Friday, November 06, 2009

Developing Story

To divert from finishing the Moss Island tale for a moment...

Mike Collins has posted several recent videos at his Pearl River search log. One of these does seem to clearly show a large woodpecker with backlight shining brightly through its secondaries, for a couple of wingbeat cycles. Today he has posted a single frame from a new video. This frame seems to show a bird with rather long, pointed wings, almost kite-like, that seems to have light underwings with a narrow dark area at the tip. If the rest of the video makes it clear that this is actually a large woodpecker, this would indeed be exceedingly interesting.

It'll be interesting to see the rest of the video and hear the tale that goes with it, especially such things as if the bird was actually seen, not just videoed, under circumstances that confirm it was a LARGE woodpecker. That underwing pattern can be vaguely approximated by an oddly-positioned Red-headed Woodpecker, though not really very well. The black doesn't look extensive enough.

Wait and see, as always...

Update Nov. 7, 2009:

Mike has made the latest video available. Paralleling the reactions of many people, my first impression was very positive; my second impression becomes more careful. Some legitimate concerns have been voiced that I am not sure I agree with, but I do see than they need to be taken seriously. I'll not be making any public declarations about the bird in this video until after I have had a chance to go through it exhaustively and in comparison to videos of other woodpeckers of known species. When looking at a video like this, there is a tendency to pull out individual frames that tend to make one lean one way or another. But, if you have correctly identified the bird in the video, then EVERY frame in the video should be consistent and easily reconcilable with the ID you propose using uniform criteria (i.e. not invoking one set of distortions for some frames and other completely different distortions for other frames). Individual frames are most valuable in context, not in isolation. I remember that it took me months of staring at the Luneau video and extensive Pileated comparison material before I finally satisfied myself that every frame was consistent with Ivorybill and many were not consistent with Pileated. I don't think it'll take that long in this case, as the video is better quality and the things to look for are clearer to me now. But it's still not going to be done quickly.

Whatever else one might say or think about Mike Collins, he has shown perseverance in this quest far beyond almost all the rest of us.


At 3:34 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Mike's November 5th video is now out, and it appears to show alot more detail than the November 3rd video.

At 4:10 PM, Blogger Paul Krusling said...

I looked at all of the recent videos from Mike Collins site that you referred to. The only one in which I could see white secondaries was certainly a Red Headed Woodpecker. Everything else was a Pileated Woodpecker or unidentifiable to me.

This reminded me of a team building activity my employer put on this Past August. We were listening to Native American songs in a stone shelter at a Kentucky State Park. While getting involved in the ceremony I saw a "large" black and white woodpecker in which my mind initially registered as a Pileated Woodpecker. The bird landed on the trunk high in a tree about 100 yards away. It looked huge! And I noticed the white triangular markings on the back. It sent chills down my spine. Was I seeing "the bird", having a religious experience, or a bad effect from my Parkinson's medication.

Anyway, to make a short story even even shorter, I hung around, waited for the birds to return. In fact, three of them did. My "religious experience" was a back lit Red Headed Woodpecker. Oh well!


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