"....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.”
"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 23, 2008
-- Thangs That Be a Buggin' Me --
Heyyyyy Bunky, you say your mother-in-law came to visit last Christmas and by Memorial Day had taken over half the upstairs... and your wife's 5 children from her previous 3 marriages continue calling you "Blubberbutt" instead of Dad, whenever they're requesting a raise in their weekly beer allowance... and your mostly incontinent, semi-blind (but still with good aim), dog Rex consistently mistakes your leg for a fire hydrant.... is THAT what's buggin' YOU!?..... Well, here be a couple a things buggin' me at this stage of the Ivory-bill saga:
1. Specifically in regard to the Big Woods search (where the story began), the failure of the ACONE automatic camera system to detect an IBWO by now is disappointing and troubling. In the next USFW summary report I'd like to see,For obvious reasons, sightings ought be notably up with more people in the field. Skeptics too expect sighting reports to increase, but only due to 'anticipation bias' and 'groupthink' factors with more people out looking (heck, conceivably one could argue that the remarkable lack of increase in sightings demonstrates how inoperative the skeptics' notions are, giving possibly yet more credence to those few sightings that have been recorded... or maybe by now only reports meeting stricter filtering criteria are even being presented publicly)....
a) an account of how many total birds have been captured in flight by the system, and how many of those were Pileated Woodpeckers, and
b) an accounting of how many -- if any -- birds captured on ACONE film have been unidentifiable, to the point that IBWO could neither be ruled in or out.
2. More generally, while I have little concern over the lack of photographic evidence from elsewhere, I am troubled by the paucity of sightings year-to-year given the number of man-hours spent in the habitat. One might expect the number of fleeting, but good sightings, to be much higher by now, and the paltry few encounters indicate a species so sparse that little can likely be done on its behalf (ideally we ought preserve as much habitat as possible and keep humans out, but, that won't happen).
Increasingly, it appears there may be little of significance reported out from this past search season, but enough to hone in on limited areas in 2009, with small search crews, for one last official search season for the 'Ghost Bird.' If that effort too bears little new or conclusive evidence, it may be left to a few determined independents out there to try and accomplish what organized, funded academic teams could not, and obtain the centerfold pic required... if indeed there remains a bird to pose.
I do not know exact figures but somewhere over 20 full-time searches were present for the first "secret season". Every season since from then through 06/07 had over 10 full-timers and 50- over 100 volunteers. I know that Arkansas for the last 2 seasons has had a handful of local professionals involved but were talking 3-5 and those were working around their other duties.
Now in all honesty I can assure that only myself ,Goatnose and Duckstamp are to my knowledge the only independents logging enough time to even be close to comparable with the full-timers.
Now we come to 07/08 their were only 6 full time crew, I met them all. We now come to volunteers for 07/08, 6 for a 2 week period.
With all of the severe weather in Arkansas during the search season it's a wonder they had a chance to see a Pileated let alone an IBWO. I spoke to Leighton one evening riding out a snowstorm in the tent in the middle of Cache River refuge.
This is far from over, between professionals and independents we will accomplish the task of documenting these birds. Then the real work of recovery begins.
As someone who believes the greatest numbers of IBWO would be in Fla., La., and Miss. (NOT Ark.) I'm concerned by the few no. of sightings emanating therefrom.
I believe the bird is out there, but fear the numbers are incredibly low, or the search techniques very poor.
I agree this is far from over in terms of debate over IBWO extinction, but it is not so far from over in terms of funding.
Observer expectation will, of course, increase the number of sightings initially but will, of course, taper off as time passes by and reality sets in. Sightings will never totally stop as there will always be a rump of obsessive people determined to see one.
Quite how threatened a bird that can never be seen is, or how you preserve a bird that is there but can't be seen, should have had the recovery plan folks scratching their heads. Do you actually need to do anything, as from the constant line of sightings there doesn't appear to be much danger of the bird going extinct, in fact in recent years it seems to have undergone a resurgence.
It is, of course, long extinct. I fear our entertainment will be curtailed even more in the coming months.
To paraphrase Kenneth Wolstenholme 'They think it's all over, but it never will be'
"As someone who believes the greatest numbers of IBWO would be in Fla., La., and Miss. (NOT Ark.)"
I'm not sure that this bit of conventional wisdom still stands up. Areas that people have suspected for decades have turned up squat recently; areas that were on no one's radar have drawn headlines. One fact that has become self-evident: If there are still any birds out there, we DON'T know where they are.
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