Sunday, March 23, 2008

A bit more on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker

For some reason, the Blogger gods are preventing me from reading or posting to my own comments. All comments made to my blog do come to me as e-mails, though, so I do see them.

For a tiny but interesting glimpse into the emotions that swirl around the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, often veering off into personal politics and a thorough abandonment of any scientific method, take a look at the two comments posted to my Pale-billed Woodpecker post by someone who chooses to remain anonymous.

Several of the issues that serve to discredit some - not all, just some - rabid pro Ivory-billed believers come out in those comments.

He/her states "Links below TO A FRACTION of the material and reports out there but appartently [sic] all completly [sic] missed." She/he then goes on to give links to Geoff Hill's page on the search for Ivory-billeds in Florida. These pages are rich in circumstantial evidence, both poor videos and sound recordings, none of which can be unequivocally proven to be of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. In fact, in my opinion, I would say that the video material is certainly not an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and that probably none of the audio recordings of "kent" calls and double-rap knocks are, either. Geoff Hill, constructor of these web pages and a principle searcher in the swamps of Florida, states himself on the website:

Not Proof

Although members of our search group are convinced that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers persist in the swamp forests along the Choctawhatchee River, we readily concede that the evidence we have amassed to date falls short of definitive. Definitive evidence will come in the form of a clear, indisputable film, digital image, or video image of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker or perhaps from a fresh feather or DNA sample. No such indisputable evidence has been gathered since photographic images of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers were made in the Singer Tract of Louisiana in the 1930s.While we do not present our evidence as proof, we feel that the evidence that we have amassed is compelling and warrants a substantial follow-up effort.

I certainly applaud Geoff and Dan Mennill, and everyone else involved, for making extreme efforts to attempt to verify the existence of a bird widely thought to be extinct. They and others who share their data also deserve major kudos for sharing their findings, so that other ornithologists and interested parties can draw their own conclusions from the data. And I'd repeat, this is a case where all of us doubters would dearly love to be proven wrong.

For a surprisingly balanced synopsis of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, go here.

1 comment:

Erik said...

As a sideline observer to the IBWO debate I often find the comments by the "believer" camp to be quite entertaining. Some are quite passionate in their beliefs. There also appears to be no greater crime in their eyes than to be a skeptic or doubter waiting for more conclusive evidence. It's probably the reason that most of the high profile personalities in the birding world no longer publicly discuss the IBWO.

I also found the comment about bloggers having a journalistic responsibility to be interesting. It was always my understanding that a blog was simply personal commentary or opinion or a diary in an electronic format, not a piece of journalism.

I agree with your closing thoughts. I'll dance in the streets the day I'm proven wrong. But until then, I have to remain skeptical.