My Search For the Ivory Billed Woodpecker

Of Forums, Photos, and Ridicule

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One only needs to recall what George Lowery went through in the 1970's to realize where photos get you in the world of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker.
There have been photos. They are not "good" photos, but there exists one photo in Florida that is no longer seen because of the ridicule and onslaught of birders and such after the Arkansas episode.
There is a woman in Florida that owns a business. She did for the longest time display what apparently is a photo of an ivory bill here in Florida. It had a caption that went somewhere along the lines of,,"no, the ivory billed woodpecker is not extinct".
I learned of this photo, as many many people did through a forum on the internet. She was inundated by people calling her business,,,people visiting her business, and people writing her business. Many of the people demanded to know where the bird was. They would feed her with guilt trips about how she "owed" it to the world to give the location away. Regrettably, she has taken the photo down, I told her to never give the location away, she doesn't need my encouragement. Her concern of course is that people might find the location by seeing the photo, I suppose this is possible,,,I will get into this on another page. And she is concerned about not only birders flooding the area but also poachers,,there are still sick people who would love a stuffed ivory bill in their collection. She says there is a pair of birds,,,I asked her about them and she said they are doing well in their privacy. She has apparently not been the only witness, she has had other people with her to see them, she seems to know the difference betwen ivory bill and pileated woodpeckers.
Which brings me to forums. They can be useful. You can sift through years of posts and find snippets of valuble information regarding the bird. For the most part however you will find debates, scoffing, and downright ignorance when people offer evidence. Such it was when I saw a post by a person on a small forum. She simply stated matter of factly that she had seen one in a specific location on a specific date. There were only a couple of responses but they were less than polite,,,downright rude is how I would characterize their response. I e-mailed this person and subsequently recieved a very level headed description of the bird and a photograph. Not a good photograph, but there it is. And it turns out the eveidence was sent to Cornell who as usuall dismissed the entire affair.
Forums on the internet are an enigma to me. I grew up when there was no internet and this sudden availability of information is astounding. What is more astounding is that the internet has not risen to a point of supereme intellectual information sharing. It is mostly a cesspool of people who love to insult one another. But, you can still find intelligent sharing of information, and if you can get around that,,and the debates, then you will find valueble information on our bird and a plethora of other things.
Ridicule is the one reason that I would encourage people to think carefully before posting a pic of the bird. Unless it is a really good closeup picture, clear as a bell then I would say you are in for your fair share of abuse. And abuse it will be. If you were to get a photo before the Cornell team does you will have to deal with that. Photo shop is an amazing thing and a very large percentage of people will say that the photo is fake. Certainly, the riches that have been predicted for the first person to come up with a photo will not be realized, unless one gets a good series of photos or video,,,and can do creative publishing. And this will be hard without compromising the safety of said bird(s).
Just look at what Cornell is going through with their shreds of evidence. There is a movement of people growing, that thinks the bird is a miscolored pileated. And there are a growing amount of people who believe we never went to the moon.
So, regarding photos and forums and ridcule, I am waiting till I find that pair,,,I will get the video, photos, and will release it to the public when I will be fairly sure that the birds will be safe and I will not be ridiculed as so many people are.
William Smith
November 26, 2005