"....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.”
-- Arthur Schopenhauer
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
-- A Plea --
The majority (not all) of us here are essentially rank amateurs in this endeavor. Doubt that much will come of this, but I'll make a plea anyway: I'd genuinely like to see some of the more recognizable names out there weigh in with their most objective view of the #3 mystery bird: Louis Bevier, Martin Collinson, Pete Dunne, David Sibley, Van Remsen, Noel Snyder, Kenn Kaufman, Clay Sutton, a few names (of many possible) that come to mind --- what are the best choices for the bird's likely ID as you view it? I know some individuals may feel restrained by confidentiality agreements from what they can say openly. Others with major credentials, but maybe less name recognition, should also feel free to respond (and state those credentials). Some individuals may not view "blogs" as an appropriate outlet for expressing such viewpoints, but it truly would be helpful/appreciated, and hey, you'll have a very interested captive audience. (contact me via a means, email or comments section, that allows verification of identity; i.e., I don't wish to suddenly receive 10 comments all signed "David Sibley" :-))
The sole desire here is to see as many different intelligent viewpoints put out in the open as possible, for study by all... open-access information is a wonderful thing!
p.s. -- I did not include Jerry Jackson above, only because I have already contacted him (he is always remarkably generous with his time and thoughts) and he felt limited in what he could say publicly, so his brief response does not add a lot to the discussion at this moment. Some of the people above I could also individually contact, but am hoping this message will find its way to them.
And for now, I'll just keep re-posting these two pertinent links:
Hope it's okay to continue the discussion here. If not, please let me know, and I'll repost it on the previous thread.
The IBWO photo project website has been updated, and the photo of a putative IBWO in flight seems to have been removed, replaced by an image of a putative IBWO wing. I'm not terribly impressed by this image either, but so it goes with Reconyx cams.
There's also now a page devoted to museum specimens; it's somewhat relevant to estimated tail length and to the pose of "Mystery Bird #3. In addition, they posted one picture of possible foraging sign, probably PIWO work imo.
A plea to the Photo Project team: please provide more data and details about your results, including field notes, cavities, sign, and putative ibwo images. It would be more helpful to all concerned if you laid out your case fully, rather than piecemeal.
Haven't the IBWO photo project people published the names of who was consulted? We know Bill Pulliam was, but why him and not list others. Can you ask for them to acknowledge all who have looked at these. This secrecy thing has been the big problem, seems to me, with all these reports (it also seems appropriate to acknowledge names, including yours?).
Bill has had an active Web presence on this issue for quite some time, so perhaps that is why he feels more free to speak up than others who have not been involved in the internet debate as directly. I believe the general findings of the whole group will be released at some point, but it may be in a summary form and not each individual's personal statement/conclusion.
Call me old-fashioned, but it seems to me that the proper way to deal with the evidence produced by Erdy et al. would be for them to formally submit their best images of what they believe to be an IBWO, along with a detailed written description and analysis (to provide context to the photos), to the relevant State rare bird records committee for their independent evaluation. It would then become the responsibility of the committee to seek input of woodpecker ID experts. To me, this would seem to be a much more professional and objective approach. Besides, I think that most of the "experts" you mention in your post would be more willing to wade into this if the request came from an established State rare bird committee. While I laud the effort that Erdy et al. have putinto their search, the preliminary analyses that they present on their Web site look very amateurish and not likely to be very convincing to the scientific community.
I think that the goal is to convince the birding community rather than the scientific community. And as for things being "amateurish" - the number or professional birders is rather small compared to the number of amateurs, so maybe they are just going after their target audience.
I am not claiming to have 'indisputable' (current definition) photographs of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. My images are of birds that exhibit some very striking features consistent with the Ivory Bill.
please, for goodness sakes put it on Frontiers of Identification, Surfbirds, or even BirdForum and get some decent birders looking at the images
The pictures are poor enough but when combined with the situation surrounding the sightings and the other rather pathetic pictures on the website, bells should start a-ringing.
Seriously, I don't think there's any chance that a record's committee would come close to accepting this, and I doubt they would even want to be bothered with it. The Feds have been looking at it as pretty much an "item of interest," taking on essentially the responsibility you suggest for a record's committee. The record's committee has a narrow purpose, to evaluate reports and evidence for inclusion in the official records. We're talking about the lower levels of probability here, not "beyond a reasonable doubt" but more like "seems as though it could be." What's the point? Curiosity, really. I don't think they are even trying to "convince" the birding community; just curious about what the birding community will say.
Time is of the essence for this species and for the search in general. This evidence has already sat around for close to 2 years; sending it through yet another committee at this time is EXACTLY what should NOT happen.
This is a perfect instance of where the internet and open-access can play a crucial scientific role in trying to gather and dispense needed information QUICKLY!!!! It certainly doesn't have to be through my blog but via some site. You never know who out there might come up with a single crucial insight when the evidence is viewed by 100s+ instead of the few members of a state committee or even the 20 reviewers already involved.
Yes John I think you're old-fashioned ;-)
So, has anyone been swayed. . .any lurkers or others who haven't weighed in out there?
Cy -- as for someone stumbling on the magic formula that will somehow resolve the uncertainty here, I'm not banking a penny on that. Other than maybe confirmed size estimates that make the bird way too small, I don't really see a resolution. And as for time/essence etc., decision makers, state and federal nongame people, all those sorts of folks have been kept briefed on Gary and Steve's stuff in a timely manner. Whatever effect it might have on search plans and other decisions, has already happened. Really the major point of the public release of the images is to bring the broader community into the discussion, and let everyone who cares see and contemplate for themselves. Share and enjoy!*
At least that's my perspective; others may feel differently.
*[for the Adams challenged, that's another "Hitchhiker's Guide" reference]
I'm not either; I said early on I believed ultimately it would be unresolvable -- but unresolvable doesn't mean meaningless or worthless; if in fact it could be reduced to just two options, including IBWO that is quite huge.
And basically I'm a believer in collecting GOBS of information from all available sources and THEN sorting out the wheat from the chaff, but not limiting info from the get-go (though there are times when that's necessary).
Finally, I'm reminded of paranormal experiments where scientists were duly impressed and convinced of various effects, and it took magician James Randi to step in and in 5 mins. figure out what was going on. It may not be a birder who looks at that picture and spots something significant; it may be a photographer, or artist, or tree expert, or even astronomer.... but we won't know 'til everyone has a look, not just 20 people or even the entire readership here.
The urgent calls for review of this incomplete presentation of a fraction of the evidence from this location is presumptious in its belief that will we silently suffer the obvious withholding of infornation. It’s a potentially significant event, assuming other data sets and photos are as equally suggestive as the photos. Pix 3 does not seem to show a normal Pileated for several reasons.
As is always the case recently with IBWOs there are a myriad of confidentialites to sign and considerations to slow the disclosure process. However this evidence seems to have already gone through some vetting process and some data is being disseminated yet the owners fail to list exactly what one would get for sending a check.
The overall state of IBWO affairs shows the lack of unified, agreed upon, coherent method being discussed by the community and then publicly accepted in regards to effective field recording of sightings. ALL DATA SETS that involve a claim for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker I would think could and should be submitted to the pertinent BRC, ABA and then publicly disseminated soon after with redactions or omissions by the submitter as needed to facilitate conservation.
CLO and AU have been able to collate data sets; those with less resources can certainly still muster field notes, # of observers, # and date of sightings, sketches, biological context, habitat comments, description of sounds, roost/workings-pixs, etc.
It also connotes how effectively the vocal segment of the skeptics have convinced some pied piper-like searchers and a portion of the public to blindly accept the precept that scientific evidence exists only in JPGs. This photo/video-centric mentality comes at the cost of reducing field note taking skills of actual sightings to something of the past. What really hurts is the bombardment of many inclusive of AR TNC for the general public to get a pix and yet these important leaders can not muster the energy to ask field observers such as Ross Everett to submit his robust sightings to AR BRC.
RE’s sighting and others sightings have as much relevancy to IBWO conservation as does these hoped for but never arriving pixs.
What will happen if an acceptable pix is finally had in state A? Will the community then be asked to get a pix in states B through E before conservation can occur in these states? If each state possesses IBWOs willing to pose only once every ten years we are all going to be on medicare, and more importanlty the IBWO also, before its range and viability is induced. And of course there will be the lobbyists disguised as bloggers who will scream “you have maybe found one bird in each of these states, that’s not proof of a population”.
There are leaders at various powerful entities. If they believe the bird exists, as they say they do. then it seems to be in multiple locations. Certainly the collective chasing of this bird, here and there, often in the nesting season has not been the best for the birds………..its time to cast a net…..we have collectively tried all sorts of silliness that even if successful will not produce one hundredth the data a single radio tagged bird will produce. A tagged bird is worth a population in the bush.
I've grown increasingly skeptical that the Ivorybill exists but remain open to the possibility. To me the bird in the photo obviously looks more like an Ivorybill than either a Pileated or Red-headed, and it looks more like a Pileated than a Red-headed for the reasons well explained by Bill Pulliam. I'm not going to deny the obvious by contorting it into unnatural, non-woodpecker positions.
But just because it vaguely resembles an Ivorybill doesn't mean it is one. It's a very poor quality, low-resoultion image and weird things happen in such images. In my opinion nobody should be convinced that it is an Ivorybill.
I applaud the investigators for providing their photos for public scrutiny and I hope others will come forward publicly as well. If you do, it will certainly help your case if you simply present the photos (as in this case) without making outlandish claims about their identity.
Why is it that the only reasonably tempting evidence comes from private people like Sheridan and Erdy? First the "official" search teams are not good field people. They send in teams of disrupters that are concentrating more on their fancy equipment and logo embedded whatevers. These two people found some woodpeckers. And what if they did become more forthright with locations and all of the evidence that everyone wants? Then the agencies that have assigned themselves important would dive in and take over and presumibly do "the right thing". How can anyone expect the Expert Angencies to do the right thing when they cannot even find the birds? They want the credit, the federal funding, they want to close off woods, they want to brush aside the real people that find the birds, they want signed confidentiality forms, they want codes of silence from ground people, and yet the birds persist. Why is it that government agency people that know where birds are whether on public or private lands won't tell their superiors? It's because just because the people are in charge it doesn't make them the smartest to make decisions.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out where Sheridan and Erdy found the birds. Read between lines, go back and re-read old posts in forums about found reconyx cameras, read posts about where certain people were looking back then. It becomes obvious where they found the birds. And yet no one seems to look at details. They want things handed to them on a platter.
Ever wonder why the "real" brilliant minds aren't found on the ivory-bill forums?
When there is a conservation plan put into place that is a plan for the birds' welfare and not a plan to heighten the stature of the people and institutions that want to "protect" the birds then maybe private citizens who have found them would be more forthright.
The motives of leaders and participants of such searches are mixed and mistakes are made, but I believe many experienced birders sincerely eager to see an Ivorybill have skillfully participated in the "official" searches.
In the opinion of most birding experts so are your videos and interpretations thereof. If not, please list some experts who have concluded that your videos confirm Ivory-bills in the Pearl.
Of course the ideal is a hi-def video (shot at high optical zoom from a fixed tripod) of a perched bird happily going about it's woodpecker routines... anybody got one of those laying about on a disk somewhere that has slipped their mind (no, the Singer Tract films do not count)?
I love your work. I've followed it from day one and I respect the hard work you have done. But you mustn't forget that it wasn't too long ago that you started with no field experience when you heard your first kents at Stennis. Categorically dismissing amateurs and locals is not good. There can be much to gleen from these people in finding the birds and listening and looking goes alot further than measuring gouges in wood and carrying around thousand dollar camera equipment. I wonder how many ivory-bill stills Cornell has taken in all of their travels? Hmmm? I hope you are keeping up your good work.
How have you been? Can you give us an update on your pictures and any recent findings?
Do you believe the population is going up in the lower 2/3 of your state and incites on the belief?
Has any entity given you problems causing the delay in releasing your work?
tks F Virrazzi
With regard to the holdup of your PLoS paper (as bemoaned in today's post at your website), you have every right to complain. It is indeed unethical for an editor to censure science on the basis of politics--someone presumably lobbying outside of the established editorial guidelines. Let the science be verified or corrected by others via established norms, not an editor's idiosyncratic views. I think you should feel free to share the explanation once it is given you.
There was nothing subconscious about the dorsal stripes, which I saw clearly as the bird passed below the tree. I told Susan Epps about seeing them immediately after coming down from the tree and hiking back to the car, where I met her and another birder. Feel free to ask Susan about it. I have been much more open than others about my observations and data, but on a few occasions I have briefly withheld information. I did so in 2006 after finding a hot zone. I also did so after the flyunder in 2008. I didn't mention anything about it that day since I had not yet had a chance to download and study the footage. It was a hectic weekend because I had to move out of the house in Waveland and then hurry back to Virginia. I squeezed in as much time as possible and stayed an extra day, which was the day of the flyunder. When I did view the footage, there was a dilemma because the bird did not have the type of flaps that were widely expected for the ivorybill. I don't see why any of this would cause someone to wince. The 2008 video does indeed show white on the back/neck. Go check it out for yourself. It's clearly visible in the still frames. The footage is available for download on DVD, and the white is clearly visible when viewed on a TV.
"Categorically dismissing amateurs and locals is not good."
I would never do that, and in fact I commended them for making their data public. I was actually questioning why Cyberthrush seemed to put so much stock in the opinions of certain individuals, and let me explain why with a few examples. Bevier tried to make a case for the ivorybill having a low flap rate, when in fact Tanner reported it as having a high flap rate. There exist well established flap rate models. In the PLoS paper, I applied those models to the ivorybill and found that it would be expected to have a high flap rate. According to one of the reviewers of the PLoS paper, who is a developer of one of the models and familiar with the other model, my application of the models was "spot on." Well, of course it was -- it is straightforward to apply them. Why didn't Bevier apply the same models? I recently consulted Jackson's book to see what he had to say about the flight of the ivorybill. One of the most amazing things about the ivorybill, which motivated Audubon to refer to the flight of this species as "graceful in the extreme," is the dramatic way it swoops during takeoffs and landings. This type of maneuver (which was captured in the 2007 video) saves energy by converting between kinetic and potential energy, but Jackson claims in his book that the ivorybill uses its wings to brake when coming in for a swooping landing. Braking causes energy to be lost, and this is not what an ivorybill is doing when it comes in for a swooping landing. This is an example of an apparent lack of familiarity with basic physics (and other areas of science) that I see repeatedly in ornithologists (with notable exceptions being the flight mechanics experts). Another example is the original analysis of the first part of the Luneau video. It was claimed that the white object that appears to the left of the tree is the wing against the body, but it is straightforward to show that the acceleraion is on the order of 30 g, which is the peak acceleration of the wing of a large woodpecker (as is easy to show from Tobalske's pileated data). This is an iron-clad proof that the white object is the wing in motion. Why hasn't Cornell acknowledged the mistake? Why did nobody else notice this obvious problem with perhaps the most heavily scrutinized paper in the history of ornithology? Some of the others on the list have no scientific training. The issue here is not painting a bird or describing in great deal every feather. The issue is the proper analysis of imperfect data, which is all that anyone has managed to obtain so far. The most reliable type of data that can be extracted from low quality footage is the flap rate and other details of the flight mechanics. That is what my paper is about. I researched the literature, studied the problem, and consulted with experts. I have the appropriate training for such analysis and I also just happen to have obtained a set of data that shows several flight types, including the first cruising flight ever captured on video.
"In the opinion of most birding experts so are your videos and interpretations thereof. If not, please list some experts who have concluded that your videos confirm Ivory-bills in the Pearl."
All three of my videos were included in the PLoS paper, which received positive reviews by experts on woodpeckers and flight mechanics. The 2008 video was analyzed by the leading expert on woodpecker flight mechanics. Based on the wingtip elevation and wingspan curves, this expert is convinced that it's a large woodpecker. A leading expert in statistics has concluded that it's a "statistical certainty" or "slam-dunk" that the bird in the 2008 video is not a pileated since the flap rate is 10 standard deviations above the mean for the pileated. This is a multi-disciplinary problem, but we have an expert on woodpecker flight who says it's a large woodpecker and an expert on statistics who says it can't be a pileated. The video also shows a high flight speed, fieldmarks, and wingspan consistent with ivorybill. Independent of what the so-called experts might think, this is the strongest evidence that has been obtained and the first that contains new science about the species (flap rate, flight speed, and flap style in cruising flight). Who are these so-called experts? and what are their counter-arguments?
The details will be made public if necessary and when the time is appropriate.
One of the problems is that high-def cameras can be very touchy, especially after months of exposure to the elements. I have a Sony high-def, which has frequent moisture condensation problems on perfectly dry days. I intended to use that camera when I obtained the flyunder video in 2008, but the moisture condensation problem reared its ugly head. So I had to go to a standard-def camera, which doesn't have manual focus.
Let me add to your discussion of the relative benefits of videos over stills. I believe the recently released photos are very weak evidence since they only show one vague fieldmark that may or not be real. Let's compare, for example, with the 2006 Pearl video. It shows the bird remaining in the leaned-back posture of an ivorybill as it moved around on the tree. It also shows an apparent left dorsal stripe and a bill and crest that are consistent with ivorybill. Then there are two flights consistent with historical accounts and the physiology of the ivorybill. I believe that this type of evidence is much stronger than a poor quality still image. Even though Luneau video -- which has no single isolated frame in which one can conclusively say there appears a bird -- is in my opinion much stronger evidence than the recently released photos.
In the response earlier today, I forgot to include this quote ftom the 4-1-08 update: "I noticed what appeared to be dorsal stripes just before the bird passed..." which was posted after three hectic days of moving out of the house, packing the car, stowing the kayaks and other gear, and driving more than 1000 miles back to Virginia. It's hard to understand why this or anything else that I posted about the sighting/video would cause anyone to wince.
Presently there is new data being looked at and its not appropriate, or professional for you to announce another recap of your endless problems at this time.
Perhaps the world will want to know again how you had no part in all your problems and your victimization another time.
Try and buy some timing skills and empathy.
Since the topic of discussion is evaluation of evidence, it was appropriate to question why anyone would place a priority on the opinions of the names that were listed in the initial post. I don't think any of them have any skills that make them especially qualified. In fact, most (perhaps all) of them lack training in the relevant science skills to evaluate data (as indicated by the examples that I provided above). It's dangerous to place more value on reputations than on facts and ideas. This mistake was made in the 1970s when Tanner tried to discredit John Dennis, but if anyone had closely examined Tanner's comments (as I have documented at my website), it is Tanner who would have been discredited.
Never. It would mean nothing to me to have a report of any species accepted by a records committee. A few birders urged me to submit a report since this would supposedly help the species, but this is not true according to Van Remsen. Van also mentioned that the members of the Louisiana records committee are "vehemently anti-IBWO," and this is a good example of why I have no respect for such committees. They live in a prime ivorybill state, and you would think they would be good birders being on the records committee. If that's the case, then why didn't one of them obtain the first video footage of an ivorybill in Louisiana? I had to come down from Virginia and take care of something that was way beyond their abilities.
Confimation of indecision will come when the distance between the bird and the other PIWO, sorry, other bird, has been measured to the nearest millimetre and found to be probably inconclusive but lending weight to being suggestive of something. If it's a full moon.
The way I read the posts here and the site is that you don't have any field notes from that important event yet you saw the bird. This doesn't seem right?
If you have some from the 3/08 date they certainly must have been submitted with the periodical draft.
If there are none, can you explain why an experienced Ivorybill searcher would not have made immediate field notes after seeing dorsal stripes on a bird in a Hot Zone? Dorsal stripes are a key mark for IBWO and what other species did you think it could be?
Wood Ducks do not have dorsal stripes. Are you out there to see dorsal stripes?
And indeed if notes were made there would have been some recording of what exactly was seen that day instead of what you have produced (or not produced).
Your notes would also have this knock that was heard that day right before the video was taken.
It seems hard to reconcile this discrepancy. Since the video doesn't show the dorsal stripes well or to some at all, and you failed to take notes the sighting/event has been weakened.
If indeed this is all the case it could have been avoided with field notes making the evidentiary case stronger.
Also some of your other field notes and sketches of your best sightings would be of great interest to all.
Also am wondering how you will get anything changed in these alleged biased circles if you refuse to confront them so all can indeed see if a fair process exists.
Perhaps the advice you get to not submit is an excuse not to deal with a certain person; you are easily put off. All it takes is a stamp. Your fears should be faced.
Kulivan went through some Lousiana informal process and wound up on the Recovery Team with only one sighting while you claim several sightings and seem to have some debatable stilles and videos.
Seems to be a great dichotomy between the success Kulivan had as far as concrete positives for the Ivorybill evolving out of his LA sighting and what you have accomplished.
Have you done anything wrong or is on the ground actual concrete results meaningless to you?
Being unpopular is often the price of being the best, especially when it means everything to others to be perceived as the best. A self-funded scientist who obtains better data than the big conglomerate is bound to be unpopular, but I have no desire to be named to committees or to be popular with birders or ornithologists (although I have always helped them when asked). My only desires are to contribute to the conservation of this species and, as a scientist, to discover its secrets.
For the benefit of everyone I'd like comments to stay on the topic of Gary Erdy's evidence/website and directly related issues.
Trying to be as liberal/generous as I can be with the comment section, and this is a pretty simple request.
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