.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

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

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.

The Quote of the Day on Google:

"If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way."
- Bertrand Russell

Which is much better than anything most "science popularizers" could produce.
You have found your calling---- Chinese Cookie message writer.

Yes, that the species is extinct is a recurring myth.

The myth of extinction was found TO BE WRONG in '24, false in '35, wrong in '67, '68 '69 and '71 false in '86 and '87 in Cuba.

Then suspect in '99, false in 2004, questionable in 2005, questionable in 2006 and 2008.

The species is not cooperating with your myths. Its funny how the skeptics have been proven wrong over and over with this species and they fail to show caution in a conservation centric issue.

Skepticism seems to end at their own repeatedly proven wrong theories. Frankly many of these are not true skeptics; they have ulterior motives.

Do you actually think we are going to believe the never ending line of skeptics that call the specioes extinct but never show any effort to gather actual data themselves?

Since they have not adapted or accepted the new paradigm of being cautious in regards to environmental and conservation uncertainties we must conclude that most of them are acting on the behalf of special interests.

There are powerful entities that do not want this bird found.

The Truth Seeker
Methinks all of this is a silly discussion about something we are so uncertain about.

It's a very silly discussion

There are some very silly people here

But no Ivory-billed Woodpeckers
I can only imagine (and hopefully I'll be dead). Some decades in the future: "Cornell University announces the Rusty Blackbird has been found!" At first the elation as people on the way to work pull their electromagnetic buggies off the road to wipe their eyes. Then the inevitable second guessing sets in. CyberStarling starts a website The Rusty Blackbird LiVES.
The Rusty Skeptic chimes in with his own diatribes. Mutant Grackle
found in Boreal swamp! he screams.
Then the film... "How can anyone not see the purple on that bird?"
Bill P comes out of retirement and shows us how even 21st Century cameras can throw purple artifacts in poor lighting.
I wake up covered in sweat.... phew it's only 2009. I think I'll have a coffee, shade-grown organic, fair-trade, no dairy.
Let's hope we all make it, including the Rusty Blackbird!

Paul S, New Paltz NY
Can't we just save as much habitat as possible for the other species we know still exist? If the IBWO indeed is still flying somewhere, it doesn't need our debating to insure it survives. Let's just save the habitat!
Hmmm . . . A nice double bind: "skewer, crush, demolish, pillage, annihilate . . . But remain civil."Whooboy, my dysfunctional family-of-origin issues are gonna get a workout here, despite all those years of therapy . . .

To wit, my instinct is to abandon civility when insults are tossed my way, even as I realize someone may not recognize them as such from their own--separate and markedly different from my own--cognitive reality . . .

For example, the various "anons" (is it "civil" to refer to them as the "various cowardly anons"?) seem unaware that the meta-message in their intransigient claims the IBWO is extinct amount to calling individuals such as Sparling, Harrison, Gallagher, et al a large group of perceptually-challenged wishful thinkers--at best--or outright liars--at worst . . .

So while the ongoing existence of the IBWO is open for debate, the existence of subjectivity ought not to be . . .

I do make it a point to recognize my own actions and their impact on others (one small benefit from the shrink money spent); that may amount, though, to nothing more than the concession I'm quite willing to be seen as a p***k if circumstances--and my mood--warrant. Indeed, I've e-mailed cyberthrush on this matter, seeking guidance since it's his site (well, I'm pretty sure CT is a "he"; gotta be careful though).

Okay, that's enough chest-thumping from me (next time it'll be my Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry voice). I did conduct my own little bit of woodpecker research last week in the form of a zoo outing with my kids and the new digital camera I received as a gift last month.

Utah's Hogle Zoo isn't the most spectacular, but zoo management seems to have taken past criticism to heart and nicely upgraded many of their exhibits (to the consternation of certain real estate types in the Utah Legislature who eye that piece of prime canyon property with genuine unmitigated lust and greed).

One nice exhibit includes a deseret panorama with the inhabitants confined to the building but zoo visitors can see them without the obstruction of glass, bars, or cage wire . . . I spotted a flicker flying around and determined to capture its image . . .

Unfortunately, the bird flew into a saguaro (real, I think) and refused to budge . . . I gave up after about fifteen minutes . . .

And I gained a whole lot of respect for those trying to capture that elusive image . . . My message to the "Raised on Disney and Marty Stouffer" crowd is to think back and realize just how few birds--relatively speaking--there were in the wildlife photography and movies we were raised with... Sure, lots of ducks and geese, a few eagles and ospreys, common animals all, but wary creatures aware of their "meal status"? Not nearly so many . . .

Salt Lake City
Methinks that many of you take yourselves and your views far too seriously. Amazing how compelling and addictive debating can be.

Did Mike Collins make it back okay to Virginia? I hope so! Maybe he ran out of battles (or energy) to fight? Maybe he was asked not to talk about what happened in the Choc? Just surprisingly quiet following what must have been a disappointing field season.
Look at all the chum in the water..........what do you know cyber?

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Is Mike Collins alive and well?
Why no debate about the content of the Collins paper, while there's been plenty of talk about his personality? Collins argues that the bird in the "fly-under" video is an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, based on flight mechanics, wing beat frequency and flight speed. Where's the rebuttal?

Ridicule is easy. . .dealing with data, not so much.
"based on flight mechanics, wing beat frequency and flight speed"

And there's the problem. He should base his identifications on well-seen fieldmarks for starters, then you wouldn't need tragic attempts to turn fuzzy blobs into IBWOs through mathematics. As for ridicule, he's the one labelling every competent birder who disagrees with him as corrupt. If he's right and there are IBWOs in his hot zone, they'll be properly documented soon. Right?
I'm not defending it, but what Collins says on his website is beside the point.

There have been quite a few sightings, including one by a very reputable birder, in the Pearl over the past few years. There was one poorly conducted formal search there in the wake of the Kulivan sighting, but only Collins and a few independents since then. Given the size and difficulty of the area, and the lack of attention, I don't think it's a prime candidate for producing "proper" documentation.

As for field marks, there's no discounting their importance, but it's unscientific in the extreme to suggest that other identification methods have no value unless field marks are "well-seen." Following that rationale, DNA evidence wouldn't be valid either.

There's still no substance to your response, just an out-of-hand dismissal and more not-so subtle ridicule.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
>>>I would love to see the IBWO issue stop being ridiculous but that would take one of the principals coming forward and admitting that they were likely wrong in their original conclusions.<<<<

Yes of course, its a massive conspiracy by independent parties. Repeat after me when the wagon arrives: "Yes, was only kidding when I accused others with good reputations of approaching fraud" or you could use "someone broke into my house that day when I was at the shrinks, they used my computer, here's my prescriptions, look at the dates".

Do you have any field data on what is double knocking, kenting and has too much white on it?

Any field data, even one 5 second clip, that shows PIWOs do what the PIWOs allegedy do in the AR and LA videos?

Sorry to be demanding but the video should show a PIWO doing about 35 miles an hour, with white in the trailing half of the dorsal wing, the bend in the white should be exactly where it should be for an IBWO, yet its not an IBWO. (These things all shown in the LA tape.)

Good Luck!
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Well even though all of the money and hype never did show that the IBWO lives, it did document a new speed record for aberrant PIWO. For those who keep track of things like that it is pretty significant.
Large black and white woodpecker perched on the side of the tree. Has to be an Ivory-bill, right? Unless it's an artifact.

Way too big to be a Pileated. Has to be an IBWO. Unless it's a misinterpretation of the fuzzy photo and the bird is positioned differently.

Flies way too fast and has too much white on the trailing edge. No other woodpecker fits that description.A few ducks do, however.

Listen to that kent! No other woodpecker kents!Of course blue jays, nuthatches and True Believers with their recordings kent.

A double knock! Bingo!Gee, hardly anything makes a double knock noise. Except for gun shots, duck wings, and people trying to attract Ivory-bills.

White saddle!! Woodpecker with a white saddle!! Has to be an IBWO. No other photos of Pileateds with white saddles known to man.Unless a Believer has doctored the photo.

I saw a pair of IBWOs. Watched them for a long time. Saw all the field marks.Unless you were lying. Humans lie a lot more often than they discover "extinct" species. People have been known to look at bird books after the fact and convince themselves of all the field marks, too.

Look at all this evidence! It can't all be wrong!Yes, it can.
" All sketics will be embarrased".

I wouldn't use "All" to describe the skeptics.

It consists of a few authors, who pronounced themselves experts, who were then coronated by a very active poster answering to Anonymous.

Will give you that flip-flopper Prum (not sure if he fits with you all, since he has probably changed back again by now, though, and don't you prefer the entrenched type?). See below.

Even give you Bill Smith and Sherdidan, we don't want em and they're perfectly intolerable, good fit for dark corners of pubs and Hooligan-like adventures.

Will trade you Vad the repeller, but we need two skeptics though, at least one must be aberrant, but productive, and the other with a prehensile tail, you know climbing and such will be needed.


Former skeptics of the recent Ivory-billed woodpecker sighting are reversing their doubts after being presented with new audio evidence that they've deemed unequivocal. Host Jeff Young talks with the recently converted Richard Prum, an ornithology professor at Yale University.

PRUM: We were sent some wav files or electronic files of two recordings and the recordings included two behaviors or two sounds that are very distinctive and very characteristic of Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers. The first was a series of kent calls which is sort of a nasal "ahnk ahnk ahnk." The second was one of these characteristic double drums, which sound like, "ba-bum." Maybe one pounding and then an echo of it immediately after.

YOUNG: So when you listened to that did you hear proof?

PRUM: I found them to be clear and convincing and when I heard these recordings I was first immediately struck by how naturalistic they sounded and that was part of the reason I found them so convincing.
That Prum found them to be clear and convincing is interesting but only shows that Yale as well as Cornell lost credibility in this entire affair (and not just because Prum used a word as tortured as "naturalisitic").

Anyone who says that hearing an electronic file made them think a species is extant really needs to get out more.

And Yale's involvement means that both A.A. Allen and Dillon Ripley are spinning in their graves.
Still no rebuttal of the data and analysis. Just a lot of drivel and distraction. I'm going to turn blue waiting for something substantial. My bad.
Anon @ 7:15
Actually some of the substantial environmental issues (that make the IBWO issue look like the joke that it is) will likely overtake you and everyone else before you turn blue.
Please realize that even if someone finds ten nests next season that the IBWO issue will always be a joke in a world heading for 9 billion people and 450 ppm atmospheric CO2. All a real rediscovery will do is mean that all those chaps driving around various southern states can stop their meandering. You should really read up on the real data and analysis that shows how bad ice melt, acid oceans, and sea level rise are going to make things in the future. Compared to those issues anything to do with the IBWO is drivel and distraction.
I know all about it. . .and it's bleak. I'm not a breeder, so that's something in my favor, and a factor that no one has the stones to talk about.
And climate change is not the issue here. Who among us is innocent, including the climate change denier from Minnesota/IBWO cynic who must not be named?
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
>>>>Flies way too fast and has too much white on the trailing edge. No other woodpecker fits that description.A few ducks do, however.<<<<<

As usual you ignore the several sightings (admittedly a few you are certainly not privy to) that flung themselves off tree sides, Kulivan, Ross Everett, Rolek, several others. Remember some of the sighters are not your run of the mill, feeder birders.

A fella I bird with has seen the bird, is extremely cautious, rarely calls anything in less than a few seconds and is never wrong with any woodpecker now going on several hundred in the brief years I have known him.

I assume there are hard-core skeptics, that are not entrenched or pot committed and are good birders. Have never seen a skeptic in the field and we can see what Collinson posted recently that may be representative of the upper edge of what skeptics do in the field. Its not much. The skeptics by definition aren't exactly tearing down the interior woods to find the truth.

>>>>Listen to that kent! No other woodpecker kents!Of course blue jays, nuthatches and True Believers with their recordings kent.<<<<

You really need to get out in the field with good birders who can walk through the woods blind folded and get more species than you. Good to have ones who exercise some caution on all facets of auditory and visual ID to temper brinkmanship.

Mis IDs of woodpeckers is an extremely, extremely rare event for birders with decades of experience. It approaches impossible for any decent birder to mis-ID an IBWO for anything else assuming the sighting was less than 50 yards and lasted a few seconds.

We have had PIWOs doing unusual notes that could be roughly described as intermediate between a nuthatch and an IBWO or PIWO nasal YAK. These were certainly not kent-like and the bird was easily found and visually confirmed as a PIWO. If the bird was not seen we would have never called this an IBWO. It had PIWO qualities.

Flickers calls will sometimes be confused with the calls of PIWOs and the Flicker and Red-bellied short coughs are sometimes interchanged by some. These mistakes are immaterial to the subject here. Flickers are often in drier uplands but not always, especially in drought years.

Nuthatch kents do not sound anything like actual IBWO kents which I have heard in the field and on Macualey tapes. You are really a bad birder if you can't distinguish the two in the field.

You really need someone to hold your hand and get you out there.

Few experienced birders are going to mix up seeing an IBWO with another species, depending on sighting conditions. Granted newbies must be watched very carefully and do make numerous mistakes.

For those with experience, their reports, seem very truthful and they are observant people. Many sightings written up are consistent, no embellishment and many do lack all the field marks. But many short views do have enough substance to give one pause on the unproven extinction hypothesis.

Some of the longer and/or robust sightings are good evidence and any true skeptic would be cautious on an extinction hypothesis. Naturally skepticism is warped on this issue as mentioned by others.

>>> A double knock! Bingo!Gee, hardly anything makes a double knock noise. Except for gun shots, duck wings, and people trying to attract Ivory-bills.<<<<

Again get in the field. There are no dabbling ducks where many of these knocks come from. There has been drought in 2006 through 2009 in some pertinent areas. Are you new or purposely deceitful? Certainly you have no deep field experience.

Anthropomorphic sources are easily located. DKs are followed up on immediately or soon, according to various methods.

You have obviously not heard a CaMPEhPHiLUS DK in the field. You wouldn't say the things you say. Scores of DKs have had large woodpeckers, some putative IBWOs closely associated with the DK, sightings within seconds. This eliminates all of your other proposed sources.

I see you fail to analyze all the videos. Think thats a good move on your part. Leave that up to people with some, rather than no experience, in various disciplines.

happy selective skepticizing
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
I too have had hundreds of Camphephilus double raps or knocks in C. and S. America but have never had a double knock by a duck.

I too can't imagine it being that difficult to distinguish between the two sounds in the field. Anatidae along the Gulf Coast tend to be in coastal bays and open swampy areas or vegetated borders of rivers and lakes.

Have canoed many of the rivers in the panhandle and can say that puddle ducks are rare on the Choctawhatchee River proper and there are really not many ways to have ducks in the expansive forest interior there.

The Auburn team has many double knocks recorded with several available with their original publication on the Ivory-billed.

These are certainly not ducks, frogs or people the way I read it and that agrees with my observations as far as listening to ducks. At the time I was doing these rivers, 10 years ago I was not thinking Ivory-billed so there is some slim chance I missed hearing something good.

I would like to thank CT for providing a fair way to post.


I have heard the gadwall "wing-collission" giving a dk sound while I was watching them and in a swamp thought to have ivory-bills. So yes the phenomenon does exist, but to my ear the sound was nothing that I would have thought was a woodpecker. that said, one of the "best" dk's that Cornell taunted as evidence (two dks apparently in response to one another) had gadwalls calling in between the two dks. So who knows...

That said, "good" dk's have been heard in Arkansas long after the puddle ducks leave the flooded Big Woods (though Wood Ducks might do this, no one has ever suggested this) and as anon 3:17 says puddle ducks are all bu non-existent at other places where distinct dk's have been heard by qualified "observers including both the Choc and the Congaree.

That doesn't make any of the dk's real though with respect to having come from a big woodpecker that no one can catch in the act.
anonymous@ 8:48 Whether or not the DKs are "real," and as Geoff Hill wrote quite some time ago, DKs that appear consistent with Campephilus DKs and kents that match the voiceprint of the IBWO are being heard and recorded in the historic range of the birds and not elsewhere. The same goes for certain kinds of cavities and foraging sign. Some of these auditory encounters have been associated with sightings. Similarly, suggestive video and still images have been obtained in some of these areas.

Instead of just dismissing this evidence, it behooves the skeptics to come up with an alternative hypothesis. As far as I'm aware this has been done piecemeal and quite unconvincingly: the deeply flawed analysis of the Luneau video by people with no expertise in that discipline, the claims that the Choctawhatchee kents could be deer bleats or bicycle horns, or the puddle duck wing knocks, which you yourself dismiss. In the absence of a credible alternative hypothesis or hypotheses, applying Occam's Razor favors the Ivory-bill. In fact, one has to pile implausible idea upon implausible idea to reach another conclusion.
I think the skeptics case has been made very convincingly. "Belief" has unquestionably plummeted.

The audio evidence is nearly useless at this point as a tool to convince objective people that have been following the story.

At one point during the exploration, two different research teams independently heard loud double raps that sounded suspiciously like the distinctive display drum of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.Sadly, analysis of the ARU data proved that the sounds were distant gun shots, with reverberations that sounded to human ears like drumming on a hollow snag. "If there is good news here, it is in knowing that the ARU technology could provide independent and conclusive evidence as to the nature of these sounds," says Fitzpatrick.You and I clearly have a different idea of how Occam's Razor should be applied. If countless Ivorybill identifications are known to be errors, and none in modern times can be conclusively confirmed, Occam's Razor says the bird is likely extinct.

Instead of just dismissing this evidence, it behooves the skeptics to come up with an alternative hypothesis. There is one. The bird doesn't exist. Believers are drawing conclusions on something they strongly want to believe on too little evidence. The quality of photographic evidence is too poor. Human observation is undependable.

Occam's razor and the same basic hypotheses apply to Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and the Ivory-bill. I think that's why it makes Believers so angry.
I'll agree that we have a different idea of how Occam's Razor should be applied. I think yours is fallacious for several reasons.

You elide the difference between the IBWO, on the one hand, and bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster, on the other. It's beyond dispute that the IBWO existed until ~60 years ago. The others have never been shown to have existed at all. False equivalence.

Your reference to Fitzpatrick's statement about gunshots actually undercuts your argument that audio evidence is worthless, since the technology exists to distinguish between recorded double knocks and gunshots.

"The bird does not exist" is not an alternative hypothesis about the available evidence; it's a conclusory statement and a way to avoid the hard work of actually addressing the data.

You claim that "countless Ivory-bill identifications are known to be errors." This statement, while factually true, is misleading and irrelevant. Of course, there have been many such errors, but the people making those errors have not been competent, knowledgeable birders who've seen the bird in its historic range and in suitable habitat. There have been many good sightings by competent observers since the last "confirmed" one. It is not unusual for species to be rediscovered with many years between "confirmed" observations.

Your version of Occam's Razor depends on ignoring the evidence and engaging in circular reasoning, presuming extinction, when there's no sound basis for doing so beyond the lack of "confirmed" sightings. Mine takes the facts as they are and arrives at the simplest explanation.
Thanks, MMinNY. Now I understand. Your interpretation of Occam's Razor is the correct one and people who have other versions are being fallacious. Your view of the IBWO evidence is correct and people with other views are just "dismissing" the evidence.

Have you considered that in a heterogeneous human population there will be a range of standards for what people accept as proof? Those who have lower standards of proof may find out things sooner than those with higher standards but they also will be fooled more often.
Belief has certainly plummeted among the birding audience.

Those that were 'offically' involved in the rediscovery, and those involved with subsequent events in the Choc. etc are now very quiet.

It's only the internet that keeps it going now.

I didn't say, nor do I think that my ". . .interpretation of Occam's Razor is the correct one and people who have other versions are being fallacious. [My] view of the IBWO evidence is correct and people with other views are just "dismissing" the evidence."

I said that I think your use of Occam's Razor in this context was fallacious, and I explained why, very specifically.

As for dismissing the evidence, most of it has gone unanalyzed. Talismanically repeating that there have been "no confirmed sightings" since 1948 doesn't give anyone license to ignore the available data.

Who's to say whether I have a lower standard of proof? You view certain kinds of evidence as unworthy of your attention. I prefer to look at the totality. That's not a higher or lower standard, just a radically different one. Seems to me you're saying your interpretation of Occam's Razor is superior and mine inferior, without justifying your position.
No matter you opinion MMinNY, you DO have a lower standard of evidence. That is self-evident. There's really no point debating it.
I see. . .I have a lower standard of proof because you say so. . .what an elegant argument. Praise the Lord! The scales have dropped from my eyes.
Anonymous 5:27 said,

"It's only the internet that keeps it going now."

There are still scores of people ,not directly involved with the rediscovery ,Cornell,etc. putting in the effort and time to document the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Numerous professionals in various fields have looked at the available evidence and determined it to be worth the effort, not just "dumb old rednecks from Arkansas"
The majority of the Arkansas volunteer team has elected to extend their search till the end of May.

This probably means nothing, but yesterday I flushed a Great Blue Heron. It took flight so quickly that there was a distinctive double "popping" or "rapping" sound. Immediately thereafter, I watched the bird pass so close to a tree that it smacked the tree with its wingtip on both the up and down stroke as it passed. While both noises were quite distinctive, they sounded nothing like the double rap recordings I've heard. Certainly they sounded nothing like anything that I've ever heard any woodpecker produce.

Thank you Ross and what many people choose to overlook as well is that many of the real professional people involved in searching outside the shroud of Cornell and FWS would never be caught dead wasting their time arguing on an internet forum or similar folly. There are scores of other people out in the woods looking and hoping. And until there is any widely accepted proof presented then all anyone can do is look and hope. Or bicker. :)
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Older Posts ...Home