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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, May 05, 2011


-- Pearl River Findings (a bit long) --

"Mathematics is a powerful means to win arguments because people have a strong feeling that mathematics is objective, that "figures cannot lie." The truth is that it is easy to mislead and obfuscate a situation through the use of mathematical and statistical models that are inappropriate, whose assumptions are simplistic, or just plain wrong." -- mathematician W. Byers

I'd planned to avoid this whole subject, but since Mike Collins has blanketed news sites with a press release of his Pearl River findings (in turn causing several emails to me), it seems increasingly unavoidable, especially since so many news venues are treating as new evidence, what is largely a rehash of previously-considered data. I encourage people, and especially scientists, to read Mike's article and view/listen to his video/audio tapes (and he has more material at his website), and decide for themselves....

The journal article is available for free here: http://tinyurl.com/3rutguj

You can go to this abstract page to link to some of Mike's referenced video/audio clips:


The current article is the latest culmination of a lot of reporting from Mike over the last few years beginning with his run-ins with folks at BirdForum.net. Let's just say that Mike has developed a propensity for publishing evidence with a degree of certainty that appears unwarranted (what William Byers would call "pseudo-objectivity through quantification").

His brief initial 2006 video did intrigue me a great deal at that time, and he reports several more sighting claims in the current article.
However, lone self-report is never a strong basis for scientific conclusions, especially on a controversial subject. The strength of prior Cornell and Auburn reports was that they came from multiple observers in the same locale. Over the last dozen years many, many individuals have looked for IBWOs in the Pearl River area without success, while Mike keeps claiming encounters --- I grant that he has spent a tremendous amount of time there (and has access to certain areas that others don't have), and occasionally reports other individuals, under his tutelage seeing the species (although I've never seen a submitted full-account by any of those other individuals). And I admire Mike's dogged persistence, but given the public viewpoints he has espoused, Mike is now so vested in his own opinions/pronouncements, that his personal objectivity simply can't be assumed. Indeed, one of the flying Pearl River birds he filmed in 2009, turned out, on further analysis, to be a Red-headed Woodpecker (a bird not even half the size of an IBWO), despite his implication that it could be an Ivory-bill... perhaps indicative of the magnitude of a subjective bias.

But on to the current paper (and I'll only hit on a few points):

1) We now have 100s (perhaps 1000s) of reports of "kent" calls from deep woods, yet still no ability to definitively identify by recording (let alone by human ear) those kent calls that emanate from Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. All of Mike's verbal reports of kent calls are thus of little scientific value, although it is good when they come in conjunction with sightings, but those too are merely one-man verbal reports with no confirmation (and his recorded calls are, at best, inconclusive, no matter what sonograms show). The same fate befalls double-knocks, large cavities, and bark-scaling data --- these are interesting when found in close conjunction with good sightings, but by themselves remain weak evidence for Ivory-bills when presented in the literature. Many of Mike's "sightings" are cloaked in few details (how much time, what distance, what field marks, in what kind of light, etc.), again resulting in little more than shallow verbal claims (although he labels two sightings "of exceptional quality," whatever that means). His central focus in this paper seems to simply be on a few high-pitched calls and inconclusive double-knocks.

His discussion of the "high-pitched" calls, which he turns into putative Ivory-billed calls, is highly speculative, given that only a single brief reference by Tanner even hints that IBWOs ever make such sounds (and without a tape from Tanner there's no way of knowing if what Mike recorded even remotely resembles what Tanner heard). He then compares this unknown call to "putative kent calls" from Florida --- in other words he compares an unknown call with an unknown call and expects to derive some conclusion from that! (he does the same thing at a later point meaninglessly comparing a "putative double-knock" from the Pearl with a "putative double-knock" from Florida ---
comparing two unknowns to each other is of little value; an unknown needs to be compared to a known/certain sample --- his related assumptions about the harmonic structure of IBWO calls, which he ties his sounds to, is based on a tiny sample size recorded on old equipment).
Also, the direction and distance of calls/sounds in deep woods can be notoriously difficult to establish or follow, but Mike assumes in one instance that he has followed the high-pitched calls accurately and can safely link them to a rapidly moving bird he presumes might, perhaps, possibly, in his judgment, be an Ivory-bill.

Mike's second video is his 2008 encounter with what appeared initially to be a Wood Duck, except that on further after-the-fact video analysis turns out, lo-and-behold, God-bless, to be an Ivory-billed Woodpecker! This is the bird that, according to Mike, revealed "a flap style that is radically different from what was expected for this species [IBWO]." Mike makes a big deal (as a new discovery) out of the fact that his bird folds its wings in-close during flight, claiming that old reports of the Ivory-bill having a "duck-like" flight style imply stiff-flapping (outstretched) wings... but this is simply erroneous. Previous historical accounts of "duck-like" flight for the IBWO are in reference to the fast, straight, direct, level flight path of the Ivory-bill (unlike the undulating flight of many woodpeckers), NOT its flap style, which could, like most woodpeckers, be presumed to include the closed wing periods --- absolutely NOTHING new or significant here --- in fact, Audubon reported the folded-in wings over 150 years ago, but Mike presents this as some grand NEW finding on his part!

In figure 4 Mike uses a a graph from Tobalske to compare data from a single Pileated Woodpecker to his 2008 video bird. For starters, using a single bird (with no context given) for comparison represents too small a sample size to be empirically meaningful, let alone conclusive, and I'd say that even if he was comparing his bird to a House Sparrow!! But even worse, the scales for the x-axis don't even match (time in ms) in the 2 graphs, making direct comparison difficult if not misleading (unless I'm missing something, and maybe I am). Further, no scales whatsoever are even presented for the y-axis, so no telling how different they may be!???.

Quantification, or application of mathematics, is a common practice to make weak data (or even junk science) appear scientifically stronger. Mike's videos are of poor quality and no amount of analysis changes that. If he is off, even a small amount, in any number of the initial measurements he calculates from these videos, than his end-point calculated numbers can be waaaay off. Additionally, Pileated flap rate and flight speed may vary from individual to individual and situation to situation (since we have little data), by whether it is a young bird or old, a gravid female, or a juvenile, or a cruising, fleeing, or chasing male, or an injured bird for that matter, or a bird dodging obstacles, or a startled bird, or flying into a head wind or pushed along by a tail wind... i.e. the variables are MANY, yet Mike's data set (and most data sets on both IBWO and PIWO) is very limited and simplistic. He no doubt thinks he can put a limiting range on such data for the PIWO, and then place his bird outside that range (even though we have no good flight data, beyond conjecture, for IBWO either); I don't think he can do that with available data.
One is left to wonder who, if anyone, peer-reviewed Mike's article, and if the editor of the acoustics journal it appears in has any significant comprehension of the subject matter.... (is it any surprise that no professional ornithological journal would touch this paper).

I'm skimming the surface here, but I think you get the point... the science presented is weak, and all the more-so, given no way to independently corroborate much of what Mike reports in print. Moreover, Mike's statements and behavior from the past have yielded him little credibility in much of the birding community (...and I understand that well because this blog has bestowed me with little credibility in much of the birding community!! ;-)), but he and I brought that upon ourselves; it is not the fault of others. As a result, no serious birding listserv, forum, or Website is much covering his recent publication (lest they be mocked for doing so), NOT even the Louisiana listserv!

As always, I believe it is possible that Ivory-bills may pass through the Pearl River region from nearby areas on occasion (I'm doubtful they breed or reside there), and I wish Mike luck in producing evidence that will demonstrate their presence to everyone's satisfaction. I'm not sure though that he comprehends what is necessary to accomplish that at this point; the bar is set very, VERY high (if he ever does document IBWOs conclusively he'll deserve immense gratitude from the birding community for incredible perseverance and hard work, but until then, well....). Over the decades 1000's of reports of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers have come in, the vast majority of which pretty quickly fall apart, and most of the rest never panning out upon follow-up. Time will tell, perhaps, if Mike's Pearl River claims are any different, or just more-more-more-of-the-same.
For now, my Ivory-bill hopes reside elsewhere.

(p.s. -- if you're someone who hasn't seen the recent Pearl River IBWO news reports on the Web, and have no clue what this entire post is about... well, then... nnnnnnnnevermind!)

its >>previously-considered data<<<
This data has now passed initial and final peer review and a prior paper that was even more germane to the central point of IBWO existence received initial approval. The contemporary publication supersedes your vague assertion of it being "previously-considered". Your unilateral proclamation of previous review is moot---- even if you believe it occurred.

Wing beat frequency was considered by ~ 3 people who used their real names on BirdForum; the result was a strong refutation of one of the "Sibley 4" on his vacuous assertion that there is ANY evidence that PIWO shows the wing beat Hz of the AR or LA tapes UNDER SIMILAR CONDITIONS . You pragmatically repeat the bankrupt assertion that PIWO overlaps putative IBWO wing Hz in level flight with the very weak "Additionally, Pileated flap rate and flight speed may vary". Your attempt, like those by a field guide author to dismiss a major ID tool that he and all major guide authors expound in their field guides, with reason, portrays a double-standard . Its in the field guides because flap frequency is a range bound characteristic of many taxa and is used organically, in split seconds, to aid field IDs even between congenerics.

IBWO and PIWO are not congenerics and the wing shapes are so dramatically different that it reverses the normal corollary between Hz and weight. This corollary, when broken, is mostly when the comparative species are portraying different functional grades of flying and are not in the same branch or clade ( carnivores for example are a grade as are long distance migrants). PIWO and IBWO are of different grades and different branches within Picidae which provides the actual functional and evolutionary basis that leads to the Hz divergence. These species wing shapes are radically different along with area wing loading. When one takes into consideration that the distal half of most birds' wings is used for forward propulsion with the proximal half for lift, then compare the species inner cord and aspect ratios the IBWO MUST HAVE THE HIGHER FLAP RATE. The Hz difference has been immortalized by only the most famous field ornithologists.

We have been patiently waiting for a tape of the common PIWO that shows sustained, level flight, 4 seconds post take off or more, with a 7 to 8.7 Hz (the Hz of the IBWO AR AND LA tapes). Where is it?

Gravid females are common and juveniles. You act as if the sample of hundreds if not thousands of PIWO tapes excludes juveniles and gravid females. Its nearly a statistically impossibility. Are they alluding the skeptics? I thought its easy to get vidoes of birds.

Regardless where are your calculations that any of these highly speculative PIWO variations are anything but negligible to Hz? PIWO's are asynchronous layers and the eggs weight 12 grams and regardless the weight is not necessarily additive to the females maximal gross weight but metabolically transferred and fungible.

Wing Hz of a taxon has physiological boundaries that are also bounded by behavioral norms.......the empirical range of possibilities is finite and will follow Gaussian Distribution rules as the data for PIWOs shows.

As far as the exaggeration of the discovery of a new flap style via the bounding.....Yes its a sign of a bruised ego. Not an excuse for it all but some of the competiveness was started by other camps. But Collin's chest beating shouldn't be a pretext for others to pretend a salient point (maybe you aren't pretending-ha) is not made----- the limited bounding in the 2008 tape differentiates the large woodpecker from PIWOs.

Your non-mention of various important points such as the secondary color of an IBWO , long wing aspect of an IBWO dorsal stripes of an IBWO are also noted.

You seem to want to talk about a lot of negligible things which on top of that are not even seen (bring up wind when it was low that day and the bird was down in a forest!) or things you do not bother to research (gravid females and weight). Yet you will ignore the main characteristics seen by any careful observer of the tape.
The whole thing might not be proof but its one mighty coincidence with a DK thrown in just to be dismissed I suppose by alleged critical thinkers.

On kents----individuals who do not have the field experience to distinguish a certain percentage of IBWO kent sequences from various sequences made by alleged competitors, the chief point being the lung/air volume and decibel difference................well whats to say.

You are right on the glaring lack of careful or any reviewable field notes. As he was urged to do repeatedly--the average scientist takes contemporary field notes in many disciplines. I also urged submittal of the notes and all the data to the LA BRC but a well known IBWO scientist gave poor advice based on the separate issue of the problematic members of the BRC of which only maybe one has seen an IBWO.

In addition Collins and others directly polluted the potential voting bodies by inappropriate letters and comments.

By the way haven't seen you as a verbal proponent of taking notes and submitting them to the BRC as a good general rule.
If FAV thinks any of Collins' video or still etc shows an IBWO, then he shouldn't be trusted within a mile of a pair of a binoculars, and I suspect that his peers worked this out long ago.

Despite the length and verbosity, the post is very shallow indeed. More wingbeat hz, more seeing things that no one else can resolve. More denigrations of people with proven track records. More of the same.

"lung air volume and decibel difference" - this guy is a cast iron jerk trying to impress gullible people.
>>>Over the decades 1000's of reports of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers have come in, the vast majority of which pretty quickly fall apart, and most of the rest never panning out upon follow-up.

The fact of the matter, and I believe you have mentioned this yourself, is that very few of the 1000s of reports have had any actual follow-up, and in many instances, such follow-up has been cursory at best.

Interestingly enough, the Collins paper has produced at least two more examples of this lack of follow-up, claims dating to the late 1980s, one from Florida (a female) and one from Louisiana (a nesting pair.)


Yeah, well, it's not like Michael Collins is a rocket scientist or something similar...

Or that Steve would engage in some unsupported ad hominems...

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of drama...
I suggest anyone interested reads about FAVs approach to what he encounters in the field here:

http://www.nationalbiodiversityparks.org/IBWOEcoReport.pdf Pages 58-60
CC thanks for covering my back.........the direction trolls usually attack from. Had an amazing 6 Cerulean Warblers in AM and found 3 inland YC Night Heron nests.

Another paper showing either proof or evidence can't be accepted so they personally attack the author, peer reviewers, commentors and then pick on innocent, gravid PIWO females flying at 35 mph looking for pickles and ice cream.

THEY CANT FLY 35 mph as the 2008 bird does....please pick another species and give it a bit more effort this time.

And CT...what about him calling some of your audience gullible....just dispicable.

I actually agree with the poor troll---- in that he coudln't ID an IBWO from a White-breasted Nuthatch calling under any conditions.

He would also have trouble performing routine IDs using wing Hz/style for
Snowy vs Great Egret
Coppers/Sharp-shinned Hawk
Green Heron/American Bittern
American Crow/some Fish
Rough-winged Swallow/Tree
Wilson's Storm Petrel vs Leach's

On the precept that CTh and others try to force on us---that all IBWO kents and DKs are indistinguisable from competing sounds by experienced field researchers-----Its misguided.

The historical literature is replete with statements like---"Once known by the birder, the Ivory-billed calls and knocks are an excellent identification tool". There are also disjunct sources that describe the carrying distance of IBWO vs WBNU calls as substantially different.

The IBs' lung capacity and resonance range of the bill dwarf the WBNUs'. Its physically impossible for a WBNU to match the volume and resonant frequencies range of some IBWO calls.

Recent comments by Hill and other scientists agree the paper provides evidence.

Do you fellas actually have any plausible explanation of where Tobalske is wrong?

Do you have any new field data on IBWOs?

Darn we will even look at your wind charts for 3/2008 or new theories on hormonally enhanced PIWOs or Kingfishers accidently released by mad scientists.
This post contains personal comments that I will not dignify with a response, but I will address certain technical issues that are misleading. It is not true that the data is being treated as new evidence. It is clearly stated in the paper that the videos were obtained in 2006 and 2008. It's not my fault that publication was delayed for years by politics and stupidity. This is the third paper to report multiple sightings and audio detections of ivorybills, and it presents video evidence that has received positive assessments from independent experts. The publication of such a paper was a newsworthy event.

The sightings and the audio detections are described in detail in the paper. Sight reports are much stronger when supported by video evidence, and it is clear from one of the videos that I had a sighting, spent ten minutes tracking the bird, and then obtained footage of a large woodpecker with several characteristics consistent with ivorybill. The focus of the paper is not on a few high pitched calls and double knocks. The paper presents an account of the observations and of all aspects of the videos (not just the audio components).

No ornithologist would question Tanner's account of the high-pitched alarm call. As mentioned in the paper, there does not appear to be any other mention of it in the literature. Tanner studied the ivorybill at the last known nest sites, where he evidently had encounters in which ivorybills were alarmed. There have been many reports over the years, but I am apparently the first to report a high-pitched call coming from the direction of an alarmed ivorybill (on two occasions). Maybe there is a good reason. Maybe none of the other encounters were such that an ivorybill would give an alarm call rather than just launching into an escape flight. The first time I heard the calls was during a unique encounter. I am not aware of any other report of a similar encounter. I came upon an ivorybill that was hidden just behind a fallen tree at close range. It was giving a long series of kents. I knew it was there, but it had not detected me. Then another ivorybill started giving kents directly behind me on the opposite side of the bayou. I knew that the second bird was about to discover me near the first bird, and sure enough there were harsh scolding calls followed by a continuous stream of the high pitched calls.

It was appropriate to make a comparison with the putative recordings from Florida, but as mentioned in the paper the sonograms of known ivorybill calls have the same characteristics. I used the calls from Florida since they are readily available in the public domain. The high-pitched calls were heard from close range on both occasions. During the first encounter, the bird was just across the bayou. Not only did the calls come from the direction of the bird, but they began immediately after the kents stopped. During the second encounter, the bird was not rapidly moving. As mentioned in the paper, it only moved a little over 200 meters in ten minutes. During the second encounter, the calls started immediately after the bird flushed and came from its direction. It was appropriate to compare the putative double knocks from Florida and Louisiana, and it is interesting that the interval between knocks is similar.

The bird in the 2008 video was indeed initially thought to be a Wood Duck, but as Arthur Bent points out (in Life Histories of North American Woodpeckers) "it is remarkable how ducklike the bird can appear as it flies swiftly up a lagoon, so much so in fact that certain Louisiana hunters have told me that they have even shot at them under such circumstances..." After initially mistaking it for a Wood Duck, I saw the white dorsal stripes when it passed below and the white trailing edges (as well as the dark leading edges) as the bird continued up the bayou. There seemed to be a contradiction when I inspected the video and found that the flaps were not as expected, but this was resolved after Dalcio Dacol discovered a clue in a Tanner photo.
I am not aware of any detailed and unambiguous description in the historical literature of the flap style of the ivorybill in cruising flight. Audubon mentions the ivorybill "opening its wings at first to their full extent and nearly closing them to renew the propelling impulse." What kind of flight was he describing? Was it a flap-glide flight that is common among woodpeckers (including the ivorybill)? It is not clear what he was describing and, in fact, Bent regarded Audubon's account as "quite misleading." The topic of interest in my paper is the cruising flight and what was expected. It is clear that Eckleberry's account is of the cruising flight since he was talking about a "straight ducklike flight." For this flight, he described flaps in which "there seemed to be very little movement of the inner wing," which is not consistent with the flap style of a pileated or of the bird in the 2008 video. As stated in the paper, there was a widespread misconception about the flap style in cruising flight. Zickefoose is a very meticulous artist who researches her subjects very carefully. In her paintings of the large woodpeckers in flight, the pileated is properly shown folding its wings closed in the middle of the upstroke, while the ivorybill is shown with the wings remaining extended throughout the flap cycle. She obviously painted it that way because that's how she (like many others) expected it to fly. I did not mention in the paper that a report of a sighting during an official search in the Congaree was dismissed because the bird was reported to have the flap style of a pileated rather than a duck. The flap style of the ivorybill is a big deal. Since few large birds have this flap style, it is potentially an important characteristic for the identification of ivorybills from low quality video footage. It is new and significant. The 2008 video provides our first look at the flaps of an ivorybill in cruising flight. Despite the high flap rate, it could be that Audubon and Tanner and others resolved the flap style of the ivorybill in the field. If so, they didn't pass this information down to us clearly and unambiguously. The 2008 video provides the first new facts about the ivorybill since Tanner's work was published. I think this is exciting and that it transcends the silly bickering over the existence of this species.

This used to be a good site. It started going down the drain around the time when many of the participants were fooled by a faked photo. Around the same time, there was a false accusation that I had been dishonest about my account of a paper that was submitted to one of the PLoS journals. The details of the submission (including emails to and from the editors) are posted at my website for all to see. Claiming to have inside information from a source at PLoS and suggesting that I had been dishonest amount to stepping across a line. I lost all respect for this site at that point, and I can see that it has now descended into the gutter. I am not popular with many birders and ornithologists simply because I have obtained (and now published) data on this species and have along the way never hesitated to point out politics and mistakes that may be damaging to the cause. I don't care what they think. I have gone out in the field on my own and done what no other birder has ever done. I have obtained data on the ivorybill and published it in a scientific journal, and there are many scientists (including ornithologists) who respect this work.
The video footage from 2009 has no connection to the paper. The fact that it was mentioned in the post is indicative that the author has been on a smear campaign that includes false accusations about the PLoS paper and posting misleading comments at several sites where the JASA paper was being discussed. I had nothing more to go on than anyone else when the 2009 footage was obtained. I didn't see any details of the bird. As soon as it was spotted, I quickly got the camera on it. Chuck Hunter, who heads the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Team, was very excited about that footage, which had many people (including me) fooled for a few days. So what? Nobody would have ever known about that footage if not for the fact that I am open with my data. I have no regrets for sharing it with other birders. I think it was an interesting learning experience, as was the 2008 video, which was also made public before the analysis was complete.
I apologize for the multiple responses, but there was too much rubbish to wade through in one sitting. The author asks "who, if anyone, peer-reviewed Mike's article"? It takes a lot of nerve to suggest that the leading acoustics journal in the world, which has been around for more than 80 years and publishes extensively in bioacoustics, would publish a paper without having it reviewed. It was reviewed by two world-class scientists, and I would like to know what, if any, qualifications the author has to question their recommendation to publish the paper. What credentials does this wannabe scientist have to suggest that the following comments apply to the paper:

"The truth is that it is easy to mislead and obfuscate a situation through the use of mathematical and statistical models that are inappropriate, whose assumptions are simplistic, or just plain wrong."

"Quantification, or application of mathematics, is a common practice to make weak data (or even junk science) appear scientifically stronger."

Since the reflection allows triangulation and the video was obtained from a known observation position, the 2008 is about as good as it gets for estimating flight speed, which is clearly far outside Tobalske's range for pileated. The wingspan estimate doesn't need to be precise, but it appears to be well over 24 inches, which is consistent with Tobalske's opinion (based on the motion of the wingtips) that the bird is a large woodpecker. It is straightforward to obtain the flap rate from videos. The curves that define the wingtip motion were extracted from the data by Tobalske, who has published such curves for other woodpeckers. These curves have the characteristics of a large woodpecker. The paper also contains a sonogram, which is the bread and butter for analyzing audio data. In what way does any of this quantification mislead or obfuscate? In what way is any of it inappropriate or just plain wrong? If you're going to make such accusations, you better be prepared to back it up. Otherwise, you expose yourself as nothing more than a source of hot air. I can't explain why it is difficult to publish evidence for ivorybills in ornithology journals, but I believe it is clear that the evidence in my paper is at least as strong as the evidence from Arkansas and Florida.
But you claimed a clear Red-headed Woodpecker as an IBWO.

It may have fooled a few of your associates but it was very quickly identified when it went 'global'

Estimates of flight speed from triangulation from reflections? Learn your basic identification processes first!
And to Mike's point, why did it "go global"?
I feel it is quite a stretch, even outrageous, to imply that there was any intent to deceive, when the video is put right on the table for all to see.
Cheap shot, wide of the mark, and can you try to find some way to further the debate, rather than to hurl schoolyard taunts?
Or perhaps you are 100% in the field?
Hi Jon

I'm not at all implying any intention to deceive, just obvious incompetence.

Of course, I'm not 100%. No one is. But when I'm not sure of what would be a major sighting, I let those birds go.
"Or perhaps you are 100% in the field?"

As mentioned in a previous post, the bird was not identified in the field. When I first inspected the video, I was concerned that the white on the wing didn't extend far enough out on the wing. Someone talked me into forwarding it to the FWS on the basis that plumage may appear light or dark depending on the conditions (the pileated is a good example). They sent it out to several people, and the initial reports were that it appeared to be an ivorybill. I had a long talk with Chuck Hunter and urged him to forget about that video and take a look at the 2008 video. I believe it was the next day when Chuck mentioned that a few people were thinking Red-headed, and this reminded me of the white patches that didn't seem right. I told Chuck that we should toss that video on the scrap heap, but he mentioned that there were still holdouts and asked me to wait.

"Cheap shot, wide of the mark, and can you try to find some way to further the debate, rather than to hurl schoolyard taunts?"

You are correct, sir, but unfortunately the majority of ivorybill discussions are at that level (and that is why I made the decision years ago to stop wasting my time with them). Birders have done this species a disservice by allowing such behavior to discourage them from having intelligent discussions. Birders ought to be demanding serious conservation efforts for this species and should be outraged at the politics and stupidity that keep getting in the way of it.
mike said...
Chuck Hunter, who heads the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Team,...

the 2010 IBWO Recovery Final draft identifies Chuck as a team member and Laurie Fenwood as the Team Coordinator...
Thanks for pointing that out. I don't care about official titles. I was introduced to Chuck as the guy running the ivorybill program for the FWS. He's obviously very active and a good guy.
"They sent it out to several people, and the initial reports were that it appeared to be an ivorybill."

Only to people whose ability and judgement are clearly not to be trusted.

My earlier comment was not a 'cheap shot' and is as relevant as any that have been made. If a self-styled expert on the species, with more claimed sightings and field experience than everyone else, can't identify a reasonably straight forward RHWO then his other claims should be viewed with this high in the mind. Fortunately, it let many people see for themselves what a lot of others have been saying about this observer.
yes, Chuck is an asset to FWS.

ibwo's fly in fla, miss., la. and ark. - as cyber mentioned in his post, i also wish you good luck with your searching efforts!
in response to a few of Mike's statements(sorry for length):

1) Web news sites have routinely headlined stories on Mike's paper as "new evidence" or even "new proof" of the IBWO -- I DON'T blame Mike for those headlines; I blame the news sites. As Mike's work has been freely available for a long while and already reviewed by those most deeply interested in this subject, the headlines are misleading, especially since many readers will read/remember headlines, but not fully read the story. That is not Mike's fault, but it is a misperception that needs correction.

2) I included mention of Mike's 2009 video (of a Red-headed W'pecker) because it is of course pertinent (as well as other instances I didn't mention) to how his credibility is viewed in the wider birding community -- he may not care about that perceived credibility, but in the Ivory-bill arena, it is hugely important. Mike's entire pattern of claims, pronouncements, and engagements with doubters on the subject of IBWOs going back to his days on various BirdForum.net threads are also pertinent, but not familiar to all. When anyone makes IBWO claims it is appropriate (indeed, expected) to look over their whole birding-related background; they don't get to just cherry-pick a few pieces of data, leaving their entire contextual past out.

3) Mike continues obsessing over a prior PLoS rejection of his paper and keeps dragging me into it. I know nothing about their rejection (and certainly had nothing to do with it, though I can easily imagine what likely transpired, again given the whole context of Mike's history). I merely heard a casual comment from someone associated with PLoS at a professional meeting, and when Mike began casting aspersions at them, I pointed out that there are usually 2 or more sides to such controversies, and Mike was giving HIS side. Mike no doubt "honestly" believes HIS side as HE perceives it, but neither he nor I was privy to PLoS's private discussions, and I suspect their view of things would be "honestly" different from Mike's.
Speaking of anomalies re: publications, I find it interesting that Mike says "two world-class scientists" reviewed his piece for publication in the "leading acoustics journal in the world." How does he know that; typically, reviewers are anonymous, or did he hand-pick these two? And why just two? Again, typically, controversial topics will have 3 or even 4 reviewers... And why an acoustics journal... Mike's strongest evidence (of all his "evidence") is probably his video... the emphasis on a couple of pieces of audio data almost seems a ruse to get the material into an acoustics journal, if no professional ornithology journal would accept it. How many papers on IBWOs... or woodpeckers... or birds... has JASA ever published? The whole PLoS episode may be among the lesser oddities of this paper's entire publication path.

4) Mike says at another site that he has many ornithologists who support his claims/conclusions -- I'd be curious if he can name 3 professional ornithologists who will publicly go on record to say they believe in the accuracy and conclusions of this paper? He also says he has "published about 75 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals" -- I'd also be curious if there is a vita-like listing somewhere on the Web of these publications, or at least any for which he was the senior author???

Mike sees boogeymen and "smearers" around each corner when questions are raised with his presentations. Over time he has marginalized and isolated himself from the birding community that must ultimately validate his work, and seems unwilling to take any responsibility for the corner he finds himself in. But... Mason Spencer wasn't the most credible person around either when he proved the naysayers wrong, so I still have hope that maybe one day Mike will get the goods we all await. Nothing surprises me anymore in this saga.
You claimed to have information from an inside source at PLoS and insinuated that I was dishonest in my account of what happened. It is time to either put up or shut up. The details of the submission are posted at my website for everyone to see, including emails to and from the editor. If there is anything inconsistent with my account, let's hear about it now. Otherwise, you should retract the allegation.

"My earlier comment was not a 'cheap shot' and is as relevant as any that have been made. If a self-styled expert on the species, with more claimed sightings and field experience than everyone else, can't identify a reasonably straight forward RHWO then his other claims should be viewed with this high in the mind. Fortunately, it let many people see for themselves what a lot of others have been saying about this observer."

Thank you for that considered response. Though I perhaps do not 100% agree, I can appreciate the logic behind it.
Your previous post raised my hackles, as the verbiage indeed brought me back to the schoolyard.
It is amusing to see someone who apparently has no scientific credentials claim that the evidence from the Pearl River is "scientifically weak" and bring into question (without any basis for doing so) my scientific credentials and the integrity of the editor of a major science journal. Here is what some real scientists have said about the 2008 video:

"I am confident it is a large woodpecker."

-Bret Tobalske (expert on the flight mechanics of woodpeckers)

"It is statistically certain that the bird whose flap rate was measured in the film is not a Pileated Woodpecker."

-David Banks (former chief editor of the Journal of the American Statistical Association)

How does the characterization "scientifically weak" follow from these statements? I have never asked any ornithologist to come out publicly in support of my data. The assessments that Zickefoose and Tobalske provided were unsolicited, and I am not aware of any other evidence receiving stronger assessments from independent experts. I have privately received positive comments from several ornithologists. One said that he doesn't believe the high-pitched calls are from a Blue Jay. Another acknowledged that the 2006 video was the best that had been obtained (up to that point). Another said he would have encouraged me to submit my data to his ornithology journal if the topic fell within the scope of that journal. An ornithologist on the Recovery Team rated one of my papers as having "outstanding merit" and recommended it for publication. Ornithologists who are experts in flight mechanics (someone other than Tobalske) and on woodpeckers recommended one of my papers for publication. The real story is that these ornithologists would probably be reluctant to publicly support the data. It's a sad situation when scientists are unwilling to openly discuss their opinions. It would be nice for ornithologists to openly discuss the data, but it would also be nice for those who made claims behind the scenes that the data have been convincingly dismissed to put their names to it. Let's hear the details of how these data have supposedly been convincingly dismissed. I am tired of the nonsensical claims and sophomoric comments at this blog and have nothing more to say.
He told you Cyberthrush.... lol
Hey Mike, at least you documented the continuing existence of Red-headed Woodpeckers.
Jackson and Steve.
Back to the schoolyard eh?
Really, your elocution could use some work . . .
What do you think about the Collins Video?


I would be interested in your thoughts? Look like an Ivory Bill to me but nobody responds to the blogs I've posted this on?


I find at least a couple of Mike's videos interesting, Doug, including the one you reference, but not at all conclusive; there is plenty of "interesting" evidence out there by now, but nothing definitive -- video of the quality Mike has put forth won't be taken seriously by most, and many of us who do take such videos seriously simply don't find Mike's analysis convincing, given the variables involved.
It remains likely that only the discovery of an active roost or nest hole can end this saga positively.
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