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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, June 16, 2008


-- Choctawhatchee Update --


Auburn's update for their past season searching the Choctawhatchee area (Fla.) has been posted here. Similar to past summaries... more signs/sounds/sightings but no definitive evidence. Future searching will rely heavily on improved remote cameras as outlined in these passages from the report:
"So where does all this leave us? Pretty much in the same position as in June 2006. We have a large body of evidence that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers persist along the Choctawhatchee River in the Florida panhandle, but we do not have definitive proof that they exist...
The good news is that after years of having remote cameras that were largely inadequate to get definitive documentation of ivorybills, we finally have a remote camera system that I think will work. A major problem with the remote cameras that we’ve used to date is that the motion sensors haven’t functioned properly. Either they are triggered by shadows and wind movement or they only trigger for a large mammal. That left us with time lapse photography—taking an image every few seconds and then pouring over millions of random images looking for our bird. We needed a better way to trigger a camera when a woodpecker moved in front of it. We finally have such a trigger.
Engineers at National Geographic designed for us a seismic sensor—a camera trigger that is tripped by vibrations. In other words, we now have a camera that will only be triggered by something banging on the trunk of a tree. With this new sensor, we should have almost no false activations. Every picture should be a woodpecker banging on the tree. Along with this, the Reconyx camera company just came out with a new line of game cams that are much better than the old cameras we were using. These new Reconyx cameras are smaller, more compact, and most importantly shoot 3.1 megapixel color images—a huge improvement on the .5 megapixel black and white images from the old Reconyx. With these new Reconyx cameras the three mystery birds that we photographed flying through the woods in November 2006 would certainly be identifiable. The National Geographic team has replaced the motion sensors in some new Reconyx cameras with their seismic sensors. These customized units are just being completed as I send this update. In the next couple of weeks, Brian and I will go to the ivorybill site and set six of these cameras on trees with scaled bark or on dead trees showing signs of regular activity by large woodpeckers (ivorybills were recorded to feed on large decaying trees as well as fresh dead trees). These cameras can monitor a feeding tree for a couple of months with no maintenance needed. With this new setup, our approach will be like fishing for a scarce and finicky trophy fish. We cast out and wait...
...Guessing where they will land in this huge swamp forest will be difficult, but we know where at least a few birds focus there activity for at least a few months each year and we think we know what their feeding sign looks like. I think that there is a realistic chance that we will get a clear photograph of an ivorybill using these new cameras."

Of course I hope Dr. Hill's confidence in the new technology proves warranted, but personally still have reservations about the efficacy of remote cameras, over live observers on the ground --- at this point though efficiency and cost are driving factors, and human efforts will no doubt be scaled back significantly next season
in most search areas. (I AM impressed with the ACONE system deployed in Arkansas, if one can just find a logical open flyway to monitor continuously for the birds --- but this system as well has had major glitches and downtime.)

And so it goes... still many areas yet to hear from.

"Either the excitement of the ivorybill hunt causes competent birders to see and hear things that do not exist and leads competent sound analysts to misidentify hundreds of recorded sounds, or the few ivorybills in the Choctawhatchee River Basin are among the most elusive birds on the planet."

competence is like common sense, everyone thinks they have enough but you, the public, can decide.

however, the team have made up their minds.

"Ivorybills are rare and elusive"

be seeing you.
Reservations about the efficacy of remote cameras? Where have you been?!? All the experienced birders I know use remote cameras these days. I gave up on binoculars along time ago. You'll get so much more with remote cameras. I let them do all the work, and then I go home and count the birds I "saw."

The new No. 2
Wow...what a brilliant idea...using cameras for day-to-day birding. Until this point, I had not equated the goal of photodocumenting a rare bird with regular excursions to see birds. You're onto something!
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