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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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


-- "Reeks" --


....That was the word used by Bill Pulliam in a comment below (prior post) to characterize the recent storyline being peddled, and... I concur. Don't really want to get into all the specific problems with the alleged report (although commenters have already pointed to a few), and it's even possible that future details could abate some of those problems, but for now haven't found ANYthing to lend favorable weight to the reported claims. I've been a tad restrained, simply because, as Bill himself acknowledges, it is always possible that someone very naive about the whole Ivory-bill situation and naive about scientific evidence and communication, could stumble upon the real goods, and then produce this sort of amateurish public output... just not very likely.
Like to believe it's a simple case of sincere mis-identification, but indications I gather thus far point toward outright fraud possibly with the hope of monetary reward (even though I believe all outstanding IBWO rewards are for leading investigators to a live bird, NOT just producing photographic evidence)... could be a hoax of multiple people, or a single individual suckering others in. Will be glad to change my tune as soon as someone produces substantial-enough details to clear doubts (...or, if Jerry Jackson sends me an email saying the pics are the real deal ;-).

As far as authenticating the purported photos, a source I trust but who prefers anonymity, writes as follows:
"....Fortunately, software exists that can be used to authenticate photos; several scientific journals actually employ the software to confirm whether results--such as photos of DNA or protein electrophoresis gels--have been enhanced or altered. The editors of the journal SCIENCE would probably be the best source to inquire of details, but NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC likely uses this software as well. If the images were created in RAW format, they might be valid without authentication; some wildlife photographers use this approach because magazines like NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC want clean, original material."
Of course this just means that alteration of photos may well be detectable by modern means; it does not rule out the possibility of a well-done model being posed in a setting to look very real in photo-capture.

Finally THIS rather odd, intriguing tidbit, that an emailer (thanks FW) calls to my attention: Daniel Rainsong hails from Iowa, attending Iowa State Univ. in the '80s. In 1979 (as reported in Jerry Jackson's book), a student stole a female Ivory-bill specimen from the University of Iowa and it was never recovered! (...is that Twilight Zone music I hear in the background?)

I suspect this story may have legs for a week or two, and then bye-bye... (well, at least another interesting study in human behavior).

(For those who think Bill, or I, sound too negative or in too much of a rush-to-judgment, it is simply because these sideshow episodes that go nowhere do so much damage to the thin thread of hope that still remains for this bird, especially among fence-post sitters who are running out of reasons not to side with the skeptics. Mis-identifications are bad enough, but at least understandable; hoaxes, should this turn out to be one, are beyond the pale.)
Frankly, I continue to be amazed that there haven't been more attempts at fakery. Focusing on digital manipulation misses the point. Such methods are the last thing I would resort to if I were to attempt fraud.

Many lay people seem to be under the impression that a few reasonably clear shots of an ivory-bill will let them write their own ticket. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even the posted $10,000 reward is only for images that will lead qualified researchers to a bird they can see for themselves. Ultimately, the media are going to look to authorities for validation, and the authorities are going to say that there is simply no way to be sure that a few photos, no matter how convincing, aren't faked. At the risk of underestimating the charlatans of the world, I would venture that anyone who thinks they are going to cash in on such evidence is deluding themselves.
@ Cyberthrush:

You're sinking further and further each post into extreme unprofessionalism. Dan Rainsong attended ISU in the 1980's, not the 1970's. In 1979 Dan Rainsong was standing guard at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Columbia as a Marine Security Guard in the United States Marine Corps. Your extreme unprofessionalism of throwing around accusations, slurs and innuendo is improper. Weak claims that you'll change your tune if your "proven wrong" does not help one bit after you've dragged his name through the mud. It would be like me saying a bunch of bad things about your father or your mother, and then thinking all the besmirching is "okay" because if you prove me wrong, I'll then "change my tune". Are you a professional? Get ahold of yourself.

Joe Hepperle
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