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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

Monday, February 22, 2010


-- The Photos --


Soon another 100+ birders who were sitting on the fencepost over the possibility of Ivory-bill existence may throw up their hands in exasperation and join the ranks of skeptics; such is the unfortunate impact of cases like this. And the evidence bar (already high) required for inexperienced or unknown birders who want to turn in claims will be just that much further out of reach, but so it goes... That's why some of us have no patience whatsoever for the likes of hoaxes, as I for one, believe we have here.

The entire background/credibility of Daniel "Rainsong" is alone enough to call this story into serious question (UNDERstatement), but I won't even delve into that for now. The complete lack of transparency in having a blood relative post a "news-release" containing inaccuracies on a hokey news website, and involving your own sister in the same story, are more huge red flags, but I won't spend time on those details here either. Nor does planning to write a book, before you even have acquired solid material to write about, bode well. And finding an Ivory-bill to photograph within 10 days of setting out, when others have spent years looking, is damn fine luck. In short, everything that surrounds this story is crap-assy from the get-go, but since a lot of people seem only (and foolhardily) interested in Rainsong's photos, that's what I'll address at the moment.

My understanding is based on various sources whose information I trust, and who have generally been consistent, but if anyone believes any details wrong, feel free to say so:

Out of a great many photos (and videotape) taken, Rainsong turned in but two pics as the sole examples showing the bird in question; ALL other (before, after, intermittent) photos of the area conveniently discarded along the way, before any review. The bird bears some markings (and size) consistent with male Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and other features (shortish bill and tail) not consistent, but basically is too unclear for definitive identification. But the real question is not what the bird is, but rather is it even a living bird at all? I would argue the posture of the bird has changed little in the two pics (some may feel it has changed much more), and yet the pics are determined to have been taken more than 3 MINUTES APART (...do you understand how much a bird typically moves in THREE &$%#@!! MINUTES!!! --- count out 180 seconds), despite Rainsong initially claiming that the pics were taken 5 seconds apart! (...just a teensy discrepancy... NOTTTT!!!). This alone spoils/destroys/annhilates his storyline (for me), but when added to WHO was present at the time he took the pics, and why his first travelmate departed early, and his clear central focus on monetary reward, and why he never led other searchers to the site, and his stated intention to write a book before any pics were ever taken, and his lack of birding experience or knowledge, and unwillingness to publicly release the photos, and... well nevermind, you get the idea... this story isn't resting on quicksand, it's sliding around on donkey puke, and someone more official than this blogger ought to say it (in their own tepid words). There are multiple ways of positioning a painted decoy at the crotch of a tree... but there's one requirement for photographing a living Ivory-billed Woodpecker: it has to be there. I believe the photos show a painted decoy, possibly blowing in the wind, perhaps on a rope pulley system, and that ought clearly be the null hypothesis until shown otherwise... and I doubt that showing otherwise is within the realm of possibility.

I trust my sources, my own research, and my conclusions, but sure there's always the possibility that they're all wrong. Until someone can demonstrate that (or, that humans never walked on the moon), I don't believe Mr. Rainsong saw or photographed an Ivory-billed Woodpecker (or any other bird for that matter). I don't believe Mr. Rainsong, period. I think we likely have a clearcut case of fraud for money (by someone essentially already charged with such in other matters in the state of Iowa). That's my belief as we await with baited breath to hear what folks in Ithaca, NY believe.
In the meantime, maybe some real work can yet get accomplished in Arkansas, or Louisiana, or Florida, or Tennessee... Good luck to the real searchers still out there, trying to accomplish things the old-fashioned way... honestly.

If fraud is proven in this case (we all know the elements are there), does anyone know if this guy Danny Crook-ett Rainsong can be brought up on charges?

This has come up before, and I'm not a lawyer and shouldn't play one on this blog ;-), but generally in bird hoaxes the central figure is given a slap on the wrist and sent home. I don't know if anyone has the stomach or time to press a legal case, BUT the one major difference here is that if it is shown to be fraud FOR MONEY (and no small sum at $10-50,000!), perhaps a legal case would go forward (for all I know that could even explain the delay in any word coming from authorities thus far).
Rainsong is already under theft charges in other matters, and I've also been told of a smaller suit recently filed against him as well, which actually is related to his IBWO story.
Will it be possible to actually see the pictures?
Again, I keep having to repeat this: Mr. Rainsong legally owns the photos and is the only one who can publicly release them -- I have doubts it will ever be done.
I have NOT myself seen the 'raw' photos; I have only seen what I can only call very closely-related or abridged material, and more significantly received detailed descriptions of the photos from others who have directly seen them.
If CT is right ---the pictures are obviously inconclusive as to whether its a model/decoy or real bird ----- than the reviewers might consider making a preliminary statement confirming that soon. Some of CTs concerns are valid although the way he addressed those concerns was reactionary.

Most of those that CT is upset with only wanted the evidence looked at rather than ignored.

On general evidence review procedures, there have been some misconceptions that bloggers have tried to force upon this swampy world:: That truth is found by only looking at the persons credentials, and if tainted, the alleged evidence is presumptively discarded without a review of said evidence. This is wrong. The two separate parameters, credentials and actual evidence are intrinsically meshed.

From minute one some have never considered the quickest and simplest conclusionary, review method (look at the pixs) and they have had a minor contribution to this getting too much attention. Rain/Hep. of course are by far the main contributors.

CT is still being his usual vague self with his minimalist description of what exact field marks are shown in the pictures. He is still failing to accept that a good review of putative evidence, is necessary, important and inherent to proper review. I can't say whether I have seen or not seen the pixs.

Some have always attempted to rush or create shortcuts in the scientific review process. Although in this case their intentions were good their actions and urgings were naive, illogical, ill-fated and ill-conceived.

In the authoritative writings of evidence review you will not be directed to ignore putative evidence (e.g., 2 pictures) when the presenter has little credibility (Rainsong). The body of pertinent literature directs one to look at the evidence but be highly critical when fraud is a distinct possibility.

One only needed to show the pixs are of ambiguous source; this push to show fraud was a blunder and an unneccesary (at this stage) complication.

As far as CTs attempted promulgation of a Caste System when it come to Joe Public's presentation of pictures, he is again making up rules. If an artist (DS) comes in with pictures at the same time as Joe Public's does than the pictures are looked at contemporaneously and the best quality pixs are further researched. As soon as possible the second set of pixs should be researched if also worthy as far as number of field marks and/or elimination of confusing species and/or not a decoy.

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