However, remember that these people are attracting, and hope to attract
more, big conservation funds on the basis of a second or two of footage of
a distant bird as it flew off through a fairly dense forest - a bird which
closely resembles another, which is not uncommon in those same woods. All
this was shot out of the corner of a lens from a wobbling canoe by a pretty
camera. These people also have absolutely no other acceptable evidence of
the birds' continued
In my books, the evidence doesn't yet justify the funnelling of too much
money away from very pressing conservation issues elsewhere and
conservation funding is very scant under the current administration in the
I agree with you that the video evidence probably falls (just) short of
conclusive proof that the woodpecker still exists. But I completely disagree
that there is not
enough evidence to warrant spending money on conservation projects.
As well as the video, there are also audio recordings, and sightings by
several people in the search team - "These people" are ornithologists from
the best ornithological research group in the US.
I don't think they should be dismissed out of hand. There's enough evidence
to be almost certain the bird exists, even if it's short of definite proof.
So what would you want the govt to do? Say we're not 100% sure because we
don't have a photo, so we'll sit on our hands and do nothing until we get
one? By that reasoning we should say that we don't have definite proof that
Lloyd Nielsen, Tim O'Reilly et al really saw or heard Coxen's Fig-Parrot so
we shouldn't bother spending money on a recovery program until we get a good
photo or video of one.
In any case, I don't think the money to conserve that area is going to waste
- there are plenty of other critters living in that swamp.
The amusing thing about all this kerfuffle is that if a group of
well-credentialled ornithologists had done a bird survey somewhere and said
they'd seen a rare bird, no-one would disbelieve them. But because this rare
bird has not been photographed for 70 years (even though there have been
many credible sightings) there's a huge bunfight!
What these folk have put up online is not a properly referenced, refereed
or published set of data and therefore has no further substance or
authority than either yours or my maunderings on the subject here on
It certainly has a lot more substance than my maunderings! I see a lot of
references in the paper - what is improper about them? :-)
I think your comments are more suited to the naysayers - there has yet to be
a published, peer-reviewed article explaining in detail why the Cornell
analysis (which was published in Science) is wrong. The Auk article refers
to such a paper but it has been withdrawn. I suspect that is the
reason for the recent online article by Cornell - anticipatory retaliation!
Given the poor quality of the available data (which is not unusual in
science!), I think the Cornell guys have done a very good job analysing it
and their analysis seems very convincing. I am yet to see an analysis
anywhere near as convincing from the skeptics.
Adelaide, South Australia
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