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Ivory-billed Woodpecker (formerly updates)

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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 08:51   #12926
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Originally Posted by dave_in_michigan View Post
People everywhere ought to get their sh*t straight, or at the very least learn to recognize the bull.
Thanks for helping us with that one - by posting so much of it on this thread.
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 14:53   #12927
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Dave, I'm not a good scientist.
I'm not a bad scientist either. I'm not a scientist at all.
But I am curious, and more than interested in this whole Ivory-billed Woodpecker affair.
And I suppose there are many "ordinary people" like me.
Could you tell the likes of me how you would conduct better searches? What improvements would you make? How would you better cover all the habitat from East Texas and Arkansas right through to South and North Carolina? Would you include areas like South Illinois in your search?
And just for now, could you tell us in plain language? Omit, if even for one post, references to Popper and phrases like "testing the null hypothesis"!

I hope this is not an impossible question!
I'm not a scientist either. Or a philosopher, or a serious birder for that matter. I'm an engineer and a project manager, and I get impatient with "research" that doesn't lead to results.

No I don't have an answer on how to conduct the searches, just some ideas on how they should go about developing their plans.
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 14:59   #12928
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People everywhere ought to get their sh*t straight, or at the very least learn to recognize the bull.
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Originally Posted by Bonsaibirder View Post
Thanks for helping us with that one - by posting so much of it on this thread.
Do you have some specific disagreement with my comments, or are you just being a jerk?
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 15:24   #12929
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Do you have some specific disagreement with my comments, or are you just being a jerk?
Both.
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 15:46   #12930
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Dave_in_Michigan,

I think your posts boil down to a convoluted and pseudo-intellectual version of the believers' last refuge: There is no proof that the Ivorybill is extinct (there never will be any, of course). Then you present yourself as a paragon of objectivity in search of "good science" and offer the sweeping judgment that "the evidence doesn't show anything for certain" which is true but only in an abstract philosopher can-we-really-know-anything sort of way. That kind of thinking has its place but when taken too far it is just an obstruction to understanding.

For all practical purposes the evidence overwhelmingly points to an absence of woodpeckers. The only evidence that suggests that Ivorybills survive is weak, anecdotal, unverifiable, and refutable. Looking at the data objectively it is only reasonable to predict that future searches will fail to find any Ivorybills, so a working hypothesis that the species is extinct explains the evidence better than any other hypothesis. Since we are practicing "good science", that hypothesis is always open to revision based on any new evidence, but for now it explains the evidence very well.

As you say "Part of that comes down to how good you think the search effort has been to date." If you're not a birder and/or haven't visited these areas, you won't know, but I can assure you that birders have been searching for this prize for generations, and the odds of a population surviving undetected - especially after all the publicity and high-powered searches of the last few years - is essentially zero.
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 16:12   #12931
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either evidence or eliminate areas

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Originally Posted by Piltdownwoman View Post
Dave_in_Michigan,

I think your posts boil down to a convoluted and pseudo-intellectual version of the believers' last refuge: There is no proof that the Ivorybill is extinct (there never will be any, of course). Then you present yourself as a paragon of objectivity in search of "good science" and offer the sweeping judgment that "the evidence doesn't show anything for certain" which is true but only in an abstract philosopher can-we-really-know-anything sort of way. That kind of thinking has its place but when taken too far it is just an obstruction to understanding.

For all practical purposes the evidence overwhelmingly points to an absence of woodpeckers. The only evidence that suggests that Ivorybills survive is weak, anecdotal, unverifiable, and refutable. Looking at the data objectively it is only reasonable to predict that future searches will fail to find any Ivorybills, so a working hypothesis that the species is extinct explains the evidence better than any other hypothesis. Since we are practicing "good science", that hypothesis is always open to revision based on any new evidence, but for now it explains the evidence very well.

As you say "Part of that comes down to how good you think the search effort has been to date." If you're not a birder and/or haven't visited these areas, you won't know, but I can assure you that birders have been searching for this prize for generations, and the odds of a population surviving undetected - especially after all the publicity and high-powered searches of the last few years - is essentially zero.
Well quite obviously there are purported experts over here who disagree and think there is some chance. And right now we're well past the question of "should we look" -- they have the funding and will continue to spend it.

What bothers me is that they can investigate this for a couple years now and the result is that 1) no conclusive evidence is documented and 2) they've not eliminated *any* areas for further searching.

They should design their searches so that they achieve either 1 or 2, not fail at both. And if they continue on the path of "maximizing their chances of getting lucky", then we're still going to be right at the same point next year (unless they do just get lucky).

Last edited by dave_in_michigan : Wednesday 6th February 2008 at 16:29.
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 18:34   #12932
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Clear imagery

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Originally Posted by dave_in_michigan View Post
I'm not a scientist either. Or a philosopher, or a serious birder for that matter. I'm an engineer and a project manager, and I get impatient with "research" that doesn't lead to results.

No I don't have an answer on how to conduct the searches, just some ideas on how they should go about developing their plans.
Thank you for that reply. You're not a bad scientist or philosopher - for an engineer!
Meanwhile, here's a link to the helicopter searches:

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/ivory/c.../document_view

I'm really impressed by the aerial photography. I particularly like the clear imagery of the pileated woodpeckers. If they ever capture a shot of the IBWO, there'll be no mistake.
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 18:40   #12933
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Grantsmanship at work...

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Well quite obviously there are purported experts over here who disagree and think there is some chance.
I would say self-appointed experts. Look at the top expert on the bird--Jerome Jackson, a long-time Ivory-billed searcher. He disagrees with the Cornell juggernaut and they try to buy him off with co-authorship (see story here).
Legitimate experts don't have to buy off or intimidate other experts in order to respond to criticism.

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And right now we're well past the question of "should we look" -- they have the funding and will continue to spend it.
You've hit the nail on the head. They have the funding, and they are going to spend it--no research institution ever returns grant money. They will spend it some way or another. They are rapidly doing this, with, for instance, and insane helicopter search and the pointless meanderings of the Mobile Search Team--they are wandering aimlessly over the Ivory-bill's former range, taking pretty photos of other birds and writing blog entries about the restaurants they eat at. Our tax dollars at work!

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What bothers me is that they can investigate this for a couple years now and the result is that 1) no conclusive evidence is documented and 2) they've not eliminated *any* areas for further searching.
See my remarks above. They are obviously trying to play this as long as possible.

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They should design their searches so that they achieve either 1 or 2, not fail at both. And if they continue on the path of "maximizing their chances of getting lucky", then we're still going to be right at the same point next year (unless they do just get lucky).
They've done extensive systematic searches in Arkansas, starting in 2004. These are detailed in Cornell's earlier press releases and papers. Problem is, they failed to find any Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. However with their splashy (and trashy) 2005 paper in Science,they had created a minor research juggernaut based on the idea that the Ivory-billed was extant. They cannot go back--they have to continue to go "onward and upward" in search of they bird, and they will continue to do so until the money runs out.

This is all standard scientific grantsmanship when the initial grant is based on bad data--nobody ever admits that they were wrong and returns grant money. You just don't ordinarily see it played out in such a public arena, with so much interest from birders. I predict this will all continue as long as the USFWS, etc., continue to fund it--the evidence does not matter.
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 19:54   #12934
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The Helicopters are beyond a joke - talk about a ridiculous waste of time and money - I bet it's exciting for those pretending to still look for the birds though.

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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 20:43   #12935
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The Helicopters are beyond a joke - talk about a ridiculous waste of time and money - I bet it's exciting for those pretending to still look for the birds though.
As any birder knows, few things work as well to scare the living daylights out of birds as helicopters: an excellent way to get a flight shot of that hyper-elusive beast — I guess that was their thinking?
Hot air balloons would work well too, but they shouldn't make the joking too easy...
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 21:16   #12936
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I agree, these Pink feet in Norfolk certainly didn't like this one.
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 21:43   #12937
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accountable?

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This is all standard scientific grantsmanship when the initial grant is based on bad data--nobody ever admits that they were wrong and returns grant money. You just don't ordinarily see it played out in such a public arena, with so much interest from birders. I predict this will all continue as long as the USFWS, etc., continue to fund it--the evidence does not matter.
I guess that's where I would expect some kind of pressure from the rest of the scientific community to hold them accountable for results... Who is doing this?

I can understand other professional ornitholigists wanting to be careful about mess with someone else's gravy train, but still... No public challenges from anyone on how the money is spent? Only critiques of their published claims?
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Old Wednesday 6th February 2008, 23:06   #12938
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...the pointless meanderings of the Mobile Search Team--they are wandering aimlessly over the Ivory-bill's former range, taking pretty photos of other birds and writing blog entries about the restaurants they eat at. Our tax dollars at work!.
but it's really sweet!

you wouldn't even guess they were looking for woodpeckers from reading the posts. It's nice to know they're eating well mind, and even better to know they're still hearing 'possible double-knocks', looking for a short while and then clearing off the next morning. (Jan 11th - 12th)

Still, let's hope they don't head up the wrong bayou and come across some 'hostiles' and get some 'deliverance' or 'southern comfort' type action; maybe taken back to a redneck camp full of IBWOs in wooden cages before... well, you know... scant compensation I guess for some of you over there

after post 12930, there's very little to say.
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Old Thursday 7th February 2008, 02:36   #12939
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Southern Comfort

Hmmmmmmmmm. The film "Southern Comfort" has been described as a rough-and-ready parable depicting the Vietnam war. It just happens to be set in habitat favoured by the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
PCoin, you bemoan "our tax dollars at work" looking for this bird. But think Vietnam, and Iraq and Afghanistan. Think aircraft carriers and warplanes,destruction of environments and countless lives lost.

And I would suggest to you: that's where your tax dollars are working.

By comparison, the small amount of money (some of it from private sources) spent searching for the IBWO, and buying up small but precious tracts of bottomland forest, is a mere pittance.

Chickenfeed.
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Old Thursday 7th February 2008, 03:32   #12940
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Salar this has been pointed out before. There is only so much chickenfeed to be spent on environmental projects so there's no point comparing the arms budget. I think some birders here wonder whether this chickenfeed might be better spent on something else. Personally I'd go for working out why the Rusty Blackbirds population has dropped 80% over the last couple of decades and then trying to do something about it or trying to manage/create grasslands so as to turn around the rather worrying declines in grassland birds, or see what can be done for Golden-cheeked Warblers or Black-capped Vireos with the money - rather than splash the cash on some idiots poncing about in helicopters for a few days.

Luke

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Hmmmmmmmmm. The film "Southern Comfort" has been described as a rough-and-ready parable depicting the Vietnam war. It just happens to be set in habitat favoured by the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
PCoin, you bemoan "our tax dollars at work" looking for this bird. But think Vietnam, and Iraq and Afghanistan. Think aircraft carriers and warplanes,destruction of environments and countless lives lost.

And I would suggest to you: that's where your tax dollars are working.

By comparison, the small amount of money (some of it from private sources) spent searching for the IBWO, and buying up small but precious tracts of bottomland forest, is a mere pittance.

Chickenfeed.
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Old Thursday 7th February 2008, 05:01   #12941
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I... can't be bothered to write reams of irrelevance on an internet forum...
Tim, I thought about it, and was gonna let it slide, but then...

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after post 12930, there's very little to say.
...with 11314 posts yourself , I bet you'll keep talking when there's nothing left to say.

* * * *

Luv ya, Tim. Couldn't pass on that one.

Cheers.

Dave
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Old Thursday 7th February 2008, 08:48   #12942
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I guess that's where I would expect some kind of pressure from the rest of the scientific community to hold them accountable for results... Who is doing this?

I can understand other professional ornitholigists wanting to be careful about mess with someone else's gravy train, but still... No public challenges from anyone on how the money is spent? Only critiques of their published claims?
I'm really unclear on the point that you are trying to press here.

Except for a few souls that chose to jump into this highly questionable circle, very few birders or scientists believe that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has been observed and continues to live.

I would suggest that you review the sad history of human-caused extinctions that have taken place over the last few centuries. Unfortunately, there are many, many cases of such extinctions. When a bird goes unobserved for long periods of time in its previously established habitat, this is very strong evidence for extinction. The case of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is not exceptional.

The notion that a large, noisy, fervently sought bird such as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker could persist in North America for sixty years without being documented is simply ridiculous.
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Old Thursday 7th February 2008, 11:54   #12943
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and the pointless meanderings of the Mobile Search Team--they are wandering aimlessly over the Ivory-bill's former range, taking pretty photos of other birds and writing blog entries about the restaurants they eat at.
Amazing. Simply amazing. Where can I get a job like that?
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Old Thursday 7th February 2008, 14:57   #12944
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Amazing. Simply amazing. Where can I get a job like that?
If you took a huge drop in salary, and were prepared to sleep rough and wet, I'm sure it could be arranged.
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Old Thursday 7th February 2008, 18:00   #12945
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Rusty Blackbirds

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Personally I'd go for working out why the Rusty Blackbirds population has dropped 80% over the last couple of decades --

Luke
Odd that you mention Rusty Blackbirds... It's been discovered by Ivory-bill searchers in the Choctawhatchee River basin, that large numbers of Rusty Blackbirds winter in the cypress swamps! One of the Auburn University people is documenting all sightings. Saving habitat obviously helps a lot of species...
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Old Thursday 7th February 2008, 18:04   #12946
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One of the Auburn University people is documenting all sightings.
I expect there'll be plenty of data to analyse then...

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Old Thursday 7th February 2008, 19:25   #12947
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Odd that you mention Rusty Blackbirds... It's been discovered by Ivory-bill searchers in the Choctawhatchee River basin, that large numbers of Rusty Blackbirds winter in the cypress swamps! One of the Auburn University people is documenting all sightings. Saving habitat obviously helps a lot of species...
Hardly a discovery - it's well known that they require wet woodland habitat in winter. Obviously saving habitat is a good thing but lets prioritize. My original point was some searchers having a jolly in a helicopter is not my idea of money well spent.

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Old Thursday 7th February 2008, 21:04   #12948
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Pointless

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I'm really unclear on the point that you are trying to press here...

...The notion that a large, noisy, fervently sought bird such as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker could persist in North America for sixty years without being documented is simply ridiculous.
If there is no real chance, then my points are indeed pointless, which is pretty much what people here are saying.

(I do get it. I just don't agree with the premise.)

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Old Friday 8th February 2008, 08:53   #12949
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What if the companies/governments call the searchers' bluff? 5 years to find the IBWO and then we go in with the bulldozers". What if they'd said that 5 years ago?

Save the habitat because of the Rusty Blackbirds (and everything else in there), not because of the imaginary woodpeckers.

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... in preserving what is left of the habitat, in buying and conserving more land and in looking after the environment that is there.

What a depressing future. Deforestation. Concrete and glass. Tarmac and aviation fuel. The smell of gunsmoke. Jingoistic cheering.
...
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Old Friday 8th February 2008, 13:49   #12950
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Save the habitat because of the Rusty Blackbirds (and everything else in there), not because of the imaginary woodpeckers.
That's kind of my thinking Bonsai - this sadly could be a disaster waiting to happen for the conservation movement in the US. All this investment over a bird that might prove to have never been there. Not going to be helpful when it comes to trying to deal with other conservation issues.

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