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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, January 19, 2009


-- Pressing On --


The previously-cited open access article is swirling around the Web on science sites, blogs, and news pages. I'm always a bit (pleasantly) surprised when these open-access IBWO studies get such widespread attention. I s'pose it has something to do with the controversial nature of the topic and the general interest this bird attracts (some of PLoS's problems in dealing with Mike Collins' paper I believe have to do with the controversial nature of the subject matter as well --- a great thing about science is that it encourages putting all ideas/evidence out there on a table for all to shine a light on and judge, rather than assuming the correctness of a few, or even assuming that 'truth' can always be fixed in stone).

For the last two years I've seen routine skeptical remarks to the effect that no serious, or credible, or intelligent birder/scientist any longer considers the prior IBWO claims valid, nor sees any possibility for the bird's persistence. In actuality, amidst wide pessimism, there have always been scientists who view the species' existence as possible, and many others who are simply sitting on the fence awaiting more study --- they just don't happen to be as loud and vocal as the naysayers on the Web who feed off each other to render an impression of unanimity when there is none. A skeptic/commenter to a post below chimes in that this whole affair "has ruined so many reputations".... almost causes one to wonder how many reputations would be ruined if the Ivory-bill were to be conclusively documented?

The ivorybill has already been conclusively documented to scientists who have analytical skills,* and it will eventually be documented to everyone's satisfaction. I will see to this myself if nobody else manages to do it. I have no updates on the PLoS paper at this time other than to repeat the fact that the paper was accepted for publication after being reviewed by experts on woodpeckers and flight mechanics (the woodpecker flight mechanics expert who analyzed the 2008 Pearl video was not one of the reviewers). Mike Collins

*The 2008 Pearl video shows a large bird (~30 inch wingspan), the well-resolved wingtip elevation and wingspan time series of a large woodpecker (on the basis of these curves, the leading expert on woodpecker flight mechanics is confident that the bird is a large woodpecker), a flap rate more than 10 standard deviations above the mean for pileated, a flight speed substantially above the published range for pileated, and a long tail, high aspect ratio wings, and large white patches on the wings that are consistent with ivorybill (the last three items are nicely illustrated in a DVD that is available for download at fishcrow.com).
Thank you, Mike, for your continuing efforts in the face of excess scorn by the small camp of idiots that think they have it all figured out. I personally don't agree with everything that you see in your videos, by I respect your persistence. Will you be returning to the Pearl anytime soon?
I do plan to spend some time in the Pearl but not as much as in previous years due to a bad knee.

Mike Collins
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