Readers of this site know that I don’t like mass surveillance of human beings; however, the technology behind the tools used for intrusive observations of our private lives can be used to help animals. Henri Weimerskirch, a French ecologist, is using tons of little sensors on birds to monitor both birds and what they eat (fish). Right now we use human observation, satellites imagery, and radios to track animals. What Weimerskirch is doing now is to use mass data collection a la mass surveillance to monitor the well being of birds and fish.
The bird spies join an arsenal of technologies being used and developed around the world to catch illegal and unregistered fishing boats. The main tool right now is satellite surveillance, which has provided important big-picture data. But it relies on ships having signaling systems on board—which many unregistered vessels don’t, and which can be easily switched off to provide cover for illegal activity. The information is also relatively low-resolution and only updated every few hours.
This fall, as Weimerskirch’s birds begin patrolling the Indian Ocean, the waters around the Republic of Seychelles will come under new scrutiny. The government is partnering with FishGuard, a project developed by the drone company ATLAN Space and the nonprofit GRID-Arendal. The coast guard will control drones for two modes of operation: targeted missions and surveillance. In targeted use, the coast guard will send them to check out a suspicious boat that’s been previously identified. In surveillance mode, the drones will patrol a set area, and their artificial intelligence system will identify and report boats that match a registry of unregistered and illegal vessels.
Spending time outside in nature is good for your physical and mental health, so why not do something while you’re out there? Bird watching could be the thing for you! Take your phone with you to catalog nature and help discover birds, that way you’re improving science while also improving yourself. If you’re wondering about what bird watching (or just birding) is all about you can check out this in-depth beginners guide.
Bird enthusiast and author Jack Connor published an essay back in 1984 highlighting the pastime’s appeal, and his reasons still hold true today.
Connor shared that birding gives folks something interesting to talk about, a reason to explore the world, and the chance to meet likeminded people and make lifelong friends.
Unlike many hobbies that have the equivalent of a shelf life, bird watching is a pastime that can continue into old age.
Thanks to Jonny!
Opponents of clean energy try to find any reason to stop renewable installations (I guess they hate the planet?) and when it comes to wind farms they suddenly start caring about birds. Their argument is that birds will fly into the blades of wind turbines. This argument was recently studied on the shores of the UK and found to be marginally correct, instead of killing thousands of birds a wind farm found only an average of one every four months. This death rate is notable less than the amount of birds killed by flying into windows on skyscrapers. Hopefully the anti wind energy people now redirect their own energy to protecting birds from pointless deaths from lights being left on in towers.
Tim Frayling, Senior Environmental Specialist Ornithology, Natural England said: “Natural England acknowledge the significant achievement of providing empirical evidence of bird avoidance in relation to an offshore wind farm for the first time, and the progress in starting to address some key questions in this area.
“The proof of concept has been successfully demonstrated and we would look forward to seeing similar studies in different locations, including wind farms closer to seabird colonies.”
eBird is a mobile app that has been around for a few years and used around the world. As a result the app has been used to collect a rich dataset of bird sightings which provides enough data for researchers to have a very accurate understanding of some bird species. You can use the data to see how birds react to ongoing climate change or just to find out what’s migrating through your area.
“eBird data has become so good and so accurate in the Americas that we can track the full life cycle of populations of birds and watch them in real time as they kind of flow over the continents,” said Rondel.
She recommends people who are newer to watching birds also download the Merlin Bird ID app, which guides users through a series of questions to help them figure out which species they are seeing.
Beyond logging their own sightings, the app also helps bird enthusiasts find the birds they want to catch a glimpse of. The app allows users to search a specific bird and pull up maps that show where the birds have been spotted in the past.
There have been allegations that wind turbines kill birds and thus are a negative power system overall. Science to the rescue! Ornithologists have completed a study about migratory birds and how well they fare around wind farms. The answer? Birds are fine.
The study, which is published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, was carried out jointly by four naturalists and ornithologists from the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). It goes against widespread allegations by critics of windfarms that clusters of turbines routinely cause serious damage to wild birds, through collision with the revolving blades, noise and visual disturbance.
James Pearce-Higgins, the lead author and principal ecologist with the BTO, said: “It was a bit of a surprise that the impact on windfarms seemed to be happening during construction rather than operation.”
“It means we should look at ways in which these negative impacts can be minimised. The next step will be to find out whether those steps are effective,” he said.