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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

Thursday, August 26, 2010


-- A Viewpoint From Arkansas --


Joe Neal posts today on the Arkansas birding listserv (a view shared by many):

The inevitable follow-up, here, from Gary Graves, curator of birds at the Smithsonian. The whole post is worth a read, though I'm sure arguments can always be made.
The only argument I would make regarding that post is to express my dismay at a disgraceful insult to the excellent scientists at the USFWS, Chuck Hunter in particular. To characterize their even-handed, genuinely skeptical analyses as "political cover" is beyond the pale. Much of the post is spin worthy of the likes of Tom Nelson.
Not endorsing Graves' view, but it is probably the majority view (not just Gary's) at this point; and again I'll harp that the fault for that perception lies with CLO, USFW, Nature Cons. and their inadequate communications over the last 5 yrs.
CLO's supposed report to be issued next yr. will similarly be met with a yawn and cynical rolling of eyes in most quarters and they should realize that ahead of time.
I'll happily endorse Graves' view

"The consensus is overwhelming ...there is no unequivocal data (e.g., photo, video, audio recordings) to document the presence of living Ivory-bills in the USA during the past 60 years.

...None of the thousands of leads resulted in a documented record."

That seems entirely accurate to me, unless someone can point us to an unequivocal documented record?
The AAS bird records committee should take the next step and list the species as "extinct, no documented records during the past century."

I don't think that's a majority view. Instead, it's the view of someone with a bone to pick. Why would any reasonable person be in a hurry to declare this bird extinct?

But his comments are a keeper, like these, to be used in the future when presenting the Unbelievably Arrogant Asshat awards.
Graves' post is a bit snarky, but I believe the original post was rather spinful, since he mentioned the Florida (Choc.) sightings but fails to mention that they were not accepted by the Florida Ornithological Records Committee, and the vote was unanimous. That, to me, is disingenuous--trumpet the positive vote of one state committee, but neglect to mention the other.

I like the concept of the Arrogant ...-Hat Award (AAHA). I'm wondering if there is a time-limit for awarding it to any of the skeptic crowd. (Five years is not long enough?)
I'm also wondering if any the original Cornell team, or the Ivory-bill folks at Auburn, are eligible for nomination. I'd like to be on the awards committee, if one is organized in the future!
If I am correct, and correct me if I am wrong, but if a sighting, video, sound recording, is written about or kept with proper headings (i.e. location, time, and so on and so forth) then isn't it already documented? Not that I don't have any respect for Mr. Graves, but I think it is unfair for him to say that there have been no documented records in the past century, or say disrespect the USFWS and other agencies. There have been plenty of documented records in the past century, the greatest being Tanner's sightings, and Dennis's sightings, and now those, in my opinion, of Mike Collins, Project Coyote, and Geof Hill's team. There ARE plenty of sightings and recordings and videos to be able to say that the IBWO is alive. I agree with Joe Neal, that not all the gathered evidence is IBWO, but not all of it isn't IBWO. That seems the more likely scenario. As for those over at the USFWS, they should not be criticized for doing their jobs, and it is not like they are doing a bad, or, biased job, they are being as fair as they could with what they had to work with, for many of us the evidence gathered is sufficient evidence but for many more others it is not sufficient, of course I do believe that if many skeptics spent two months time, or more, in a swamp nonstop, looking for an IBWO I think they would feel the same struggles we feel when we look for the bird and perhaps give more respect to what the searchers do and the evidence they gather.
Prior to 2005, I have little doubt that a sighting record like the Gallagher/Harrison one would have been accepted by the larger community. Two experienced birders saw the bird at the same time, were positive about what they saw, and independently took notes after the encounter. That is indeed a "documented record." There has never been a plausible suggestion for what these two men saw other than an ivory-bill. Of course for people like Sibley there doesn’t need to be. Gallagher and Harrison are the ones making the “claim” and only the “claimants” need to provide anything substantive. Then Sibley proceeded to raise the bar with vague requirements like "well seen.” In fairness, I suppose it is inevitable that the bar is raised over time for sight records of bird rarities. Birding has become a sport, and in any sport there are cheaters. But that is a big source of the conflict. I don’t approach the issue like a birder and I’m not interested in birding’s “rules for rarities.” I approach it scientifically and as a scientist I am required to come up with a viable working hypothesis for all of the evidence I have seen.
When birders talk about a documented record, they mean one where field notes were taken at the time of the observation detailing the salient points that identify a bird and the notes were them submitted to the relevant committee, which then assessed the record and found it to be acceptable or not proven / rejected. These days photos / video are often submitted along with notes and the large majority of extreme rarities are multi-observed by several competent, field-proven birders.

I am very surprised you don't know this, especially if you are attempting to 'document' the IBWO. It's standard practice for birders.
I am still fairly young and learning. I also don't live in an area in which I can look for an IBWO although I am doing searches for Bachman's Warbler. I know that notes are to be taken, but I din't know that they had to be submitted to a committee. If a good quality video or photo was taken, would notes still have to come along with it when presented to the community?
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