Ornithological miracle! (?)

This morning, NPR is reporting that the legendary Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, long thought to be extinct, has been rediscovered in Arkansas (see photo of a model reconstructing the event at left, hosted in the CNN story). NPR did a detailed radio expedition story and interviewed the players. These are a large number of seasoned, professional birders, well aware of the bigfoot phenomenon and the similar woodpecker species, the pilleated woodpecker, and they think they’ve found it. Evidently this has been cooking for several months, but the word recently leaked out, and a paper has been rushed to the online edition of Science.

It would be great if this were true. I want it to be true. Several independent professional observers say it is true. But I gotta say, I just read the paper (Fitzpatrick et al. “Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) Persists in Continental North America, free online”), looked at the supplementary material, and watched the video, and I’ve got a bad feeling that hopes are going to be dashed again. What they’ve put up in terms of data is scans of field notes and a detailed analysis of one very short video that is being interpreted right at the limits of its resolution. They don’t have audio recordings, and the digital photo they have is a photo of model in a “reconstruction” of the video observation. Hopefully my utterly amateur opinion is wrong, and the professionals are right, but with this much psychic energy pushing for the existence of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, it pays to be extra-careful.