Tuesday, January 31, 2006
I swear that I did not know January 31 was Nauru Independence Day when I declared today to be Nauru Appreciation Day. What are the odds of that happening?????? (I guess 365-to-1, but who's counting?) So now the people of Nauru have two reasons to celebrate today. Or tomorrow or yesterday, I always forget how that Date Line thing works.
Happy Birthday to Nauru, Happy Birthday to Nauru,
You're a fine little island,
With an endemic species, too!
We received a visitor from Nauru yesterday. No, I didn't know where it was, either. Nauru is a tiny Pacific island known for its phosphate mining. There is one endemic passerine, which is supposedly the only passerine on the island. So, in honor of our lone visitor from Nauru, we are hereby declaring January 31, 2006 to be "Nauru Appreciation Day."
Did you know that: Nauru is the world's smallest independent republic?
Did you know that: the Australian dollar is the official currency of Nauru?
Did you know that: Nauru joined the U.N. in 1999?
Did you know that: Nauru's national airline, Air Nauru, had its last plane impounded in December 2005?
Did you know that: Nauru has two tourist facilities--a hostel and a luxurious hotel?
Did you know that: The Australian government, in a controversial decision, once paid Nauru "aid money" to accept almost 1,000 Afghan asylum seekers?
Did you know that: Nauru once tried to become an offshore banking and financial center?
Did you know that: Nauru is the only country in the world without a capital city?
Did you know that: Nauru used to be called "Pleasant Island"?
Did you know that Nauru has severed its diplomatic ties with China, and established ties with Taiwan? Nauru is always trying to cause trouble! As they say in Nauru: "God's Will First!"
We can all sing Nauru's National Anthem, to this tune:
Nauru our homeland, the land we dearly love,
We all pray for you and we also praise your name.
Since long ago you have been the home of our great forefathers
And will be for generations yet to come.
We all join in together to honour your flag,
And we shall rejoice together and say;
Nauru for evermore!
And finally, here is the BirdLife International entry on Nauru:
Monday, January 30, 2006
Joy, oh joy, for Mr. Guppy has returned!!! (Note: I know I just posted how I'm sick of the IBWO, and here I am writing about it again, but Mr. Guppy proves my point: It is getting very hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. This is important stuff, because critical conservation decisions are being made now, and they should only be made on the basis of legitimate sightings.)
Anyway, here is the photo that Mr. Guppy has now posted to his web site. The folks at Birdforum have already made up their minds on this photo, but I would be interested in knowing what my readers think:
The folks at Birdforum also caught an interesting article in the Decatur (Illinois) paper about a guy named "David Johnson" from Sullivan, Illinois, who just had a good sighting of an IBWO in Arkansas. This David Johnson is described as an experienced birder. There are two known "David Johnson"s in Illinois birding circles...the one who is on IORC and the one who runs (or used to run, not sure if he still does) a Wild Birds Unlimited store in the Chicago suburbs. However, to the best of my knowledge, neither of the two known "David Johnson"s lives in Sullivan.
Therefore, the Decatur article is proof of a previously unknown, and therefore new to science, sub-species of "David Johnson." We'll name it David Johnson sullivani.
Anyway, here's the story:
It's called "The Grail Bird," a bird so rare, so sought after that it's considered the Holy Grail of ornithology. In fact, the ivory-billed woodpecker had been thought to be extinct for more than half a century - until last year. In 2005, researchers from Cornell University astounded the birding world by announcing that they had seen an ivory-billed woodpecker in the deep-forest swamps of Arkansas and even captured it on video. Birders everywhere were amazed. A species that had evaded not just amateur birders, but professional scientists for decades had been shown to have returned from the dead - not just a Grail bird, a "Lazarus Bird." Now, a Sullivan man has added his name to the short list of those who have seen the elusive bird.
David Johnson of Sullivan, a lifelong birder, says he saw one of the rare birds during an expedition last December in the same area as the Cornell sighting. Johnson, chief executive officer of ASI Risk Management, an agricultural insurance company, visited the Mississippi River bayous of eastern Arkansas with Wayne Elmore, the firm's marketing representative in that state, who lives in the area and knows it well.The two hoped to get a look at the once-in-a-lifetime bird themselves.
And they did."I was lucky," Johnson said. "I just happened to be looking at the exact spot where the bird took off." I'm 100 percent sure it was an ivory. There's nothing else that big that has those markings, and just before that, we had heard it call and rap," he said. "What's ironic about the whole thing is that people spent months looking for it, and we made contact in a few minutes."
Ivory-billed woodpeckers, named for their massive white bills, never were abundant. Though they originally ranged from eastern Texas to coastal Carolina and even into extreme Southern Illinois, they require vast tracts of mature forest for food and nesting habitat: One pair alone needs 10 square miles. Logging and deforestation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries destroyed most of the southern forest, leaving only fragmented populations of the birds to survive. Hunting decimated those that remained. The last confirmed birds were found in the swamps of Louisiana, and the last one of those was seen in 1944. Through the years, several expeditions were mounted to search for the birds. There were shreds of evidence: a mysterious rapping sound here, a suspected feeding cavity in a tree trunk there, but nothing conclusive.
Then in 2004, researchers from the world-renowned Cornell Ornithology Laboratory, searching for the bird in the Cache River and White River national wildlife refuges in Arkansas, made contact. One of them even caught the bird in flight on video, which, though of poor quality, showed the unmistakable coloration pattern of the ivory bill, which distinguishes it from its common relative, the pileated woodpecker. The rediscovery turned the ornithological community on its head as conservationists took quick action to preserve the forests where the remnant population survived. It also inspired birders such as Johnson to see if they could get a glimpse, too. When Johnson heard about the rediscovery, he mentioned it to one of his company's employees, Elmore, who has fished and hunted the bayous in the Big Woods area of Arkansas since the 1940s. Elmore invited Johnson down, and the pair set out to see what they could see."I went in December because the leaves would be off the trees," Johnson said. "Also because there has been a drought in Arkansas. There wasn't much water, and I knew we'd be able to walk around, so I knew we'd be able to cover a lot of ground in a short time."
Because federal conservation authorities want to control the number of people entering the refuge to protect the birds, users are required to obtain permits, which are limited. "I went down on a Thursday and stayed at Wayne's house," Johnson said, "and we got up early the next morning to go to the refuge office to get our permits."The two men figured the allotment would be gone for that day, but to their surprise, they were able to get an OK. By about 9:30 a.m., the pair had arrived at the nearby Dagmar wildlife area, grabbed their cameras and binoculars, and set off. "There's a lot of swamp there, with huge cypress and tupelo trees hundreds of years old, 8 feet around at the base," Johnson said. "But because it was dry, we were able to walk around like on a thick carpet, and since there's not a lot of underbrush, we could see well."
Only a few minutes passed before the two heard what Johnson said was the call and rapping of an ivory-billed." The call is very distinctive, and when he hits that tree with that bill, it sounds like a .22 (caliber) - 'bang, bang' - ricocheting through the forest," Johnson said. Johnson and Elmore continued to walk, stopping every now and then to listen. But they saw nothing, and getting cold, decided to return to their truck to warm up. It was about 10:30 a.m. as they were walking. "About 80 feet in front of me, I saw something flush from the base of a tree," Johnson said. "As the bird came up, I got a real good look at it. The bottom half of the top side of wing was white, and this bird had a 30-inch wingspan." There's no doubt in my mind it was not a pileated. A pileated doesn't have that marking on top, and it's not as big a bird, and this one had two white stripes up its neck. I had about a two-second look at it, and I feel it was a female bird because I did not see a red crest." We just happened to sneak up on him and flush him," he said. "Otherwise, we would have never known he was there."
Johnson and Elmore saw other woodpeckers after that, but none were ivory-billed woodpeckers. In time, they met up with some Cornell researchers working in the area and reported the sighting. Over the rest of the weekend, they searched other areas in the refuge system but were unsuccessful. For Johnson, however, one sighting of an ivory-billed woodpecker is enough. "I've been birding for 60 years, ever since I was a kid," Johnson said. "A lot of bird habitat has been destroyed, trees bulldozed and chemicals used, so it's really great to see populations making a comeback."
The funny thing is, though, that on that same day I also got a mail solicitation from Geico Insurance offering me car insurance. The last time I renewed my ABA membership I was concerned about the possibility of getting too much junk mail, so I used an unusual version of my name: an abbreviation of my first name, with my middle initial. Picture "Dave A. Sibley" instead of "David Sibley" or "David A. Sibley." Sure enough, the Geico junk mail I got used the same abbreviation of my name that I used on my ABA membership renewal.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
I agree with a lot of what was in Jackson's Auk article, and I think it is a very important article, but let's not forget that the publication of Jackson's article in the Auk has no effect on whether Elvis actually exists. It just brings to light the same questions that bloggers have been asking for months, and puts a public face on those criticisms. The bird is either there, or it isn't, and Jackson's criticisms (or mine or Tom Nelson's or anyone else's) don't make the IBWO's survival any more or less likely -- it only changes what people *think* about the existence of the IBWO. Consider this: even if everything Cornell has said over the last year or two is incorrect, there could still be IBWOs in Arkansas, or, for that matter, in Louisiana or Texas or Florida. Even if the bird in Luneau's video could be proven to be something other than an IBWO, that still doesn't disprove any of the Arkansas sight records.
Now, this site has poked a lot of fun and Cornell, and deservedly so. But make no mistake about it: if Cornell produced a perfect photograph of "Elvis" tomorrow, I would be *happy.* I'd be the first person to jump back on the bandwagon, because I want this bird to exist as badly as anyone does.
This site has also taken a few shots at people (like Mr. Guppy) who seem to be seeing IBWOs in every patch of woods they know. But we have used those tactics because we feel that those people detract (and distract) from the credible scientists and ornithologists (and birders, too) who are actively searching for evidence that the IBWO still exists. But, in the end, nothing that we say here -- and nothing that is said on any blog or web site anywhere -- is going to prove whether the IBWO still exists. If the IBWO does still exist, its existence will not be proven on the Internet, it will be proven by experienced observers in the field.
That is why it is exciting to see that organized searches are apparently going to be funded in Texas and South Carolina, and hopefully in other states as well. For the life of me, I can't understand who anyone -- even the most hardened skeptic -- could see these searches as a bad thing. I want to know if the IBWO still exists. I want to know the truth, dammit, and I want to believe --- I just need more proof. I hope for more proof. I want more proof, because I want the bird to exist. If Cornell can definitively prove that IBWOs currently reside in Arkansas, I would rejoice and be on the next plane to Arkansas, because such proof would be a good thing. Let's not lose sight of that.
So Cornell, please find this damn bird, and oh yeah, please tell us when you do.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
After traveling all over and being out of town for work for a couple of weeks, I needed a bit of time to decompress and take care of some administrative details (birthday, Internet problems, broken refrigerator, electrical short, etc etc) here at Casa de BINAC. It seems like everything I have touched in the last three months has broken. I also finally made the switch over to high-speed Internet so that I can upload photos (I couldn't even upload a standard photo on my old dial-up) from home, but, like everything else in this modern world, that caused almost as many problems as it solved. The immediate effect of switching all over my services over to RCN (local cable company with a rep for bad service) was that I had no sound on any of my 100 new tv channels, I could not receive incoming phone calls, could not set up my voice mail, and could send -- but not receive -- e-mail. It took me about a week, in which time none of my e-mails to RCN have been answered, but I have fixed (myself, of course) everything except the outgoing e-mail glitch. So we will hopefully be back on track soon.
Anyway, that stuff is all pretty boring, the real question is "When are we gonna see some birding action?" The answer is, very soon. I'm back in Florida on Friday, where I hope to do a "Big Day" to help the lads over in Korea. (More on that later). There are a few non-field posts that will be up this week, and I have just finished planning trips to the East Coast, Southern California, and Minnesota. Not all birding trips per se, but have Swarovski, will travel, as I like to say.
So stay tuned.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Lengthy Radio Interview with Jerome Jackson: "I will rejoice if they find them, and I will be on the next plane to Arkansas."
OK, so Wes' post was rude, condescending, and an example of how *not* to treat new birders. But it was also brilliant, and I'm ashamed to admit that I loved every word of it! Every time I read a post from someone in Illinois about the four Cardinals in their backyard, I'll think of Wes' post and smile...
I know as I write this that some people will criticize me for asking the following question, but I think it quite probable that at least as many want to ask it as well, so here goes........... Who in North America who has been a birder for any time over a week could possibly care about this sighting? Just wondering.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
"The Truth Is Still Out There:" Jerome Jackson Publishes Article Questioning Ivory-billed Woodpecker Rediscovery!
Not surprisingly, many of the points that Tom has made over the past few months appear in this article. Pretty big coincidence, huh;)?
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Maybe Cornell should hire Mr. Guppy him and send him down to Arkansas, he'd find Elvis in a day or two, tops. Of course, he won't be able to help Cornell take any IBWO photos, I guess it's too hard to focus with one hand on the steering wheel.
Mr. Guppy has now proclaimed himself to be a snake expert, too. Given his prior statements that he is an: 1) experienced bird trainer; 2) accomplished fish breeder; and 3) expert on "big cats", it's not surprising that he found so many IBWOs so quickly.
The only good thing that might come out of Mr. Guppy's travels is that more credible searchers could be inspired by his "sightings" to explore other parts of Florida, where relict populations of IBWOs very well may exist...
So I really get a kick out of seeing the photos that some of the TB guides post to Surfbirds and other places.
Anyone who has birded Latin America should check out this amazing story (with some stunning photos) about several tame pittas that are currently being seen at a location that is accessible to TB. Simply incredible: Perfect Pittas
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
LONDON, England -- A computer programmer found out his girlfriend was having an affair when his pet parrot kept repeating her lover's name, British media reported Tuesday.
The African grey parrot kept squawking "I love you, Gary" as his owner, Chris Taylor, sat with girlfriend Suzy Collins on the sofa of their shared flat in Leeds, northern England.
But when Taylor saw Collins's embarrassed reaction, he realized she had been having an affair -- meeting her lover in the flat whilst Ziggy looked on, the UK's Press Association reported.
Ziggy even mimicked Collins's voice each time she answered her telephone, calling out "Hiya Gary," according to newspaper reports.
Call-center worker Collins, 25, admitted the four-month affair with a colleague called Gary to her boyfriend and left the flat she had shared with Taylor, 30, for a year. Taylor said he had also been forced to part with Ziggy after the bird continued to call out Gary's name and refused to stop squawking the phrases in his ex-girlfriend's voice, media reports said.
"I wasn't sorry to see the back of Suzy after what she did, but it really broke my heart to let Ziggy go," he said. "I love him to bits and I really miss having him around, but it was torture hearing him repeat that name over and over again. "I still can't believe he's gone. I know I'll get over Suzy, but I don't think I'll ever get over Ziggy."
The bird has now found a new home through the offices of a local parrot dealer. Collins, who admitted the affair, said: "I'm not proud of what I did but I'm sure Chris would be the first to admit we were having problems."
"I am surprised to hear he got rid of that bird," she added to The Guardian newspaper. "He spent more time talking to it than he did to me."
Monday, January 16, 2006
Well, I think that those questions have now been answered.
In fact, a source (I cannot reveal the source, as he/she is currently the subject of a federal investigation for communicating with me) has told me that Cornell has located a family of IBWOs that have been extensively studied. When I questioned my source, he/she insisted that good photographs had been taken since the birds were virtually tame and allowed the search team to approach them very closely.
I, of course, demanded proof, and my source managed to download one of the photos off of Cornell's server and e-mail it to me. This is why he/she is wanted by the FBI. The picture below is the property of Cornell, and I do not have authority to post it, but I am doing so anyway. I debated long and hard about whether I should post it or not, it was not an easy decision for me.
Careful observers will note that several identifiable members of the official Cornell search team are visible in this photo, thereby proving that it was taken recently in the Arkansas search area. Since they are not wearing heavy jackets, the photo must have been taken during the summer or early fall. Maybe now Cornell will tell us the whole story.
Here is the photo, which will be posted on this site until Cornell or a judge orders me to take it down:
So I have happily submitted a post to I and the Bird whenever I have the time, and I have found some great stories there, and some really interesting sites that I now enjoy.
Prior to submitting a post for I and the Bird, I usually check out the site hosting the carnival. When I checked the site that is hosting edition 15, I was quite astonished to find the following statement:
"A reminder to potential contributors: As explained before, I will NOT link to posts, blogs or other web sites that support, promote or are affiliated with creationism/"intelligent" design, even if your post is solely about birds. I don't apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you."
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
First, I stopped by at Wolf Lake and picked up the Ross' Goose that was hanging around, and two Trumpeter Swans. Didn't have time to look at anything else. ROGO is a City bird for me, and I haven't seen one in ages. I have seen Trumpeters at Wolf Lake before they were "countable" in Illinois, so I don't have to worry about "countability" any more.
Then I zoomed down to Kankakee where I was lucky enough to see one of the (2-3?) Snowy Owls that has been hanging around down there. Now that I have a 1 GB Memory Stick for my Sony digital camera (7.2 megapixels, so the photo files are pretty large) I just snap away at anything with wings. Didn't turn out too bad, considering how far away the bird was:
After heading north from Kankakee, I played a hunch and drove to Bartel Grasslands in the southern part of Cook County. I got lucky and had great views at dusk of a Short-eared Owl hunting just south of Vollmer Road. This has been a good spot for SEOW's the last few, but no one has publicly reported any from this spot so far this year.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
We'll let you know if we hear anything.
Monday, January 09, 2006
Note to all IBWO searchers: If you ever do see an Ivory-billed Woodpecker and decide to start a web site about it, remember to delete your insane fish ramblings *before* you start the woodpecker web site. Darn Google.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
In the meantime, yours truly was quoted in a UPI story about rebounding populations of Blue Jays. Which is a little odd, considering that I have never in my life spoken to a UPI reporter.
But this is what I was talking about in some earlier posts about working the media on bird-related issues...UPI (I didn't know they were still in business) must have picked up what I said on WBBM Radio, edited it, and turned it into a wire story, which was then picked up by a couple of other print/web outlets. A very interesting illustration of how the media transmits information, and not always accurately.