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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

Monday, April 07, 2008


-- And The 'Expectations' Game --


Another frequent contention of skeptics is that Ivory-bill reports are simply the result of excited people going into the woods "expecting" or "anticipating" seeing the bird, even though many if not most serious IBWO claims since the 50s have come from folks who weren't even looking for the species. Indeed, if expectations were such a driving force, by now one might've expected far MORE reports during the last two years of intense searching; FAAAR more. Instead we are getting precisely what one would anticipate for an exceedingly rare species: occasional, few-and-far-between sightings, not a rash of encounters.

Moreover, expectations cut both ways: BY FAR the PRIMARY expectation for the last 6 decades of birding in southern woods has been that any large black-and-white woodpecker was a Pileated. An important question (with unknowable answer) is how many brief sightings over the years, written off as 'Pileateds,' were in fact unrealized Ivory-bills. It is the heavily-biasing expectation birders have for seeing PILEATEDS in the forest which actually needs to be recognized and adjusted, so that in the future all large B&W woodpeckers might be studied more closely, instead of routinely shrugged off.

What all the skeptics' doubts boil down to is this: no Ivory-bill report of the last 60 years has been followed up with multiple quality sightings, nor clear photos, nor roost or nesthole finds, and skeptics simply find this an unfathomable, incomprehensible, unintelligible circumstance, so great is their trust in human capabilities and thoroughness... a trust toward which, needless to say, I am highly skeptical.

Elsewhere on the Web:

"Black Swan theory"
here and here.


The source of most reported "Ivory-bill" sightings are inexperienced birders. They see a large black and white woodpecker, look it up, and by golly it's one of those famous Ivory-bills. Few of these sightings are widely reported, and for good reason. The most widely reported sightings come from the True Believers, people out looking for the bird: Gallagher, Harrison, Sparling, Scott, Collins and etc.

Your "blame skeptical thinking" arguments are growing a bit thin. Your negative expectation bias explanation doesn't work very well for the hundreds of thousands of images taken by automatic cameras set up in the most likely places that anyone can find, images weeded through by Believers. And I can guarantee you that any competent birder that watched an Ivory-bill, an actual living Ivory-bill, through binos at close range for a minute or so would know that it was no Pileated, bias or not.

"Instead we are getting precisely what one would anticipate for an exceedingly rare species: occasional, few-and-far-between sightings, not a rash of encounters." Baloney. Everyone, including me, thought that definitive documentation would soon follow the Cornell "rediscovery" and that the birds could be repeatedly located once found. Cornell thought so, Auburn thought so. It's not happening. What is happening is what many predicted would happen if it was all a big mistake: lots of unconfirmed reports, just like has been happening for decades.

The lack of imagination is much more of a problem with Believers than Skeptics. Human observation is very undependable.
OK, but how do you explain away a sighting of a perched bird from a distance of 40 feet?!!!? when the observer clearly noted dorsal stripes, black crest and the ivory white bill!
(Hicks, Dec 2006)
How can you explain Hicks not taking a photo? If that sighting was for long enough to carefully and accurately note all those field marks, how come it wasn't enough time for a picture when he knew darn well that getting such a picture was the whole point of being out there looking! How many of the recent sightings have come complete with excuse with why a photo wasn't taken? Too excited, not enough time, etc. I'm sorry but written descriptions are just not good enough. I don't care if David Sibley himself strolled out of the woods with written description and field sketches in hand, it wouldn't be proof. The standard for IBWO is not the same as other birds. Please, please grasp that simple fact. You can personally believe all the sightings you want, but until there is a photo, no amount of arguing will change this situation.
The hundreds of thousands of remote images taken actually represent vanishingly few woodpeckers. Check out the numbers.
Actually MILLIONS of remote images have been collected because so many of the cameras used are simply taking automatic snapshots every few seconds (only some cameras are motion-activated, the rest are time-activated on very short intervals). Thus, most images simply show NO birds (or other critters) at all.
The computer's software instantly analyzes each frame for matches with the speed and size of the ivory-billed woodpecker. If a bird is detected, the seven previous frames and the next seven frames are permanently recorded at a resolution of 1,600 by 1,200 pixels. Frames that are judged to be of no use are discarded immediately.

Seems like it would explain why it hasn't taken many woodpecker photos, if indeed that is true.
just to be clear, I presume the software you are referring to applies only to the ACONE system (2 cameras) employed in the Big Woods, NOT to the dozens of remote cameras across the southeast which generate the vast majority of images that have been reviewed. I believe both the ACONE cameras and the Reconyx cameras have captured several woodpeckers (as befits their commonality), but no IBWOs.
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