Monday, July 09, 2007

The zipper up the back!

Soooooo.... both Bill Pulliam and Dave Nolin mentioned the apparently odd flight wing posture and dynamics of the Luneau video bird in their comments on my post HERE. Bill drew attention again to his analysis here, and Dave referred to the rather common practice of identifying birds on their jizz and flight action when plumage can't be seen clearly or isn't much help. So, let's assume there is something unusual about the Luneau bird's flight action, as opposed to wingbeat frequency (which now seems to be resolved to everyone's satisfaction). I was going to do this last night, along dave's lines of identifying raptor silhouettes or shearwaters at sea or something, but it was getting late and I left it to today. I'm glad I did now, because yesterday's post would have been tedious for the increasing number of people who have heard enough of this, and frankly not got a lot of laughs from those still reading, whereas today's (after an exhaustive 3 minutes research that characterises my style of analysis) is much more fun. Here goes.

And even with my, admittedly not vast, experience of Pileated Woodpeckers, there is some nagging small cloud of conscience or whatever that does admit something weird about the way the Luneau bird flies. The problem is that 'flight action' or 'wing dynamics' are soft and very variable features that are modulated by flight vector, speed and condition of the bird, whereas plumage features are hard and in this case, relatively invariant and obvious differences between Pileated and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. The outside of a PIWO looks obviously and consistently different from the outside of an IBWO, always, whereas both birds can (could, obviously) change the way they fly, within reason, to suit their travel plans. If wise people can prove that the way the Luneau bird flies is outside the range of the ways that Pileateds fly, and then infer (without comparative material, unless the Feds are suppressing an archival video of Imperial Woodpecker...) that it may have been an Ivorybill, I won't jump on them for that. What I would suggest though is that they check out (again) figure 3 in my paper and the figures here on Louis Bevier's website - here there are some side-by-side comparisons of the Luneau bird with known Pileated Woodpeckers showing that the Luneau bird is at least plausibly (and more like very) consistent with a normal Pileated Woodpecker holding its wings in normal positions. That is the 'hard' evidence and you have to discount that before the 'soft' evidence of wing dynamics becomes very relevant.

As I was thinking that through last night and predicting that Bill would politely mention video artifacts :-) it occurred to my half-baked memory that Ivorybill TBs love being compared to Bigfoot believers. And bloody hell etc... wasn't one of the main lines of evidence for that Bigfoot ?hoax film by Roger Patterson that the ape-like individual in question was flying, sorry walking, in an unusual manner that was difficult if not impossible for a man to do... and by inference (without comparative material, unless the Feds are suppressing an archival film of a real Bigfoot) that it was a Bigfoot??? And ?? again. First look at the film, for fun.

And now have a look-see at what Wikipedia has to say about it HERE. if nothing else, read the 'Analyses' section 6. That's all I could be bothered with. What's clear is that while not everyone was fooled, there are apparently perfectly intelligent people stating categorically that the 'Bigfoots' flight action (sorry, gait) was outside the range a human being could pull off, that it's wings, sorry knees, were bent too far backwards, and that its wings (arms this time) were proportionately way too long to be human, and that it twisted its arms to an unusual extent as it flew (walked). The similarities to the arguments for the putative IBWO flight of the Luneau bird are UNCANNY. You couldn't make it up. Well, you could make it up, but no one would believe you. In my juvenile way, I find that funny.

Don't get me wrong, I don't really care whether I'm right or wrong (although in this case I'm right)... I want the pure truth as God made it. :-0 And the flight action argument might be worth pursuing, but I think its worth pointing out how far into Bigfoot territory it takes the Ivorybill to hammer away at increasingly softer aspects of the evidence when at the end of the day, the harder evidence will win out. That 'Bigfoot' conceivably has a visible zipper up the back. It doesn't matter how it was walking, if it has a zipper - even if the gait was outside the range a human could pull off, cos if you believe the testimony, and the zipper, it had to be human! So the photographic comparisons of Luneau bird with PIWO represent the zipper up the back of that bird. If it was a PIWO, it is irrelevant whether you prove it could not be a PIWO, because it was one! If it was flying funnily, maybe it was sick, or had hurt its wing, or was tired and shagged out after a long squawk.

While I'm gently ribbing Bigfoot. Take a look at this one.

...especially the second of the last three questions as it is closing. That is to my mind so close to the 'so show me a PIWO that flies like that' argument that I think it's probably worth another chuckle.

And this one is a LOT of fun.

And remember, it's very tempting to pontificate that we are only arguing about the Luneau video still bacause Ivorybills are extinct. If they were still around, we'd be looking at photos of the 2007 nests in National Geographic by now.

1 comment:

dnolin said...


You may be right about all this, I have a six pack of Frugal Joe's Ordinary Beer standing by.

However, I don't think your sharp mind did too good on this comeback. Seeking to trivialize other points of view does not add anything to the debate (bigfoot stuff, please no more). There was no real parry to the Bill's artifact argument, and the continued reliance on comparing cherry picked blurry still frames seems really goofy to me. In the case of the Luneau video how the thing moves is much harder evidence than blurry blob artifacts (in my opinion).