"....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.”
"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, November 25, 2007
-- Cornell... and Christmas --
Any birders of a certain age grew up revering the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, as America's bastion of excellence in birding and ornithology. One of the more unfortunate consequences of 2 years of Ivorybill debate has been attacks in some quarters on CLO's stature and reputation. Hindsight is 20/20, and clearly Cornell (or associates) have handled some matters poorly, not delivering on certain promises, nor responding quickly or thoroughly to various criticisms lobbed their way. They walk a tightrope in both wanting to hold their cards close, maintaining confidentiality regarding the IBWO search, yet also wishing to retain public support. Over time, questions I've posed to Jerry Jackson, Geoff Hill, and lesser figures, have been answered well and promptly; but fairly simple, straightforward questions I've posed to Cornell, have taken months to answer, or simply gone unanswered... while their mail solicitations to my mailbox for contributions continue to arrive in an uncannily timely manner! ;-)
It was of course Cornell who, in the 1930's, originally brought the Ivory-billed Woodpecker back to the attention of scientists and birders, only to then abandon it when, in a time of war, there seemed no possibility of accomplishing anything for the bird. It is somehow ironic that yet once again Cornell is potentially in a position to fail the species. This amazing bird that brought so much sudden fame to James Tanner has done little since, but bring ridicule and ruin to others crossing paths with it... I still expect Cornell to be vindicated in the end, but the tarnish done to their lustre may take longer to buff up... and that is unfortunate, given all the unqualified good they accomplish for birding and birders.
...On a different note, a reader has requested that I post "gift recommendations" (books or other items) for "Ivory-bill fanatics" for the upcoming holidays. Many readers will already be familiar with these, but for any who aren't I'll just cite some of the more obvious choices:
First though I'll mention that, for those who are into the auction scene, eBay usually has quite an array of Ivory-billed Woodpecker-related items for sale (books, t-shirts, mugs, artwork, etc.) so can be worth checking out here:
As far as books, my personal favorite remains Jerome Jackson's "In Search of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker." Second, though old (originally published in 1942) and somewhat dry reading as a scientific monograph, I still find James Tanner's short "The Ivory-billed Woodpecker" a fascinating read for anyone both into this bird and into science. Phillip Hoose's "The Race to Save the Lord God Bird" remains a beautifully done and photo-laden volume which came out before all the current hubbub (oddly, it is often promoted as a young person's book, though excellent reading for adults as well). Another favorite from the past is Christopher Cokinos's "Hope Is the Thing With Feathers" with a long, well-written chapter on the Ivory-bill, but also great chapters on four other assumed-extinct bird species. And then of course there are the two most 'current' volumes to emerge, Tim Gallagher's "The Grail Bird" on the Arkansas search, and Geoff Hill's "Ivorybill Hunters" on the Florida search, both exciting but more limited reads. And I suppose I may as well once again mention (for the scientifically-inclined) Noel Snyder's new monograph on the Ivory-bill available online at: http://www.wfvz.org/html/pub_prog.html
Deciding among all these volumes is really a matter of personal preference and interest (and do buy the latest editions of any of them, since new material may have been added over older used copies), since all have positive elements in their favor depending what one is looking for.
Wild bird stores may have other Ivory-bill related gifts/trinkets/crafts for sale. Some of the sites I link to in the blog margin also have IBWO items for sale, and there are other sites around the internet as well with IBWO stuff.
....or, you may just wish to ask for a brand-spanking new videocam recorder, kayak, GPS device, and camo gear, to go look for the bird yourself!
Links to this post: