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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






Tuesday, March 10, 2009

 

-- March Madness, Indeed --

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Wheeeeew... Will start a new post just so people have a blank slate on which to continue comments, as they're getting confusingly long on prior post (anyone who has issues specifically with Bill P.'s stance is certainly free to carry those arguments over to his blog site if you wish for more direct back-and-forth with him, or you're welcome to stay here as you choose).

Just some housekeeping for now:

1. Here again are the important links so you don't have to keep shifting down below:

http://www.ivorybillphotoproject.com/home

http://bbill.blogspot.com/2009/03/from-undisclosed-location.html

2. THANKS everyone for largely staying on topic and relatively civil (as these discussions go!). Obviously the subject stirs strong emotions on both sides and everyone needs to come here with a fairly thick skin for the snarkiness, terseness, redundancy, etc. that often ensues, but it's been a largely worthwhile discussion.

3. Even though Bill and I don't agree on some things here, I want to thank him for taking so much time to step in not only to defend his view, but to respond to various issues raised, and hopefully everyone realizes he's been dealing with this evidence set much longer than most of us. I'm trying to largely stay out of the discussion and let other people make the points I would want to make; so thanks to all who do that.

4. The size measurements clearly could quickly alter some arguments here. For now, unlike Bill, I continue to believe Red-headed Woodpecker IS tenable (I also believe leucistic PIWO is tenable... and IBWO possible as well), but may not be worth going through all the point-by-point arguments, until those size measurements are in.
Lest anyone be too swayed by my personal opinion though, let me say that I've viewed a lot of mystery bird quizzes in the past and probably been right well UNDER 50% of the time --- so even though I trust my instincts on this one, there's no legitimate reason for anyone else to!!!

5. I'd very much like to see the opinions of the various (~20) reviewers of these pics released in some venue, but that may not happen. There would be great benefit to the rest of us in seeing what those who have spent the most time with the material (besides Bill) have to say.

6. There's some new traffic here daily (surprise, surprise)... hate doing this but if possible I'd request newbies to read through the comments after previous post, just so you're not tempted to say something that has already been voiced 5 times before.

Carry on....
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Comments:
Two more posts from me, one on how a bird's neck really works, and the related explanation of why this Mystery Bird is not a Red-headed Woodpecker:

http://bbill.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-birds-neck-works.html

http://bbill.blogspot.com/2009/03/why-it-is-not-red-headed-woodpecker.html
 
Thanks Bill. You're doing great work. The bird never looked like a Red-headed to me – the neck is too long and the stripe is just wrong. And with all due respect to Cyberthrush, you really have to torture the bird to get to get there, though I don't claim to have anything like either one of your id skills. You've made a compelling case for ruling out Red-headed.

Things might get really interesting if the size question gets resolved.
 
actually birds preen their backs all the time so I don't really believe I'm "torturing" things any more than one must do to turn this into either a PIWO or IBWO. And as others have said we just don't know how much lighting, blur, camera shake, bird movement, and other artifacts are causing these 'tortured' effects.
 
Not that I have equipment or money to offer, but couldn't surveying equipment be used to determine the distance to the mystery bird tree using the parallax effect and an object of known distance away in the foreground?
 
The plan is to take a measurement with a tape measure walking along the ground from the camera location to the spot directly under where each bird was. Since both birds are at very nearly the same angle of elevation, the ratio between the line-of-sight distances and the horizontal distances will be the same; since we have a Pileated for reference we only need to determine how big the second bird is relative to the known Pileated, so we just need the relative distances, not the absolute straight-line numbers.
 
OK. I thought the conditions in the swamp were too hazardous for a direct measurement.

"Because of intervening swamp tar pits and other barriers making travel to the tree hazardous, a tape measured distance has yet to be obtained."
 
I'm with you on this as well, Bill. I can't understand how to make the bird into a Red-headed Woodpecker.

Where would you propose the measurement of length begin and end for this bird to evaluate its body size? Obviously, the measurement would be a bit crude. As one commenter mentioned at the previous CT post, would it be informative to look at the ratio of black upper body to the white patch? Regarding the white neck stripe, it looks like a nice match to the Mark Catesby (famed naturalist of the 1700s) watercolor of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker:
http://www.hiltonpond.org/images/WoodpeckerIvoryBillCatesby.jpg

Is this material the primary basis of your blog comments several months ago suggesting material would be coming down the pipe (e.g., Feb 9 post), or is there still a "2008 accomplishments report" that we can look forward to learning about as well?

Thank you for your patience and persistence in answering questions.
 
I'm with you on this as well, Bill. I can't understand how to make the bird into a Red-headed Woodpecker.

Where would you propose the measurement of length begin and end for this bird to evaluate its body size? Obviously, the measurement would be a bit crude. As one commenter mentioned at the previous CT post, would it be informative to look at the ratio of black upper body to the white patch? Regarding the white neck stripe, it looks like a nice match to the Mark Catesby (famed naturalist of the 1700s) watercolor of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker:
http://www.hiltonpond.org/images/WoodpeckerIvoryBillCatesby.jpg

Is this material the primary basis of your blog comments several months ago suggesting material would be coming down the pipe (e.g., Feb 9 post), or is there still a "2008 accomplishments report" that we can look forward to learning about as well?

Thank you for your patience and persistence in answering questions.
 
I've looked at it and looked at it and it's not RH.

So..............

I have to agree with Bill the neck is black and too long for RH.

I believe there is a picture of cuban IB that shows the same posture on the side of a pine.

Also Mike Collins video shows the IB with the same posture as it moves up a tree.


Devils advocate cyber?

Woody
 
semi-minor point, but I don't think anyone really takes the Catesby picture too seriously as a good IBWO depiction; in fact I'd be careful of using any painted representation; better the stuffed models, but they too have potential problems; best may be old Singer Tract photos like these:

http://tinyurl.com/cpvp4h

http://tinyurl.com/cj795u
 
"Things might get really interesting if the size question gets resolved."

Okay, a simple question. How could they get more interesting? What would actually happen if the "size question gets resolved"? What would people involved in this image analysis conclude and what might they recommend based on that conclusion?

And when Bill P says:
we only need to determine how big the second bird is relative to the known Pileated" what exactly is being implied by the "only"? Is there some conclusion or action that would follow when the size determination is made?

Thanks in advance.
 
Just a few observations; perhaps someone who was spent more time looking at the images can comment. I have difficulty determining at what distance the bird is located relative to the distant tree trunk and the angled branch in the foreground. I gather the range-finding measurements and proposed field measurements assume the bird is perched on the distant trunk immediately to it's right. Since it is only present in a single image, we don't the "3-D" effect that Bill Pulliam's montage of before and after images provides to confirm the bird's position. The resolution of the bird, particularly the apparent "neck stripe" and the sharpness of the contrasting black/white pattern on the back, seems to my eye consistent with the resolution of the foreground features (the angled branch and the vegetation hanging downward from it) while the distant tree trunk seems less well resolved. This gives me the impression that the bird may be closer. Also, I noticed that the distant trunk changes shape and apparent width considerably in the three successive images; especially immediately to the right of the bird's head. This distortion suggests to me that the shape of the bird's head and neck may be similarly distorted in the image.
Thanks -
EJS
 
EJS

Go back and look again............at the big picture.........look at the tree branches.

The bird in question is clearly more distant.

Woody
 
And when Bill P says:
we only need to determine how big the second bird is relative to the known Pileated" what exactly is being implied by the "only"? Is there some conclusion or action that would follow when the size determination is made?


I just meant that we only need a relative size, like "5% larger" or "25% smaller," not an absolute size, like "28 cm" We will just be assuming that the Pileated is of typical size for the species, and comparing the unknown relative to that. If it is much smaller versus about the same versus significantly larger, each outcome would have its own substantial implications.

The sharpness/distortion issues are significant and not really resolved. The frame with the bird is less sharp than the others, to my eyes this is mostly due to a camera shake on a lower left/upper right diagonal. I think this is also responsible for the shifting in the shape of the tree trunk, specially as it seems to smear the light sliver between the bird and the trunk. Now, why does the bird seem less affected by this? Other than it having been photoshopped in place (examination of the original file straight off the camera has apparently ruled this out; and why would a photoshopper leave that divet out of the tree trunk when it could be very easily repaired?), the only thing that has come to mind to me yet is that maybe the bird was also moving at the time, and fortuitously its movement somewhat counteracted the camera shake. That's not a very satisfying explanation, I know.
 
A follow-up about the sharpness issue:

If you take the image and enlarge it so that you are seeing individual pixels, some interesting things emerge. I am not sure if the web versions will actually allow this; I am working from copies closer to the original in ancestry. But, when blown up like that, the bird image no longer looks especially sharp compared to the tree and other surrounding objects. The diffuse fringe between bird and sky is quite wide, 8 pixels or so, and not any different than that between the trunk and sky. Plus, both sides of the sliver of sky between the bird and trunk have boundaries that are equally diffuse, again about 8 pixels. Even the pinstripe neck line shows dispersion similar to the small specks of sky to the left amidst the green leaves. I think what might appear to be extra sharpness on the bird may be something of an optical illusion, caused by the sharper contrast (black-red-white) and the smoother lines. The dull mottley tree trunk and the haze of green and sky doesn't give the brain as much shape to focus on and extract pattern from. Plus, the "unusually straight edge" to the white shield does not look especially straight anymore; it is again a diffuse band about 8-10 pixels wide, and as it is only about 25 pixels long that's not a lot resolution of any wiggles it might have. Yet, even so, there seem to be wiggles in it, It seems to trace out rather an "M" shape within that 10 pixel zone; though it is not easy to tell exactly what is the effect of bird and what of foreground fuzzy leaf.
 
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