Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Scotland

Hey, today has been a most atypical day. Lots of media coverage, not that that's why we do it, but this is important. My favourites:

Science Now
USA Today
As It Happens (CBS) (part 3 - from about 3 minutes to about 20 minutes - need Real Player)

Associated Press rang me this afternoon and within 2 hours there were 60+ media reports of variations of this text

Of course, I prefer the birding things. Very thorough job by these people
Birder's World Field of View
which has at least saved me the trouble of writing a CV for my next job (I'm applying to be Head of the Department of Cryptozoology in the University of the Highlands and Islands - Departmental motto 'Primo Ivory-billum, deinde creatura Loch Ness'). No! That's a joke. There is no
Department of Cryptozoology in the University of the Highlands and Islands, at least that I'm aware of. And my flippant motto is totally out of keeping with the serious scientific, respectful and grown up ethos that we are all trying to maintain in this. Talking of which, I very much liked this one:
Bootstrap Analysis
oooh, now there's a thought. Does the action of typing all my uncensored thoughts, on a blog that is 50% factual but drivel, 40% invented lies and 10% scalpel-like incisive wit (mostly in the comments!) detract from the serious points I try to make? That would be an ecumenical matter. Work is work, and serious. Birding is hobby, and frivolous (but much more important). Existence or not of Woody Woodpecker is kind-of on the boundary of serious work and hobby, and might just be tainted by my intemperate comments here. Fact: I am currently a source of much amusement among the family and friends of Mrs Doc. Apparently I should stop playing with my pecker. I don't even understand that.

Big respect to Cyberthrush for his comments, which reflect the balanced approach and magnanimity of most Ivorybill believers to this evidence. I agree that we should move on from the Luneau video and see whether the rest of the evidence for IBWO survival stands up. Many MANY thanks to Davids Nolin and Luneau for permission to use their videos.

New things... David Sibley and colleagues have published a letter in Science today that reiterates why the Luneau bird could not have been an Ivory-bill. You need a subscription, but I'm sure the authors will provide a pdf to serious researchers and birders. They actually make my paper irrelevant.

I really do not want to go into further discussion of the evidence just now until the dust has settled. But a couple of 'holding' points.
1) The issue of deinterlacing was thoroughly discussed during 6 months of review and revision. The referees and editors were distinguished by their relentlessness and stringency, not their willingness to wave this through unchecked.
2) I would advise against identifying the Arkansas bird on the basis of its ability to maintain a fast wingspeed for wingbeats 4-12. It's clutching at straws that may alr
eady have broken.

Very important. It is NOT my intention to suggest that anyone has overstated their case wrt the id* of the Luneau bird, or acted in bad grace or even done anything wrong.
Given the date, maybe we should Beware the Id's of March!
The point is that poor views of Pileated Woodpeckers, from behind, might look like we expect Ivory-bills to look. In that respect, a fleeing
Pileated might catch the observer out. I believe, obviously, that in this case the observers (of the video) were caught out, and a mistake was made. Other people have seen my paper and are still convinced that the Luneau bird was an Ivory-bill. We started off with a video of a bird that appeared to be totally unlike a Pileated - that was the extent of our knowledge in 2004/5. Sibley and colleagues, and many others, chipped away at that perception (I'd like to think this current paper will play a part) until as of 15th March 2007 we have a video of a bird in Arkansas that is pretty much like a Pileated, but with a couple of oddities. The white on the back, the white patch peeking out from behind the tree, wingbeats 4-12, are things I can only explain in an arm-waving sort of way just now. BUT... showing that a particular feature is a bit odd is a million billion miles away from 'this is proof of Ivory-bills'. This morning I thought the ball was back in IBWO-believers/Cornell court to prove me wrong. I would be delighted to be proved wrong. This evening I find, courtesy of Associated Press, that the challenge is to find a Pileated Woodpecker that flies like the Luneau bird. Well, no. Sibley et al. have shown why the Luneau bird wasn't an Ivory-bill. I've contributed to showing why it might easily have been a Pileated. Today at work, there was something odd about my apple (it was a funny colour - a bit yellow). 'Something odd' about my apple did not make it an orange. I'd shown it couldn't be an orange. It was consistent with an apple. There were features of my apple that I couldn't explain, but it was still an apple. That was by way of being a metaphor, but true.

So, you learn something new every day... well I try not to. I was so frazzled by time of getting home,
while Mrs Doc (Diane) had a girly night with friends and red wine in the next room I went out and bought the Spongebob Squarepants film DVD and watched that by myself. I couldn't handle the sophisticated humour - the first time I laughed was about 20 min in when Spongebob and Patrick synchronised an enormous burp. It's a good film, and I did learn something, viz. you don't need a licence to drive a sandwich. I'm taking the sandwich to work tomorrow.

While I'm getting all these hits, I want to feature , again, this piece of genius, for those who missed it first time.
I have it on the BEST authority that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is about to prove its existence by marching on the Pentagon. I'm not sure why, yet.

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