"....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.”
"All truth passes through 3 stages: First it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer
Saturday, April 03, 2010
-- April Comes --
April is typically the last major month of the IBWO search season. And I don't see much on the horizon yielding more hope for this season than previous ones. Indeed, in the last 5 years the only specific evidence I've seen (including things not made public) I place much weight in still comes from the original Big Woods and Choctawhatchee claims... and of course, skeptics wouldn't ascribe much weight to those. There's plenty of other tentative evidence out there (as there has been for 60+ years), just nothing very persuasive to me pointing to a really specific locale.
The greatest chance of documenting Ivory-bills (at the level people are demanding), continues to be by finding a nesthole, which can only happen if some breeding pairs (and not just dispersing juveniles and single birds) remain. Where could such pairs be breeding? I'm not convinced Cornell or USFWS will ever compile and issue a summary report really focused on the question.
My own view (trying to hone things down) is that the Auburn group did a good enough job in the Choctawhatchee and Mike Collins has done a good enough job in the Pearl that there would be either better documentation or increased sightings by now if breeding birds resided in those particular locales (just my opinion). Similarly, Texas' Big Thicket and South Carolina habitat have been well-enough covered over a period of 6 decades that I believe the probability remaining for those areas is low as well, though the habitat is vast. (Mind you, lone or dispersing birds might show up briefly in any of these areas.) Given the size of Arkansas' Big Woods and the limitations of the 5-year search there I still hold out some slim hope for it, and even moreso for less-traveled parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida with interconnecting suitable habitat and fewer man-hours spent. Western Tennessee continues to intrigue as well (if only due to few man-hours spent), even if seeming a real longshot. Plenty of also-ran-areas still out there in other states too, but pickins are gettin' sllim for those with higher probability. It is ashame that after 5 years the search for Ivory-bills seems as disparate and diffuse as ever, instead of focused into a couple of hotzones, but then the species' original distribution, even while limited and sparse, was always widely scattered.
As Yogi would say, 'it's not over 'til it's over,' but I'm not expecting this search season to end with much solid news to grasp. In which case it could be a long, hot, slow summer ahead. Having said that, it's always possible for a single photo/video to change everything on a moment's notice. I just wish, after the last 5 years, we had stronger clues where it might come from.