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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.

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"....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, February 23, 2010


-- Other Angles --


Some emailers continue to ask why there would be such a delay in settling this matter, unless there is in fact something to Rainsong's claims? I don't know the answer... but until the silence lifts, s'pose I can keep speculatin':

Cornell, as I understand it, is trying to reach consensus on the Rainsong case with the various reviewers from Arkansas, Louisiana, Iowa, Ithaca, and Jackson in Florida (and for all I know maybe others are involved at this point). The sheer bureaucracy of it no doubt accounts for some of the sloth --- personally, I'd rather actually see a dozen independent opinions expressed, but no they seem to prefer manufactured unanimity. There is always the possibility that given what they have they simply can't "prove" fraud, and can't "prove" the photo'd bird to be an IBWO, so are left lacking enough substance to pursue the claims, but also lacking enough hard first-hand evidence to prove a hoax either.
Or, could be that just 1 or 2 reviewers are holding out for more information/analysis and unwilling to completely diss the Sabine claims just yet, stalling any unanimity. It is unfortunate that a rebuke of Rainsong's story may tend to paint (and taint) anyone coming forth with sightings from the Sabine (or even searching there), with a broad brush, even though the Sabine Basin is a perfectly legitimate area to look for Ivory-bills.

When Steve Sheridan forged an "Ivory-bill" photo in southern Illinois, his lame excuse for doing so was that he was so confident of the species' presence there (and he cared sooo much for IBWOs) that he felt justified doing anything to get the attention of authorities who weren't taking his claims seriously.
I don't think Daniel Rainsong cares a twit about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, but I think he does care a lot about $10,000 checks, and so in another scenario, it could even be that Rainsong genuinely thinks he has seen IBWOs in the Sabine area on earlier trips, and felt justified committing a hoax to get the money he might truly believe he deserves. Indeed, it raises the whole issue of what happens 6 months or a year from now, if another individual actually were to document the presence of IBWOs in the Sabine River Basin --- does Rainsong suddenly become a hero or birding martyr of sorts, in retrospect (even with no evidence that his own photos were real)??? As a blogger I don't feel the constraints of all the nuances and what-ifs that Cornell might be fully working through before releasing any statement; they may simply be exploring every conceivable scenario...

Finally, is it possible authorities are actively pursuing legal charges against Rainsong, and taking time to assemble full documentation toward that end? (as one emailer notes, if it is indeed fraud, there are interstate aspects to this that could make it a Federal case, with serious consequences)... I just don't know. OR hey, maybe nothing is at it seems to me, and Cornell is actually preparing to declare that there is at least one male IBWO, we'll call him Elvis II, loose along the Sabine River!
I think you're imagining a little too much about what Cornell might be doing here. We have an official responsibility to participate in an expert review of Ivory-bill claims and to present those results to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - that's not "manufactured unanimity," it's just us doing our job.

I sympathize with your impatience to hear something "official" but it also seems somewhat beside the point. From your previous post you seem to have heard many details yourself, and you leave no doubt that you've made up your own mind about Rainsong's claims.

So what's left? I imagine what you (and the rest of us) would really like to see is the photos themselves. Unfortunately our hands are tied in that regard, as those photos are owned by Rainsong and only he has the right to disseminate them.
Hi Hugh, thanks for the input; I respect your desire to defend your employer! But I've preached "patience" myself for most of the last 5 yrs., and bent over backwards trying to give Cornell the benefit-of-the-doubt on much of their work, but yes, I'm at the end of that patience -- their public communications on this saga have been miserable and embarrassing for five yrs.; as if they were reporting to 10-year-olds, instead of other birders and scientists. They seem to exist in a bubble of their own making, oblivious to the snickers directed at their efforts.
They would've done themselves and the birding community a greater service by releasing far more preliminary or progress reports and details along the way (including on this latest episode), even if they had to issue corrections later. And some such reports could've assisted those independents still in the field searching now (assuming ANYthing of significance has been learned in the last 5 yrs. to pass along).
Maybe they need a major shake-up at the top at this point. Many of us grew up decades ago revering the Lab of Ornithology, but I for one can no longer take on faith anything they have to say scientifically... and that's very sad (the quality of their work may or may not be good; it's simply impossible to tell from their shallow public correspondence of it).
"I for one can no longer take on faith anything they have to say scientifically"

I'm sorry, but what the %$&*^@# are you talking about? Do you equate the Ivorybill work with the entirety of the Cornell Lab? It is only one project out of a long and varied history of academic work, public outreach, and citizen science. You REALLY need to give yourself a major reality shakeup and get reminded of the actual place of the dispute about one species (of 9000 ) involving only a portion of the research of a handful of PIs in the larger picture of ornithology, amateur science, wildlife biology, and international conservation work.

Excuse me, but I have some eBird reports to review, after I check out some Smith's Longspur recordings at the Macaulay Library and examine the spectrograms in Raven Viewer... all of which are provided me FREE OF CHARGE in the comfort of my own house 24 hours a day with just a few mouse clicks by those incompetent folks at the CLO.
I do equate the Ivorybill "work" with the entirety of the Cornell lab, at least in the sense that the so-called "work" shows that Cornell can't be trusted to be impartial, unbiased, realistic, grounded, sensible, sane, and truly scientific in their methods and procedures.

None of the so-called evidence of an Ivorybill still existing is verifiable or credible. Absolutely none.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

This whole situation is a black mark on science and the pursuit of reality. Fitzpatrick, and anyone else who believes that the so-called evidence is convincing, is deluded.

No one wants to see that Ivorybills still exist more than I do but I live in reality, not fantasyland.
Needless to say I believe there is "credible" evidence for IBWO, but we can go 'round and 'round on that forever.
As for Cornell, my beef is not so much with their "work," as with their communication of their work, which has been so poor, I believe, as to make it impossible to judge (or trust) that work. Moreover, it has allowed skeptics to repeatedly say that "nothing has been accomplished in 5 yrs." or "no evidence of IBWO has been found in 5 yrs." These are over-reaching generalizations, but easily issue from the lack of timely, detailed, specific summary reports/updates from officials.
I don't agree that they're "over-reaching generalizations". There is NO evidence that IBWOs still exist. Blurry videos and personal claims are not evidence.

Wishing and wanting won't make IBWOs real. The over-reaching is being done by the people who are claiming that the bird does exist, based on blurry video and personal claims of seeing or hearing it.

I saw Bigfoot having lunch with the Loch Ness Monster yesterday at a Burger King. You believe me, don't you? I'm sure I have some blurry video or still pictures around here somewhere to prove it.

I should write a book about it and go on a lecture tour. Yeah, that's the ticket. I should cash in on it. I could probably easily get Cornell to verify my sighting. Once they're onboard, all the environmental organizations and the federal government will vouch for my sighting too. I'll be famous and rich!!!
sorta like the famous and rich folks who say men have landed on the moon, huhh (but got nuthin' but blurry videos and human claims to support it).
The videos and still pictures from the moon missions are far from blurry, and there's a mountain of actual evidence to prove that men did go there.

To compare the evidence of the moon missions to the so-called evidence of the existence of an IBWO is absurd beyond belief.

At your age I would think you would know better. You were alive when the moon missions took place. Do you actually believe they were faked?

Show me just ONE piece of real evidence that an IBWO exists. One feather. One nest. One clear picture. One clear video. One egg. One dead bird. ANYTHING!

Hearsay and blurry videos are NOT evidence. The only thing behind all the alleged sightings is self promotion by and for the people who allegedly saw an IBWO.

The so-called scientists who are involved are doing the same thing. They're trying to promote themselves and enhance their status and careers.

Why do you think Cornell hasn't yet released their findings on the photos? Think for a minute. Have you figured it out yet?

Want a clue? How about something along the lines of covering their asses for jumping the gun, and finding a way to keep the search going and the funding coming in, and making themselves out to be the preeminent experts on the subject who are the only ones privy to special data and secret photos, and making it look as though they're doing in depth analysis of the photos and soliciting analysis from other reknowned (cough, cough) IBWO experts, and writing up a lengthy scientific (cough, gag) report on the so-called evidence to make it look like they actually know something, which they DON'T.

The only people who ever knew anything about IBWOs are all dead. All the current self appointed "experts" are just wannabes, conjuring up and promoting fake crap to con gullible suckers.

This is no different than the Bigfoot and UFO stuff. A bunch of self proclaimed experts who don't know a damn thing and can't prove ANYTHING.

I want IBWOs to still exist, but there's NO proof of any kind that they still do. This whole situation will destroy credibility in science and will cause problems in future pursuits of rare organisms, especially with funding and getting public support.

Crying wolf will not help conservation or nature in any way. As with UFO and Bigfoot 'reseachers' (barf, choke, gag) all the *IBWOs still exist because we have four seconds of horrible video and worthless hearsay to prove it* touters are looking more and more like a bunch of wacko lunatics who will say and do anything to get their name in print and make some easy money from suckers.

It's no wonder that so many people believe in gods and unicorns and ghosts and dragons and flying saucers and all the other BS, since many scientists are just as in-credible and promote their own fantasies and selfish agendas in the name of 'science'.

This situation is one of the worst examples of 'science' that I've ever seen.
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