"....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.”
"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, March 30, 2009
-- Reminder --
Just a reminder to folks that what we have from the last 4 years of searching are multiple sounds and signs, from several states, consistent with what we know of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, and a few fuzzy pictures that people claim are Ivory-bills. Moreover, multiple sighting claims for IBWO from people who are quite familiar with Pileated Woodpeckers, including some who do not say they think, or guess, or believe, that they saw an Ivory-bill, but instead voice unequivocal confidence that they've observed the species. All that is lacking is a definitive, indisputable photo, that everyone agrees upon --- skeptics perceive this as a major fatal lapse; whereas for some of us, it's not so inexplicable that the most stringent level of evidence remains elusive for a rare and sparse bird of dense forest, especially with so much malfunctioning and downtime for the automatic camera systems that may have been the best hope for getting such photographic evidence. I'm certainly disappointed that there have not been more clear sightings by now and that the ACONE system in particular in Arkansas did not capture the bird on film; and disappointed too that the methodologies, procedures, results, and details of official searches have been communicated so poorly to the public-at-large, but I'll await final reports for the '07, '08, '09 seasons (as well as any further reports from independents) before casting a judgment on where we now stand. For the time being, at least five states, besides Arkansas, remain of great interest to me,
Have to keep passing along this wonderful nestcam of storks in Germany, now with at least two eggs:
By the time you read this the two hummingbird babies, earlier linked-to at another webcam, will probably have left the nest.
Add in the fact that most sightings are not even from competent birders, are very poorly documented, and then any photos and videos are over-analysed by experts who continually foul up, then you have a better picture of the situation.
If that doesn't help, blame a 'skeptic' for wanting a photo.
On the other hand, how many of them have made money out of the sightings?
Maybe they've all seen real IBWOs that just can't be found again.
My opinion favours the first option because I want to believe that's what happened. Birds are rediscovered regularly but they are then seen again and the finders don't write books and make money out of it.
As to making money from books, I think the innuendo is way overboard (that $$$ are a motivating factor) -- for the effort put in few people make much money from books other than best-selling authors. I suspect(just guessin') David Sibley makes more money from writing than any other American birder, but surely no one would accuse him of doing it only for the money.
"As he finished his notes, Harrison sat down o0n a log, put his face in his hands, and began to sob. 'I saw an ivory-bill,' he said. I stood quietly a few feet away, too choked with emotion to speak," Gallagher said.
Similar delusions led to shrines being erected at Lourdes and Fatima. As you say, before Harrison and Gallagher came along we didn't really have strong evidence. The problem is that the level of evidence didn't change with them but they were able to convince (then reputable) institutions to buy into their delusion.
The entire IBWO fiasco demonstrates so much about the shortcoming of humans I think I know why it might be the "conservation story of the century". It demonstrates why human delusions, greed, hubris and obstinacy will prevent any real conservation from occurring in this century.
I don't know whether or not any of them saw a live Ivory-bill. Maybe one or more of them actually saw one, maybe none of them did. I would rather not take a leap of faith by believing one alternative or the other.
Yes people should believe anything they want to. I believe your post was composed by a sentient being rather than some program that generatates text - which is why I am replying to you.
You state that I have "little basis" to form my belief but that is not really true. When a bird that no one has seen for decades is suddently seen by someone who REALLY REALLY wants to set it and then is never seen again I believe I have a basis for questioning what it was that was actually seen.
I don't mind people taking a leap of faith but when they start taking money from reality-based conservation issues I do mind. When national attention is taken from real conservation issues and focused on what some "birder" thinks they saw I also mind. Lots of people living down by the river in vans believe lots of things. I just don't want to hear about what they believe in.
that's a pathetically feeble (and very convenient) argument that you base on the premise that you can never know for sure what anyone saw so you can't refute their sightings. So we'd all better just pack up and take these people at their word? If only one of the sightings was ever corroboated, or one single bird found (I mean properly found, like other rediscovered birds), then you'd have some basis for your view.
Yeah, right, if so then why bother to read this website or any other Ivory-bill website? Obviously it bothers you when somebody believes something different than what you believe.
It is the people who live in the van by the river I don't want to hear from - and I can usually ignore them. It is only when CLO, TNC, NPR, USFWS, etc. start taking those people seriously that it bothers me. The majority of people in the world believe in "something different than what" I believe about our place in the universe, an afterlife, supreme beings, etc. That doesn't bother me. It is only when they want to start a "holy war" based on those beliefs that it becomes bothersome.
Feel free to believe whatever you want but if you express those beliefs just don't be surprised if people start to point out reality-based flaws in that belief system.
And many respectable ornithologists were convinced by the Luneau video, at least initially. Apparently some (not me) still remain convinced.
Good point to make that it is the quality of observers (including but in addition to Gallagher and Harrison) involved that has been the difference to distinguish the level of attention given previous sightings (including Kulivan's 1999report) from the attention generated for reports from 2004 to 2005 in Arkansas.
That said, total observation time if my information is correct during the secret search (and if these seven or so Arkansas observations are valid) is still less than a minute combined after about 25,000 hours of searching. Doesn't seem like the chances were ever very high that this bird, if real and if not on an established territory, would have been firmly documented no matter how much effort was put into the subsequent searches.
Perhaps all these otherwise reliable observers were all subject to group think and delusions. (And same could apply to observers along the Choctawhatchee and elsewhere the last few years.) Seems to stretch the credibility for those who keep pushing that line of thought, but repeated sightings by otherwise reliable observers still is not nearly enough to confirm the persistence of this species, as we all know.
It is the Luneau video that really makes the difference here, along with the sightings, in "official" circles. Also, sightings aside, good point to make by Anon. 11:36 that many ornithologists were "convinced" by the Luneau video initially, but many of them since have been swayed by Sibley et al., that at minimum enough doubt has been raised that it appears none now are willing to publically promote the Luneau video anymore as "confirmatory evidence."
Sibley et al.'s analysis of the Luneau video is of course extremely flawed, but Fitzpatrick et al.'s interpretation has at minimum been shown to not be iron-clad as originally thought by many. Still what are the odds that all the otherwise experienced observers were delusional and that no one anywhere has been able to produce a video of a fleeing Pileated that comes even close to the woodpecker in the Luneau Video? The odds of this seem rediculously low.
And of course on the other side of the coin, what are the odds that so many otherwise credible observers would fail to firmly document one or more Ivory-bills during the last five years of intensive searching? This would also seem rediculously low given our collective experiences with rare and resident (and big, diurnal) birds. Unless that is, we consider that the Ivory-bill isn't (nor has ever been) like other rare, resident birds.
We're getting very close to the "official" end of the organized searches and to some that may be interpreted as vindication for skeptics. Perhaps, but the original evidence and repeated reports by otherwise credible observers suggest otherwise.
Following up on these reports is a responsible thing to do, but that this effort has resulted in nothing better than the original evidence, should give no good vibes to true believers.
The search so far results in a stalemate with no resolution to the "Great Debate."
Read the "bios" below from the Houghton Miflin site dealing with Gallagher's book. These were not "reputable" observers. They were obsessed with finding the species and both had their lives greatly enriched (emotionally and financially) by talking themselves and others into thinking they saw an IBWO. Of course that was short-lived since one can't fool all of the people all of the time. But they clearly saw a "rediscovery" as changing their lives which is why they both broke down crying when they thought they saw one. Are you saying that because they had "respectable jobs" that they couldn't feel their lives needed something more which resulted in searching for decades for something that they ultimately never really found?
BOBBY RAY HARRISON - An ivory-bill chaser with a large collection of memorabilia. Harrison has been searching for the bird for more than 30 years.
IM GALLAGHER - The author, who first became interested in the ivory-billed woodpecker in the early 1970s, after reading about the bird in Life. In 2001, Gallagher began working on a book titled The Grail Bird. He embarked on his own quest, finally sighting the bird on February 27, 2004, while following up on a lead from Gene Sparling. His discovery (with Bobby Ray Harrison) sparked the launch of a major search effort, culminating in the protection of the species' continually vanishing habitat.
And I really don't know any "respectable ornithologist" who was convinced by the Luneau video. An ornithologist that prone to being sold a bill of goods is not respectable.
Happens all the time."
So they both saw a pileated fly by and due to heightened expectations they both thought they saw an IBWO? Is that what you mean? And even now, years later, they continue to lie? And is it due to heightened expectations that all of the observers in Tim Gallagher's book also saw pileateds and then reported IBWO? And they continue to lie? I mean, there are only 3 options here really. And I just want someone who doesn't believe the IBWO is extant to say it. A. They either are lying. B. They mistook a pileated for an IBWO through heightened expectations or delusions, and continue to lie today so no one will know they mistook a pileated for an IBWO. C. They saw an IBWO. And the same would apply to all of the people named in Gallagher's book. It has to be one of the three. Or possibly D. D being, that Fitzpatrick or someone in the heiarchy told everyone to lie so that some goal could be reached regarding land aquisition or money. So I put it out there again, which is it? Because the answer here lays down the foundation for everything that has transpired since.
Yes, you've got it - in your first sentence. That's why the birds are never, ever found. They were never ever there. Don't you find that fact extremely hard to reconcile when you compare it to other very rare / rediscovered species, many of which are far less conspicuous than a large, noisy, mostly sedentary woodpecker?
They thought they saw one and still do. They may harbour doubts within themselves that will remain unexpressed or they may not. The fact that you see it as 'lying' shows you don't understand the process of bird identification. People can make mistakes and never backtrack and remain utterly convinced of what they saw. It's not lying though. If just one individual of these reported birds was ever located in one spot it would put an end to all the arguments. Don't you wonder why it never happens or do you explain it away with weird theories of hyper-elusiveness, nomadism etc?
I don't explain it away at all, I don't look for any deep explanations. Personally I do not buy misidentification. Certainly not Tim Gallagher. How can he misidentify a bird like that? I understand what you mean about misidentifying, perhaps one warbler from another. Or a sparrow. But I think it would be hard for anyone who is searching for one of these extinct birds as fervently as he seemed to be to make an honest misidentification and stay with his story.
I think he is either lying or saw one. Period. I do not buy into any mass hysteria crap or otherwise. You either see one, or you lie about seeing one. Or you say up front you weren't sure. But Tim Gallagher went to Fitzpatrick, at least in his book, with alot of conviction. No mididentifying a bird there. He either saw one, or he made a decision to say he saw one and didn't. As far as this nonsense of relocating a bird. I can buy into that arguement a little. But when you look at the satellite images of these places and even visit them, I do not see how anyone could stumble on one twice. Unless you found a nest or roost. It is easy to relocate a tern on a rocky shoreline. It is easy to relocate a pheobe on a pasture. But not being able to foot it through these swamps and having to rely on floating doesn't give people much of a chance on finding one bird,(if one exists) in a massive swamp or flooded
I guess my beef has been that with all of the denials or debunking, which the evidence of late seems to suggest for most people, I haven't seen anyone come out and use the word lie even though the ambiguous suggestions have been made ad nauseum. I would like to see people have the kahunas to come out and say what they are inferring. That's all.
Moreover, for individuals who understand birding and the IBWO as well as Gallagher and Harrison do, to make an IBWO claim with such complete assurance, and be wrong, wouldn't necessarily represent lying, but would represent foolishness!! -- THAT is what the skeptics infer but don't say outright -- not that they think these folks are liars, but rather simply they think them fools! (and again, it's amazing the number of fools we are up to by now) -- Making a mistake is one thing; making a mistake of THIS magnitude quite another.
On a different note, I too don't find much credible in the report out of Virginia based on info thus far presented (reports like this are a dime a dozen, they just don't all show up on the Web), so doubt anyone is spending much time pursuing it unless they live in that immediate area (always open to changing my mind if new info presents itself though).
From sociologists Robert Bartholomew and Erich Goode:
"Many factors contribute to the formation and spread of collective delusions and hysterical illness: the mass media; rumors; extraordinary anxiety or excitement; cultural beliefs and stereotypes; the social and political context; and reinforcing actions by authorities such as politicians, or institutions of social control such as the police or military. Episodes are also distinguishable by the redefinition of mundane objects, events, and circumstances and reflect a rapidly spreading folk belief which contributes to an emerging definition of the situation."
Again, where are the birds?
Where are the birds?: sparsely spread through tree canopies (and sometimes inside cavities) of huge forest tracts.
And the collective conclusion decades ago that the Ivory-bill was extinct cannot be labeled group-think. I reached my conclusion independently.
Let's get real: skeptics, by definition, are immune to both expectation and group think.
You use the term "skeptic" as if there is some large part of the population that is not quite sure if IBWO are extinct or not. I think the majority of people you would call "skeptics" are people who believe that something exists if they are presented with evidence that it does indeed exist. Most people I know were very excited and happy when NPR, CLO, et al. said there was evidence that the IBWO was extant. Once they looked at the evidence they were much less excited. Now most of those people just don't care since no sufficient evidence that the species exists has been produced even with a major search effort.
The "collective conclusion decades ago" was not the product of group think. It was a conclusion based on lack of evidence that the species existed. While there was a media kerfuffle a few years back (that clearly was the product of "group think") there has not been a change in the status of the species for decades.
Since humans use various levels of deception in most of their social interactions it is important to be able to determine when an individual or organization is being deceptive (either consciously or unconsciously). You are free to believe whoever you want. But if you don't exercise your critical facilities to assess the statements of others you will simply end up believing what people tell you is true. Some of us feel the need to have a higher standard of evidence.
"...believing that some (or many) of those sighting the bird were sincere, ..."
If the sincerity of the messenger was my only (or even a major) criteria for forming my view of the world then I would be mindlessly buying into the most recent person I talked to who was intensely sincere. There are people who live their lives that way. They are typically not looked on as being the best example of human evolution.
And if by "valid" sightings you mean "credible" then clearly there haven't been any. If there had been this would have been the "conservation story of the century" - and not the joke it is.
SO what is a credible sighting? Apparantly it isn't Tim Gallgher. Apparently it isn't Harrison. Apparently it isn't Gene Sparling. Apparently it isn't anyone mentioned in Gallagher's book. Apparently it isn't anyone associated with the Auburn team. Every one of these people has seen a pileated and claimed it was an IBWO. I'm beginning to think that only Sibley will be the only one anyone believes. It must be because he writes books. Or perhaps if Nelson himself goes on the record as seeing one then it will be credible. I am trying to figure out what credible means.
The sort of criteria for 'credibility' that some skeptics wish to employ would mean most birders doing bird counts are NON-credible; yet another reason why skeptics ought to quit participating in or promoting bird counts, if they really care to be consistent. What percentage of people participating in the recent Great Backyard Bird Count had 'credibility'?
Can I have a dollar for every PIWO, Wood Duck, deer, fellow IBWO hunter that gets shot mistakenly?
There already is a reward, it's been there a while. No one has claimed it yet. Fill your boots.
CT your analogy with the bird counts is wide-of-the-mark again. Totally inappropriate.
so answer my question: what percentage of people doing bird counts are "credible"?
...or perhaps you're not a credible person to answer that question.
There is no reward per se. It is a scam really, because if someone is actually lucky enough to get a decent photograph they do not get $50,000, they have to lead some predesignated person, to a live bird. So unless a nest or roost is found then the money is meaningless. And if you find a nest you will get much more money from National Geographic than whomever is posting the bogus reward. As for people shooting each other, that happens enough with duck and deer hunters. Just ask Dick Cheney. I think most debunkers would still cry fowl if a fresh dead carcass were presented. Get it? "Cry fowl"? The whole shooting thing was sarcasm. Lighten up.
So what is it specifically that makes Gallagher NOT credible? He meets that criteria, correct? Is it because he was writing a book? If David Sibley claimed to see an IBWO no one would question it and HE writes books and makes money. Lots of it.
"If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!"
There are a number of interpretations to this but one of the most common is that one needs to find their own truth and not hear it from someone else - if you "find" the Buddha you don't understand that the Buddha is within you.
Clearly at this point the pursuit of the IBWO has become a spiritual quest and not one involving conservation. At a time when society provides decreasing spiritual reinforcement the IBWO search allows people to publicly engage in hope and abstract thought. Since no one will see an IBWO in the 21st century the search provides an opportunity to have one's "faith" be the important credential. Degrees, intellect and critical thinking are relatively unimportant for the searchers.
I am glad that those people who have the time and funds to pursue the IBWO can do so. At some point they may realize they were actually looking for something else.
"...the pursuit of the IBWO has become a spiritual quest..."
Hallelujah! I'm now a righteous dude.
Spiritually doesn't make you "right" (if that is implied in your phrase "righteous dude"). It just makes you spiritual - which in the absence of rationality is not a good thing.
Don't forget that humans acting on their spiritual beliefs have contributed huge amounts of grief to people who disagreed with them.
And as those who are pursuing the Buddha (rather than the IBWO) might tell you - If you think you are a "righteous dude", you aren't.
Things are not denied because they lack plausibility, they are denied on a lack of rigorous evidence. If you find a Campephilus in an area and return the next day, you will have to try hard NOT to see it. And yes, I know you will say they are super-wary, wandering birds.
How do we know these reports and the observers who make them can't be credible? Because the reported Ivory-bills are never documented by other observers/birders using widely accepted standards of evidence (specimens, fresh feathers, egg shells, video of the not fuzzy kind, multiple still photos of a clearly living moving bird, etc.). All this on the surface seems reasonable and is generally accepted as the way it is for all diurnal rare and resident birds. Once found, they ought to be readily refound and firmly documented. Okay I get it and agree this is universally true. Or is it?
Ivory-bills certainly don't have to be super-wary, but almost all accounts would suggest Ivory-bills at minimum are widely ranging, and therefore a wandering species. This apprears true from year-to-year that Ivory-bills often moved from one location to another (but yes, there are a very, very few well known exceptions), and it appears especially true during the non-breeding seasons when most of the modern searches have been undertaken.
The one item that remains a real mystery is how a large woodpecker could go undocumented, or at least documented to everyone's satisfaction, for so long if it in fact existed. There doesn't seem to be another rare and resident diurnal bird species known to science (or at least known to me) that could be both widely wandering and persist from generation to generation in low numbers in such a way that once relocated it's chances of relocation and firm documented is nearly nil (or nil if you don't accept the Luneau video and several detailed sightings that contradicts this scenario).
Perhaps the Ivory-bill is in fact the one species (and perhaps Imperial is another) that may defy this common expectation. Perhaps not. Regardless, two recent papers in Avian Ecology and Conservation show convincingly first that a species could occur in a large area in very low numbers and go undetected (or more correctly unconfirmed) despite massive search efforts. And second specifically for a large species of woodpecker that they can indeed persist indefinitiely at a minimum number of 5 pairs assuming each adult female raises at least one female to fledging each year. Whether these assumptions are met remains unclear, but puts a different spin on what is plausible and also that common birding wisdom may not apply in this case.
And the beat goes on...
OMG - Someone thought we were talking extinction here?
"OMG - Someone thought we were talking extinction here?"
If you are talking about finding a single individual rather than a breeding pair or even a population then you are talking about extinction here.
Please don't even imagine that these woodcocks live in anything as close to impenetrable as swampy forests like those in the southeast USA. And the example of woodcocks was arbitrary, it could have been any bird. The point was that if you cannot freely roam or view an area then it is unlikely that you will relocate a single bird unless there is nesting activity happening in a penetrable spot. And couch potato or back porch "birders" cannot begin to understand this, nor can a birder who signs up for polished birding excursions out of the back of magazines that sell pretend wild intrusions into parks designed for pretty rich people to walk about freely in.
"And couch potato or back porch "birders" cannot begin to understand this, nor can a birder who signs up for polished birding excursions out of the back of magazines that sell pretend wild intrusions into parks designed for pretty rich people to walk about freely in."
Okay so maybe we can't believe these people (described above) but why would you someone want to believe someone who at a time of economic stress for many working people can take time off and drive around looking for IBWO - increasing their carbon footprint, etc. Do you think that level of narcissism says makes them any better than backyard birders or people on "polished" birding tours?
Your view of birding and searching for birds is very parochial - another common trait in IBWO hunters.
the meaningful statistic is not how many individual rare birds get photo'd by your intrepid birders, but how many they completely miss, and you don't know that number. It is interesting that birders who don't find IBWOs are infallible, and those who do are always mistaken.
So let me get this straight. People who go looking for the IBWO and don't see it come away with at least a hope that the species is extant because of how difficult it was for them to maneuver through the habitat.
If that is what is keeping the IBWO search alive it is clear that it will never end and will continue to attract "researchers" who are just scared stiff of rejecting the null hypothesis.
And given your clear dislike for many of the people that share the planet with you, and your ability to engage in blatant stereotyping, please for your safety and that of everyone else make sure you keep venting on this blog and not in the real world.
Eckelberry found and refound and got excellent views, many times, of the last confirmed living Ivory-bill. That was 65 years ago. 65! Real birds can be refound and conclusively documented. At least sometimes. (Please don't give me examples of birds in remote Amazonian jungles that no one is looking for.) Imaginary birds cannot be conclusively documented.
From Tom Nelson's blog in October, 2005:
Earlier, I posted this general information about groupthink. Specifically, how could groupthink have led to mis-IDs in Arkansas?
Let's start with these three pieces of background information:
1. Here's a snippet from an Arkansas Times article:
Sparling also wrote in his posting, “I also (and I hesitate to say this) saw a Pileated woodpecker that was way too big, the white and black colors seemed to be reversed on the wings, and the white was yellowish off white. You birders know what is inferred, but I don’t have the conviction to say.”
2. In the same article, after describing the Gallagher/Harrison sighting, it says:
Sparling, who’d gone upriver a way because, he said, the two were too noisy for him, returned. When he saw the state they were in, it sank in that he really had seen an ivory-billed woodpecker.
3. On the day of the announcement, in this Q-and-A session, Gallagher talks about his sighting. He talks about how important it was that Harrison was there at the time. Gallagher said "I may not have mentioned it otherwise". [my bold]
Given the three points above, I think these three people may have fallen victim to groupthink. There are some interesting feedback loops where an incorrect idea can be apparently reinforced.
Sparling saw an intriguing bird, but was skeptical of his own sighting. Harrison and Gallagher, after talking to Sparling, began to believe that Sparling had seen an Ivory-bill. Believing that Sparling had seen an Ivory-bill in the area, Harrison and Gallagher glimpsed a bird and both simultaneously shouted "Ivory-bill"! Influenced by each other, those two became convinced that they had seen an Ivory-bill. Sparling, seeing how convinced those two were, then became convinced that he had seen an Ivory-bill.
I think the groupthink may have snowballed later that spring, as more searchers headed out, each armed with the idea that a confirmed Ivory-bill was present. Eventually, we get seven "robust" Ivory-bill sightings, all based on maybe one fieldmark (too much white on the upperwing for a Pileated). No one seems very concerned that one or more Pileateds in the area did have too much white in the upperwing for an ordinary Pileated.
There were other sightings that were based on only seeing the white secondaries and these were not included in the seven or so "robust" sightings.
Also, never, ever were there Pileateds with "too much white on the upper wing for an ordinary Pileated" in the Cache River then or now. There were however, some Pileateds in wing molt as is the case every year, everywhere, but these did not have white back stripes, etc., white secondaries, flying direct reminescent of the way loons fly, etc., etc., all of which were also reported as robust sightings.
Get over it, otherwise qualified and credible observers reported big woodpeckers that flew and looked like ivory-bills and not like pileateds. These along with the Luneau video taken at the same time constitutes the best evidence that an ivory-bill was indeed present at the Cache in 2004 and 2005.
Independent of each other, the sightings no matter how robust would be added to the very long line of interesting sightings since the 1940s. However along with a video of a large fleeing woodpecker that has no match (NONE!) among the hundreds (may be thousands) of videos of fleeing pileateds makes all the difference here. That this is still not enough for some very respectable folks, is just fine.
That no one, since the 1930's can figure out how to relocate and firmly document an ivory-bill once reported from an area (through either brute force of numbers or stealth) strongly suggests that any presently used search technique is pretty much worthless to pursue.
Over at Researchers ("True Believer's") Forum, there is a thread entitled "Effective Search Methods--Successful Techniques used by IBWO searchers," which from the title suggests there are some, which of course there are not. Now and may be ever.
If this species is ever fully documented, my guess is it will be a random event, perhaps by a dedicated searcher who happens to be in the right place at the right time, or by someone else. But the history of this species suggests that even if one bird is fully documented we really won't know any more about how to conserve this species than we can guess now.
And that should be enough until such time there are no more reports from otherwise credible observers (say another 50 or so years from now) and we can safely declare the species extinct or the population, if there is one, gets large enough where we can repeatedly locate one or more birds and follow them as Tanner did.
Its been an interesting ride. What's next?
"That no one, since the 1930's can figure out how to relocate and firmly document an ivory-bill once reported from an area (through either brute force of numbers or stealth) strongly suggests that any presently used search technique is pretty much worthless to pursue."
It also strongly suggests something else. You don't need 'special techniques' to find birds.
"We could write much about his ideas snowballed a new mindset and belief system.
Anon (and on),
if you really think that Tom Nelson formed people's opinions and created a belief system rather than providing a forum for those who were sickened by the public idiocy of the "rediscovery" then you are mistaken.
While no big fan of Tom, much of what appeared on his blog (posted by both him and others) turned out to be true. The primary habitat of IBWO is currently in blogs like this. In the real world it doesn't exist.
Eckleberry says he got excellent views over and over again, but did he really?
Actually, he had to be led to a roost tree by local folks. He admitted to not being able to find or keep up with this bird away from the roost tree (just like everyone else is claiming today).
Now comes the interesting part. While his famous painting shows a female Ivory-bill with a black crest, his field drawing, while labeled a female ivory-bill, actually shows a male bird.
Don't believe me? See the plate in Gallagher's book and note that the crest is decidely a lighter shade of gray exactly where the red would be on a male Ivory-bill. He really saw a female Pileated (perhaps with an abnormal amount of white in the wings) thinking that Ivory-bill females also had red in the crest and filled in the rest based on expectations.
Remember he was in his early twenties and impressionable and while an accomplished painter already perhaps still rather inexperienced as birders go. His guides were backwards woodsmen and kids who knew nothing about big woodpeckers or how to distinguish an ivory-bill from a pileated. Also, he was under contract from Audubon and was sent there to "document" this bird in a last ditch effort to save the Singer Tract. So does anyone really think he would return empty-handed? No way!
So was Eckleberry confused on what he saw and sketched in 1944? Sure seems like it. Then later to cover his field identification mistake he "corrected" the crest color for his painting. So much for the last "confirmed" report in 1944. The bird was extinct after 1938, when the last photograph was taken (and even that probably was staged).
End of story.
The evidence and peer-reviewed publications make it very clear that you might need special techniques to locate this bird. If numbers are below a certain threshold (like 3) and the movement patterns for each bird cover 10-20 miles per day, then there is no way even a force of twenty or more people in an area of 300,000 acres could be stationed day after day in the White River, the Pearl, the Choctahatchee, or the Congraree to detect this species repeatedly.
That this makes searching for the Ivory-bill different than birding is obvious. Does it prove anything, of course not, except that there should be no more resources spent looking for this living ghost.
So who were these four different observers in the 1940s and why didn't any of them take photos of this bird if they could have? If this was being touted as a last ditch effort to save the Singer Tract and supposedly this bird was the last Ivory-bill on earth and so easily seen, why didn't Audubon or anyone else commission a photographer rather than an artist to fully document it?
It does seem strange that all the diagnostic photos in Tanner's report were from the 1935 Allen and Kellogg led expedition, with the exception of "Sonny Boy." While I have seen some other photos attributed to Tanner of ivory-bills in flight (can't remember where) they are no better than what we have seen in more recent times (and I can't tell they weren't pigeons in flight).
While I doubt the color 1938 photo was staged, can we really exclude that possibility when there appear to be no other such photos showing the bird in different positions? And a bigger question is why aren't there many more such clear photos while Tanner was conducting his study? Seems he had a nest cavity or two nailed down each year (and he provides pictures of some of these cavities). May be there are some archived somewhere, if someone knows where there are additional photos (black-and-white or of course color) would love to know where these are.
If we really want to be skeptical, there really isn't much firm documented evidence after Allen and Kellogg's expedition in 1935 (if we accept Sonny Boy's photos were actually from 1938, then not after 1938). If so it would appear one could legitimately call into question much of Tanner's unique work as it was almost solely based on what he says he saw and no other firm documentation (and we've all seen lots of nest holes and foraging sign pictures in the last five years that appear no different to what Tanner shows in his report).
And as said previously, none of the 1940's reports were really documented. Regardless of who the observers were (I'm sure some of them were well-known, but so what) there was the possibility of group think, expectations, and fame-seeking, and yes desparate measures to save the last old-growth in the south. All reasons for disconunting reports today.
But enough of that sillinesss and back to the real question. Why did not Tanner nor anyone else take numerous photos of the birds reportedly observed "regularly" at their nesting or roosting cavities at the Singer Tract? Seems very odd when such an opportunity was there to do so.
I see many animals daily that I don't photograph, because I have no need to prove they are there. Ivory-bills were conclusively documented in the Singer tract. I think they didn't feel the need to prove what was generally accepted by taking more photographs.
By the way the last four to see that single female Ivory-bill were Pough, Eckelberry, and Billy and Bobby Fought. Pough found it. Eckelberry went back and refound it. Then he showed the Fought brothers. If you don't believe that story you certainly shouldn't believe any of the reports from recent decades.
But beyond that, wouldn't orithologists and conservationists generally be thinking then, with the Singer Tract being North America's last "wilderness" supporting the world's last Ivory-bills, that they shouldn't be getting all the documentary video, audio, and photos they could possibly get of birds flying, foraging, feeding young, etc., etc., all through the thirties and for the last one especially to document them in the 1940s? For whatever reason that didn't happen. Too bad.
I have no particular reason to doubt Pough, Eckleberry, nor the Fought boys. But isn't that the point in all this. Pough says he found a female ivory-bill, but with no documentation. Eckleberry says he refound it (with local assistance), but apparently was confused on what he saw as he initially drew a male ivory-bill (but "corrected" this for his painting). Both Pough and Eckleberry were sent by Audubon to try and collect information to save the Singer Tract as a last ditch effort, and therefore whether or not consciously, had motivation to "see" one last ivory-bill. And guess what they did, or at least say they did. And when do we ever accept as firm documentation the reports of rare birds from young and impressional boys and girls without other physical evidence (photo, etc.)? Nothing against the Fought brothers, but none of this carrys any documentary weight.
I believe others also claimed to see ivory-bills in the Singer Tract during the 1940s. I seem to remember Roger Tory Peterson was among them, but well of course he would claim to see one so he could sell more books later. So once again there's that motivation again that leads to wishful thinking. But no documentation to back it up.
Interesting that Anon. 4:03 brings up Arthur Allen and 1924. My understanding of that story is that Allen had many species that he wanted to document on film in Florida and thought he had heard that he could find ivory-bills there based on a "tip" he had received. I think finding ivory-bills was in fact one of his main objectives for the Florida trip and at the very least he could film many other species during the search. Apparently, many of his colleagues, and especially those working in Florida, thought he had no chance at finding ivory-bills (i.e., he was wishfully thinking that he would find them). Well he did find them, or so he says, again led to them by locals. He also took photos to prove it, or did he?
There may be more photos not in the public domain, but the two I've seen have "issues." They were never published as stand alone documentation that Ivory-bills persisted in Florida (or anywhere) during the 1920s, which seems very, very odd. One photo was included as part of the publication detailing the 1935 Louisiana expedition and it basically shows a dark bump on the side of a distant pine tree. The other is published in very recent popular books about ivory-bill and to sum it up there is something very odd about the image of a pair of ivory-bills. This is touted as the first ever photo, but has the quality of Eckelberry's sketch to my eyes, with some weird details. I have no reason not to believe Allan had seen ivory-bills, nor any paricular reason to not think these photos were of living, breathing ivory-bills, but I don't believe these photos if presented today could be accepted as firm documentation (and perhaps that is why he didn't seek to publish them in the 1920s).
Now supposedly these birds were soon collected for museum skins after Allan left the area. So that would seem to represent firm documentation, but again may be not. Jackson tells the story as best as he could reconstruct it and if I'm interpreting all this correctly the specimens, that he thinks were the same as Allan's pair, had information suggesting they were collected a year later from a different area.
I believe these are the only specimens known to exist in museums from the 1920s, so either the collector purposely was misleading by giving the wrong year and location down for these specimens or otherwise mistaken, and therefore this is unreliable information, or Allan didn't know where he was or when he was there in Florida, when he says he saw ivory-bills and took weird "photos" of them.
Make of all this what you will, but firm and incontravertible evidence of ivory-bills anywhere in the US after 1920 is restricted to a few photos, and a movie from a few birds in the mid-1930s (almost all from 1935). But there are lots of stories, alot of evidence, some better than others from 1924 to the present day by otherwise credible observers, but all of whom had potential motives for wishful thinking and reasons to be mistaken.
Your attempts to draw parallels in the quality of evidence then and now are very, very weak. The old Singer Tract sightings are universally accepted for good reason. The current ones? Not so much. Also for good reason.
The century mark remains elusive...
Links to this post: