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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

Thursday, April 30, 2009


-- Misc. --


The search season is winding down and given officials' past tendency of taking longer and longer to compose a summary document when there was less and less to report, I suspect we may not get a synopsis of the current season before around 2013 :-(
We may have a "Swine-flu Skeptic Blog" out of Minnesota to read before much official news on the 2008-9 search season appears...

To all those asking me about Rich Guthrie (no updates in 2 wks.) I don't have a clue, but no, I don't believe the silence has anything to do with IBWO encounters; more likely just limited time and internet access.
I'm expecting a long slow summer ahead.

Midnight Saturday is more-or-less the deadline for anyone wishing to report a past IBWO sighting to me for my current tally per the 4/26 post.

A series of pics are posted at Bobby Harrison's IBWO blog from their last endeavor in Arkansas' Big Woods deploying Ivory-bill decoys.

For now I've taken 'Gary Erdy's site' off the left-hand links; even if he re-launches his site, I suspect it may be with a different URL. And have moved Bill Pulliam's blog from the 'links' section down to the short blogroll section.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


-- Comments ID, etc. --


For any who haven't already discovered it:

To make things
slightly less convenient for the trollsters out there I've initiated the requirement for "Open ID" or Google ID for all commenters (sorry for any inconvenience to others, but several bloggers have told me for months this would be necessary, and I avoided it as long as I could). If you don't already have an appropriate ID, it's easy enough to get one via Google. Hopefully, this will help limit the number of loopy skeptics who visit here anonymously that are an embarrassment to the real skeptics.

BTW, Blogger keeps hinting they'd like the blog upgraded to their newer format, so at some point I'll probably have to do that, disrupting things a bit, but putting it off as long as possible (these things never go fully smoothly).

I'll wait about a week for email responses to
the previous 'sightings' post (Sunday, April 26) to trickle in and report on them next weekend or Mon. (although I don't foresee anything very noteworthy arising therefrom). Thank you to those who have already responded.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


-- Just Curious --


Seen an Ivory-billed???????????

I'd like to get an idea of how many readers of this blog believe they themselves have SEEN a living Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the wild at some point.

The basic info I'd like is 1) how many sightings you've had, 2) what state(s), and 3) what year(s). I want to hear ONLY about actual SIGHTINGS, NOT auditory encounters. Also, rate the level of certainty that you observed an IBWO, along these lines (only need to rate your best sighting, if you've had multiple):

"3" -- VERY certain
"2" -- somewhat certain
"1" -- lean toward an IBWO, but can't rule out some other possibilities

You can describe any encounter(s) as much as you wish, but it isn't necessary; I'm really just looking for a numerical total of individuals and geographic distribution, although I might respond back to some reports if I want more clarification.
If the results are interesting enough I'll tally them for a post (no specific details or names given out, just numbers and states), but the sample size is likely to be too small to be of great interest.

Please email me at:


Thanks. . . .

Saturday, April 25, 2009


-- Hmmm... --


Google has a "trends" feature that allows you to check where, geographically, the most searches for a given word or phrase are emanating from. In checking "Ivory-billed Woodpecker" the following top 10 cities came up at this point in time:

1. Little Rock, AR, USA
2. Cincinnati, OH, USA
3. Denver, CO, USA
4. Minneapolis, MN, USA
5. Washington, DC, USA
6. Seattle, WA, USA
7. Atlanta, GA, USA
8. Philadelphia, PA, USA
9. Chicago, IL, USA
10. San Francisco, CA, USA

Not sure why Cincinnati would be #2 (Ohio has an active birdwatching contingent, but still seems a tad odd)???, and no cities from Florida, Louisiana, or South Carolina even crack the top 10.


-- Weekend --


As long as we're doing scenic tours, may as well take a look at the Big Woods of Arkansas courtesy of Allan Mueller:

Otherwise, maybe overdue for some updates from somewhere (or NOT)....

Nothing new on B. Harrison's blog or the BirdForum IBWO thread in almost 4 wks.
Been a week since Rich Guthrie updated his Arkansas search entries.
Been 2 wks. since any update from Mike Collins.
No new posts on the IBWO Researchers Forum for 4 days.
No further word from Gary Erdy since he last said he was considering relaunching his website.
No update from the ACONE people regarding their camera system in Bayou de View in a long time (I know it's been down for a long while, but they still could update their site once-in-a-while).
Nothing official out of S. Carolina since Cornell arrived there.
No report (via BirdingAmerica) from Bob Russell's February trip to the Choctawhatchee (...nor has he sent along a new Top 10 list of locales to search).
Last update from Choctawhatchee 10 weeks ago.
And of course nothing publicly disclosed from other search states, as the season draws toward a close (though, no end to chatter).


Thursday, April 23, 2009


-- Congaree In Springtime --


A brief look at part of Congaree Swamp (S.C.) in the spring:

And Martin Collinson visited the Pearl River area of La. recently, but shy, humble Brit that he is, won't 'fess up to spotting any Ivory-billed Woodpeckers:


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


-- New Open Thread --


Probably a fine time to start a new open thread.
Debate, discuss, pontificate...
Wrangle, rebuff, skewer, crush, demolish, pillage, annihilate.... and remain civil.

Monday, April 20, 2009


-- Quote... Unquote --


"As to assertions without adequate evidence, the literature of science is filled with them, especially the literature of popular science writing. Carl Sagan's list of the "best contemporary science-popularizers" includes E.O. Wilson, Lewis Thomas, and Richard Dawkins, each of whom has put unsubstantiated assertions or counterfactual claims at the very center of the stories they have retailed in the market. Wilson's Sociobiology and On Human Nature rest on the surface of a quaking marsh of unsupported claims about the genetic determination of everything from altruism to xenophobia. Dawkins's vulgarizations of Darwinism speak of nothing in evolution but an inexorable ascendancy of genes that are selectively superior, while the entire body of technical advance in experimental and theoretical evolutionary genetics of the last fifty years has moved in the direction of emphasizing non-selective forces in evolution. Thomas, in various essays, propagandized for the success of modern scientific medicine in eliminating death from disease, while the unchallenged statistical compilations on mortality show that in Europe and North America infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and diphtheria, had ceased to be major causes of mortality by the first decades of the twentieth century, and that at age seventy the expected further lifetime for a white male has gone up only two years since 1950.....

"Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated."

--- Richard Lewontin, 1997 (Harvard geneticist)

Sunday, April 19, 2009


-- Words and Such --


During a recent exhaustive triple-tiered, double-blind-controlled, meta-linguistic, full Fourier-analysis of the major extant Ivory-bill literature, I tallied the following
textual word-frequencies in use:

Most Common Words Used By True-believers:

1. Patience

2. Hope

3. Wary

4. Luneau video

5. Encounter
6. Rare
7. Scaling
8. Putative

9. Kents
10. Wingbeats

Most Common Words Used By Cynics:

1. Extinct
2. Proof

3. Not

4. Pileated

5. Bigfoot

6. Photograph
7. Faith-based
8. Inconclusive
9. Blurry
10. Occam's Razor

10 words or phrases thus far notably MISSING from the IBWO literature:

1. que sera sera

2. supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

3. indubitably
4. just kidding
5. %$*&%#*!! friggin' woodpecker (...well, verbally spoken, but not in the printed literature)
6. beam me up Scotty
7. outwit, outplay, outlast
8. liar, liar, pants on fire
9. 6-pack abs
10. new and improved

More words, no doubt, still to come. . . .


Friday, April 17, 2009


-- Four Years Later --


"Oh life is like a maze of doors and they all open from the side you're on
Just keep pushin' hard boy, try as you may
You're gonna wind up where you started from
You're gonna wind up where you started from."

--- Cat Stevens ("Sitting," 1972)

This month marks the fourth anniversary since Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology stunned the birding community announcing that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker had been rediscovered in Arkansas. Yet many remain in doubt as to whether it was real or all an illusion from the get-go.

In the bizarro world of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker not only is a lack of sightings perceived as evidence of IBWO extinction... but even continuous sightings, and appropriate sounds, signs, and cavities, WHEN unaccompanied by indisputable photography, is now viewed as further evidence of extinction.

The only possible definite outcome from these last four years would've been clear confirmation of the species' existence. Lacking that we remain in limbo. There can never be proof that Ivory-bills went extinct in the 1940's as many weakly contend, or in the 60's, 70's, or 90's as some others may believe... or perhaps the "Elvis" bird seen in Arkansas was the very last of his kind. Or... as many STIIIIIIILL believe (and is certainly indicated)... a small scattering of the species may yet haunt corners of the American Southeast... caught thus far only in occasional quick glances, by a lucky few individuals in the uncanny right place at the uncanny right moment, for a species that evades the certainty of the focused camera lens.
The bird continues to be reported, and no actual evidence, beyond sheer conjecture, substantiates a notion that all of those sightings are unreal. Unfortunately, in IBWO circles, the line between conjecture and science barely exists anymore... if it ever did.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


-- 'Accomplishments....' --


US Fish and Wildlife has released an "Accomplishments Report 2008" (pdf) for the IBWO search --- I assume this is the long overdue official summary report for the '07 - '08 search season, such as it is (or maybe this is just a summary, of that summary?). On a first reading, appears to be pretty much o-o-o-old news by now, with a few added details and numbers fleshed out (maybe I'll say more about it later after a second reading, though not necessarily).

Addendum: just a few further notes about the report... for the '07 - '08 season South Carolina is reported to have had the most "potential encounters" (20); western Tennessee is deemed worthy of further effort (which it got this season); not much found in the Big Thicket of east Texas and the search there is set to conclude this month; the only searching reported in Florida is Auburn's efforts in the Choctawhatchee area --- a bit odd since there are so many other regions of interest in central and southern Fla., at least some of which got some attention this season. And finally, no mention at all of Mississippi except for the Cornell mobile team's brief look there, even though that state too clearly has areas of interest.

Found it interesting as well that in reference to various ongoing research taking place, the report mentions that, "An important issue that the research will address is the potential limiting influence of predation on the productivity of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker population." ...Given the difficulty of just consistently finding and photographing the birds, seems pretty early to be much concerned with 'predation' issues just now; if the species has made it to today they've done so without much micro-management from us. Pretty clearly what they need is continued habitat conservation and limits to human encroachment on that habitat. Any human interventions beyond that could have unforeseen ramifications.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


-- 'nuther Interlude --


Scientist at play:

Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."
-- Richard Feynman, 1966


Sunday, April 12, 2009


-- News Article --


Milwaukee Examiner news article HERE, including a couple of old YouTube videos at end.

Rich Guthrie's first update since traveling to Arkansas, on his blog here.

Friday, April 10, 2009


-- The Monty Hall Paradox --


Straightforward explanation of the "Monty Hall" Problem via YouTube here:


Thursday, April 09, 2009


-- April/May --


According to Cornell's update the mobile team departed Homestead, Fla. on March 22, with part of the team headed to South Carolina through "early May" --- a bit longer stay in S.C. than originally indicated, unless there are intermediate stops in N. Florida or other locales along the way.
I've never been terribly keen on South Carolina, but others find it promising due to the quality and size of habitat, many claims over the years, and sounds and signs found there in recent times, including just about this time of season last year. South Carolina has been, in my experience, the most tight-lipped of the various official state searches, so I've little clear idea if anything of greater substance has been gleaned from the current scaled-back season. But if anything significant were happening there now I suspect the entire mobile team would be headed that way instead of only part of the group (...unless of course they were splitting up to investigate two locales with significant results... unlikely).

By mid-May efforts in at least 5 states should be wrapping up, if not already well over (though there may be many remote automatic camera shots yet to be reviewed), but no clue when any results of those efforts might be released.
Meanwhile, Mike Collins has departed the Pearl in La. for this season and Richard Lyttle is departing from a lengthy sojourn in the Congaree/Santee region of S.C., while other less-publicized independents continue efforts for now. We're headed into the time when leaf-out, heat, and bug-out makes searching difficult, but also when any successfully breeding Ivorybills may begin moving around in family groups.
Gee, how surprising an end to the scaled-back season would this be: a few possible sightings, sounds, and signs found, and all summarily dismissed in some quarters for lack of a clear photograph....

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


-- 'nuther Cornell Update --


Latest update from Cornell mobile team here:


They acknowledge that part of the team is now in South Carolina through early May. Saw some good habitat in southern Florida, but no direct indication of Ivory-bill presence, and update ends as follows:
"Given the results, it is unlikely a population of any meaningful size of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers exists in south Florida. Because the habitat in its current state has a lot of potential, we do think that lingering individuals might still move around in the region. South Florida parks, preserves, agencies, and birders should remain attentive and open-minded to reports of the species in the region.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology will remain available to assist in following up on promising reports."

Otherwise, in the too-cute-not-to-pass-along entertainment dept. this brief clip of young barn owls in action (hat tip to Birdchick for directing me to this):


Tuesday, April 07, 2009


-- Just a Digression --


"....the beginning of the universe, as seen by modern science, begins with nothing at all. There is no space; there is no time. There is not even a void. There is nothing.

In an instant, the nothing becomes something. In an enormous flash of energy, the big bang creates space and time.... within a tiny seed of matter and energy is all the stuff of our current universe.... quarks, gluons, and leptons are the most primitive matter in the universe, and until about a millionth of a second after the big bang, the universe is a seething soup of primitive matter and radiation....

"Cosmologists are shaking their heads in disbelief, because experiment after experiment is showing that the universe is entirely different from what astronomers had assumed since the beginning of modern science. Ordinary matter is the exception, and unknown, exotic matter is the norm. Our universe is mostly dark, and most of that dark matter is unknown, ineffable stuff that has never been seen directly. Had there not been so many experiments forcing cosmologists to accept this picture, it would seem utterly ridiculous....

" The vacuum is the most complex substance in the universe. Within it are all particles and all forces, even those unknown to science...
It seems like a contradiction to say that the vacuum is the most complex phenomenon in the universe. The very definition of the vacuum is the absence of everything, a space filled with nothing at all. In the 1930s, though, quantum physicists discovered, much to their surprise, that the vacuum isn't ever truly empty. It is seething with activity, filled to the brim with particles and energy...
...on relatively large scales, lightweight particles like electrons and anti-electrons are constantly popping in and out of existence, but on smaller and smaller scales, heavier particles like muons and taus (and undiscovered, massive particles, like WIMPs and other sparticles) become more and more important...
[Physicists] think that the energy of the vacuum, the zero-point energy that is everywhere in the universe, is forcing the universe apart."

-- Charles Seife from "Alpha and Omega"

....and some further thoughts on "dark matter" HERE.


-- "Carolina Ivorybills" --


Nothing too newsworthy, but Christen of "Carolina Ivorybills" blog has renewed posting, after a very long lapse, regarding her independent search in the southeastern corner of North Carolina (official agency searches have also taken place in the region):


Speaking of which, congratulations to the North Carolina Tar Heel basketball team!... things seem to be going Cyberthrush's way lately ;-)

Monday, April 06, 2009


-- Guthrie Updates --


Rich Guthrie plans to report regular updates on his latest Arkansas trip in search of IBWO here:


Don't know if Alan Mueller's search team has much longer to spend in the Big Woods, or if Guthrie (who's searching on his own this go-around), will try to touch base with them.

Sunday, April 05, 2009


-- Name Change? --


Occurs to me that at some point this blog might need to be re-named. (In fact I sometimes get complaints about the current title, even though it was named before there was any public controversy over the Ivory-bill's re-discovery.) With yet another search season possibly ending without conclusive evidence for the IBWO, here are 10 potential new titles should time and events absolutely compel one
(...OR, you can suggest your own ;-)) :

Ivory-bills LiVE... NNNOT!!
The Human Imagination Blog
Where's That 'Pecker ?
Ivory-bills Huhhhhh?
Faith-based Birding 101 Blog
Ivory-bills Schmivory-bills
Lord God What a Friggin' Waste of Time, Money, and Kayaks
Cyberthrush's Folly

(mind you, I don't foresee a blog title change coming anytime soon, but, just in case, I like to be ready....)

Thursday, April 02, 2009


-- Online Auction --


With government tax money drying up for IBWO searches, how about bake sales?...

Well not quite, but there is a currently-running online auction for
Ivory-billed Woodpecker-related art to raise funds for key organizations involved in the search. If you're into art, Ivory-bills, and auctions, by all means, check it out.

...and just a reminder that there is still an "Open Thread" available for miscellany back on March 26.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


-- Happy Anniversary David! --


As some commenters below noted, today is actually the 10th anniversary of David Kullivan's celebrated sighting of 2 Ivory-billed Woodpeckers in the Pearl River region of Louisiana back in 1999; the claim that in a real sense initiated the current widespread interest in the species (from the mid-1970's to 1999 was a relative lull in IBWO interest). So probably some value in commemorating that anniversary. (Kullivan, by the way, has served in a supporting role on the current US Fish and Wildlife IBWO Recovery Team.)

Most of the original newspaper accounts on the Web of his encounter are gone (news stories often only stay up a limited time), or were just brief synopses. But I did finally stumble on an archived bird listserve post that included a verbatim local newspaper report, as well as some follow-up from the time period. If you enjoy re-living the past... :



-- Confession... --


After almost 4 years of blogging can't hide it any longer... in a misplaced effort to generate debate, discussion, controversy, and thus greater interest in this very blog, I must confess to readers that I, Cyberthrush, have been the author of ALL the "Anonymous" comments seen on this blog (and every other IBWO-related site for that matter) since day 1. I am sorry that my preoccupation with blog traffic led to this shameful effort to create controversy where there was little, and to hide the boring unanimity which exists out there for the Ivory-bill's persistence.

Oh, and while I'm at it I should probably also admit that at a different URL I pseudonymously post under the nom de plume "Mike Collins."

my deepest apologies to anyone who may feel they've been misled....

posted April 1, 2009


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