Monday, November 06, 2006

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker and the Arkansas Bird Records Committee

As reported here, the Arkansas Bird Records Committee (ABRC) of the Arkansas Audubon Society reviewed evidence of the existence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO) in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in April 2004. Sometime in 2005, they voted to change the status of the bird in Arkansas from "extirpated" to "present." The manner in which unusual or unexpected sightings are handled by the ABRC was explained thusly:
The Arkansas Audubon Society, which was organzied in 1955, has compiled bird records since its inception. All sightings of species unusual or unexpected in Arkansas must by fully documented (preferably including photographs or videos) and submitted for review by the bird records committee. At least four of the five committee members must vote for acceptance before the sightings become part of the official record. (emphasis added)
The ABRC maintains the Arkansas Bird Records Database (ABRD). "Since 1986 [the year of publication of James and Neal's Arkansas birds: their distribution and abundance] there have been more than 7,500 significant records contributed to this file." But the current version of the ABRD, which contains records through December 2005, includes no mention of the IBWO. I find this very strange, as the 2004 Arkansas sightings of at least one IBWO were about as unusual or unexpected an occurrence as one could possibly imagine. How can it be that the ABRC considers the IBWO to be "present" in Arkansas (largely on the basis of the Luneau video, I believe) while the ABRD (which is maintained by the ABRC) reflects no accepted records of the IBWO (neither the Luneau video nor any of the seven "compelling" sightings). Something just doesn't compute. What part of the puzzle am I missing?


Blogger cyberthrush said...

I believe the vote was in Nov. of 2005, and therefore may not have had time to make it into records published but a month later, given how the bureaucracy of such things work. Check again whenever the list is next updated.

November 06, 2006 9:03 PM  
Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Hot potato? Sporadic entry of records into the database? I noticed the same thing earlier this year but figured it was just a time lag. After all, even though the sighting occured in 2004 it was not reported until 2005. But there are now records in there from December 2005 as you note.

First round actions on these IBWO reports are hardly going to be the final word on them anyway. All will likely be reevaluated in a couple of years in the light of whatever is or is not found between now and then. Birders and media want fast actions, but the scientific process is accustomed to allowing several years (or often decades) for disputes to work themselves through.

November 06, 2006 9:26 PM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

The points made by Cyberthrush and Bill are well taken. State bird record committees are made up of volunteers who work hard at maintaining the integrity of State bird records.

It's too bad that the ABRC doesn't publish it's annual reports online, as do many other committees. See, for example, this recent report from neighboring Missouri.

November 06, 2006 10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, I think it may be better and wiser that the ABRC reporting in slow. We are returning back to a time when IBWO reports will only yield ridicule and career-harming effects.

In some ways, only Cyberthrush and Bill Pulliam remain as defenders of IBWO sightings. That is, they are the only people not associated directly with the CLO or Auburn that still hold out that the sightings MAY be correct.

They will ultimately fall. And the cycle will be complete. IBWO sighting will be treated no differently than bigfoot sightings.

But it has been fun.

November 08, 2006 11:46 AM  
Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

That is, they are the only people not associated directly with the CLO or Auburn that still hold out that the sightings MAY be correct

I think you need to get out a bit more, off-line. There are many birders and professionals unconnected to CLO or Hill et al. who remain deeply skeptical of the self-described "skeptics" and their arguments. Many have their own serious issues with CLO, but are able to take a larger view of the situation in spite of this. Most are not wasting time on the public mudfights, however. Smarter than I, they are...

There are also of course many in similar positions who agree wholeheartedly with Sibley et al. Most are abe to "disagree without being disagreable." The world of birding and conservation biology is FAR larger than the blogosphere.

November 08, 2006 6:04 PM  
Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

I should add that it is a sad day if "ridicule and career-harming effects" are considered desirable and successful outcomes.

November 08, 2006 6:08 PM  
Blogger cyberthrush said...

gee, I guess I'll have to knock off Bill -- I'd love to be the last one standing when the IBWO is confirmed (I could use the fame and fortune), but unfortunately Anon. is wrong and there are quite a few folks who recognize the extent of evidence for IBWO survival and how little there is for extinction.

November 08, 2006 7:48 PM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

. . . it is a sad day if "ridicule and career-harming effects" are considered desirable and successful outcomes.

I heartily agree with this sentiment.

November 09, 2006 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I heartily agree with this sentiment. "

Then you are just too nice a fella to be a scientist, John. Just look at the ridicule that the CLO staff received in Veracruz. The laughs behind their back; the snarky comments at sessions.

It is nature's way to prevent stupidity from dominating our time.

November 09, 2006 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There are many birders and professionals unconnected to CLO or Hill et al. who remain deeply skeptical of the self-described "skeptics" and their arguments"

Thanks Bill. Your made my point. Everyone, except Cyberthrush and you, are now forced to be silent believers. Those connected birders, as you call them, that are associated with CLO or Auburn have gone quiet. They dare not speak out lest they share the ridicule.

I admire your stubbornness. But you are the exception that proves the rule. Yes, ridicule has silenced the believers.

November 09, 2006 11:54 AM  
Blogger wstrnstar said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 09, 2006 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not clear to me whether you consider this a good thing or not.

Well, let me make it clear then. Yes, it's a good thing that society ridicules stupidity. Remember, this is not the stupidity of fool me once. This is the stupidity of fool me over and over. We are in bigfoot/UFO territory.

But it doesn't matter if I think it's good or not. It's societies way of moving on. Of not having the loonies dictate the dialogue. That's what happened to the Cold Fusion promoters. Those that recanted early still have careers. Those that went to France maintaining that they were right against all the evidence ruined their careers.

I didn't ruin their lives. Society put them in a box labeled "hoplessly stupid".

That is what is happening to IBWO believers.

November 09, 2006 7:35 PM  

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