I posted a while ago about a gent in Florida who had claimed to see an ivory-bill. He had a teeny tiny photo posted which wasn't convincing at all and got weird and defensive when asked to enlarge the photo. Well, he has a new photo that has birders all over buzzing about "is this the real deal" or a decoy. Check the site out and and see for yourself. He's kind of a fish expert, now ivory-bill searcher.
When he had the first photo up that was too tiny to determine if it was an ivory-bill or pileated, I requested to see a larger version. Something that was at least bigger than a postage stamp. I got a long response, here is an excerpt:
"I posted the picture on my site as an experiment
really, and my conclusion is what I predicted. Most
people are more interested in dissecting information
to see if it is real or not,,rather than utilizing the
information that is available to go out and find the
bird for themselves.
I have put in many laborous weeks and months searching
for these birds.
It has been my contention that they are not extinct,
and that if laypeople would simply not be ignored then
you can go out and find them.
They are just birds,,the woods are big, you must spend
ALOT of time in the woods to find them, and the people
who sit at home on the computer will never find them.
I have recieved hundreds of e-mails and many are just
simply ignorant, many just want me to give locations
away, they do not want to work to find them.
The birds have been doing fine without interference
from people, and having university scientists putting
search teams in their habitat during nesting cannot be
good for the birds."
That part sounded all well and good. Then I got little suspicious about the overall intention of the website with the end of the email:
"I will be releasing a book soon that will be alot more
detailed, but I suspect it will be met with as much
skepticism and arrogance as every report has been met
with since the 1940's.
Be patient and I expect by this time next year there
will be no more reason to "dissect" pictures and most
of the "mysticism" surrounding this bird will be gone."
So, personally I am torn. Is this someone with a legitimate photo? Is this someone just seeking attention and doing some early book promotion? When the website first went up, I was sent an anonymous announcement asking me to check it out. Within 24 hours of the email I received, I noticed that a couple of other bird blogs were mentioning the site, which tells me that someone was sending out emails to get PR for this site. It's entirely possible that there could be ivory-bills in Florida, but can this photo be trusted? I don't know.
I also take issue with the assertion that "lay people" not being taken seriously. Lay people are taken seriously all the time in the birding world! It's one of the sciences where contributions from the general public are welcomed and taken seriously. I think it's one of the reasons why so many people get involved. I'm a prime example--I'm not an ornithologist, I do not have a doctorate in ornithology (my doctor today called me and ornithophile--I think that fits). I do have a degree--in theatre (explains a lot doesn't it). But I have a bird book library that would rival several nature centers and some small colleges and I spend a lot time out in the field with various researchers and engage an as many banding projects as I can. Arthur Cleveland Bent, is another great example, he compiled one of the earliest and most thorough collection of life histories of North American birds, that is stiff referenced today. It's not a matter of being a lay person, it's being able to talk the talk as well as walk the walk, if you can justify an observation based on personal experience in the field or by citing reliable sources (I mean books, not just blogs) then you will be taken seriously in the birding community.
Something in my gut is telling me that this photo is not legit--oh how I wish it was, but I think are chances are better in Arkansas.
Maybe Jeff Bouton of Leica who lives down in Florida will do some searching for us. What do you say, Pretty Boy?