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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

Friday, March 14, 2008


-- And More --


Here is what James Tanner wrote about overhead looks of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers distinguishing them from Pileateds:
"The important field character is that the white on the wing is on the rear half. By comparison a Pileated is stocky with shorter wings, the tail is slightly forked, and the white is on the front half of the wing.
To summarize, the position of the white on the wing is by far the most reliable field character at all times."
Is that clear enough for anybody? The leading edge is NOT a good indicator (stop depending on paintings in field guides by people who never saw the bird in the wild); moreover, the primaries are highly variable from bird to bird, and people do not notice bills in rapid overhead flights when they're trying to focus on body features, and even if they did, bill color depends on light and shadows and movement, not to mention you primarily only see the lower mandible from below (I can imagine how many different answers I'd get for the color of a Great Blue Heron's bill from observers viewing from below).

Again, I stand by what I've stated previously: IF John Agnew's sketch is reasonably accurate of what he saw (and by that I principally mean the depiction of the white secondaries) there is little realistic option but that it be an Ivory-billed Woodpecker; if the sketch is inaccurate than we cannot know what he saw without knowing the specific inaccuracies.

What do you think Cyber about the sightings that same day by Sally and DeVere?? they are very familiar with Pileateds as well and clearly noted that this bird was bigger than ANY Pileated they had seen. Plus as a former head of the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History he's clearly quite knowledgeable and credible.

I don't know enough about Sally or DeVere or have enough details, to even comment on their reports, except of course that the timing, in conjunction with John's report, is interesting. Nor am I judging John Agnew's credibility either in all of this, because again I don't have enough information. I'm merely making the point that his sketch and report cannot be blown off as so much fluff as some are doing. The message from skeptics is, DON'T turn in weak or iffy reports of IBWOs lest you be judged a fool... and that's one of the messages that has gotten us to where we are today (with many reports NEVER turned in for 60 yrs.).
The only problem I see with John's report is the lack of mentioning bill colour and the leading white on the underwing. And you just explained why you might miss these things in a flyover. Plus again his sketch lacks the white chin and greater amounts of white on the face and neck that you would expect for a Pileated.
I'm just real bemused by some of the rancor out there and even Bill's comments seem a little unfounded!

Oh, and the skeptics seem to judge everyone a fool regardless of the quality of the sighting! gesh, I don't get some people.
There are significant problems with the Agnew report regardless of what he thought he might have seen, and regardless of the description of the bird he provided. He saw the bird for, as he described, "3-4 seconds." Not good. He also was identifying the bird in flight. Also not good for a woodpecker which flaps its wings rapidly unlike, for instance, a hawk which is much easier to identify in flight. He also saw the bird while holding a camera - meaning he wasn't using binoculars. Ouch! This was also two months ago, and they haven't been able to relocate it, even though the ivory-billed woodpecker is non-migratory. Double ouch! The last record of ivory-billed woodpeckers in Florida was more than 80 years ago. Triple ouch!! Thus, I think the only reasonable conclusion here is that it was a misidentification.
s'pose in those 4 seconds John had snapped a photo clearly showing the bird to be an IBWO: EVERY one of the problems you claim would STILL be just as TRUE... EXCEPT there would be a verifying photo...

Just because there are 'problems' with evidence does not mean the evidence ought be automatically discarded. No one (except maybe John) is saying this bird is definitely an IBWO, and likewise NO ONE can say it is definitely NOT one.
As I keep reiterating there are absolutely HUGE problems with Christmas, spring, and breeding bird count data, and yet we routinely compile and use it (and I for one am glad we do, even though it falls far short of any scientific rigor).
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