Friday, January 22, 2010

Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Is the latest report true? or a poorly fabricated hoax?

Ivory-billed Woodpecker by J.J. Audubon.

If you haven't seen it yet, the latest sighting report of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker has come in a most interesting form.  The following post, on an obscure website, came just a couple days ago:

The hopeful people tried to give it some leeway at first. Even a secondary post on the author's website tried to validate the sighting:
However, a simple google search will reveal all.
So who are some of these people?  The answers are below:

First, who is Joe Hepprle?  He's some guy from Iowa who posts totally random, unrelated stuff on his website:  A Google search will tell you more about him.

Who is Daniel Rainsong?   A google search reveals that too. He's a gambler. Known as "The Wizard of Odds."   Does he have any reputation in the birding world? Absolutely not.  Does anyone know him outside the gambling world? nope.  Can anyone other than Joe vouch for his skill in differentiating between an Ivory-bill and a Pileated? NO!   He has no known record in the birding community. No blog posts, no photographs,  he doesn't post on any listserve anywhere in the country, he's not known in outdoorsman/hunting circles, NADA!

Another person mentioned is Rita Goldstein.  The only Rita Goldstein who comes up on google is a neuro-imaging scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

What is Project Indigo?  Who knows whether they have named their own (probably faked) search Project Indigo or not, but, the real Project Indigo is a program to provide a home for homeless children.

So what does Daniel Rainsong know about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker? Apparently just enough to know that it's an ecological mystery as to whether they exist or not.
The Twin Cities Naturalist came up with some interesting info here: 

Radd Icenoggle's blog post is hopeful, but full of skepticism:
You can read my comment on his post.

Here's another question? Does Daniel Rainsong actually exist? Apparently so.  The following excellent compilation was posted to Facebook by Matt Medenhall of Birder's World Magazine. Apparently, Dr. Remsen said that Mr Rainsong had talked to him but did not have the photos ready to show him:

At the risk of giving credibility to a possible hoax, here's what we know about the latest report of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker sighting. 
If Daniel Rainsong has photos of a living Ivory-billed Woodpecker, as this press release claims, he has not yet shown them to two leading Ivory-bill experts.
Van Remsen, curator of birds at Louisiana State University's Museum of Natural Science and an adjunct professor of biological sciences at LSU, told me today that Rainsong visited him in Baton Rouge, "but he would not show me his photographic evidence. He said he had to develop them."
The comment suggested that Rainsong used a film camera. "I'll believe it when I see it," Remsen added. "I won't comment until I see the evidence."

Jerry Jackson, a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University and a co-author of the 2007 Draft Recovery Plan for the Ivory-bill, told me yesterday that he hadn't heard of Rainsong or seen his photos.
"I look forward to seeing them, but his approach already has me wondering," he said. "This seems to be the standard 'IB obsession' approach, similar to the last report we got with photos, which were of a Photoshopped Pileated."
Remsen and Jackson are among the handful of ornithologists who are regularly called upon to evaluate possible Ivory-bill sightings.

Remsen is a member of the American Ornithologists' Union's Committees on Classification and Nomenclature for North America and South America. Jackson wrote the account on the Ivory-bill (No. 711) in the Birds of North America reference series, and he is the author of In Search of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (Smithsonian Books, 2004). Following a search for Ivory-bills in 2002, Jackson wrote "The Truth Is Out There" for the June 2002 issue of Birder's World.

Bloggers in the birding community have been skeptical of Rainsong's claims.
Cyberthrush, the author of Ivory-bills Live, says he places "NO conceivable credibility whatsoever in this story/report. NADA... ZIPPO... ZILCH!!!!!! (hope I'm making myself clear)."

Radd Icenoggle, author of Birds in Place: A Habitat-based Field Guide to Birds of the Northern Rockies (Far Country Press, 2003), notes that Rainsong "has, rather strangely, not released the images citing some obscure 'right of discovery.' Does he intend to patent the damn bird?"
Icenoggle and others have noted that Rainsong's name appears on a lot of gambling websites. Googling his name also turned up bits of an ad that has since been deleted from Craigslist having to do with a "wildlife research expedition." Kudos to Kirk Mona at Twin Cities Naturalist for piecing together most of the ad.
The ad refers to a $10,000 reward, supposedly for finding Ivory-bills. I'm not aware of a $10,000 reward, but the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has posted a reward that would pay $50,000 to anyone who could provide "video, photographic, or other compelling information and lead a project scientist to a living wild Ivory-billed Woodpecker." (Thanks Mike Duchek for the tip!)
"Obviously he's a long way from that," Remsen said. --Matt Mendenhall, Associate Editor

(if you're on Facebook, the link is here )

So here's the deal:

  • Two people whom nobody has ever heard of.
  • A press release on an obscure website claiming that someone got identifiable photos of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in an area that was surely searched during Cornell's study a couple years back.
  • No photos have been posted as of yet. IF they even exist.
  • Google searches of names of the people involved links them to everything BUT birding.
  • Both Jerry Jackson and Dr. Remsen have said that they have not at this time seen ANY photos at all.
  • Dr. Jackson said that he had never heard of Daniel Rainsong.
  • We have an ad, supposedly written by Mr Rainsong, indicates something about a $10,000 reward for leading an Ornithologist to a live IBWO.  Apparently Dr. Remsen said he had heard something about a reward like that but didn't know the details.
  • Cornell has, and is offering a $50,000 reward to any person who can provide conclusive and undeniable proof (video or photographic) that at least one Ivory-bill still exists, and/or lead a project scientist to a living Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

So what are we left with??  This whole thing smells fishier than a barrel of Sardines.

If this is a hoax, why would someone go through all this trouble to make sure all his facts were straight (and they are, I checked.) to post this obviously poorly fabricated story?   It's a story that any birder who knows anything about the search for the Ivory-bill could see through without even looking!

But, if this really is true and not a hoax, then why all the secrecy??
Where are the photos?  Why have the leading experts mentioned in the press release denied any knowledge of photos?  Why has nobody ever heard of either person before?

Why haven't Sibley, Kaufman, Ted Floyd, Jon Dunn and other prominent birders been notified, and/or why were they not mentioned in the list of people that they were supposedly going to show the photos to??

If this story really is true, there are a few things that would have to happen before I would even think about trusting either of these people:

#1. I want to see the photos.  They should be crystal clear, incontestable, undeniable and conclusive.
They also better be of a bird in flight! A bird sitting on a tree is far too simple to easily fake.

#2. I want the backing of Dr. Remsen, Dr. Jackson, Kenn Kaufman, David Sibley AND Cornell on this.

#3. I want to know all the details on this supposed search and discovery and why all the secrecy. It's not like anyone is going to claim they found it when it's obvious who did?  right?  Geez.

Maybe all that gambling has made him paranoid. lol

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Social Media workshop for birders

In case you have missed it, Gunnar Engblom of Kolibri Expeditions is currently doing a social media workshop for birders. This includes blogging, Twitter and Facebook among other things.
If you haven't seen it yet, check out day three of this 31 day workshop here.

In this post, he talks about Facebook and it's advantages and disadvantages.  Many people do not use it to it's full potential. While it is indeed a social networking website for keeping in touch with old friends, it has a million other current and potential uses. Many tour companies have taken advantage of it as a marketing tool. It has also been used for meeting new friends, creating new networks, sending out rare bird alerts, creating business pages,  as well as several other things.

Want to know what else Facebook can be used for?  Check out the workshop!  It's totally free.  You can sign up for the email newsletter, but if that's too much, then just bookmark the blog and come back every day.  Come to think of it, bookmark each post to use as a future reference!  

Haven't clicked the link yet? Why not? Do it. :)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New trip opportunity for Young Birders

Over the past few weeks, I've been talking with Gunnar Engblom of Kolibri Expeditions about doing a Young Birders budget tour to Manu or Carpish in southern Peru.  After bouncing the idea off of me and my fellow Young Birder (YB) Kai Reed, Gunnar came up with the following: 
An 8 day trip to either Manu or Carpish/Satipo Rd. Each trip would cost a mere $699/person. That's a crazy low price for a trip to Peru. In many cases, the airfare would cost more. 

You can read more about it on Gunnar's blog: 

I was able to provide him with the photo at the top of the post. It is from last summer's Camp Chiricahua. Take a look! You may recognize someone! 

This is an awesome opportunity to bird Peru for practically nothing, compared to regular prices. There may also be some chance that these trips will be offered in coming years as well. 
Check it out!!  Peru is calling!