Thursday, May 18, 2006

Chicago Tribune Headline: Extinct Woodpecker is...Extinct

Well, it looks like Cornell has essentially conceded defeat in Arkansas. They just blew what may have been our last chance to save the IBWO because of their arrogance and elitism...if they would have opened up the "Big Woods" to birders immediately after the first round of sightings any IBWO that still existed would have been found. But no, they wanted to raise their money and write their books and now none of us may ever see the bird again. Greedy bastards.

Birders find no new confirmation of rare woodpecker in Arkansas
By ANNIE BERGMANAssociated Press WriterPublished May 18, 2006, 12:48 PM CDT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Search teams exploring an Arkansas swamp for better evidence of the ivory-billed woodpecker said Thursday they had no new confirmation of the bird's existence, and wildlife managers said there was no longer a reason to limit public access to the region."Certainly we're somewhat disappointed," said Ron Rohrbaugh of the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y. "We've had enough of these tantalizing sounds and we still have a lot of hope that there might be a pair, especially in the White River area."The lack of confirmation after searching over the winter and spring "doesn't mean the bird's not there," Rohrbaugh said. The search will be expanded to other states next winter.
Wildlife officials said the Big Woods area of eastern Arkansas would be reopened to the public immediately."Based on the information coming from the search and research that we have done, I feel there is no need any longer limited public use within this area," said Dennis Widner, manager of the Cache River Wildlife Management Area.Cornell researchers supported the decision to reopen the area to general use. If new evidence is discovered, state and federal agencies can reimpose restrictions on access, Widner said.
Gene Sparling of Hot Springs reported seeing an ivory-billed woodpecker in the spring of 2004 while kayaking in the area near the White River between Little Rock and Memphis, Tenn.More than 100 volunteers and full-time researchers went through the area over the winter but failed to find additional strong evidence of the bird's existence in their primary search area.The National Audubon Society would continue to support search efforts for at least one more year. "The big woods was recognized as an important bird area many years before the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker," said Dan Scheiman of Audubon Arkansas.
Jon Andrew, the recovery team leader with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the search will continue next year across the Southeast. Paid and unpaid searchers would look for evidence of the bird in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas, as well as Arkansas, he said.Researchers believe they have captured audio recordings of the rare bird _ accompanying a brief, grainy videotape of what is believed to be an ivory-billed woodpecker.One volunteer searcher and three members of the public have reported seeing the bird, but none of the full-time researchers has sighted it, said Martjan Lammertink, also of Cornell.
Lammertink said in all four cases, the birds sighted had large amounts of white feathers on the lower halves of the wings _ consistent with an ivory-bill.However, Lammertink said members of the team "have heard knocks, calls. We don't have an existing recording of an ivory-billed so we have to make extrapolations from other recordings," he said. "It's a complicated process."Until Sparling's reported sighting Feb. 11, 2004, the last known sighting of the bird was in north Louisiana in 1944.


Anonymous said...

Mark Twain said something to the effect that "the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

Seems to me those rumors are true.

Bill Pulliam said...

Back where we started -- a species that is either extinct or exceedingly rare and highly mobile, and nothing will change anybody's opinion as to which hypothesis they prefer.

S. Severs said...

Having volunteered for Cornell in AR, I found none of their staff to be "arrogant or elitist" but rather very nice dedicated researchers and biologists working to restore an amazing bird. In fact I can't think of any other organization that has done more to engage the public in citizen science. Rather it seems that the hard core birders often want the birds all to themselves.

But, hey it's not too late to go look for IBWO. Enjoy the cottonmouths and the mosquitos, looks like the closed properties will be open soon. Please don't get lost 'cause we're not coming to rescue you.

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...

If I was lost in a swamp in Arkansas, I don't think Cornell would be my first choice for someone to find me. Their track record in finding things in swamps ain't real good right now.

Anonymous said...

nothing will change anybody's opinion as to which hypothesis they prefer.

B.S. There are several ways to prove to skeptics the bird exists. But only if it does. On the other hand, the hardened believers apparently won't be shaken by the negative results from the greatest search in birding history.

Did you check out Tom Nelson's predictions from last year and match them to the way things actually played out? It's just about like he had access to this week's newspapers.

Bill Pulliam said...

We all know that the existence of a bird can of course be proven with incontrovertible evidence, there is no need to belabor that point (though many do seem to feel the need to belabor this and many other points ad nauseum). I was refering to the present situation and the latest announcement, which changes nothing. Some will see the non-news as confirmation the bird was never there, some will see it as evidence that it has moved on or there is only one bird and too many hectares of forest, others will see it as proof that Cornell botched the job. And you can predict what a given individual's reacton will be based on their previously stated views with near 100% accuracy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, human nature can be fairly easy to predict, and that was why Tom Nelson so accurately predicted there would be more tantalizing glimpses, more tantalizing sounds, no good looks, no good film, probable hoaxes (IBWO in orange tree) etc. etc.

Spin it any way you want. You CAN convince the skeptics, but it's going to be hard to convince the True Believers it has all been a big embarrassing blunder. Although many must be realizing it now, it will be hard to admit it in public, or to themselves.

Also wrong is the part of your statement that says "we're back where we started." If you're talking about opinion, take a look at the "opinion polls." Surely things aren't the same scientifically. Unless you ignore the search results, of course.

Anonymous said...

Opinion polls are of concern to politicians and advertisers, not scientists. At least they shouldn't be.

Bill Pulliam said...

Tom Nelson may have started out sincerely, but for many months his primary concern appears to have been the quest for attention and notoriety. He has certainly made a name for himself, but not as a birder or scientist. Judging from his comments, those interested in actual discussion and substantial debate stopped following his blog long ago and it is just Tom's Personal Fan Club now.

Anonymous said...

Opinion polls are of concern to politicians and advertisers, not scientists. At least they shouldn't be.

That is correct. But the opinions of Cornell and Believers that the IBWO exists don't mean much anymore without some real evidence. Bill's post was apparently speaking of opinion so I pointed out, correctly, that the facts (no solid evidence) haven't changed, but opinion has, dramatically and for good reason.

Folks, suck it up and admit Cornell failed.

The IBWO is almost certainly extinct. Tom was right all along, even when he had hardly any fans. Unlike Galileo, he didn't recant, even under heavy pressure.

If Cornell had gotten some quality video, Believers would have been dancing around demanding that Tom Nelson, Sibley and the other skeptics sit down for a huge plate of Crow. Well there's a huge plate of Crow now all right, and it's for the Believers, but they can't even ID the bird on the plate.

Bill, it seems to me that to a certain degree you're admitting that Tom Nelson was correct, but despite that you won't concede anything to him but instead you go after his motives. Two words:

Sore. Loser.

Bill Pulliam said...

Actually, I still believe Tom is INCORRECT on every major point about the assessment of the 2004-2005 evidence, but that has been covered elsewhere. But I have also never held terribly high hopes for Cornell's search, also as put forth elsewhere (low density, poor detectability, high mobility). Birds move, rarities frequently do not stay where they were last seen, a single bird in a large tract of forest is exceedingly difficult to detect. My own estimate was that if there were 5 birds in the Big Woods with a detcetability no worse than that of the PIWO, the search season would likely produce about 10 encounters and no good photos; scale that back to one or two birds and you have something similar to what actually came t pass. And indeed since the species seems to be built more for long-range flight than the other North American woodpeckers, the 2004-2005 sightings could well have been of a bird who is not even in the Big Woods at all anymore. If you want to see why I don't agree with any of Tom's alternate hypotheses and interpretations, that has all been detailed in many other places including the comments section of his own blog before I got tired of the attitude there and left. I really am not interested in covering all that ground again.

BINAC... do you think if the first two sightings had been made public knowledge immediately that birders would have actually gone there to search for and confirm the bird(s)? I mean that as an actual question, not a snippy disagreement.

Bill Pulliam said...

p.s. My quick-and-dirty analysis of the likelyhood of encountering an IBWO in the Big Woods is here, if you are curious:

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...


To answer your question yes, I do; if Cornell would have said it was ok I think plenty of birders would have been there within a day or two.

Near the end of each of the last two field seasons, Cornell apparently used a saturation search technique. They should have done that immediately after the initial sightings, and if they had, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion. Call David Sibley, Jerry Jackson, Bret Whitney, whoever, none of them would have turned Cornell down.

About comments: I think it's too bad that Cy shut down his comments, although I understand why he did it. But that sort-of leave's Tom's site out there all alone, and since he moderates his comments, it's really a one-sided discussion. It's his blog, so of course he can do what he wants, but even though I am certainly on the skeptical side of things I think the debate should be free and open.

So I am going to keep the comments on and unmoderated on any IBWO posts here unless it gets *really* out of hand.

Have fun. Vulgarity is not allowed except by me.

Bill Pulliam said...

That's interesting (the thoughts about releasing info versus secrecy). I think most of us who grew up birding in the South through the 70s and 80s have pondered in the back of our minds "What would I do if I saw an Ivorybill?" {or, a Bachman's Warbler}. For those of us who still consider this to be something that could possibly happen, recent events have certainly left us reevaluating the question. Right now I lean towards "It's just a bird for krissakes!" Treat it the same as any other rare, sensitive species. Report the sighting through the usual channels, submit it to the Records Committee, deal with criticism and questions in a civil, polite manner. Be judicious in revealing specific location info the same as you would not reveal the precise location of a Boreal Owl nest in Colorado. That's where I stand now... check back next month.