Thursday, May 10, 2007

There's no other explanation.

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker situation has reached inexplicability. We have no photographs and no additional video, but the sightings won't stop. And what about all those damn noises? We have no explanation for the "kent-like" sounds that are still being picked up by ARUs and human observers on a regular basis. No one has come up with an identity for the source of these sounds. I'm even told stories off-the-record of people standing around the tree from which the calls are emanating, still without being able to find the source! Of those who've heard them, herpetologists are sure they're not an amphibian, mammalogists are sure they're not something with fur, birders are unconvinced that they are anything with feathers that is not an Ivory-bill, weather and context pretty conclusively demonstrate that they are not mechanical. And knowledgeable birders with solid reputations continue seeing things they are sure are Ivorybills, but are still unable to replicate the sightings or document them photographically. There is no explanation for this totality of phenomena that does not require majorly serious ad-hoc and post-hoc handwaving and bumping against the bounds of plausibility, regardless of whether your conclusion is that the birds do exist or do not exist. Are we birders really so phenomenally incompetent that we are unable to either see Ivorybills that are there, or avoid seeing Ivorybills that are not there? I keep reminding myself of my own estimations that if the birds are extremely rare (like one or two in each State) and fairly mobile, this situation is exactly what might be expected. But it remains cold comfort.

In this context, I am pleased to announce that I have deduced the only possible explanation for all of the above. Obviously, the creatures we call Ivory-billed Woodpeckers are merely the protrusion into our dimension of a race of hyperintelligent pandimensional beings. The business with the raps and kenting is just a front. They have been performing intricate and subtle psychological experiments on us all this time.

Benjy Pecker and Frankie Pecker, I think it's about time you called us all to dinner and explained yourselves...

22 Comments:

At 6:31 PM, Blogger cyberthrush said...

all of this SEEMS implausible only because we humans have such a grandiose idea of our own (rather primitive) skills in such matters --- I reckon there's a whole lot more in the woods of the southeast that we've yet missed. If the IBWO is semi-nomadic (in search of food resources), and wary of humans (as are virtually all woodland creatures to some degree), and distributed scarcely across several states following dense bottomland/riverine tracts, then as you say above, the situation is as might be expected.

 
At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With due respect your last two paragraphs make no sense whatsoever. A clarification would be helpful.

 
At 5:06 PM, Anonymous David L. Martin said...

Confusion is understandable if you are fairly familiar with the work of Douglas Adams.

 
At 6:31 PM, Anonymous Slartibartfast said...

"Anonymous" is sadly unfamiliar with the writings of the late great Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, etc.). Anyway, here's hoping those mystery toots and raps don't wind up translating as "So long and thanks for all the blogs!"

--MB

 
At 6:58 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

The late lamented Mr. Adams was also extremely active in endangered species conservation in the latter half of his career. It's quite sad that he didn't live to contribute his wit and wisdom about the Ivorybill..

 
At 7:43 PM, Anonymous David L. Martin said...

Unfamiliar, I meant, of course. Perhaps he would say that we just need to ask the right question. But then, the purpose of this planet is to find the question, isn't it?

But enough confusion for the Adams-challenged. Those sounds are a real puzzle. I for one can almost guarantee you they are not produced by anurans of any species. And why would they be many times more common in a given area one year than another?

 
At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Mark Bailey said...

I agree with Dave--frogs are NOT making those sounds. Surprisingly few frog species are in the Choctawhatchee (or other river) swamps anyway, as many require fish-free waters for breeding. I've heard Hyla avivoca (bird-voiced treefrog) and H. cinerea (green treefrog) in the Choctawhatchee, but neither sounds anything like the recordings. It is interesting that H. avivoca calls can sound remarkably like a distant Pileated Woodpecker, however.

 
At 7:04 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

As a P.S., Douglas Adams is essential reading (or listening) for all students of Philosophy and Science:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Adams

And as a sign of how far he has reached into the 21st Century Western mind, "42" has long become standard trucker CB jargon, meaning the same as "10-4," only more so.

 
At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

C'mon, Bill, you know what the sounds are--squeeky bicycle brakes. Get real! (okay...I know...you wanna avoid mention of the The One Who Shall Not Be Named.)

 
At 7:47 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

There are rumors that the kents might decode as "Go stick your head in a pig"...

 
At 12:49 PM, Blogger cyberthrush said...

I thought it was settled, 90% of the 'kents' are coming from Blue Jays... mimicking the bird making the other 10%.

 
At 2:54 PM, Anonymous IBWO atheist said...

"Are we birders really so phenomenally incompetent that we are unable to [...] avoid seeing Ivorybills that are not there?"

IBWO TBs are that incompetent, but not birders as a whole! None of the good birders I know believes in the "rediscovery"

 
At 3:31 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Atheist -- well you either know a narrowly-selected group of birders, or you are a priori defining anyone who believes the rediscovery as a "bad birder," in which case your statement means nothing. Many generally recognized "good birders" are on public record as believing at least some of the records; Ken Able and Pete Dunn come to mind. Quite a few "good birders" (if you don't use the circular reasoning aluded to before, but just look at the person's pre-existing reputation) even believe they have seen and/or heard the species themselves.

But guys.., this was supposed to be a mostly humorous post. Why so serious?

 
At 4:13 PM, Blogger pineyflatwoodsgirl said...

I agree with cyberthrush. They are semi-nomadic rangers, and their scarcity makes them harder to see. But they aren't ducking us. I'm going to get a good photo one of these days. pineyflatwoodsgirl

 
At 6:32 AM, Blogger John L. Trapp said...

I agree, Bill, this whole IBWO thing is very mysterious, inexplicable, and other-worldly.

 
At 1:24 PM, Blogger Tim Jackson (The Rational Skeptic) said...

Dear Ivory-billed Atheist,

When are you going to identify yourself so you can produce photos of your Pale-billed Woodpeckers you photographed on your recent trip to Latin America?

 
At 1:36 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

For the record, I have it on solid info that the Atheist is NOT Tom Nelson's brother Bruce. My suspicions about this were wrong.

 
At 7:14 PM, Anonymous IBWO atheist said...

"you either know a narrowly-selected group of birders"

That's right. We atheists don't have many friends.

"Ken Able and Pete Dunn"

Unfortunately I don't know them. Do you know of any recent comments from either of these two about the controversy?

"you can produce photos of your Pale-billed Woodpeckers you photographed on your recent trip to Latin America?"

One is online already, but it is taking a while for the search engines to find it

 
At 7:24 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

You need to keep up with the news, dude...

Ken Able recently heard kent calls on a visit to the Choc that he says he is certain were from an IBWO. Now whether you agree with him on not is a different matter, but he is a very well known and well-respected birder of long-standing reputation. And he obviously believes the rediscovery.

Atheist, your selective dismissal of information that conflicts with your religious beliefs and dogmatic proclamations has gotten tiresome.

 
At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Ken Able said...

I have tried hard to avoid all the rancorous IBWO debate that floods the internet these days, but I would like to slightly clarify Bill Pulliam's statement. I did not use the word "certain" with regard to the "kent" calls that I heard on the Choct. I personally found the sounds convincing, but noted in preceding sentences posted on the Auburn website that it was, of course, possible that the sounds were produced by something else. I did not see what produced the sounds, so I could not be certain. (BTW, the detailed time line of the calls as presented on the website is not correct. It did not translate correctly from my text into HTML.)

 
At 9:36 PM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

Thanks for the correction; of course you are right and I substituted "certain" where you had written "convinced," which conveys a strong personal opinion, but not a scientific certainty. I should have known better; I too keep getting attributed a higher level of certainty about the ID of the bird in the Luneau video than I have actually claimed. My apologies.

 
At 10:14 PM, Anonymous IBWO Atheist said...

"You need to keep up with the news, dude..."

Sorry, but I've been in the field observing extant Campephilus and also many other birds that are far more difficult to locate, observe, identify, and photograph.

I don't exactly considered yet another claimed kent call to be compelling news at this point.

Its hard to keep track of the numerous copycat rediscoverers and to remember which ones are supposed to be top birders.

"your selective dismissal of information"

When there is worthwhile information such as a decent photograph let me know and I'll be happy to discuss it.

"that conflicts with your religious beliefs"

Atheists don't have any

 

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