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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

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


-- NOT Holding My Breath... --


Hesitate to even pass this along, but since someone surely will, don't feel much choice: Another claim being made for documentation of the IBWO, this time from the Sabine River Basin of Texas. For the moment I doubt the authenticity of the report, though it has some credible features, it also has several questionable elements (could be a total hoax or a genuinely well-intended, but mistaken individual... but I'm leaning toward hoax unfortunately). And even if the report itself is real, I'm doubtful any photos are truly definitive of IBWO in their identification. Of course would love to be proved wrong on this one, but for now I wouldn't get too excited, unless further details prove encouraging:


It sure seems like we should be able to get something other than the article if we google <"(each participant's name" bird>. Still, we're no worse off than we were before and hopefully van Remsen or someone will view the alleged photos.
It is at least a more likely spot than the Oklahoma eBay photo hoax of a while back...
For several reasons, the whole report just doesn't pass the 'smell test' for now.
One possible correction though: I associate the Sabine River with Texas, but an emailer corrects me that the "Sabine River Basin" is actually in La., so the claim may actually be from La. not Texas.
It's funny that he takes the time to downplay the Arkansas 04 sightings. It's like he's applying for a patent or something.

Remember searchers: When reporting a sighting, always belittle the sightings before yours so people think that yours is the first real one.
Can't get the original link to open, but try googling "daniel rainsong" with no other keywords and then see how you feel about these odds.
My name is Joe Hepperle. I wrote the press release. It is not a hoax. The Experts listed in the press release will determine the validity of the sighting. The press release was put on the internet to establish that Daniel Rainsong accomplished the discovery in the Sabine River Basin. The press release is simply to establish publicly the claim and a verifiable date for that claim. I am a real person. Try googling "Joe Hepperle" to check my bona fides. I am all over the internet. Dan Rainsong is a multi-talented individual. When it comes to wildlife and wilderness (Daniel Boone kind, not granola-eater kind) he is very capable and thoroughly qualified. I personally know two of the people mentioned in the press release (Rainsong, and Goldstein).

No one is required to believe right now. We should all be in the wait-and-see mode. Rainsong is taking all the necessary steps to ensure that his find is examined by other reputable authorities on the IBW.

It wasn't until after I had clicked the "Post" button for submitting the press release that I realized I had omitted contact information for myself (as the writer) and for Daniel Rainsong. Since the purpose of the press release is to establish the claim publicly, I reasoned that my 'error of omission' would be okay. Apparently I was wrong.

I can be contacted at kjhepperle@gmail.com.

Daniel Rainsong's email address is rainsong4@hotmail.com

Dan Rainsong is on the road as I write this, heading on a long drive from Iowa down to Arkansas to show the pictures to Doug Zollner, Scott Simon, and Allan Mueller, then on to Louisiana (LSU) to show the pictures to Dr. Remsen.

In a Jan 17th email to Allan Mueller, Dan wrote the following,
"Dear Allan Mueller:
...I have located one male IBWO down in the southern Sabine River area. I took two clear snapshots of it during the early morning of December 29, 2009. I went to LSU and reported our finding to Dr. James Van Remsen this past Thursday and told him I had gotten two pictures. I will be talking to Dr. John M. Burnett in the Department of Natural Resorces at ISU here in Ames, Iowa where I live on Tuesday morning to let him review the two developed pictures that we took. Also I have notified (via the web master at Florida Gulf Coast University) Dr. Jerome A. Jackson of this Sabine IBWO and that two good pictures of it were taken...
Sincerely, Daniel Rainsong"

In a Jan 18th email to me, Dan wrote the following,
"...Dr. Wilmer Miller of ISU, a big bird man on campus... looked at both pictures just yesterday, calling me to his home... with both thumbs up after looking at them in the company of everyone else he energetically said, 'An Ivory-billed Woodpecker'."

Anyone can contact me for more information. I will be attempting to contact Dan later this morning (Jan 20th) to determine from him whether he wants his cell phone number given out. If you contact me and I can see on the internet that you are a true bird devotee (or whatever) I will give you his number. If the author of this web blog contacts me by email (listed above) I will give you Dan's cell phone number so you can speak to him directly. But bear in mind, for the next two or three days he will be busy hand-delivering his evidence to Arkansas and Louisiana.
I hope so! These would be the first good photos since when? Fielding Lewis' in 1971? I can't wait to see them.
Thanks for the additional info Joe; I have to say my own preliminary backchecks to the story don't lend it any credence and there are many red flags involved, but I'm willing to hold a wait-and-see attitude (pretty use to that in this arena).

Will be away from computer for a good bit today (1/20) so won't have any more to say before late afternoon or evening.
If anyone independent of the press release can chime in with corroborating info feel free to or email me.
Given recent experiences, NO photograph from a source like this will (or should) pass the credibility test regardless of what it shows. A video, being inherently much harder to fake, might carry more weight; still the whole situation reeks. What do I mean by "a source like this?" Someone who is previously unknown and unconnected to either the conservation community or the birding community. Someone who uses terms such as "granola eater" to deride others not like themselves. And especially, someone who plays these coy public announcements of secret findings, who makes a great show of protecting their proprietary rights, suggesting a primary goal of financial reward.

It's possible these people are just young and/or naive and have no idea what a horrible impression they are creating for themselves and their credibility. But, on first impression they sound like a hybrid of "Mad Bill" Smith and the Georgia Bigfoot Hoaxers (of whom "Mad Bill" was an early and strong supporter, by the way).
More things you learn from Google:

Dr. Wilmer Miller, Professor Emeritus at Iowa State University, is indeed a bird expert according to google; however his expertise is in the breeding of captive doves and pigeons, not in the identification of wild birds. There is nothing mentioned in his various biographies and writings online to suggest he has any particular interest in or experience with birding.

Joe Hepperle is a gadfly-of-all-trades, writing provocatively on a wide variety of subjects; Certainly nothing that *I* should be critical of! Prior to this press release, however, he has had no connection at all to birds, birding, woodpeckers, endangered species, conservation, or any other relevant fields.
Geez, Bill, just look at the photo first. Don't worry about their birding credentials, politics, motives, employment status, or how provocatively they write on the Internet.

God forbid some right-wing turkey hunter takes an ivory-bill photo.
In the photoshop era a photo is only as good as its source. If these people want to prove their findings they should have involved known, credible collaborators within minutes of their first encounter, not after the press release. Even so, in the post-Sheridan era NO piece of uncorroborated evidence from an independent searcher, even a seemingly perfect photo, will be accepted at face value. Without a chain of custody and independent testimony as to the circumstances surrounding the images creation, we assume "fake," as EVERY purported "clear" still photo of an Ivorybill advanced in recent years has proven to be.
Well, I see the claim is made that these are "developed pictures" and presumably taken with an analog camera rather than a digital one. I scrolled down to some old posts below where I aknowledged I would shudder at the thought of somebody bringing forth a purported pixeled picture, so perhaps we will avoid this problem. Fangsheath also has some good comments, stating he knew of no way to determine whether a shot involving a well-crafted model was a fake or not; I can visualize shots--involving exended wings, head position, etc. where it would be unlikely a model could provide the requisite simulation. So I'm going to wait and see and hope for some negatives. And I would think that a shot high up on a branch that wouldn't support human weight would constitute strong evidence unless someone found the photographer had rented a helicopter recently.

As far as detecting frauds, I've been fine tuning my crapola catcher since the days of the Patterson Bigfoot film (and legendary Mormon forger Mark Hofmann's sister was in my class at school, and I know some of the people he duped). Right now I see nothing that has the alarm bells ringing (unlike the frozen Sasquatch of a few years ago), and I do like the current "undersell."

We shall see, however; if it's fakery, it'll blow to pieces sooner or later (even Patterson's did even if it took over thirty years). There are still enough pitfalls in Hepperle's and Rainsong's approach that they'll fall into them if things are not legit.

But thanks, everybody, for playing...
As Bill alludes to, money seems to be a motivating factor for Mr. Rainsong as the only google references to his name are about making money at gambling. The other tidbit at google is a December 3rd Craigslist listing (since deleted and not cached by google) for "$10000.00 Reward - Wildlife Research Expedition". What is visible in google is

Dec 3, 2009 ... My name is Daniel Rainsong. The first thing I need to tell you about ... Daniel Rainsong. Location: Texas; Compensation: All expenses will ...

Hopefully we'll hear soon from Rainsong and/or Ivory-bill experts he is visiting.
Before making any predictions on this news.. why not just sit back and wait for the photos to be revealed to the public?? I know.. I know your hopes have been squashed a few times in the past but making predictions without even seeing the photos is just showing you have no hope for the survival of this species.

Then again news like this and your future posts about the photos will increase your blog traffic and possibly Tom Nelson blog too. LOL

Maybe some dude will make a short film on this news and put you in it like they did with Nelson.

Look at the positives.
Part 1 of 3 - I am Joe Hepperle, again. A little clarification. Apparently Bill Pulliam thinks that Joe Hepperle made this discovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. I'm fairly certain that I wrote that "... I wrote the Press Release...". In a way I can see how that could be misunderstood (by assuming) that somehow Joe Hepperle was a co-discoverer. I was not. I wrote the Press Release. Daniel Rainsong is the person who made this new discovery.

My comments on comments by others posted above:

Cyberthrush wrote, "...my own preliminary backchecks to the story don't lend it any credence and there are many red flags...".

I'm not sure what meager 'preliminary' check you did that, in your words, "...don't lend any credence...". There are seven people named in the Press Release. Three of them are not associated by address, affiliation, or any other contact information (Rainsong, Goldstein, Donaldson). So you probably didn't do your "preliminary check" with them. The four other individuals are associated with specific universities or government departments, meaning they are "findable" and preliminarily "researchable". Four ready-made 'sources' with which to start your "preliminary backchecks". Is that where you did your preliminary checks? Or did you only resort to the using the highly scientific "Google Test"? I'm guessing you gave it the Google test and reported Google's results as your results. I will tell you this-- at least one of those four knows who Daniel Rainsong is, and has heard of Project Indigo before the search. I have not just now written "only" one -- I wrote "at least" one. Additionally, I wrote clearly in my previous explanatory post (above) that if you (the blog owner) emailed me I would give you Rainsong's cell phone number. But you never emailed me. You had a special opportunity to talk to the man himself, to help the others on this blog with your reasoned judgement after talking to Rainsong. But you blew-off that straightforward offer to talk the man himself. Why?

As for your claim of "...many red flags...", might I suggest that really there is just one red flag (i.e. Cyberthrush doesn't know Daniel Rainsong)? Whatever other "red flags" you mysteriously cloak in the word "many" are simply a subset, and naturally follow from that one red flag (that you don't know Rainsong). Red flags such as Cyberthrush doesn't know what experience Rainsong has; Cyberthrush doesn't know how Rainsong knew where to look; Cyberthrush don't know if Rainsong is an NRA supporter who was out hunting turkeys when he snapped his pictures; Cyberthrush doesn't know if any other professionals were aware of Rainsong's project; Cyberthrush doesn't know if Rainsong's pictures show a clear red crest and clear white stripes along the back- or if it's just some smudgy, blurry, whitish blob way off in the distance. As a matter of fact, we're talking about all of the questions that Bill Pulliam puts forth above. You could have emailed me. You could have gotten Rainsong's cell phone number. You could have talked to the man himself. You could have answered most, if not all of Bill Pulliam's questions. But you didn't. Why?
Part 2 of 3
As for Bill Pulliam's comments--
It's hard to know where to start! Let's start here though. I did not make this discovery. I wrote the Press Release. When Rainsong was down in the wilderness, roughing it, I was snug and warm here in my house in Iowa (with two feet of snow out on the ground). When I wrote in my previous post to Google "Joe Hepperle", it wasn't for the purpose of establishing any "birding" credentials. Instead when you Google "Joe Hepperle" (and read stuff I've written) it helps one to quickly come to the conclusion that I'm not a bullshitter, I don't lie, I tell it straight, I don't pull any punches, I am a former Marine, I am the actual biological father of ten children (my oldest is 34, youngest is 5), each and every one of them with my last name and, like you Bill, my actual real name is on everything I write.

As you wrote in one of your posts, above, "...Joe Hepperle is a gadfly-of-all-trades, writing provocatively on a wide variety of subjects...". I'm pretty sure that's a compliment, right? I'm not sure about "gadfly", but I'll roll with that. I am reasonably intelligent -- one of those persons that knows a lot about a lot. I'm not the smartest man and I'm not the dumbest man. I write about what I know about; when I don't know something, I don't blither, blather or bullshit. If I know, I say it -- if I don't know, I say, "I don't know". Probably the most concise 'Joe Hepperle in a nutshell' is here http://wiki.answers.com/Q/User:Joe+Hepperle , but I'm all over the internet (subject-wise and writing-wise). Except you won't find me on the ufos-are-real.com website. You won't find me on the we-know-sasquatch-lives.com website. You won't find me on the cia-is-controlling-our-minds-with-secret-radio-waves.com website.

None of this means you have to believe that Dan Rainsong has successfully discovered and photographed a living Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. What it does mean is that the report gets 1 point of credibilty because Joe Hepperle wrote about it. Or to put it differently, one point of credibility against the possibility that this may be a hoax or fraud. My credibility is based on everything else that I've written, easily available by Googling "Joe Hepperle" and reading my "body of work". Again, the fact that I wrote the press release does not make it true, and it does not mean that Bill Pulliam has to believe that the events really happened. What it does mean is that the report gets at least 1 point of credibility that it may be true and the events described may have happened as described.

Steering back on track, Joe Hepperle did not discover and photograph the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker -- Daniel Rainsong did. Joe Hepperle wrote the Press Release. Your claim that no evidence whatsoever should be believed because Joe Hepperle (the press release writer) wrote the phrase "granola eater" is stupefyingly unbelievable. But then you (Bill Pulliam) further claim that no one is authorized to "discover" a living Ivory-Billed Woodpecker unless they are a birder known to you, or a conservationist known to you. Hopefully I am not the only one here who is offended by Bill's premise that the "standard of proof" is applied not to the evidence, but rather against who presents the evidence (i.e. only people in 'group A', known beforehand to Bill Pulliam, can make discoveries), and also, whether they offended Bill Pulliam by saying "granola eater". And by the way, when I wrote "granola eater" I wrote it as a descriptive term, not a derisive term.
Part 3of 3 (maybe 4)
At the risk of pissing-off Bill Pulliam even more, I think most everyone understood what I meant when I juxtaposed the "granola eating wildlife and wilderness" type against the "Daniel Boone wildlife and wilderness type". If a "granola eater" type of wildlife and wilderness person is in a tree, it's to stop the loggers from cutting it down. If a Daniel Boone type of wildlife and wilderness person is in a tree, it's to get the coon out so he can cook and eat it for supper (or maybe to get that picture of a living Ivory-Billed Woodpecker). If that characterization by me, Joe Hepperle, enrages you, I don't care. But to say that the photographic evidence that Daniel Rainsong (an individual person) claims that he has is "unacceptable" because Joe Hepperle (a different individual person) called you a "granola eating tree-hugger" is... is... is... over-sensitive? childish? immature? irrational? Good God, if Christopher Columbus were still alive and he called you a "lettuce muncher" would you then rant that his claim of discovery of the New World was now invalid because he "insulted" you? Or would you instead claim that his discovery of the New World was a faked hoax because he was after the riches that the discovery would bring him?

The press release was put out, not as the "proof" that a living Ivory-Billed Woodpecker had been found and photographed, but rather simply as notice that Daniel Rainsong says he has found a living specimen and he has photographed it in something clearer and closer than some vague, smudgy, white blob far off in the distance.

To those who posted here with the general idea that Rainsong says he is taking the pictures to the proper people to be examined, and let's wait and see what they have to say, Joe Hepperle says, "Kudos to you". That's the way this works. The first tier of experts examines the evidence and determines if it meets the base standard for further investigation. If it doesn't pass the first tier, then end of story. But if it does pass the first tier, then the second tier of experts will look at it, and so on, until it is finally either accepted or thrown out.

To be skeptical is good. To say you'll "believe it" when you see it is okay. But to be summarily dismissive because the person is "not in your group", or the person didn't "ask your permission first" or the person didn't "knock on your door first" is inappropriate. The proper stand right now is to hold-off on any judgement or premature accusation of fraud until the other experts have weighed in.

Joe Hepperle

P.S. to Bill Pulliam again, over here, http://bbill.blogspot.com/2009/12/joe-lieberman-is-filthy-hypocritical.html you've engaged in "real" derisive name-calling against Joe Lieberman. Now I don't like Joe Lieberman any more than you apparently do. But by your standard claimed here on this blog, we aren't supposed to believe any of your claims or accusations against Joe Lieberman because you've derisively called him a name? Am I interpreting the "Bill Pullman Standard of Proof" correctly?
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