Wednesday, August 16, 2006

TWO Ivory-billed Woodpeckers!?!?

Mike Collins (aka Fishcrow), who mounted a one-person search for Ivory-bills in Louisiana's Pearl River Basin last winter, recently (08/14/06) announced on BirdChat the availability of new footage (posted here) purporting to show two different Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Collins's post drew resounding criticism from several BirdChat subscribers. The original post and ensuing discussion follows (listed in order from earliest to most recent):

  • new IBWO footage (Mike Collins makes announcement)

  • Re: new IBWO footage (Chris Fagyal criticizes image quality)

  • Re: new IBWO footage (Collins replies to Fagyal’s critique)

  • Re: new IBWO footage (Fagyal replies to Collins’s retort)

  • Re: new IBWO footage (Fred Virrazzi replys to Fagyal’s response)

  • Re: new IBWO footage (Fagyal replys to Virrazzi’s comments)

  • new IBWO footage (Jim Greaves's critical commentary)


  • Personally, I have to agree with Fagyal and Greaves's criticism of the evidence provided by Mike Collins. I can barely make out a bird in this video, let alone positively identify it to species. The latest so-called definitive evidence from Collins has also been severely criticized at Ivory-bill Skeptic.

    3 Comments:

    Anonymous Paul said...

    I am serious here and I know this is not what one likes to think about but I miss the certainty of collecting the bird. I doubt that the fate of the species could hinge on collecting one bird, and the information that a sample bird woud provide would be worthwhile. If Cornell had plugged the fellow we would have moved beyond the predicate question of their existence.

    August 18, 2006 12:34 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Mike Collins, who is a highly regarded scientist in his own field, has a complete lack of respect for the standards of ornithological science. He has in the past made claims about startling sightings, including a McGillivray's Warbler in the DC suburbs. He did not take appropriate field notes. When he reported this siting to the Records Committee, they asked him for more information, of the sort that one would expect when documenting a rarity. He became irate. He not only refused to provide more information, but also became nasty. As I recall - and you can find these messages via google - his description was something like "it looked like a McGillivray's." Now he sits in the Pearl River for weeks, trying to get evidence of an IBWO. If you read the website, you will see one excuse after another for why he couldn't get decent photos, despite a number of sightings. My favorite is his worry that the camera will fall in the water. Right. Well, for under $500, you can buy a professional quality wet bag that lets you shoot right through the bag. Endless excuses about the lack of quality recordings, even though he claims numerous aural encounters. The sound files he posted on the website were ludicrous. He had NO woodpeckers, much less Campephilus woodpeckers, in those sound clips. He had a single-note, high-pitched call that he decided must be the previously undescribed alarm call of the IBWO. Though he's dragged numerous experts out there, or visited experts to show his evidence, not one has come forward to say that he's onto something and that money and expertise should be devoted to searching this area. In sum, he is much like BillIsMad - the guy in Florida who sees at least one pair, nearly every day.

    August 24, 2006 7:49 AM  
    Anonymous Paul said...

    There is a fine line in birding between subjective evidence and objective evidence and the more one leans toward the subjective the greater the reliance on one's credibility. Without an actual specimen the ivory bill debate is all subjective and has disolved into its worst elements, with people trying to interpret horrible photos and sound recordings. Reputations used to get ruined over something like this, but not anymore.

    August 24, 2006 10:54 AM  

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