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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 28, 2011


-- Harrison Recalls... and So Does Caroline Martin --


On the anniversary (yesterday) of his and Tim Gallagher's 2004 sighting, Bobby Harrison posts this recounting of his IBWO sightings to date:


...and a reader sends me this link to a 9-min. video on the Ivory-bill, from Arkansas middle-school student Caroline Martin:


(...some small errors, but great job overall from Caroline!!)

Addendum: Additionally, here's a generally upbeat newspaper piece from long-time birder Jim Williams:


Friday, February 25, 2011


-- Slow News Day.... --


Could be several slow news days (weeks, months???) ahead, from an Ivory-bill-standpoint....

About 2/3 of the interview forms I sent out 3 months ago still haven't trickled back (again, a THANK YOU to those who did respond!), so I'll throw things open a little wider (for a possible better percentage return), by asking if there are any who have been involved in the ivory-bill saga over the last several years who would like to be interviewed for posterity ;-) ?

I'm looking primarily for folks (optimists OR skeptics) who meet 1 of the following 2 criteria:

1) You have a name or 'internet handle,' associated with the Ivory-bill story, that will be recognizable to readers, who may thus have interest in your views or information.


2) You have been integrally involved with the official Ivory-bill search in some capacity and believe you have information or opinions worth offering, even if your name is not widely known (you can remain anonymous if you wish) --- IF this is the case, and I have not communicated with you in the past, you will need to offer some sort of evidence that you are who you say you are, and have had the involvement you claim to have (also, realize it may be difficult to guarantee full anonymity, given the questions I might want to pose in an interview).

Any takers? ...drop me a line at: cyberthrush@gmail.com

...can't promise I'll interview all that respond (depends how many, if any, there are, and how much overlap or redundancy they might represent).

Saturday, February 19, 2011


-- Whooping Crane Tragedy --


For those who have followed the senseless Whooping Crane shootings in recent months, incredibly, yet a fifth bird has now been shot/killed, this one in Georgia (one other in Ga. and 3 in Alabama). There is over $20,000 in reward money for information leading to those involved:


One can't help but wonder what this portends for protecting any wide-ranging Ivory-billed Woodpeckers if ever found and confirmed (...indeed some have long speculated that Cornell's "Elvis" of the Big Woods may have been poached soon after his presence was announced... sheer conjecture of course, but not preposterously so).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


-- What's David Up To? --


I thought David Sibley was rather tired of addressing the Luneau video, and the topic of Ivory-bills in general (barring new evidence coming along), so am a bit surprised he has put forth a couple of "recently-revised" posts/discussions at the very time the topic is essentially dead for so many birders...

one is here (which includes several recent comments):


and the other is his fairly methodical analysis of the Luneau video here (forcefully arguing the bird captured on film must be a Pileated):


Is this some sort of pre-emptive strike against Cornell's anticipated defense of their analysis to come later this year in an eventual summary report? ...Or a slap at the brief, undetailed dissing USFWS (in their final report), gave the skeptics/Sibley analysis? ...Or just attempting once-and-for-all to pound some final nails in the coffin of this disputed video? I don't know. Just that the timing seems odd, to be returning yet again to this particular debate.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


-- Review of The Crossley ID Guide --


"The Crossley ID Guide"
by esteemed birder/photographer Richard Crossley is finally out..
. WOWZA!... and now for a longer review:

It's often the case that a heavily-touted, high expectation event or product simply can't live up to the buzz it creates....

With that said, I received a review copy of the new, much-anticipated "Crossley ID Guide," and will say for starters that every birder (of eastern N. America anyway) will likely want a copy of this luscious volume for their shelves... even though it may not be all that some had expected or imagined.

Every birder knows there is no such thing as a perfect bird guide --- each has different strengths and weaknesses (and much depends on personal preference). Over recent times we've witnessed a long string of new guides, each tweaking one thing or another, yet really not all that different from those preceding.
Personally, I never thought the highly-touted Sibley guide, with its minimalist artwork, to be much of an improvement over Peterson (but that's just me, and I did like Sibley's text). HELLO Richard Crossley!! Here, we really do have an innovative, almost startlingly different approach. The volume is a joy just to leaf through! Many things to note:

1) The artwork (which the author calls "the heart and soul of this book") is simply GORGEOUS, stunningly so,
and realistic (from 10,000 of the author's own photographs), especially relative to the stripped-down, plain views that have become standard for most bird field guides (which do serve a functional purpose, but still...). Showing birds as one might actually see them in the wild, is at one-and-the-same-time an obvious, yet unique, approach --- especially I think illustrative for beginning-to-intermediate birders. As Crossley writes in his "Introduction" (which is mandatory reading if you purchase this volume):
"This is the first guide that uses lifelike scenes. Take advantage of them to practice so you are better prepared to identify any bird you see in the field. Practice makes perfect.
A picture is worth 1000 words! And these plates contain many pictures. The amount of information in these plates is staggering. It is up to you to take advantage of this."
Still, the key field-mark identifying arrows of a Peterson (or other guides) are absent, and it will be interesting to see if everyone can indeed "take advantage" of this more gestalt-ish method. Richard, by the way, calls his approach "reality birding," to stress the representation of birds as we actually encounter them.

I suspect birders may debate these color plates for some time. Aesthetically, they are awesome, even exhilarating, but (as Crossley says) they carry a "staggering" amount of information. Whereas some field guides can be viewed in a slapdash manner and still be useful, this book really requires some focused effort and study to deal with the rich overload of these 'busy' and complex plates.

2) It's obvious now why all along this has been called "The Crossley ID Guide" and NOT the Crossley Field Guide. It is BIG; bigger than the original Sibley Guide, which took flack as not being a true field guide, because it wasn't convenient for carrying in the field. My own definition of a bird 'field guide' includes being able to easily hold it open in one hand while the other hand operates binoculars or focuses a bird scope --- this is NOT a field guide. It's a volume for the backseat of the car or the coffee table or reference-shelf at home, or yes, a backpack. Still, I have no doubt that for tough ID calls in the future this will now be my 2nd book of choice after whatever field guide I'm carrying.

3) The graphics are so massive and page-consuming (some songbirds are shown life-size) it leaves little room for the text, which is quite small, and possibly not as well-organized as in some other guides (but still very good and useful -- Addendum: the more I read through this volume, the MORE impressed I am with the text and descriptive portions!). Oddly too, the text is in Gill Sans font --- a non-serif font that, while fine on a computer screen, is very unusual (and I think rather unpleasing) in a book format. This is obviously a minor concern overall, but it is quite unconventional, as serif fonts are the norm.
On the positive side, the large depictions elegantly show multiple angles and multiple phases/plumages of most species. On the downside, this means that sometimes as few as only 2 species are being depicted on facing pages --- i.e., if you want to compare 3 or 4 similar species you have to flip back-and-forth between several pages, whereas they might be viewable altogether on a single color plate in another field guide (for example, comparing confusing fall warblers, or "little brown jobs," in this volume is somewhat challenging). For this and other reasons, I think birding novices, starting from scratch, may need to begin with a more basic volume, and this book will prove most beneficial to intermediate and above birders (but novices will still want to own it!).

4) The Guide organizes birds by "habitat and physical similarity" --- this makes tremendous sense to me, but to those totally accustomed to the "taxonomic" order employed by most field guides, it may be annoying and confusing.

5) The book extensively uses the official 4-letter short-hand banding codes for each species --- again, something that may annoy some people, but once more I think a positive and educative development, given how often these codes are now used in the digital age.

6) Even the Introduction to this book is great, especially the section "How To Be a Better Birder" --- if you purchase the volume be sure to read the entire Intro. Indeed, this is a book I want to sit down with and just pour over, slowly perusing each scrumptious page, one at a time, from beginning to end; savoring (unlike any previous guide).

I'll leave it to the more experienced, keen-eyed birders to review this volume for any technical flaws it may contain (usually a few creep in). For now, I'm too blown-away to worry about certain details.
Hats-off to Mr. Crossley and to Princeton University Press for this remarkable, bold effort (just when you think nothing new can come along in the form of a bird guide... KABOOM!). I just wish Roger Tory Peterson was around to witness what the revolution he started has wrought --- I imagine he'd be very pleased and amazed to see this (even though it's a very different approach from the one he introduced!).
...I also wish I was 10-years-old and this book was among my early introductions to birding... instead of being a tad older and probably making my last few bird guide purchases.

Ohh, and one last note, specifically for my loyal readers: no, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is not included in the Guide (and I didn't expect it to be). Perhaps, just maybe... in a future edition.... ;-)

A few more links:


Saturday, February 12, 2011


-- A Voice From the (IBWO) Past --


Worth passing along....

Haven't heard much from him lately (probably because he feels the battle has been won), but prominent British birder and IBWO skeptic Martin Collinson has a wonderful interview on a British birding site here, with his usual deft sense-of-humor... enjoy:


Speaking of that keen British sense-of-humor, I forget if I've already linked to any of their hilarious animal voice-over "walk on the wild side" TV clips, but here's one to get you started, if you've not seen them before (there are many more clips on YouTube):


Lastly, I've now received a review copy of Richard Crossley's (also, originally a Brit) remarkable new bird guide and will be posting a review soon. For now, I'll just say, WOW!!

Monday, February 07, 2011


-- Another Day of Miscellany --


1) First, today marks the 137th anniversary of the birth of Louis Agassiz Fuertes... one of the greatest bird portraitists of all-time, including one of my personal favorites (Pileated Woodpeckers):

2) An old joke (originally from George Carlin, I think???) asks, "WHAT do you do if you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?"
But in the world of conservation it's not such a joke, as similar situations actually occur on occasion. Sadly, the competition between Barred Owls and Spotted Owls in the Pacific Northwest appears to be such a case. Read about the tough decisions being made there:


3) An early review of Richard Crossley's new bird field guide, due in bookstores soon, here:


GOTTA have it!!)

4) And finally below, physicist Richard Feynman's classic discussion of bird names... and science:


Saturday, February 05, 2011


-- Forthcoming IBWO Movies? ;-) --


All the chatter lately about the 3 main Ivory-bill-related movies, "Ghost Bird" (Crocker) "The Lord God Bird" (George Butler), and the fictionalized account, "Woodpecker" (Karpovsky), got me to thinkin' about the many other possible titles for Ivory-bill movies perhaps yet to come. So without further adieu, a dozen possible forthcoming releases for the big screen ;-))):

1) Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

2) 2005: A Swamp Odyssey

3) Gone With the Singer Tract

4) One Flew Over the Woodpecker's Nest

5) Sleepless In Bayou de View

6) Pirates of the Choctawhatchee

7) Swamp Trek

8) The Good, The Bad, and The Elusive

9) Boggy Horror Picture Show

10) Last Tango In Brinkley

11) The LordGodBirdFather

12) Monty Python and the Holy Grail Bird

and to finish out, a couple of titles that don't even need altering:

13) Great Expectations

14) It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

So grab a soda, pop some popcorn, and come set a spell....

Friday, February 04, 2011


-- Rohrbaugh on Podcast --


The second half of an interview with Ron Rohrbaugh of Cornell is up at The Wilderness Center, reviewing the Ivory-bill search situation here (starts at about the 22-minute point, podcast #96):


I didn't previously link to the first half of this interview because frankly it seemed like largely 'softball-ish' answers to 'softball-ish' questions, but if you wish to hear it, it starts at around the 27-minute point here (podcast #95):


The second half is better, with a little more depth, though still nothing new that hasn't already been well-reported. Cornell is likely trying to set the stage for the report they say they will issue before year's end summarizing the multi-year search-effort for the IBWO.
For any who missed it, the US Fish and Wildlife Service 2010 final summary plan for Ivory-bill recovery is available for download (pdf) from their site:



Wednesday, February 02, 2011


-- Miscellany --


1) First, just an oddball article I recently ran across (don't remember seeing before... but then my memory ain't what it used to be) here:


This is just the abstract (I don't have access to full paper), but it reports on a "a new feather mite species" found in "the wing plumage of the ivory-billed woodpecker" --- it was apparently found on some museum specimens. Interestingly, it's from 2004, before the excitement out of Arkansas erupted. Maybe someone can elaborate more on this --- I mean, I'm not clear if the mite has supposedly been living on museum skins for decades unnoticed, or is a more recent inhabitant, and does it have any special significance for the ecology of the Ivory-bill?

2) Outliers: The Ivory-bill's original range, prior to 1900 included the entire American Southeast. Since Tanner's day the prevalence of claims and major searches have tended to focus on parts of a handful of states: South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and more recently Arkansas. Outlying states with but slender areas in the original distribution have received far less (though some) attention: Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky (by 1900, the species was assumed gone from all these states).
3) A bit ago I casually posted about an interesting-looking novel entitled "Quick Fall of Light," wherein Passenger Pigeons play a central role, and since then received a nice note from the author. The book looks like an engaging read, and there is a homepage for it here:

There is also a nice 'trailer' for the novel on YouTube here:

4) And just to end on a light-hearted note you can re-visit this oldie-but-goodie contribution (from back when the current IBWO story began) from Tom Toles, perhaps the best political cartoonist ever in the history of the Milky Way Galaxy:


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