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When I first heard of the publication of a report of evidence of 
Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Florida (accompanied by immediate criticism from 
a certain person who has been a naysayer on this subject) I thought to 
myself, "Here we go again!" and blew it off. But when a post to the Iowa 
list promised "photos," I could not resist. I checked out the photos at 
http://www.ocm.auburn.edu/news_releases/ivorybill.html and 
www.auburn.edu/ivorybill.
I also listened to sound recordings of supposed IBWO kent calls and double 
knocks at 
http://web2.uwindsor.ca/courses/biology/dmennill/IBWO/IBWOsounds.php.

No. These folks don't have a good photo or video of an IBWO. But their case 
is different from Cornell's Arkansas claim, and therefore more intriguing to 
me, in the following ways:

1. Several members of the Auburn team claim to have seen a black-crested 
female IBWO. Honest misidentification of a Pileated Woodpecker is much less 
likely when a bird has a black crest. All of the Arkansas sightings were of 
a red-crested male. (You can review the Auburn team's detailed field notes 
on line after downloading a pdf file).

2. The very small Auburn team had as many or more "robust" sightings of an 
IBWO (14) as the much larger Cornell team in Arkansas (I believe I recall 
7). Both teams discounted many other "fleeting glimpses."

3. At least two of the Auburn sightings were of two IBWO's at one time. (In 
one of these, one bird flew, followed almost immediately by the other.)  In 
a third sighting, a double knock was heard in a different direction nearby 
while an IBWO was being observed. All of the Cornell sightings were of a 
single bird.

4. The team measured 131 potential nest cavities. 67 of them were larger 
than the largest Pileated Woodpecker cavities the team measured in an 
Alabama tract. (There are photos of some of these.)

5. The team record 99 double knocks and 210 potential Kent calls. You can 
hear lots of these on 
http://web2.uwindsor.ca/courses/biology/dmennill/IBWO/IBWOsounds.php. 
(However,  I was concerned that the kent calls seemed to come in several 
different pitches.)

6. There was considerable evidence of bark scaling of the sort IBWO's do 
when feeding. (There are photos of these).

7. The large body of evidence was collected in a relatively small search 
area (1 mile x 2 miles).

8. The general area contains lots of appropriate habitat. (There are nice 
photos of the area).

9. Unlike the Cornell releases, which fed a media frenzy, the Auburn team 
authors are low-keying their claims despite what seems to me to be a more 
convincing case. They concede that good photographic evidence is needed 
before they will have "proof."

10. The Auburn team states it is presenting "essentially all" of its 
evidence. This is in contrast to the Cornell team, which went with some of 
its evidence before having reviewed all of it.  (In this regard, the Auburn 
team enjoys a huge public relations advantage over the Cornell team. The 
Arkansas experience has lowered public expectations greatly, allowing the 
Auburn team to speak with appropriate scientific skepticism. From the 
outset, the Cornell team was dealing with a blockbuster news story and 
therefore was under great pressure to publish before it was fully ready. 
Things only got worse when portions of a never-published paper attacking the 
Cornell team's conclusions were leaked to the media, putting Cornell on the 
defensive in a court of general public opinion outside the arena of academic 
discourse in which such battles usually are fought.)

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
[log in to unmask] 

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