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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

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


-- Nothing New --


Here, report (pdf) from US Fish & Wildlife, summarizing results of the 2006-7 IBWO search season. Also includes some planning, funding, and conservation details, but nothing new in the way of evidence for the presence of Ivory-bills that wasn't already in the public domain in some form (several dozen possible auditory encounters and at most 20 potential visual encounters from across the entire southeast are cited for the season --- slightly more state-by-state detail was given in this earlier report ). And with another season now close to ending, time nears to commence another such report.

Elsewhere in the world of birds:

For your laugh of the day this story (which includes this line, just to pull you in: "Nervous postal workers in the area have been armed with water pistols".

And for your cry of the day this:


(of course skeptics already got their laughs and cries from the above US F&W summary... just thought I'd throw that in before someone sends it as a comment).

That 2006-07 report is something. Did you see that they are now reporting possible single knocks? Where does that come from?
Granted it certainly isn't diagnostic, but loud single knocks have been noted by others (including Tanner) long before this report. I suspect most large woodpeckers make single knocks on occasion. May even be worth noting that, at a distance, double-knocks can even sound like single knocks, the spacing is so close sometimes.
If it isn't diagnostic, it's useless. If it's useless, why mention it? The reason is that they have no diagnostic evidence.
Like circumstantial evidence in the criminal system, it doesn't prove anything but is worth including in the whole package, and folks can give it the weight they see fit. Apparently people on the ground who heard these particular knocks felt they were significant. Cavities and foraging sign aren't diagnostic either, but thankfully that data is being gathered and sorted as well.
people who heard them 'felt they were significant'. What the heck is that all about?

The IBWO sightings saga is one long sorry tale of things people 'felt were siginificant'. Sadly and rather inevitably, none of those things has ever turned out to be anything significant. That doen't stop people placing significance into every little rumour.
It means that out of all the single knocks heard certain ones stood out as worth mentioning in a report, just as out of all the IBWO sighting reports turned in any season only certain ones get mentioned in final reports.

Will there ever come a time when you conclude the the probability for the continued survival of IBWO is < 5%? < 1%?

Just curious.

I guess the USFWS will have to decide on the merits of searching for a species with a very low probability of existence. My prediction is one more year of funding.
"Cavities and foraging sign aren't diagnostic either, but thankfully that data is being gathered and sorted as well."

Why thankfully? How will they be able to go back and determine what species made the cavities and foraging sign that has already been gathered?

Presumably you want "the case for the IBWO" to be proven, and surely you realize that anything undiagnostic will do no good to proving the case without a slam-dunk piece of evidence to go along with it, and with the slam-dunk evidence all the "possible" stuff becomes irrelevant.

What goes without saying is the real purpose of reporting these knocks and beak marks and cavities is to keep people's hopes up.
It's impossible to thoroughly search the 100s of 1000s of acres of land that need searching so you look for signs and cavities, and listen for sounds (even if not diagnostic), to try to refine the areas of focus. This is really pretty basic.

Of course it is possible my confidence in IBWO survival will drop to <5%. Again, if they search 10s of 1000s of acres and get pics of IBWOs, good chance the bird survives; if they search those expanses and get no sightings, no signs, no sounds, good chance the bird is extinct. The dilemma is when those searches result in possible signs, sounds, and sightings, and lack only a clearcut picture -- that is ambiguous at best, and in cases of ambiguity I choose to err on the side of the species.
It isn't necessary to have any organized searches at all. Most of the famous claimed "discoveries" were by individuals: Sparling, Collins, Kullivan, Sheridan, the fellow who took the Lowery photos, etc. Even if every square inch of this country were carefully searched there are those whose who would say "the bird is nomadic. When you were searching one place they were someplace else."

There's no escaping the role of human nature. If you send a bunch of believers out looking for signs of the Ivory-bill, almost always somebody is going to find interesting cavities or scaling, or hear possible knocks or kents or what have you. If it can't be verified one way or another it doesn't help you refine your search because it's been demonstrated repeatedly that suggestive evidence doesn't pan out. Nor do solid sightings for that matter.

Look, I thought the war in Iraq was a stupid idea, but I thought they'd dig up SOME weapons of mass destruction of some kind. But I'm more than willing to accept at this point that there weren't any.
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