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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

Friday, February 29, 2008


-- Leap Day --


First, a quick note re: the Great Horned Owl webcam in California I linked to awhile back. Mama Owl has been diligently sitting on 3 eggs for several weeks and the first baby ought to hatch out any day now, so you may enjoy monitoring the festivities and childrearing as they unfold here:


Been over a month since Cornell's last updates, and approaching two months since an Auburn update. In the past, some have hoped that such time lapses might imply SOMEthing significant happening, but I've heard nothing positive coming from Arkansas quarters, and usually such previous silences merely reflected a lack of anything worth reporting. Would be nice to know exactly WHERE Cornell's Mobile Team unit is at this point, though.

Anyway, lack of news gives me more time to clutter up the left-hand margin of the blog with more schtuff. So I've added a very short blogroll of the following bird/nature blogs which I check in on semi-regularly (and BTW, most of these DON'T share my opinion on the IBWO):


John Trapp's blog remains a favorite of mine for it's quirky, unpredictable subject matter and style. Not the standard sort of bird blog, so won't be everyone's cup-of-tea, but then that's what I like about it. Also contains a useful, extensive blogroll of other bird sites.


"Mike's Birding and Digiscoping Blog," another of my favorites and widely-read around the Web; hardly needs mention here. It's title however may scare off some who have no interest in digiscoping, so worth noting that Mike covers a lot more than optics and photography at his site, though many especially seek his advice in those areas. His digiscoped pictures are always a delight, but my own favorite posts are his thoughtful word essays on birds and our relationship to them. Enjoy...


A relatively new, and somewhat oddly-titled blog; focuses a lot on North Carolina birding, somewhat limiting its audience (but does touch on other subjects), and the writing is consistently excellent and witty. Worth a read, just for the wordsmithing (
as well as good info available), if you've never stopped by before.


If you love British humor (and don't all Americans!?) British scientist/birder Martin Collinson gives you a serving of it every week on his blog. As a British site, his precise subjects may not always be of interest to American readers, but his style will usually plant a smile on your face.


Not a bird blog, but writer Julie Dunlap's "pinesabovesnow" blog (the title being a phrase from Aldo Leopold) focuses on good nature writing to recommend to its readers. Something I for one can't get too much of.


Have just added John Riutta's 'Born Again Bird Watcher' blog to the mix. Why not! Again, a blog that hits upon slightly different topics from the more standard bird-news blogs.

And then below the brief blogroll I've also listed a few commercial sites on the Web, of possible interest to readers.

hmmmm... maybe next I'll add a daily Sudoku puzzle. . . .

Thursday, February 28, 2008


-- Another Book Recommendation --


While biding time, just another book recommendation.... Many know by now that despite spending most of adulthood in the biological sciences, my real bias runs towards the physical sciences. I'm especially fond of writers, few and far between, who are able to clearly communicate both the complexity and underlying basics of science to the layman. No one does this any better, nor in a more pithy yet engaging manner, than award-winning writer K.C. Cole. Her 2003 volume (which I only recently came upon) "Mind Over Matter: Conversations With the Cosmos" is a wonderful compendium of 90+ simple but trenchant essays on scientific matters.

Is the "Ivory-billed Woodpecker" anywhere to be found in this volume... no... but there are points and passages having to do with common sense, observation, complexity, certainty, interpretation, and default judgments, as they pertain to cosmology, particle physics, astronomy, quantum theory, and the like, which do in fact relate to controversies swirling around the swampland's most iconic bird... or so it seems to me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


-- Looking Ahead --


Soon we'll be entering the last couple months of this potentially final extensive search season for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. What a ride it's been; full of sound and fury, a cast of characters to fill a novel, books, websites galore, and at least 3 independent films... and, as Yogi B. would say, "it's not over, 'til it's over." Three possible outcomes come easily to mind:

1. Definitive documentation is obtained this season insuring further field work on behalf of the species.

2. Better, but still not conclusive, documentation is obtained (either in the form of multiple, more complete/credible sighting reports, or improved, yet still not definitive, photographic evidence), inflaming even further the division over how or if to proceed... NOT a wind-up to be wished-for, but can't be completely ruled out.

3. No better evidence for the Ivorybill's existence is found this season than already stands from past searches, drying up interest and funding in most quarters for continuance of the effort (except on a small scale, or by independent searchers, and the IBWO Foundation which is committed to the search). Even worse, many skeptics will take perceived failure to document the species in the 2005-8 period as confirmation that the species went extinct in the 1940s; a leap impossible, if not outright foolish, to make.

Time is getting short, and there may be no new ideas to be tried. As always, March - April are potentially two of the best months for Ivorybill searching. Moreover, IBWO reports of the past have most often popped up unexpectedly, out-of-the-blue --- the photo documentation now demanded could likewise come at any moment, from a human or from a 25-day-old automatic camera snapshot revealing a bird never seen by ground searchers, and now long gone from the area... or... it may simply never happen, and that must be recognized.

Just a couple of points I'd reiterate:

1. MOST of the concentrated effort looking for Ivorybills the last few years has been in Arkansas' Big Woods and Florida's Choctawhatchee region, two areas that historically, hardly registered as locales to look for IBWOs. More recently South Carolina's Congaree and Texas' Big Thicket, regions with much greater past IBWO gossip, have been focused on. But other areas of historical significance may still not have received the attention they need (though Cornell's Mobile Team and other independents are checking most of them out --- again I'd be thinking in terms of central and south Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi).
In short, negative results from Big Woods and Choctawhatchee, two areas not of great interest 5-6 years ago, threaten to curtail interest in other areas, not to mention casting an even greater cynical pall on future sightings turned in and meeting with knee-jerk ridicule.

2. I forfeited most hope some time ago that the Ivorybill could be saved even if found. The search for the IBWO is for me a largely scientific endeavor now to prove once-and-for-all how easily a large bird can evade detection (as defined by conclusive photographic documentation) for 60 years; to demonstrate that scientific hubris, and non-empirical, conjecture-slathered hubris alone, is what has backed the notion of IBWO extinction.
(Not to be mis-understood here, I'm all for making efforts to save the species, even if they are doomed in the long run, just as I'm all for efforts to save C. Condors and Whooping Cranes, or Blackburnian Warblers for that matter, all of which, given enough time, are no doubt doomed, despite temporary upticks in their populations). We treat human beings when they are sick even though we know eventually they will die; species can be treated with that same consideration, despite the demise they ultimately face.

3. Finally, some folks (or, in the case of Cornell, institutions), claiming sightings, have put future reputations and credibility on the line for this bird, even more-so than those of us who argue persistently from a keyboard on its behalf. For them especially, a definitive conclusion to this saga (which of course means documenting the bird!), is needed lest they be sequestered to a limbo-land of doubt well into the future.

In short, even with a negative outcome in the next 2-3 months (and I still have significant hope for this season), there are reasons not to abandon the effort altogether, though the chorus for pulling the plug on public funding will swell. And "believers" must be realistic about the widespread perceptions at this late date, if no documentation is forthcoming.
Harking back to a blog post from over a week ago, it is probably better to keep expectations low, and be happily surprised by a positive outcome, than to hold expectations very high and then have to slink from them come May. Plenty of possibility remains, but time and patience run thin. What would appear to be needed at this late point in the game is not so much skill, or technology, or planning, or foresight, but plain, old-fashioned... luck!

Sunday, February 24, 2008


-- Ivory-billed Gala --


Brief news report here related to the 2nd annual gala of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Foundation, in Huntsville, Alabama, where Jerry Jackson spoke last evening:




Friday, February 22, 2008


-- The ACONE System --


One of the technological side benefits to come out of the organized search for Ivorybills has been the deployment of the computerized ACONE camera system to the search in Bayou de View --- to capture automatically on film, over a relatively wide field-of-view, birds meeting specific size and profile parameters that fly into view. I've been impressed with the capabilities and results achieved with this robotic system. Other automatic camera systems (whether time-lapse or motion-activated) have various potential problems associated with them that this system bypasses. And there are always potential flaws with ground searches, helicopter searches, stakeouts, and the like. The ACONE system, pointed at a likely flyway for a long enough period of time, would seem one of the soundest (and most efficient) techniques employed in this entire effort.
But of course the bird must still fly in front of the camera, and it is discouraging indeed (specifically for the Arkansas search) that in close to a year-and-a-half of application the ACONE system, directed at what seems like just such a logical flight path for the bird, has failed to capture an Ivorybill on film. I find this possibly more dismaying than the scarcity of results from all the other efforts of on-site people combined, which I think easier to explain away. Possibly, it is a system that can remain in place in selected locales for a period of time even in the event that at some point ground searches are suspended (depending on funding). Whatever the final outcome of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker search itself, the honing of the ACONE system is to my mind one of the very positive by-products of this whole endeavor. It is a tool likely to have future uses in contexts which are not even foreseeable as yet.


Thursday, February 21, 2008


-- South Carolina Update --


Unencouraging update on the South Carolina Congaree search here:


(again, I've never been overly hopeful of finding the species in S.C., but a lot of folks have been --- the official search there continues 'til May, and there are independent searchers as well).


Tuesday, February 19, 2008


-- No News Is... No News --


Nothing much new Ivorybill-wise to report. By now I expect that helicopter searches of Arkansas' Big Woods are concluded, with little of significance to pass along (just my surmise). Nor anything recent from Cornell's Mobile Search team (...but they usually post right after I say there's nothing new from them :-)

From notes I've read or received, the Texas Partners In Flight meeting demonstrated further support to complete ongoing search efforts for the IBWO. Despite some skeptics' implications that no reputable birders/scientists remain who believe in the species' existence, actually several acknowledge that likelihood, and far more remain in the agnostic camp of it yet being an unsettled question.

I'll sign off with another quote from Jonathan Rosen's work:
"The urge to kill and the urge to conserve live side by side, they are our heritage, and the ivory-bill somehow carries our double burden on its black-and-white back. But so does birdwatching itself. My forays into Central Park are, as much as my trip to a Louisiana swamp to look for a possibly vanished bird, part of a larger journey the country itself has been making since its earliest days with increasing urgency. All this no doubt sounds grandiose, but then, birding isn't trainspotting."

Sunday, February 17, 2008


-- "The Life of the Skies" --

"Birds have always been emblems that shuttled between the natural world and the man-made world, between science and poetry, between earth and sky. But the ivory-bill is even more of an in-between figure --- flying between the world of the living and the world of the dead, between the American wilderness and the modern wasteland, between faith and doubt, survival and extinction. No wonder the bird has taken on a sort of mystical character."

-- Jonathan Rosen from "The Life of the Skies"
I've sometimes proposed that happiness in life is a matter of expectations: if you hold your expectations high you will be thwarted, disappointed, and frustrated along the way, but if you simply keep expectations low, then joy will follow when things turn out much better-than-you-expected!!!
So it was with some trepidation this weekend that I snapped up a copy of Jonathan Rosen's new homage to birding, "The Life of the Skies," because, having touted it for months on the Web, sight unseen (but based on his previous essays), I was afraid it might not live up to my expectations.

What a relief!!... It is (for me) as expected --- the richest overview of birding I've seen --- not the science, nor sport, nor even art or history of birding, but richest (I would almost say, delicious) overview of the sheer spirit and joy of birding (and more)!

Early on in the volume, Rosen notes something obvious, that I hadn't really thought much about before: birds are almost the ONLY wild animals most people encounter anymore on a regular basis throughout their lives; we have so exterminated, or removed from our environs, all the others; and of course birds themselves are declining rapidly as well. They are in some sense our single remaining thread to a world long gone. It is a sad thought, and the lingering thought that I think cloaks the entire remainder of the book with poignancy.
Way, way back when Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim At Tinker Creek" came out, Publishers Weekly wrote, "This book of wonder is one of the truly beautiful books of this or any other season... which, on any page, offers a passage one can scarcely wait to share with a friend. It is a triumph." ...Pretty much ditto for Rosen's newest volume.

Moreover, though I knew Rosen had looked for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker at Pearl River several years back, one pleasant surprise was discovering what a prominent role the IBWO would play throughout his current work, at beginning, end, and popping up repeatedly in-between, even when not the topic of focus.

The book is liberally sprinkled with interesting historical facts, stories, lyrical writing, and unpredictable jumps from subject to subject (if you're looking for a straightforward scientific history of American birding, this is not the book for you). A wide-range of figures appear with wonderful narrative (Audubon, Thoreau, Whitman, Burroughs, Theo. Roosevelt, Alfred Russel Wallace, Robert Frost, E.O. Wilson...); even Jewish mysticism arises recurringly out of the prose. Indeed, while many people don't grasp what I mean (in the left-hand blog column) when I talk of woven interests in "birds, science, and mysticism," Rosen clearly does (and there may be more religious-tinged talk here than will suit some readers' tastes.)

One of the most entertaining chapters (out of
many) is chapter 10 where the author essentially addresses the age-old question of, can you be a birder and still be manly (my phrasing, not his, and I won't give the answer here). But everyone will have their own favorite chapters (it's hard to choose). There are pages or passages, as in any 300-page volume, that don't seem to carry their weight as well, but I admire Rosen for even daring to cover such eclectic, wide-ranging ground (there is history, poetry, science, theology, meditation, humor, stream-of-consciousness, and oh yeah, birds, here). I would've enjoyed reading more about modern birding, about Roger Tory Peterson and even Pete Dunne, and many of the current activities of birding, but hey, you can't have it all, and that just doesn't appear to be the goal here (although the book does conclude BTW, just as the original Choctawhatchee IBWO announcement is about to be made).

There are probably a couple dozen lines and passages I'd love to share with you here, but better yet, go get your own copy and select your own passages. No guarantees (readers' tastes vary widely I know), but for my money this is the best bird-related volume I've read in a very long time, and certainly the most unconventional bird book I've seen for awhile. So if you're a bird or nature lover, I recommend buying this book. But maybe more importantly, IF you're NOT a bird or nature lover (but enjoy good writing)... BUY this book (...and become one).

And bravo Mr. Rosen for not disappointing.... (now I need to go read it a second time, for all that I missed on the first go-around).

[ One itsy-bitsy technical note: When David Kulivan reported Ivorybills at Pearl River in 1999, the various news stories and books that followed, alternatively spelled his name "Kulivan" and "Kullivan" --- unbelievably, this continued for years back and forth (last year's USF&W Draft Recovery Report has the one "l" spelling). At some point long ago I settled on the "Kulivan" spelling because it seemed the more prevalent from the most authoritative sources. Rosen however, who met Kulivan early-on, consistently uses the "Kullivan" spelling, so henceforth I will use that variation in the future (....unless someone gives me good reason to do otherwise). ]

Saturday, February 16, 2008


-- Nature Blog Network (OT) --


Another off-topic post today. Recently, at her blog, Julie Zickefoose wrote about how joining the newly-created "NatureBlogNetwork" affected her blogging. The post has evoked a lot of comments and struck a chord with many of us who joined that Network. Rather than eat up more of her space on the topic I'll venture some additional thoughts/rambles here:

In some ways running a blog is a very UNselfish labor of love --- putting out some bit of verbiage day-after-day for a sometimes tiny audience, for no or very little compensation. But, in other ways, I've always viewed blogging as a huge self-indulgence. I'm reluctant to indulge in some of the further contrivances of blogging like carnivals and memes and groups (though I don't find any fault with those who do), but when the NatureBlogNetwork came along it seemed like a really worthy endeavor to help connect individuals, increasingly plopped in front of computer screens, back to nature. (The majority of the 'biggies' on the NatureBlogNetwork are part of the "ScienceBlogs" network, BTW; the rest of us are the also-rans.)

Though I am a birder, I've never thought of "Ivorybills LiVE!" as a 'birding' blog --- my subject is way too narrow and limited (it was originally promoted as "All Ivorybills, all the time," before I let it touch upon other topics). But even with that narrowness, I don't mind thinking of it as a 'nature' blog, because at heart, it really is about Man's relationship to nature as depicted through an iconic bird. I once commented to an acquaintance who runs a general science blog that I could never do what he does because the sheer volume of interesting science stories out there everyday would stymie me --- I'd reach the end of the day still undecided which stories to use! I'm more comfortable with a 'niche' topic that I can delve into deeply, persistently --- and more comfortable spending all day groveling, looking for something pertinent enough to use for that topic!

Some authors have written that blogs, and the Internet more generally, represent the 'dumbing down' of America ('Cliff notes' for the masses more-or-less) --- a generation coming up that will get all (or most) of its news, information, entertainment off a computer screen. There are dangers; it is a bit scary. But these great technological advances have a way of working themselves out for the best over the long haul --- evolution as applied to society and culture. When I first heard of Wikipedia I thought it was the stupidest idea I could imagine, but came to slowly realize it's benefits, and that it will get better and better over time; for all its perils it will evolve and become essential. 'Open source' is THE wave of the future, the wave of our grandchildren, and any who struggle against it are tilting at windmills. We need to monitor its progress, but also get out of its way. When every child in every nation has open internet access, the entire playing field will be leveled as never before in human history... there will be glitches and problems, but the best humanity has to offer will bubble to the surface given enough time. A few folks out there have the prescient vision to see it, and work for it; most of us just hope it is true.

Attending a science blogging conference last month, I knew I was one of the very least tech-savvy people there, but what didn't even occur to me 'til I left the building was that I was also one of the oldest people there... by far. Being surrounded by that youthful enthusiasm, energy, and idealism was infectious and heartening, a respite from my usual profound pessimism over the state of the world and my own country... a comforting flashback, in a sense, to the spirit of the 60's. Blogs are part of that future, that idealism.
Over on Julie's site, Mike Bergin, founder of the NatureBlogNetwork, wrote that he hopes his Network will introduce the "right blogs to the right people" reaching "more like-minded readers." And then he adds, "After that, we take over the world!" ....May it be so ;-)

(....and thank you Julie Z. and your wonderful commenters for inspiring this post)

Friday, February 15, 2008


-- Into the Weekend --


"Humminbird" over at an Ivory-bill thread on BirdForum reports that there is a "half day session" on the IBWO search during Saturday's "International Partners in Flight conference in McAllen, Texas," including "papers by Hill and some of the Cornell team." Probably nothing too new, but possibly some updates on the Texas search in particular.

--- Actually, I've found the program now and here is the description for the above session:
"There are continuing questions from people about the progress of the search, related
research, funding, and the status of pledged recovery efforts of the Ivory-billed
Woodpecker. This session would give us an opportunity to provide information to
interested participants from a wide geographic area. A 30- minute discussion at the
end will address “Where do we go from here?""
General website for the conference is here: http://www.partnersinflight.org/events/mcallen/program.htm

[ p.s. - if you're not already familiar with Partners In Flight, they're a conservation group definitely worth checking out. ]

ADDENDUM: a reader (thanks) points out to me a page of abstracts for all the talks/posters at the conference here:


VERY large pdf, with huge number and array of abstract topics; in a quick scan I noticed about 5 pertaining to the search for IBWO, so if you're lacking for reading material this weekend....


Thursday, February 14, 2008


-- Thur. Musings --


Today's Arkansas birding listserv has a brief (possibly ongoing) thread centered around Ross Everett's Ivory-bill sighting over a year ago. Look here through the Feb 14 postings for those titled "Re: The great woodpecker hunt" to review the conversation:



And let's see, elsewhere on the Web, in the category of, 'if-a-headline-makes-me-laugh-it's-my-civic-duty-to-pass-it-along-to-others,' the following story (...and on behalf of octopuses everywhere... OUCH!):


Wednesday, February 13, 2008


-- More Dunne --


Since citing Pete Dunne yesterday, might be worth mentioning/plugging the largest tome of his prolific writing career, "Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion" in which, without pictures or illustrations, he presents the reader 700+ pages of incisive verbal descriptions of North American birds. Dunne is the consummate promoter of the wholistic or GISS
approach to bird identification ('general impression of size of shape,' though actually entailing many more factors than just size and shape), also known as the 'Cape May school of birding,' over the reliance on specific field marks as generally taught to beginning birders. In fact, the vast majority of birding and count IDs by experienced birders is done with such a gestalt approach, often in but seconds of time, rather than any list-like checkoff of field marks, yet some choose to believe it can't be applied or accepted in the instance of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. ....It can.

And, in honor of Valentine's Day upcoming, this from the Web Grab Bag:


...also for your entertainment this post of Chet Raymo's (RE-run from 3 years ago at Valentine's Day) for all the lovelorn scientists out there (I honestly don't know if these are completely real or made up!???).

Looking backwards, yesterday I failed (especially, as an Illinois-born-and-bred fella) to acknowledge Abraham Lincoln's birthday (no doubt spinning in his grave at what's become of the Republican Party in the interim); R.I.P. Abe, it ain't your fault; and it was also Charles Darwin's birthday (probably also spinning in his grave at the current state of affairs!).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


-- Tongue-in-cheek? --


Quote from an interview with Pete Dunne last month on "wildbirdonthefly" blog:

"Do Ivory-billed Woodpeckers still exist?"
"I don't know. They did a couple of years ago. Haven't heard anything lately; have you?"

....and surprise, surprise, he's working on a new book or two or three or more....


Other Webfare: If you're a layperson who enjoys physics one of the best blogs out there is 'cocktailpartyphysics' by, of all things, a former English major turned science writer. The posts are long (by blog standards) but consistently well-written and engaging.

...but hey I suspect more of you are into birding than physics, so you may wish to check out this new site, referenced by John Trapp recently:


Very good initial broadcast by Steve Moore covering a lot of ground from a recent Birdwatch America trade show (~ 45 mins. long); may be a little too commercial for some people's tastes, but generally very good. Will look forward to future segments. Some shorter and quite varied bird-oriented broadcasts come from NPR via this site I also only recently learned of:



Monday, February 11, 2008


-- Follow-up --


Even with falling interest in the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the article linked to at the Boston Globe yesterday turned out to be the second most emailed story from that paper on Sunday. Here an additional Globe shot of Alabaman Bobby Harrison with the sort of Ivorybill decoy he hopes to employ in future searches for the bird.
Meanwhile, Bobby's blog relates that a crew from "This American Life" (I assume the TV version) recently interviewed/filmed him for one of their upcoming segments.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


-- Boston Globe --


New Boston Globe article on the Ivorybill controversy here, with Prof. E.O. Wilson weighing in at very end.



Saturday, February 09, 2008


-- Arkansas News Report --


Arkansas news summary of Big Woods search for the "iconic bird" here:



-- Schrodinger's Cat??? --


30+ years ago on the first day of a graduate 'statistics-for-researchers' class the professor I had told us he really didn't like teaching these intro courses in statistics to students who were non-mathematics majors. He explained that statistics was a powerful but subtle tool, and that to really grasp and apply statistics correctly required a PhD. in mathematics, if not even a PhD. in statistics. Students taking a couple of semesters of stats, and then applying statistics to their research projects almost invariably misused them, he informed us. Further, he asserted that most of the statistical analyses published in journals was also mis-applied unless it was carried out by a math or statistics specialist.
At the time, the judgment seemed a tad harsh, but over the years I came to appreciate his view, because increasingly, in general, only specialists really, truly have adequate understandings of their particular fields. Narrow specialized knowledge has replaced any breadth of knowledge as the norm in most subject areas. There are no experts on birds, but there may be experts on the fine feather and barbule structure of strigidae species.

And there are no specialists for Ivorybills; folks exist who fully know the literature, but no experts with actual, direct, significant experience with the species. Nor can skeptics get inside the heads of Tyler Hicks, or Rich Guthrie, or Tim Gallagher, or Geoff Hill, or David Kulivan, or a John Dennis, or others who say they saw an Ivorybill, to know for sure just what those folks saw. Skeptics can only proclaim, in an ad hoc manner, 'they're all mistaken' without offering direct evidence of error. And maybe they are all mistaken, each and every one of them, each and every time, in each and every place, under each and every circumstance, for six decades running... or... maybe the skeptics are mistaken (they all seem to gleefully admit they make mistakes), led astray by their perception of the statistics or probabilities involved --- the probability of Ivorybills existing is simply unknown, and for now unknowable.
The question skeptics essentially raise is, 'If an Ivorybill swoops through the forest, but no one gets a photograph, then does it exist???' And the answer they appear satisfied with, is, 'no, it does not.'

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


-- Helicopter Searching Recounted --


New posts at Cornell's Arkansas search log describe some of the helicopter searching (with pics) over the Big Woods which began over a week ago. The flight surveys would've been approaching their conclusion shortly, but with a couple days missed due to weather, I guess they'll be slightly extended. The excitement of the searchers for this methodology is easily sensed, though nothing too compelling reported thus far (as far as IBWO finding).
Some folks believe the aerial surveys represent a last ditch effort on Cornell's part to document Ivorybills in Arkansas, but ground efforts and automatic cameras of course continue in place at least through April/May.

Nothing too noteworthy lately on the separate search log of Cornell's "Mobile Search Team" (different from their Arkansas team). And no recent updates (since a month ago) to Geoff Hill's Auburn page either. Nor anything much (sorry to sound like a broken record) being reported out of Texas or South Carolina.


And in the "now for something totally different " Dept., from elsewhere on the Web, a paragraph I've come across in a few different places:
"I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.
The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid; aoccdrnig to arscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.
The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Amzanig huh? and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! "


Tuesday, February 05, 2008


-- Karpovsky/Butler Films --


Final cut of Alex Karpovsky's independent fictionalized docu-drama about the Arkansas IBWO doings entitled "Woodpecker" (formerly titled, "General Impression of Size and Shape"), will make its debut at an Austin, Texas film festival in March. Also in mid-March, George Butler's documentary "The Lord God Bird" will show again in Washington D.C. with Cornell's Tim Gallagher and Ron Rohrbaugh in attendance as part of "National Geographic Live" offerings, in conjunction with an environmental film festival.


Monday, February 04, 2008


-- Snyder/Collins Redux --


Haven't touted it for awhile, so may be worth mentioning for newer readers that Noel Snyder's monograph "An alternative hypothesis for the cause of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker's decline," which argues that hunting/collecting was a greater factor than habitat loss in the decline of the species, is still available here for $25:


Meanwhile, Pearl River searcher Mike Collins will speak at New College in Sarasota, FL., on Thurs., Feb. 28, at 7 pm.
about Ivorybills and his own ongoing search efforts.

....and addendum to Sunday's post:

A few folks emailed me asking for the URL to Bill Smith's site --- for now I prefer not to give that out and direct more people to it (anyone wanting it badly enough can locate it through googling of course); if at a future point I think it worthwhile to send people there (for one or another reason) then I'll link to it.
Secondly, a couple of emailers asked about an Ivorybill photo of Bill's they saw referenced elsewhere, but couldn't find anywhere. That particular photo is not on Bill's site (he took it down long ago); I do have a copy of it on file and can send it as an attachment (~200 kb) to anyone really interested, but by itself, it settles nothing and is likely not worth the trouble.

Other avian stuff: PBS's "Nature" broadcasts "A Crash of Two Species" (horseshoe crabs and Red Knots) this coming Sunday (check your local listings). Should be good:



Sunday, February 03, 2008


-- The Bill Smith Tale --


I'd hoped not to direct any more attention his way, but was compelled this weekend to spend time on the on-again-off-again-on-again Ivorybill chronicles of Florida aquariumist and "magicguy" Bill Smith (of the odd "billismad" URL), so will say a few things for what it's worth to those familiar with his narrative:

I've verified Bill's full name, address, ph. no., birthdate, and other basic info through public sources, so the name "Bill Smith" IS legit despite it's 'John Doe' like quality (for obvious reasons I'll not give out any of these details, so please don't email me for more information than what I state here). And while it is good that certain basic info he's put forth does bear out, obviously many other assertions and certain background info continue to be perplexing and troubling (to say the least) to the credibility of his claims; indeed I've still found no one official who is able to back up any of Bill's purported IBWO activities. [BTW, if you try to access his site, be
aware that some in the past complained of trojan adware emanating therefrom; that is not necessarily any fault of Bill's, but just be aware of the possibility --- though most routine protective software probably blocks it.]

I continue to regard the entire affair as a sadly prolonged distraction from the real Ivorybill work being done. BTW, unlike regular publishing, digital self-publishing can be done in short order (sometimes less than a week), so Bill, who first talked of the possibility of a self-published book over two years ago, has the chance to hugely alter my view of things any day now with his publication, as promised, of photos and explanatory text that others can adjudge for authenticity. Any day now... any day now. . . . . . . . .

In other news from the Web, a reader sends in this link to the discovery (and photo) of a new mammal species.

And here ('cuz I love owls), ongoing live webcam of a Great Horned Owl that recently returned to nest for another season on a California university building (coooool!):

http://www.cs.csubak.edu/owlcam/camera.php (of course she's not present at all times, and best to view during daylight hours)

Lastly, for further entertainment, some fine bird photography here:



Friday, February 01, 2008


-- A Little Weekend Reading--


Some lengthy reading here from Nassim Taleb, bestelling writer/thinker of "Fooled By Randomness" and "The Black Swan"... may... or may not... be off-topic.

....and elsewhere on the Web just something pithy and interesting (and also O.T.) I thought worth passing along here.


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