Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ivory-billed Woodpecker press release

Via eReleases Press Release Distribution, a press release from Michael D. Collins:

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker: New Facts and Evidence

MANDEVILLE, La., April 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Two videos of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker have been obtained in the Pearl River in Louisiana, where there is a history of reports of this elusive species. One of the videos provides the first new facts about this iconic species since the work of James Tanner was published in 1942 and reveals that there had been a misconception about the way it flies. The scientist who obtained the videos has documented serious issues that have come to light during his involvement in this area of research since 2005, including the suppression of evidence, the lack of open discussion, and an atmosphere of fear that contributes to these problems.


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One of the videos was obtained from an observation position 75 feet above a bayou. The strategy was to watch for birds flying over the treetops in the distance, but an Ivory-billed Woodpecker flew along the bayou and passed nearly directly below. From this perspective, two prominent white stripes were detected on the back, and the bird was identified in the field as an Ivory-billed Woodpecker based on these definitive markings. The bird can also be identified based only upon what appears in the video. All but a few species are ruled out by a distinctive flap style and a wingspan that is significantly greater than 24 inches. Prominent white patches on the wings and other characteristics rule out all but an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Based on historical accounts of a duck-like flight, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was thought to have a duck-like flap style in which the wings remain extended during the entire flap cycle, but the bird in the fly-under video has a flap style in which the wings are folded closed in the middle of each upstroke. This flap style is dramatically different from that of a duck but similar to that of other woodpeckers. This finding is supported by a clue that was overlooked for decades: a photo by Tanner of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in flight with the wings folded closed against the body. Historical accounts evidently alluded to the duck-like speed of the flight rather than the flap style. Historical accounts also mentioned a high flight speed and rapid flaps. The fly-under video provides the first data on these quantities, and the high values (about 34 mph for the flight speed) are consistent with the accounts of Tanner and others.

Politics has impeded the publication of the Pearl River data, which has been ignored in the debate of the persistence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker despite positive assessments by independent experts. The videos are analyzed in an article that was accepted for publication by PLoS ONE based on reviews by ornithologists with expertise in appropriate specialty areas. In a glaring breach of the usual peer review process, the publication decision was reversed without justification two days before the scheduled publication date. The paper was ultimately rejected based on the opinion of a reviewer lacking expertise relevant to the analysis.
The press release included a link to a post on Collins' website, "Disgraceful in the Extreme." What do you think?

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7 Comments:

Blogger tai haku said...

Hmm.

April 21, 2010 1:48 PM  
Blogger Krista said...

Funny that this comes out just days after Cornell 'officially' brought the hunt for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker to a close. I did some browsing of the links and videos and clearly, none of them are are really great videos or are enlarged and grainy. Despite this, I feel they deserve a second, third or even fourth look. I am intrigued that some of these videos/sitings were in Louisiana. I was under the impression that the bird was only ever documented in Missouri. Weirder things have happened, there was an Asian bird (I don't remember the exact name off the top of my head) that was presumed extinct for 100+ years that was refound just last year.
Thanks for the enlightening post, Amy. I personally still hold out hope for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker :)

April 21, 2010 2:21 PM  
Blogger cyberthrush said...

this is all old news in a new wrapping; Mike may or may not have observed Ivory-bills along the Pearl River in La. but he has been unable to convince authorities via his evidence for a long time now.

April 21, 2010 7:36 PM  
Blogger John L. Trapp said...

Mike's animosity towards birders, ornithologists, and other scientists who cast doubt on his sightings and conclusions goes back a long ways; it's not confined solely to the flap over the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, which is the focus of this press release. To a very large degree, Mike's overbearing attitude has made it difficult for his peers to take him seriously or to assess his evidence with a high degree of objectivity. Then, too, Mike seems to have an ability to see details in his photos and videos that others cannot. I find it hard to believe that there is an orchestrated conspiracy among various journal editors and reviewers to prevent his "evidence" from being published, as Mike seems to suggest. Rather, it's probably just not that compelling or convincing.

April 22, 2010 11:32 AM  
Blogger Mike Collins said...

Note to cyberthrush and John L. Trapp:

Has any other piece of evidence received an assessment by an independent expert that is more positive than the comments by Julie Zickefoose and Bret Tobalske on my videos from the Pearl River? Manuscripts based on these videos have been recommended for publication (and in one case accepted for publication) by two additional experts on flight mechanics and an expert on woodpeckers. These videos are part of my contribution to efforts to document the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and help save it from extinction. You guys don't seem to have contributed anything more than your distorted opinions to this cause. Reporting sightings -- and even more so evidence -- doesn't tend to bring popularity. I am honored that being successful and standing up for the truth have made me unpopular with certain crowds.

April 22, 2010 1:23 PM  
Blogger OpposableChums said...

Producing the videos and pix would go a long way towards clarifying everyone's positions.

April 24, 2010 2:08 PM  
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July 21, 2012 3:34 AM  

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