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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

Sunday, November 27, 2011


-- Back to the Carolinas --


In a
recent post Ralph Perrine reports he will be searching for the Ivory-bill in the southeast corner of N. Carolina later this winter. An earlier search there by 2 technicians from North Carolina Audubon, primarily of the Waccamaw/Green Swamp area, unfortunately found no evidence for the presence of Ivory-bills.
Perrine's post links to a nice, detailed account of 'field notes' on the IBWO from Arthur Allen and Paul Kellogg, pre-Tanner's study. (It mostly duplicates info from Bent and other Allen writings as well as Tanner's later work, but also includes some additional details.):


BTW, Perrine has a few other blog posts related to the Ivory-bill here:


Over the holiday weekend I also got to be regaled with a few more details of one of the previous sightings from the search in the Congaree of S. Carolina.
Sometimes it just seems like we're moving in never-ending circles, though..... (sigh)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


-- Thanksgiving 2011 --


In some prior years I've posted a Top 10 list of things I'm thankful for around Thanksgiving. At the last minute I decided to do one for this year:

1) The O
ccupy movement and what it represents

2) Apple Computer and Steve Jobs' inspiring legacy

3) Taylor Swift ('cuz her music never fails to perk me up)

4) All those working on behalf of conservation in spite of the obstacles

5) the plethora of bird blogs and websites that have augmented the hobby of birding, taking it to a whole new level

6) Bill Pulliam's independence of thought and approach

7) Childhood intuition (may you never lose it)

8) Owls, raptors, Pileated Woodpeckers, hummingbirds, penguins, parrots, and other species that never fail to make my day

9) Mike Collins' persistent doggedness

10) Crocs (the shoes, not the reptiles)

In this economy, I should probably also mention having a job and a paycheck, as well (…at least for now)!

A Happy Holiday to all the readers here!

( photo of 3 turkeys via Wikimedia Commons ;-)) )

Sunday, November 20, 2011


-- And So It Goes… --


The latest issue of Birding Magazine from ABA includes a report from their official Checklist Committee, including the unsurprising decision that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is not included on the current checklist, remaining instead a Code 6 bird, meaning probably or definitely extinct. The article is available in pdf form here:


Meanwhile, Cornell has uploaded a wonderful piece (~11 mins.) with Chris Saker and Martjan Lammertink on the use of a man-made "double-knocker" box to research the Pale-billed Woodpecker in Costa Rica. Although this was only uploaded recently I assume the design may be the same version(?) of the box that was employed during parts of the IBWO search in the southeast:


...would be good to know to what degree Cornell will make the boxes available to interested independent Ivory-bill searchers, or at least give out the specifications for folks who may wish to construct their own?


Thursday, November 17, 2011


-- Some Pileateds In Flight --


FWIW, stills from the Web of Pileateds flying,

http://tinyurl.com/7ezs5vp or

Obviously, you lose a great deal of information in looking at stills versus a video; on-the-other-hand you gain some clarity and sharpness, that blurry, artifactual video may not offer.

And for new folks, here in slo-mo, is one of the oft-referenced Nolin videos of a PIWO in 'escape flight':


Tuesday, November 15, 2011


-- Pulliam's Analysis Continued --


For now, just want to make sure everyone is aware that Bill Pulliam has gone ahead and posted more analysis, directed mostly at Louis Bevier's prior work and conclusions (perhaps one of Bill's best posts yet):


And I'd request that if you have comments/questions specific to Bill's analysis you post them on his blog (he shouldn't have to come over here to respond to matters specific to his own work).

ADDENDUM: for quick reference, because of interest in Bill's take on these matters (and new readers to the blog) I've now added direct links in the left-hand column to some of Bill's various IBWO-related posts, right after the list of 'IBWO Links' and before the direct links to skeptics' views.

Friday, November 11, 2011


-- More Stuff --


'Hat tip' to Mark Michaels for directing me to these 2 web pages:



The first is simply an abstract on the results of the official IBWO search in South Carolina from Matthew Moskwik -- nothing new here, and I don't know that the full report is accessible anywhere on the Web(?) but still worth a glance.

The second is a recent podcast interview with Tim Gallagher from the Wilderness Center site, primarily on the recent Imperial story (starts at about the 24-min. point). Gallagher doesn't give a lot of interviews, and this is probably the best one I've yet heard from him (~35 mins.).

I'm playing with a possible blurb loosely about "null hypotheses" which may or not ever get posted, but for the few who might be interested I'll throw out a couple of other statistically-oriented posts (will bore most, and only of tenuous value here):



The first is an old post from physicist Chad Orzel on "statistical significance" and the second a more recent and more technical post from Razib Khan on research false positives. (I only throw these out because they border on why I'm leery of all statistical discussion in regards to a topic like the IBWO -- discussion of null hypotheses can be tricky at best and disingenuous or misleading at worst -- my first stat professor in grad school blanketly told us to distrust ALL discussion of statistics in journal articles that wasn't carried out by Ph.D.-level statisticians, because most others misapply (or misinterpret) stats! -- though maybe things have improved in the last 35 years since then).

And of course feel free to continue any further discussion of matters in the prior post as well.

ADDENDUM: Tim Gallagher's Imperial story also made NPR today (part of all this sudden attention is no doubt due to Gallagher working on a book on the species… I don't mean that cynically, just that if you have a fascinating story at your fingertips you naturally want to publicize it as much as possible). The segment from "Science Friday" is here (just click on the video to hear the audio):


Tuesday, November 08, 2011


-- Further Imperial Analysis --


Given the time it was taking Bill Pulliam to comment on Cornell's recently-released Imperial Woodpecker footage I presumed he was doing his own in-depth analysis of the clips. And indeed he was. I think we all appreciate Bill's consistent attempts to objectively analyze such pieces of data (…and all the moreso given that, amazingly, he does so on a dial-up internet connection!). His analysis here:


To cut to the chase (but I definitely recommend you read Bill's entire post), he concludes that the new Imperial film unhesitatingly RE-AFFIRMS the bird in the original Luneau video as an Ivory-billed Woodpecker. I won't go into the reasoning he marshals toward that conclusion (focusing in part on wing-beat data and 'bowing' motion), nor nitpick over details of his analysis, nor am I personally convinced that this particular film evidence carries as much weight as he (or others) may place on it, but his take is always interesting. Of course, for most readers here, Bill is speaking to the choir anyway.

Until Louis Bevier, or Martin Collinson, or Richard Prum, or Sibley, or some other major skeptic come forth with their own analysis of the amazing film from Mexico the IBWO debate likely won't move any steps forward, and I'm not sure skeptics will even find it worth their time to closely study this new footage of a lone bird -- I don't blame them if they pass -- from their standpoint it's probably a further squandering of their time.

I'll say again what I've said previously… even without the Luneau video (and regardless of what the bird is in that clip) there is more than enough evidence to believe that Ivory-bills persisted into the 21st century, and may still be with us today. Convincing the masses of that though at this point will require more than an analysis of flight patterns or any other tangential evidence; it will require conclusive, indisputable film, or a fresh carcass... the Imperial film can generate a lot of words, most of them falling on the deaf ears of people who have moved on (and it can't explain why no such equivalent film of an IBWO has been attainable in the last 6 years, nor a single active nest-hole found of a bird that has to be actively breeding to still be with us).

On a completely separate note, for anyone who might be interested, once again an original copy of James Tanner's IBWO manuscript is being auctioned on eBay (auction over December 1st), with an asking price of $500+. Merry Christmas!!:


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