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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


-- Small Update --


Not much new, just passing along (on a more positive note) the slim reference given to the Sabine River area in the 2007 "Draft Recovery Plan" for IBWO, where one relatively recent claim is briefly noted (although still 25 years ago):

"Apparently a family group (4-5 birds, including young) seen in 1985 along Toledo Bend Reservoir shoreline several miles north of Pendleton Bridge in compartment 101 of Sabine National Forest. Observer interviewed by Conner, extensive scaling evident in area, otherwise no independent confirmation."

My impression is that this would be well north of the current claim, but not sure about that.
As best I understand it, Rainsong will meet with certain principals at the end of this week to show his photos. If the photos are at all interesting, I imagine the numbers of those privy to them will expand and involve conference calling etc. and drag the process out considerably (more than my 1-2 wk. guesstimate). If they clearly show Pileated birds or obvious tampering than maybe we'll hear something sooner.

I probably won't be emailing Rainsong myself any time soon (my list of questions would be too long!), but if anyone else emails him or other principals and care to share any response they get let me know.

Otherwise, carry on.... (will likely be away from computer Thur. from ~7am to 3pm)
A good LA person was involved early.

The sightings & evidence have some interest from my point of view; I was contacted in a professional manner by the researcher, et al. Naturally, there are some concerns.

2 pxs of one bird depict or don’t:

white wing patch yes
dorsal stripe y
bill y
red crest y
black stripe on edge of crest when zoomed
black chin no

The bird is suspected of being an imm. male, (short tail). Having a short tail many months after fledging, is odd. After 3 1/2 months, post fledging, imm. tails are reported to be the same as the adult (Tanner, pg70).I recall no historical Sep-Nov fledgling records to establish an explanation.

Regardless, if this is or isn't a young bird the "no population viability" claims of many are baseless. Putative sightings of the sp., with many pairs of birds reported associating with one another, along with no reports of outer morphological anomalies, indicates at least some presently viable, small populations.

Any basic calculation of the hypothetical, inbreeding coefficient with N >14 birds, 75 years ago, results in an increased, but not catastrophic IC.

Possible pop. size and habitat information were related along with other things.

tks FAV
On general picture video evidence, curious how those involved at some level in the Sheridan fiasco have performed the 360 deg. turn around to dismiss pixs almost out of hand when that episode went on for so long with no caution. Some seem to have gone from being involved with a weak evidentiary review "initiative" then, to now calling for putting up their hands and declaring it's close to impossible to clarify SLR data. Please share details about the best available photo-shop detection methods that you infer are hopelessly weak...and that you may have learned recently, no doubt the harsh education process necessitated by Sheridan.

My conversations with experts infer that Canon., Nikon, etc. have some models by design, confirming image tampering if it has occurred. There are also commonly various synergisms of many cameras and software that make it near impossible to tamper with a file without someone capable, being able to know about it.

With other commonly used SLRs, if you have the exact camera and a manufacturers, pertinent technical rep you would have a high chance of detecting phshopping.

A call to a degreed photographer/videographer who checked over 40 articles on the subject and who then reached out to other experts related the following:

a) see the camera details above
b) there are multiple and sophisticated ways to check for tampering
c) succeeding in fooling experts can only be done by an expert in many technical disciplines and even then success is exceedingly rare if one employs the right reviewer.

So on the pragmatic side, one needs a very deep technical knowledge of complex disciplines to have a chance of pulling off a forgery successfully.

For example experts with the following skills listed say they can detect manipulation of the sort we are discussing here:::

A very deep knowledge of the use of Photoshop and other digital imaging programs to manipulate photographs.

I am able to use my skills as a Photoshop expert to often tease out and make visible details in an image which exist but which are not discernible, including evidence of alteration.

The ability to examine digital files for tampering including retouching or compositing by detecting imperfections left from manipulation that are invisible to the naked eye.

Through the examination of the photographic file I can often determine whether the image was taken when a witness says it was, etc.etc,. END

It's best not to go down the road traveled by Sibley et al., 5 years ago. Pretending to be experts on a technical subject is wrong, the owner of any actual IBWO, Sabine pixs should seek the right file interpretation help besides birders and not go by what anyone says on this blog..... or Jackson or another skeptic or believer here, or me.

This is the US; until one can articulate, a valid reason to accuse someone of willful, premeditated, gross photo forgery/fraud ("its happened before" doesn't meet those standards) I would tread more discreetly. A rude hello is quite polar to the treatment some prominent skeptics get here, who even after they have shown their dubious and careless proclivities, are placed in perpetually elevated positions.

The Sabine River researchers are new to the scene and may have worked as volunteers on a noble cause. Its neighborly to invite them in until and if they track mud around. Nice to assume they are guilty of nothing but dedicated field work.

It's agreed that those seeking pix evidence should seek out the correct cameras with engineered, tamper proof capabilities, or short of that be familiar with file safeguarding, staying in raw mode (maybe JPG mode also) and keep an excellent ChainOC as Bill P, suggested.

Regardless of the limited good that comes from a real photo, there were always better ways to pursue the IBWO. Standard or novel ways to radio a bird should have been done years ago. The bird has flown near, over and around, scores of us.........with no net gain.

tks Fred Virrazzi
Fred, you are absolutely right that discretion is in order. To my way of thinking, discretion in this context means realizing that there is simply no way to establish that a few images, taken with whatever camera, aren't faked. All of the digital safeguards in the world will not protect us from a good model-maker. I do not suggest that any images, particularly those purported to be from well within the known range, should be ignored. Far from it. I simply suggest that a rapid series of frames or video showing movement would be far more convincing.
Re: the Sheridan episode, the fraud was exposed quite quickly once the evidence was put on the internet for full debate (after limited individuals had contemplated it for a year). Similarly, Collins' last evidence was resolved fairly quickly because of Mike's generous use of the 'Net for discussion of his material.
In the event that initial investigators of Rainsong's pics find them at all intriguing or credible, I hope they will release as much evidence as possible to the Web (and not just cloister themselves together, while their day jobs limit the amount of time they can spend on the issue), where the matter will likely rapidly resolve with robust (if not always civil) discussion. Open access is the wave of the future; those who ignore it are living with the science of the 60's.
I still believe an adequate grilling of Rainsong can probably get to the bottom of this story in 2 hrs., but if not, then full Web inquiry can almost certainly arrive at the truth in a timely matter; and time is of the essence.
Hello Fang, your comments on many subthemes are often strong. Your knowledge and support of the Ivory-billed important.

On bird models, SLRs are powerful tools and many of us have thousands of pixs of birds and I have hundreds of Picidae including Campephilus. I generously call myself a learner..........yet the majority of my pixs are determinable as things with warm blood in them.

They are discernable as real animals because you can see some feather groups, individual feathers, proper contours, 100% correct mophological ratios, correct gis, and/or can see by the sequential pictures collection that this bird was a moving biological entity. Old specimens, placed on trees will rarely if ever past muster as being real in this situation. (Despite CT and FWs hollywood construct of the stolen Ohio skin).

Pixs before and after the actual bird shots are also probably necessary evidence if the bird pixs are not sufficiently resolved. If one of us happened to get a few pixs of an IBWO in a tree, and it then flew I expect we would have in confirmable sequence, defintitly subsequent and perhaps prior pixs of the subject tree from ever more distant points and differnt angles. Shadow tracks can not be covered up if one is staging models over time periods.

All of the above review could determine fraud or in the gray area determine that pixs are of an ambiguous source. Those are fair and potential conclusions AFTER the pixs/evidence are examined.

Your statement is conclusionary BEFORE the pixs or all evidence is examined. Thats not how science works and is by defintion wrong since many pictures of birds are determinable to a living source.
You are saying that any short sequence of pixs of an IBWO are next to useless, at least as evidince. Its not true.

>>>realizing that there is simply no way to establish that a few images, taken with whatever camera, aren't faked.<<<

You are projecting your experiences onto the whole set and range of pictures and evidence quality. You have worked with limited field reconyx cameras and have gotten use to IBWOs fleeng at 150 feet to yards. Someone using an SLR with some luck, staged at a feeding tree, or roost, can get close pixs of high quality.

Please do not condemn unseen evidence or take cameras out of everyones hands as 100% useless.

Funny thing is that fundamentally I have always thought the camera and picture chase was not the best way to do this but never did I call it fatally and completely flawed.

Sorry if I parsed out your words...realize that you may have only been talking about a presentation of ~ 2 low resolution pixs............but you didn't write it that way.

CT I need to prepare a bird talk but may respond to your thoughts later, have a good day......

Thanks Fred
I certainly don't mean to discourage the use of SLR's, either film or digital, for ivory-bill documentation. I merely STRONGLY urge that anyone using such a device for this purpose not fail to keep it in rapid multiple frame mode. A series of frames showing movement, even if somewhat out of focus, is far more convincing in my view than a single "clear" shot, or 2 shots taken at disparate times, even if the bird is in different poses.
Thanks Fred for injecting some sanity into this thread.

Joe Hepperle
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