Friday, February 15, 2008

Ivory-billed Woodpecker Documentation in Arkansas

In November 2006, I expressed surprise that the Arkansas Bird Records Database (as then available, including records through December 2005) made no mention of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO). That apparent oversight has now been rectified.

The current version of the ABRD (as downloaded on 2/14/2008) includes one record for the IBWO that has been recognized as valid by the Arkansas Bird Records Committee (ABRC), that being the single bird observed by Tim Gallagher and Bobby Harrison at Bayou de View, Monroe County, on February 27, 2004. This report is assigned “RecNo” 11744 and the “Comment” column contains the following brief remark:
David Luneau submitted a Verifying Documentation written [emphasis added] on 4/25/04. Ver. Doc. #961.
Astute readers will recall that the Luneau video, Fitzpatrick et al.'s (2005) (.PDF) piece de resistance, was filmed on 4/25/04, the same date on which his “verifying documentation” is said to have been written, but was not received by the ABRC to review until June 17, 2005. The news release announcing the decision of the ABRC to change the status of the IBWO in Arkansas from “extirpated” to “present” mentions review only of evidence gathered in the Cache River in April 2004. Which leaves me to wonder which record of the IBWO is it that the ABRC has accepted, Gallagher and Harrison’s February sighting or Luneau’s video? Am I being overly critical of the ABRC’s documentation, or are there inconsistencies with this record ("RecNo" 11744) that need to be explained in greater clarity?


Blogger cyberthrush said...

"Am I being overly critical of the ABRC’s documentation, or are there inconsistencies with this record ("RecNo" 11744) that need to be explained in greater clarity?"

yes, I think you're being "overly critical" JT :-) Looks pretty likely to me that it is simply a poor (wrong) choice of words, and they should have said "filmed," "documented," or "collected," instead of "written." Biology is full of instances of weak or ambiguous word choice (one reason I prefer reading math or physics). But maybe someone closer to the ARK. scene has a different explanation.
Either the ARK. bird(s) will be re-found (and documented) making skepticism over the initial report rather moot, or they will never be found, and leave skepticism forever in place. Unfortunately, it could be a lone fisherman 5 years from now who finally gets a photo everyone agrees to... odder things have happened in natural history.

February 15, 2008 12:42 PM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

You may well be right, ct. But words DO matter, even in biology, and I think they should be chosen carefully to express information accurately, especially in a document summarizing the confirmation of the first recorded presence of an IBWO in the U.S. in more than four decades. How will this summary database be viewed by future researchers it it's full of ambiguities? I trust that the original submissions are more informative.

February 15, 2008 7:57 PM  

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