldn't be believable. Somewhere between 10 and 50,000 is a "tipping point" going from blind acceptance to questioning doubt to outright rejection of the claim. And there is no one magic number that all individuals would agree on as representing that tipping point. At root, much of the Ivory-billed debate is simply people perceiving different tipping points in viewing highly-imprecise evidence.

In summary:
Large creatures DO routinely remain hidden from human view in the forest. Behavior that sounds unlikely to entrenched human logic, may not be. And evidence is rarely as black-and-white as it is painted to be, but comes in shades of gray, not easily sorted out. Too often what skeptics put forth as evidence for Ivory-bill extinction is little more than non-scientific conjecture and preconceptions, and what they practice is not so much skepticism as it is the creation of doubt (not altogether dissimilar from what Holocaust or moon-landing or global-warming deniers do).

The Big Woods and Choctawhatchee final summaries from last season haven't even been issued yet; certain details from last season from other areas likely won't even be publicly released because skeptics have had a 'chilling effect' on the release of some kinds of info; and for the first time in 60+ years an actual semi-comprehensive approach to searching for IBWOs across the Southeast is at last getting underway... in short, the broad search for Ivory-bills is finally getting serious for the first time ever, and yet, before work is even completed, an all-knowing few have again proclaimed the species extinct and persuaded gullible others of that view.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


-- In Memoriam --


In these days of slow Ivory-bill news, another diversion today... apologies in advance to those who only stop by here for IBWO news, or who have little interest in cagebirds:

Since the announcement last Friday of "Alex" the African Grey's sudden death I've watched with much interest the reactions of people as the news spread outward in concentric circles far and wide.
Virtually every major news outlet has covered the story, and Alex just had his own obituary in the NY Times, a bird mind you; and on a day when Congressional hearings are reviewing the most important political story of the moment (the Iraq War and the American 'surge'), and also a day (Sept. 11) that is the anniversary of the worst attack ever on American soil, what is the most emailed story on both the NY Times and NPR websites (last time I checked): the death of Alex!! Meanwhile, on a 'Yahoo Group' memorial listserv for Alex, 100's of messages of condolence and grief stream in each day. It must be of some major comfort to Dr. Irene Pepperberg (his keeper of 30 years), who likely never imagined the number of people her work and her companion had touched.

Those of us who bear a strong innate interest/fascination with birds, often feel a bit oddball living amongst a majority whose passion tilts towards dogs or cats, or even inanimate objects like cars (do we have a gene mutation?); so it is heartening to witness this outpouring of shared emotion in such a public way over a bird; we do have company afterall. Be they parrots, or soaring raptors, or hummingbirds at our backyard feeders, or quacking ducks, or city pigeons bobbing for morsels at our feet, birds are wondrous creatures to behold, and their lives enrich ours.

To Dr. Pepperberg: may the profound grief engulfing you, be ever-so-slightly diminished by the multitude of people sharing it with you. And to Alex, wherever you are, may your spirit fly free in a place where rainbows shine, joy abounds, and Carolina Parakeets and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers still flap and sail in the breeze, right alongside you.

Monday, September 10, 2007


-- But Enough About Ivory-bills --


The current (Oct.) issue of Birder's World Magazine includes an article on the claimed Eskimo Curlew sighting last year in Nova Scotia (written by the observer):


....maybe extinction ain't what it used to be!


Saturday, September 08, 2007


-- North Carolina Too --


Independent searcher Jerry Condrey of North Carolina is convinced he saw two Ivory-bills in the Lake Waccamaw/Green Swamp region of N.C. (southeast corner, and not too far from Alexander Wilson's famous IBWO encounter of 200 years ago) a few years back, and plans to revitalize his search come January 2008, being assisted by Richard Lyttle (see prior post). He also indicates that some "high profile institutions" may be involved in the January search, as well.

Again, any emphasis on South and North Carolina is intriguing given decades of focus (what little focus there was) primarily on certain southern Gulf states. Still awaiting to hear from Cornell which regions other than Arkansas and S.C. they may concentrate on this coming season based on their Mobile Team's conclusions from the prior season.

From the Web Grab Bag:

I feel compelled to mention for any who might be interested and haven't heard, that "Alex," Dr. Irene Pepperberg's African Grey Parrot/companion/work colleague was found dead in his cage unexpectedly on Friday of unknown causes. A press release is scheduled for Monday and a necropsy will seek the cause of death. Alex was the subject of much published research into animal learning and cognition, both in the professional and popular press, and Dr. Pepperberg's close companion for 30 years (longer than most marriages these days!). I presume some sort of memorial pages will soon be available on the Web, or anyone so inclined can send a contribution to:

The Alex Foundation
c/o Dr. Irene Pepperberg
Department of Psychology/MS-062
415 South Street
Brandeis University
Waltham, MA 02454


Friday, September 07, 2007


-- South Carolina Searchin' --

The official South Carolina Ivory-billed Woodpecker Working Group is seeking searchers for the next search season (beginning around mid-Nov.). See notice here:


Also, in S.C., independent searcher Richard Lyttle continues to seek assistance, as well, in his efforts to document the species' presence there:


On a sidenote,
Auburn's Dr. Hill voices further optimism here.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


-- New Arkansas Times Article --


New "Arkansas Times" article here:



Tuesday, September 04, 2007


-- Of Interest --


Helen Snyder reports that her ornithologist husband Noel's monograph "Causes of the Decline of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker" will soon be available from the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology. She says it's not quite listed yet but will soon be among the monographs offered here:


(estimated price $20; about 60 pgs. and should be excellent)

--- on a sidenote, a prior volume of Noel's, "The Carolina Parakeet: Glimpses of a Vanished Bird," may also be of interest to some.


Sunday, September 02, 2007


-- The Ghost Bird: Jabiru? --


It's been over a week since reports of a Jabiru visiting Mississippi surfaced... and stiiiiill the enormous, gawky, impossible-to-miss critter hasn't been relocated. Hmmmm... :

1) Rick Wright, a very credible member of the birding community, first reported the bird on the Web, BUT never saw it himself (in fact, it's not clear to me IF ANY experienced birders ever saw it); he merely received still photos of the bird from a catfish farm where the supposed bird supposedly set down supposedly on Aug 24 (and the only photo released on the Web looks like a possible Photoshop candidate).

2) After-the-fact, OTHER non-birders in the area very conveniently reported having seen the bird around other fish farms one or two weeks prior to the announcement (...but again, no established birders I'm aware of).

3) With birders flocking into the area the gee-normous bird mysteriously vanished and hasn't been re-found.

4) There are no sound recordings or feathers or DNA evidence for the bird's presence, nor so far as I'm aware, any video.

Does something smell fishy here... I mean besides the catfish farms?
Not only has a Jabiru not been seen in Mississippi in 60 years, one has NEVER been seen there.
Do I believe a Jabiru actually set down in Mississippi in August? --- YES, I do (for reasons I won't even bother with), but do I believe the evidence
presented thus far on the Web could be torn to shreds by someone skeptically-bent on doing so --- you betcha! (because skepticism is the easiest game around).

No substantial IBWO news for the moment, and likely nothing prior to last season's final summary reports being released. Several IBWO talks will be given around the country this month, so watch your local listings, and George Butler's "The Lord God Bird" documentary still scheduled for mid-Sept. theatre release. Otherwise, good time for chillin' out... except for those yet throwing conniptions over the whole potentially $27 million affair....

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