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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

Saturday, November 29, 2008


-- Bit More on Mississippi --


Following up a bit on yesterday's post... Even though there hasn't been a documented sighting of an Ivory-bill in Mississippi in well over 60 years (although there were at least 13 unverified reports since 1944), based on the literature, I've long thought Mississippi one of the three most likely states to harbor the species (along with Florida and Louisiana). In his Ivory-bill book, Jerry Jackson spends more pages discussing the potential of Mississippi than any other state except for FL. and La.
There are many areas of interesting habitat in the state, and not only does the Mississippi River run the entire length of the state's western border, but internally there are many riverine/tributary systems which connect up to many wildlife refuges, rural forests, or bottomland/delta areas. Much (not all) of the state was part of the original historical distribution for the species and of course it is adjacent to Louisiana's original Singer Tract where Ivory-bills were last studied. Cornell's "Mobile Team" (as well as many others) has spoken especially favorably of the Pascagoula region in the southeast corner of the state. The state's southern end is also adjacent to Louisiana's Pearl River region, site for ongoing claims. Besides those areas, the Yazoo River Delta is probably the other most-commonly-cited search-worthy area, but there are plenty of other tracts that hold some potential, especially for dispersing young birds to hang out awhile before they search for more permanent homes and mates.

Bill Pulliam looked over the state's habitat using Terraserver a couple of years back and deduced some areas of possible interest as well --- see here (his state-by-state analysis begins here).

Friday, November 28, 2008


-- Mississippi Searching --


Brief article here on a pair searching areas of western-central Mississippi for the Lord God Bird.


-- Just Passing It Along --


Just passing along for anyone who may be interested:

Apparently, freelance writer Richard A. Lovett has an article in the October edition of Analog Magazine entitled,
"Here There be Dragons: The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker and Other Mysteries of an Explored Planet."
Analog is a long-standing, well-established science fiction magazine (that also publishes non-fiction), but other than that I'm not directly familiar with the author or article, so not endorsing it, just saying it's out there, FWIW.

Also, Mike Collins has made his pertinent videos of the last few years available here for download for burning onto dvd.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


-- Thanksgiving Eve --


Around this time each year, I've traditionally done a Top 10 things I'm-thankful-for-post, so without further adieu and a tad hastily-contrived, ten things I be grateful for this holiday season:

10. Sarah Palin (for pretty much handing over the election to the Democrats on a platter)
9. Nature bloggers, who share with all of us their joy, interests, and personal slants on the natural world
8. Europe for not hating us anymore
7. political cartoonist Tom Toles (for always hitting the mark and making me smile)
6. computer geeks (who keep making this stuff user-friendly enough that the rest of us can play with it)
5. "Scrubs" reruns (for pure wackiness, an underappreciated commodity)
4. YouTube
3. Air America (radio)
2. 'True believers' everywhere
1. Barack Obama and Joe Biden (...needless to say)

Happy Holiday to all, and in these particularly rough times,
may you yet find much to look upon with gratitude and appreciation.

Monday, November 24, 2008


-- Just For Fun --


Below a fun YouTube video relating to "awareness" (...hat tip to David Sibley who linked to this a month ago over at his blog):


Sunday, November 23, 2008


-- Even the House Sparrow Declining --


Not directly related to the Ivory-bill story, but under the general heading of bird decline, even the 'lowly' House Sparrow is now affected. Recent severe decline in the species observed in the United Kingdom is given a possible explanation in this article pointing to insect decline in the UK as the culprit. (Of course, decline in food, consequent to decline in habitat, is a common explanation for IBWO decline as well.) The news of bird decline across the world over the last couple decades is truly staggering, and while it might be slowed slightly through human actions, is likely (I hate to say it) irreversible long-term.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


-- The Audacity of Hope... Indeed --


For all who continue to 'keep the faith' just a few paragraphs I wrote over 8 years ago, after the Kulivan La. sighting, but well before all the Arkansas excitement (a personal paper):

"In the biological sciences what we don’t know still far exceeds what we do know, and what is mysterious far exceeds that which is understood. It is only our faith in our small scrap of knowledge that permits people to doubt the further existence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. What we need in this case is to put more faith in our ignorance! --- to acknowledge in short that we know too little to draw firm conclusions.
Photographs we have of Ivory-bills show a creature so vital, so wild, so determined, as almost to belie the possibility of their vanishing from the face of the planet. The will to live, the urge to reproduce, are among the most compelling drives in nature, and no doubt the Ivory-billed Woodpecker possessed these as much as any creature (bird artist Eckelberry wrote of its “rigor” and its “almost frantic aliveness”, and Alexander Wilson noted its “noble and unconquerable spirit”), such that it would seek with all its energy, facility, and acumen to overcome Man’s trampling upon its home and somehow, somewhere, in some way, simply continue on out of our view, aloof to our intense curiosity.
Indeed, in the farther recesses of my intuition and imagination, where sunlight glimmers and woodland shadows dance, I can just hear its clarinet-like toot reverberating, while patches of white flash with every wingbeat like lightning bolts through a forest canopy, and the heart of this most majestic of North American birds beats wildly in defiance of both Mankind and probability. Some may call it wishful thinking, or sheer fantasy, or even simplemindedness on my part, but I simply call it hope... a hope which, like the bird itself clinging tightly to some remote unseen sweet gum tree, clings securely to the human mind and heart, until much more evidence than we currently possess demonstrates once-and-for-all this bird’s survival... or demise."

And 8 years later, strangely enough... I feel much the same.

Friday, November 21, 2008


-- Mike Collins Paper --


The perseverent Mike Collins, back in Virginia after another brief trip to the Pearl (La.), reports (11/20 entry on his website) that his paper on the flight mechanics of the Ivory-bill, as it relates to his videos from the Pearl, has been accepted for publication by PLoS (the Public Library of Science), the leading peer-reviewed open-access publisher --- no word on how soon.

I realize public-access publishing has its pluses and minuses, proponents and critics, and don't wish to debate that here. On the positive side this permits Mike's analytical work to reach a wider audience more quickly than would be the case with traditional publication. I wouldn't expect largely entrenched views on the subject matter to change much at this point, but congratulations to Mike on his persistence and steadfastness getting recognized.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


-- Wanted: Alive! --


Looking a tad reminiscent of an old-timey 'dead or alive' poster this notice has gone up in parts of Arkansas, detailing the recent $50,000 reward offer for direct evidence of Ivory-bill presence (reported here on Nov. 8).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


-- And On It Goes --


Sightings claims for Ivory-bills continually trickle in. I get a few directly via email each year, and Cornell or official agencies likewise get reports that are never shared on the internet. However, naturally, it is only those claims that do show up on the Web that create any buzz for discussion, the latest one being from a Louisiana hunter (as linked to in prior post comments, or now appearing on IBWO Researchers Forum as "34striker" or Mike Pratt). Too early to tell if his report will lead any further than dozens of other reports, but the one element that does intrigue me is that it emanates from the Three River WMA of Louisiana. The Three River and adjacent Red River WMAs constitute around 70,000 acres of habitat that I've long thought had interesting, but overlooked, IBWO potential. Moreover, though I don't recall any credible IBWO reports coming from there in the last 60 years, it is situated in-between other areas of La. and Mississippi that have produced reports. These WMAs are fairly well-trafficked by hunters and recreationalists, though am not certain how well the interior reaches of them are ever covered by birders.
...Won't be too long now before the leaves are off the trees and organized winter searches are fully underway.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


-- No Telling Where This Might Lead --


This news piece reports that an anonymous donor has now offered $50,000 (nope, 'twasn't cyberthrush ;-) for photographic proof of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, hoping to "rekindle" interest in the Ivory-bill search effort (I'll assume for now, unless I hear otherwise, that it applies to the species being documented anywhere and not just in Arkansas?). This is a considerable increase over the $10,000 reward previously posted by agencies for such evidence. No doubt $50,000 will rekindle further interest... just no telling what else it may rekindle in terms of wackadoodles running loose in the swamps or at their Photoshop software!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008




And the torch Is passed...


Tuesday, November 04, 2008



Monday, November 03, 2008


-- A Lil' Blog Housekeeping... and Music --


For the next month or more, regular work will keep me away from a computer for long stretches during day and evening. I'll try to post semi-regularly, but comments received could sit for hours before being moderated and posted, depending on when sent. So if you send along a comment and don't see it for awhile don't be overly concerned unless it goes a full 24 hrs. without appearing. (Am also involved with 3 other (non-bird) blogs now that strip away from IBWO time!)

Have received a few email queries regarding the optimism expressed by a prior commenter... There's plenty I'm not privy to, including much of the work involving that particular individual, but of things I am aware of, which aren't in the public domain, I've not seen anything that is more compelling than what is already part of the public record; nor do I happen to believe, based on various information, that any substantial new evidence is waiting in the wings that will alter the IBWO debate. That judgment could be in error (and obviously, I hope it is ---
Bill Pulliam's latest post BTW, also alludes to further evidence awaiting release). That said, there is certainly still reason for hoping the new 2009 search season may yet produce convincing evidence, and a cautious, patient wait-and-see attitude remains in order. I understand why many/most are well beyond the point of patience, but also understand why impatience could still prove erroneous.

And lastly, a little musical interlude for today:


Sunday, November 02, 2008


-- Jobs, Anyone --


As several of you know, tangential to the Ivory-bill search over the last several years has been research on the behavior/habits of Pileated Woodpeckers in IBWO-like habitat. Brandon Noel, one of the principals in that work in Arkansas has just posted a notice on the Arkansas listserv for 5 technician positions to be filled for their ongoing research this coming winter season. I've copied verbatim below for anyone who might be interested and able (...NOT for the weekend city-park birder):

*Title:* Pileated Woodpecker Research Technician
*Agency:* Arkansas State University, Dept. of Biological Sciences
*Location:* Cache River and White River NWR, eastern Arkansas

*Job Description:* *Five* technicians will be needed to work on the third
year of a Ph.D. project conducting home range movements, foraging ecology
and nesting ecology of Pileated Woodpeckers in eastern Arkansas, with
reference to the conservation of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
Responsibilities include assistance with capture, attachment of
radio-transmitters, tracking, nest searching and monitoring, arthropod
sampling, habitat measurements, and deployment of high resolution video
cameras at nest cavities in the Cache River and the White River National
Wildlife Refuges. Field work will require long work hours in adverse
conditions (wading through/canoeing through swampland, hot/humid weather,
biting insects). *Three* technicians will work in the Cache River NWR
(low-elevation bottomland hardwood forest) and *three* will work in the
White River NWR (high-elevation bottomland hardwood forest). Individuals
will work alone and in groups of two. *Two* "senior" technicians will
expected to begin around 1 February and continue through June (5
months). These technicians will work between both study sites with the Ph.D. student until
1 April, when other technicians will arrive. The other three technicians
will be expected to begin around 1 April and continue through June
(3 months). Depending on conditions (e.g., flooding conditions, # nests
located), technicians will be in teams of *3* between the study sites more
or less permanently at one of the two sites.

*Qualifications:* Experience in wildlife biology or closely related field.
Preference will be give to individuals with a completed undergraduate degree
and field experience. Ability to collect and process field data accurately
with strong attention to detail. Working independently and well with
others while maintaining a positive attitude in a remote setting is a must.
Enthusiastic, well-organized, and in good physical condition. Experience
with nest searching, radio-telemetry, GPS and compass navigation, and some
experience handling wildlife or birds (PIWOs will be feisty). This habitat
is unpredictable to work in (e.g., flooding in 2007 exceeded 30 feet in some
areas); therefore, a willingness to work through tough field conditions
should be expected. Use of a personal vehicle will be necessary at times,
but technicians will be reimbursed for mileage.

sorry, this all got cut off the original posting:

To Apply - submit a cover letter, CV or resume and at least 3 references to
Brandon L. Noel (see below for contact information).

*Salary:* $1,200-1,400/month depending on qualifications. Housing will be

*Last Date to Apply:* 15 January 2008, however applications will be
considered as they are received.

*Contact:* * Brandon L. Noel*
Email: BrandonL.Noel AT smail.astate.edu

Saturday, November 01, 2008


-- "Festival of the Trees" --


The latest "Festival of the Trees" (blog carnival) is up over at "via negativa," interspersed with nice pics of IBWO-like habitat in Mississippi (...and, even excluding that, includes some fine reading).

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