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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

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


-- Persistence, Paradigm Shifts??? and whatever... --


This month represents the 10th anniversary of the original IBWO sightings in Arkansas. Hard to believe! (…that it's been 10 years, not the sightings ;-) Nonetheless, for a lot of different reasons, a few of us persist in hope for the Ivory-bill. 

Mike Collins not only has broadcast his views on YouTube, but returned to the Pearl In February for some searching, and says he'll be back (from Virginia where he now lives/works) in March or April for another spell. Thanks also to the few independent folks who continue to send me occasional updates on the searching they find time for in various areas, even if nothing terribly promising has resulted therefrom. And over at the Ivory-bill Researchers Forum, posters keep the faith as well…:

The general paradigm for Ivory-bill searches in the past has been to go to an area where IBWO sightings are reported, especially where interesting sounds, foraging-sign and/or cavities are found, and have human observers search the area, as well as possibly installing remote automatic cameras… i.e. go where the birds might be and have a look/see. Seems logical… but it has failed pretty dismally (at least to obtain the level of documentation now required)… so some folks over at Ivory-bill Researchers Forum are proposing a different, more proactive approach: attract the species to where you want it to be... For anyone who hasn't followed the discussion there, the basic premise is that Ivory-bills may rely on olfaction for finding the beetles and other food sources they prefer, and if one could duplicate those creature-scents artificially and apply it to an area (obviously within suitable IBWO habitat) perhaps IBWOs would appear. A university professor from Caifornia who is expert in avian olfaction is intrigued enough by the proposal to think it worth pursuing. Fleshing out all the necessary details could take awhile… but interesting that after all this time possibly new approaches are yet being formulated (at least I don't recall such an approach being seriously broached before).

Also worth noting, that through the Freedom of Information Act, "Houston" over at IBWO Forum obtained the summary report of helicopter searches over parts of Louisiana (Atchafalaya and Pearl) back in 2008-9. Nothing much of note in it, but why this (and other summaries) have not been released long before now is beyond me… perhaps they're holding back such material for inclusion in a final summary report to be issued around 2081... when all the principals involved are deceased and don't have to defend it. 8-\

Anyway, the Ivory-bill saga is nothing if not bizarre, so I'll close out with yet another of those bizarre elements, for your entertainment -- a recent letter-to-the-editor of an Indiana newspaper (yes, Brazil, Indiana) from someone who appears to be sincere, but is almost certainly hopelessly mistaken… or, just a teller-of-tall-tales:



The Ivory-billed Researchers Forum, as it is self described, is often a stream of misinformation, with minimal critical thinking which is then interspersed with contentless cheerleading (e.g. great to hear). This does not apply to the occasional posters who know, and have actually searched seriously for the IBWO.

That forum has hurt the IBWO effort in multiple ways although its does have some minor importance as a source of literature links.

Where do we start......

The latest is Kimball's (a moderator) mixing up basic, natural evolutionary processes with farm animal breeding.

>>>>>What came to mind as I was reading your post is what I can best label extreme shyness in the Ivory-bill. I am sure we have discussed this but selective breeding for extreme wariness occurs in many species. One example is even the familiar pileated woodpecker. In N.B. Canada where I grew up and worked pileateds are very wary and difficult to approach. <<<<<

PIWO and IBWO were selectively bred to become shy!! Does this really help?

Then others comment that the Ivory-billed is territorial followed by a very weak rebuttal which can lead to various eventual design flaws in any number of efforts and discussions.

Then the IMWO is said to have substantial habitat left, is said to have a record in AZ and can be found via new camera technologies (all with no real sight record in several years and photo separation from vultures, etc., and no their is not that much habitat, all left without discussion).

We then see no critical discussion on even the basic characteristics a good olfactory IB attractant should have (lower molecular weight, high, known vertebrate olfactory sensitivity, higher relative vapor pressure, evolutionary driving mechanism, inexpensive pure product available and dispensable for days, can possibly disperse hundreds of yards, etc.). My idea from years ago was that we are trying to greatly expand a short distance, homing stimuli for IB over a greater distance and for longer times. it woudl move the bird toward a net.

Instead on the Forum the smashing of beetles is proposed.

Beetle larvae biomass is mainly water and chitin (both no odor); the small amount of volatiles and other molecules will immediately start spoiling and/or be denatured (minute or no vapor pressure or soon, at best denatured odors unrecognizable to an IBWO as food). Crushed larvae will begin to spoil immediately.

Additionally why would IBWO evolve hedonistic flight or foraging movements for molecules (crushed larvae) that never existed in the ambient air? Even if if did the IB might just "salivate" and never move up a gradient. Its best to hypothesize using a molecule(s) that beetle larvae excrete during one or more normal functions. This molecule may signify to an IB via concentration gradient that its is moving towards prey or even just dead wood, the latter still a good foraging strategy.

In other words there may be movement of IBs towards a volatile(s) that is given off by the community of organisms in standing dead wood. Formic acid is sprayed by the Carpenter Ant that is often common in dead wood. Interestingly, or coincidentally the ant and IB have similar ranges. There is more but have to go.

Different sites serve different purposes, Fred -- this blog can certainly also be criticized on any number of counts, and for that matter, both the USFWS and Cornell can be excoriated for some of their behavior in this whole saga, if one chooses to do so. Many find little significant substance in Mike Collins' work which you've long supported, and for that matter, you were uncritical of 'MadBill Smith' of Fla. and Dan Rainsong back when there wasn't an iota of credibility to be found behind their claims. Heck, I even know some folks who think your comments here are the most inconsistent, comical ones I allow through! ;-)
Different strokes for different folks...
You talked right by my points… as expected. Again a response to your assertions.

I spoke to both Smith and Rainsong before you blew them out of the water, which they eventually deserved…….eventually, but not in ~ 48 hours like you did with the latter.

Smith had good field knowledge (but a few unbelievable stories that were bizarre/lies), he was chatty for awhile; Rainsong was evasive. Some of us have searched in multiple SE states (you should try it sometime) and it’s strategic to get basic presence/absence location CLAIMS from as many people as possible so a reputable searcher(s) could confirm it all, if needed. The Sabine River is a possible, but expansive area and a few of us have heard and seen IBs within a few hours flight. You went to press in such a hurry and with such venom…….. that he/they shut up. Your belief that these sinners had no decent intel or leads is based on them being liars about claimed pixs. It was an understandable but emotional reaction by you but debriefing was needed before you publicly tarred them. Again they could have had something useful to an actual searcher.

Your claim that there was impending doom for the IB if their fraudulent claims spread was a bit exaggerated; perhaps a bit egocentric in assuming your blog is the only arbitrator of the truth and separately could turn the story on or off as desired. I have formal interrogation experience that advises---let people talk; I like to believe that most good searchers realize what’s what with claims from unknowns. Your lack of realizing that some of us are after field gen shows how divorced you are from having to slog around an area for a week only to find it was poor habitat with no IBs. A sentence from even a fibber can sometimes save many man weeks.
Collins and I have had major private disagreements; he is wrong on some points/assertions as we all are at times ………. again I have mentioned this to you, but you like to dumb it up and portray me as a sycophant of this or that imperfect searcher. You seem to realize that all searchers are imperfect……………but at least they are in the field unlike armchair skeptics and searchers. I introed MC to Tobalske……….and it’s actually Tobalske’s learned opinion who strongly infers if not states the 2008 video IS AN IBWO. When certain skeptics and bloggers have important abstracts about avian wing beat Hz, I will defer to them.

Back to my post of two days ago which you side-tracked. My points were about misinformation about the IB/IMWO on the IBR Forum. Rob, again -----IBWO, Forum. Misinformation. Your response addresses none of those issues; and you share no useful advice about searching for the bird on these points.

Do you have any pertinent info/opinion on the design of an olfactory effort, any comments on whether the IMWO was in AZ, etc., or any helpful advice to the IBR Forum that might make it more useful to those newly interested in the species?

It’s not trivial that a forum with that bloated title has constant misinformation. It’s not trivial that your blog has come up short in the area of helpful, critical admonishing to conserve the IBWO and its habitat rather than fueling this picture chase and the --- it’s alive---its extinct--- theme you relish.

Eons ago you had a dream…..you got off at a mysterious darkened train station when you saw a handout held by the last Neanderthal, in the dark you squinted: NEEDED: --------“Grand and Rapid Arbitrator for the Truth about Ivory-billed Pictures.” (must be bad on wing-beat frequency analysis of large Picidae with dorsal stripes but good at getting page views).----- You then took us down the tracks through a pestilent swamp, swerving from one armchair skeptic to the next; then one picture chaser’s failed work to another’s. Finally we all realize you and the IB Forum have no real answers…assuming we discount the Gregorian chant of get a picture!!!. We then asked if you really read that handout carefully. You go back to the station and you find a pile of odd bones and clenched there is the handout that says:--- You Needed a Net-----, ….…you may need a new name for your blog soon.


Geee, every time I think FAV can't possibly top himself.... he does.
I stive for improvement!
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