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IVORY-BILLS  LiVE???!  ...

=> THE blog devoted to news and commentary on the most iconic bird in American ornithology, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO)... and... sometimes other schtuff.

Web ivorybills.blogspot.com

"....The truth is out there."

-- Dr. Jerome Jackson, 2002 (... & Agent Fox Mulder)

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

-- Hamlet

"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer

Friday, March 13, 2009


-- Weekend Catch-up --


New people are continuing to hear about this now week-old story and swing by the blog, so a little summary and catch-up:

1. For newbies you need to first carefully read through Gary Erdy's site to get a sense of the material he has put together and what the discussion/debate has been about. BTW, Erdy modifies the site without announcement so it is worth checking back with some regularity for any changes (material being removed or added --- also note that because photos used on the site have changed over time, some early references to photos in posts and comments may now be confusing):


2. 2nd step is to read Bill Pulliam's initial blog entry on the findings, posted (and later appended) immediately after a news embargo on this story was lifted (Bill was one of 20 reviewers of this evidence for 1+ year during which it was withheld from public disclosure):


He has follow-up posts as well.

My own blogposts on the news begin on the same day (3/9), but are not as necessary reading as some of Bill's material. And even though there is some good discussion and information in the 180+ comments herein, it is sometimes buried amongst repetition, triteness, snark, aspersions, etc. that often ensues in such controversies, so few may want to wade through all the comment sections (I do believe there are many good comments particularly on the earlier post today). Many of the same points already made, will likely be reiterated in the discussion ahead. (I also want to thank all who keep their comments focused on evidence and arguments, not on personalities and individuals.)

3. The #3 Mystery Bird at Gary Erdy's site has been the primary focus of attention (although there is other data of interest there), and of the initial possibilities for its identification Red-headed Woodpecker is probably assigned little probability at this time. The only remaining seriously-considered candidates are normal Pileated Woodpecker, leucistic Pileated (with abnormal white patches), or Ivory-billed Woodpecker. VERY briefly, issues at hand are:

For Ivory-billed Woodpecker (putting aside rarity or improbability), major issues centering around the size and shape of the perceived white saddle, the lack of dorsal stripes, and the appearance of the crest.

For normal Pileated, concerns reside around the possible perception of a white saddle, and the facial and neck patterns or appearance. Leucistic Pileated has same concerns except that now white saddle is explained.

There are many other more subtle issues, and it is conceivable that yet more issues could arise as time proceeds.

By early next week new (and hopefully fairly accurate) measurements for the size of mystery bird #3 may be publicly disclosed (being taken this weekend), and could have significant ramifications for the ongoing discussion, possibly even in unforeseen ways.

In a very skeleton way, that brings newbies up-to-date. I may have multiple posts this weekend (not sure yet) so stay tuned.

In other words, there's yet another ambiguous (i.e., useless) bird photo out there which sets off a very involved and academic discussion of what it might or might not be.
There you have it, a scientific and open mind called Dr. Anonymous.

Ralph W. NY
Perhaps there's some jealousy and frustration about having to resort to a dictionary to look up the occasionally unfamiliar polysyllables...

Or perhaps it's a fundamental immaturity with a low tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty . . . We get a lot of those here on Planet Utah... Place has been in the news a lot lately; anonymous would fit right in...

Just demonstrating that avatar I use over on the IBWO forum isn't inappropriate...

Carry on folks, I'm just an observer here who's fully capable of heading elsewhere if I didn't find things to my liking... More good advice Dr. Anonymous can safely ignore...

But of course, untamed big cats feasting on occasional net rats is the natural order of things...

Salt Lake City
I have a suggestion about the presentation of the photo of the #3 Mystery Bird. Parts of that page have a problem displaying in the two web browsers on my computer. This problem and the emphasis on Reconyx photos led me to assume that the photo of the #3 Mystery Bird is a Roconyx photo. I discovered that this was not the case after reading discussion at another site, and this cleared up the fact that the blow-up didn't seem to be consistent with the number of pixels in a Reconyx photo (which I may be incorrectly assuming to be much less than the number of pixels in a good digital camera). I would suggest making this clear in the presentation and disclosing the number of pixels in all of the original images. If such discussion is already provided, it doesn't show up on certain browsers.
I haven't heard of the display problem from anyone else, so don't know how widespread that is (there are 2 different pages with the #3 photo; I presume you're saying neither page displays properly).
ALL (so far as I'm aware) Reconyx photos are black-and-white, so anytime you see a color photo it is from another camera or system.
Lastly, any concerns of this sort (clarifying the website) should be passed along directly to Gary -- he has contact info at his site -- I'm not in any regular contact with him to pass along suggestions made here, although he may read them here himself.
"ALL (so far as I'm aware) Reconyx photos are black-and-white, so anytime you see a color photo it is from another camera or system."

The Reconyx pictures at the Ivory-bill Photo project are low-res black-and-white. Reconyx the brand is not strictly black-and-white anymore, so color photos you see in the future could be from Reconyx. From the Auburn Ivory-bill website:

Reconyx has recently upgraded their cameras so they take higher resolution color images and that fixed one weakness of our former camera setup.

Perhaps some people enjoyed this exercise, but I found it discouraging. I believe the IBWO is out there because my BS-detector told me to trust some of the strangers who said they saw it. This search has been a big preoccupation of mine for years. However, a developing parallel between this and Bigfoot (which I don't believe exists) is a sub-culture that includes expert ambiguous evidence analysts on the internet with a never-ending supply of ambiguous “evidence” to analyze. It's creepy, and it makes me wonder if I'm really a chump for spending the time, money and energy I have on this search.

So what to do with ambiguous photos? Save them for when someone gets the real proof, and then throw it in the mix for possibly estimating IBWO's range. That would be more useful. And how will we know when a photo is good enough? When the skeptics are the ones on the defensive.
The Bigfoot analogy is a bit of a strawman as I see it (and I "live" among a whole bunch of "Harry" hypers; the "world's leading academic Sasquath authority" doubles as a religious apologist, enjoying absurd quasi-academic sanction for his material from institutions both north and south of here); anyone with middlin' level familiarity with primate evolution realizes the utter impossibility of the ancestors of an eight-foot critter making a migration from Africa; a blogger I know linked a story on the evolution of the human big toe (which facilitates walking and running immensely) to debunking BF lore; it arose in Africa 1.5 mya, and yet casts made here always show a human-like toe rather than the thumb-like ape appendage. Not as sexy as Patterson's mammaries, but still offering considerable theatrical appeal...

So the lesson from Sasquatch is there is a considerable population of charlatans around...

And I suppose that is discouraging to some; I've relegated it to the "merely painful" growth department...

We know, however, that ivory-bills existed, at least within my parents' lifetime, and beyond the "heroic quest," there are other serious lessons as well.

The larger issue is how are we, as a species, going to shape and re-create the environment of the IBWO (and the grizzly bear and the gray wolf and the trumpeter and whooping crane) and adapt ourselves to coexistence with that environment rather consume it wholesale...

And there are many out there who insist we shouldn't bother; if our discouragement gives encouragment to those forces, then it is indeed toxic waste...

Salt Lake City
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