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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






Thursday, March 26, 2009

 

-- New Open Thread --

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The previous 'open thread experiment' worked reasonably well (decent variety of issues and commenters, with fewer breaches of etiquette than I expected ;-), so hereby a new one starts below (will probably let these run for 30-40 comments before closing them out and starting afresh).
Again, please refrain from
personal attacks/accusations toward individuals or institutions; criticisms are ok, but keep it on a civil/constructive level. I'm especially interested in using the space for: 1) getting answers to miscellaneous IBWO questions that readers may have on their minds, 2) discussion that sheds any new light or thoughts on specific evidence or claims, and 3) any new information about ongoing searches that may not yet have been made public; but plenty of other things as well.
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Comments:
Are there any studies done - or in progress - to investigate whether it is possible to record double-knock sounds in areas that are outside the historical range of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker?
 
Good question, noon Anon.

I have another. Were the Erdy/Sheridan images the substance of the "report" that Bill Pulliam commented on a month or two before the Erdy posted his website. Or is this more photo/video evidence we can expect to see in the coming months? Is Bill willing to answer this question?
 
Has anyone re-examined the originals of the 1971 photos taken by Fielding Lewis in the Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana? Those photos are so much better than any that have surfaced in the last 5 years.

It strikes me that at least half the reason they were rejected at the time was because no one seriously thought the Ivory bill was still around.
 
The Fielding Lewis photos were rejected in part by circular logic (it's extinct, therefore pictures of it are fake) but also because Lewis was at that time anonymous and there were two photos with the bird in a nearly identical pose.

Here's one of the Lewis photos: http://www.birdviewing.com/images/lowery.pdf
 
Here is a link to the second Fielding Lewis photo: http://www.ibwo.net/forum/showpost.php?p=4626&postcount=1057
 
The Fielding Lewis photos were rejected in part by circular logic (it's extinct, therefore pictures of it are fake) but also because Lewis was at that time anonymous and there were two photos with the bird in a nearly identical pose.

They were rejected because the IBWO was believed to be likely extinct (probably true at the time) and the bird in both shots was in a nearly identical pose. Critical thinking sensibly pointed to a hoax.

How about this for circular logic: "The IBWO is extant therefore the fact we can't prove it's extant is proof that it's incredibly wary."
 
The Lewis photos were bonafide.

Shame on all the self-appointed "experts" in their ivory towers who blew off the Lewis photos and George Lowry.

Much the same crowd and mentality that summarily dismissed what John Dennis saw in the Big Thicket.
 
The Lewis photos were bonafide.

No they weren't.

See how little a statement of conviction alone adds to the debate?

Looks like even Cornell and the USFWS are essentially throwing in the towel with their searches ending this season (thanks PCOIN over on Birdforum,) obviously because they believe searching is a waste of time and money.
John Fitzpatrick: "...promote protection and restoration of the old growth conditions upon which this magnificent species depended across the entire southeastern United States.” (My bold.)
 
I've read about both accounts, the Lewis-Lowery and the 3 years earlier John V Dennis report. Dennis' report was dismissed even though he had photographed IBWO in Cuba... 20 years earlier and was probably as much an expert on the similar Cuban bird as was possible.
And yet, despite long encounters, sound recordings that match, and other data, his 'findings' were roundly dismissed. Could it have been an ornithologist's turf war? Had Tanner buried the bird prematurely and couldn't entertain the possibility of the bird surviving 44 years after the last Singer Tract sighting? Or was the habitat of the second growth in the Big Thicket so different from what Tanner had documented that it would have contradicted much of Tanner's body of work? Was in fact the Big Thicket impossibly young forest for an Ivory-Bill?
Both men were credible witnesses to the sights and sounds of the bird.
Cornell pattern matched Dennis' recordings of the bird but then again the Cornell sound recordings from the Cache River are also less than convincing.
I guess we might never know about Lowery and Lewis or John V Dennis' reports. There's a lot written about Lowery and Lewis too and how they didn't exactly seek fame, fortune or recognition for their finds but rather kept them a secret. It's nice to think I might have shared the planet with the bird at least for part of my life! Or not. PVS
 
That was supposed to say 24 years not 44 years.. it was 1944-1968.
PVS
 
Interesting how folks (both skeptics and true belivers) latch onto any hint that there might be a reversal of opinion or change of heart.

In this case, the word "depended," attributed to John Fitzpatrick in the quote above about the end of Cornell's official search efforts after this year. Some think this means Fitz may now be admitting the bird is gone. Not likely as that would contradict the earlier part of the quote on BirdForum that also explains that when compeliing reports emerge after this search season, Cornell will remobilize.

More likely the word "depended" is in reference to protecting and restoring old-growth forests which are basically non-existent today. These almost complete loss of these forests some believe was the major reason for the species demise in the first place (though others argue it was shooting that was most important).

Regardless, it seems pretty darn obvious that if this species is going to be refound and firmly documented, it will be a random event and not through an organized (or even an unorganized) search effort.
 
any hint that there might be a reversal of opinion or change of heart.

Any HINT?? The two major players in the Ivory-bill "recovery" calling off their organized searches is considerably more than a "hint" of a change of heart.

Regardless, it seems pretty darn obvious that if this species is going to be refound and firmly documented, it will be a random event and not through an organized (or even an unorganized) search effort.

Since there has been an unprecedented amount of organized, unorganized, and random searching going on in the last few years, it seems obvious that there are no birds to firmly document.
 
Has anyone (other than those who reviewed it for PLoS ONE) had a chance to critically and objectively evaluate Mike Collins's recently posted manuscript on IBWO "flight mechanics" and the 13 video clips that support it? If so, would they care to offer their opinion on Mike's conclusion?

Mike's conclusion (in part):

The flight mechanics of the birds in these videos are consistent with Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in terms of historical accounts, physiology, and empirical and physics-based models for flap rate. Various additional characteristics of the birds in the videos are consistent with Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, including apparent field marks, a massage bill, a large crest, and an exaggerated leaned-back posture while perched.
 
I'll take a stab at a few questions above that may not have been addressed fully...

1. I don't believe there have been any systematic studies of either double-knock or kent sounds in northerly areas --- i.e. setting up the same sort of audio recording equipmt. used in official searches, in the woods of a state like Maine or Connecticut and seeing how many (if any) IBWO-like sounds show up over time. It is of course known that there are sounds in the woods that mimic DKs and kents to the unaided human ear; what has never been clear to me is the degree to which spectrographic analysis can unambiguously weed out many of the sound-alikes.

2. I think I'm safe in saying that the Erdy/Sheridan images were the subject of Bill P.'s earlier blog comment from a month or two back, and there was nothing else similar on the horizon at that point in time.

3. The Fielding Lewis photos have probably been examined a-plenty to no avail. IF the negatives could be found possibly more info could be gleaned from those, or certainly if the additional Lewis photos which supposedly existed could be located maybe they at last would show a bird in a different pose (or maybe they would NOT). With both Lowery and Lewis deceased now, I'm not hopeful the mystery will ever be resolved.
I'll just remind folks again that even IF the Lewis photos were proven valid it only gets the IBWO species to 1971, and not to 2009.
 
as asked on Bird Forum:

Anyone know an approximate total bill for this IBWO nonsense?
 
Anon @ 754Pm asks "Anyone know an approximate total bill for this IBWO nonsense?"

Which is a good question. One also wonders how much was given (by well-meaning but clueless donors) to CLO, TNC, etc. I used to support NPR but don't now since they paid someone to write that inane song about the IBWO.

Maybe Ira Glass can do a story about how ironic it is that the "conservation story of the century" was not about conservation at all but instead about hubris and greed.
 
Anonymous above said:
More likely the word "depended" is in reference to protecting and restoring old-growth forests which are basically non-existent today. These almost complete loss of these forests some believe was the major reason for the species demise in the first place (though others argue it was shooting that was most important)

Good point, it could be read that way. Like every statement from Cornell about the IBWO, it is sort of a Zen koan, inaccessible to rational understanding. The bird was "sighted, but not confirmed"; silent, yet heard on ARU's; wary, but seen multiple times in a small area in Arkansas; likely extinct, yet possibly extant... The Walt Whitman of birds--it contains multitudes.

I'll disagree, slightly, that old-growth forests are non-existent today. Southern bottomland forests have recovered to some extent since the early 20th century. Were the IBWO around, it could possibly find good habitat.
(Now the extensive pine forests, especially those of old Longleaf and Slash Pines, have not recovered. These may have been very important habitat for the IBWO.)
 
I have always doubted that the lone female sketched by Don Eckeberry in 1944 was the last of its species. So that leaves the question, when did the bird become extinct? I don't doubt at all that John Dennis saw one in the big thicket in 1966. If the bird can live up to 30 years, it isn't far fetched to believe a few could remain into the 21st century. But the sad fact is with all the searching that has gone on , the few that still remain are not reproducing and the species is doomed to extinction if the last bird isn't already gone. So lets just resolve to save as much habitat as possible for the other species that still remain with us.
 
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