Long-tailed tits and mathematics, new research


This 15 April 2020 video says about itself:

This footage is recorded in Oxfordshire in England UK, in a bramble thicket. The nests are always about 1.0-1.5m from the ground and in a very prickly place like brambles, blackthorn or gorse.

These birds build a nest that is so intricate and painstaking that it takes much longer to construct than most birds’ nests and so they start very early in Spring, in March. It can take two or three weeks to finish. Several thousand feathers of other birds are used to line the nest.

The nest is made of lichens, moss and spider web threads. This makes it very strong and stretchy so that as the youngsters grow inside so the nest expands too. It needs to – they can have seven youngsters in the nest at once.

From the University of Sheffield in England:

Mathematical patterns developed by Alan Turing help researchers understand bird behavior

August 11, 2020

Scientists from the University of Sheffield have used mathematical modelling to understand why flocks of long-tailed tits segregate themselves into different parts of the landscape.

The team tracked the birds around Sheffield’s Rivelin Valley which eventually produced a pattern across the landscape, using maths helped the team to reveal the behaviours causing these patterns.

The findings, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, show that flocks of long-tailed tits are less likely to avoid places where they have interacted with relatives and more likely to avoid larger flocks, whilst preferring the centre of woodland.

It was previously unknown why flocks of long-tailed tits live in separate parts of the same area, despite there being plenty of food to sustain multiple flocks and the birds not showing territorial behaviour.

The equations used to understand the birds are similar to those developed by Alan Turing to describe how animals get their spotted and striped patterns. Turing’s famous mathematics indicates if patterns will appear as an animal grows in the womb, here it’s used to find out which behaviours lead to the patterns across the landscape.

Territorial animals often live in segregated areas that they aggressively defend and stay close to their den. Before this study, these mathematical ideas had been used to understand the patterns made by territorial animals such as coyotes, meerkats and even human gangs. However, this study was the first to use the ideas on non-territorial animals with no den pinning them in place.

Natasha Ellison, PhD student at the University of Sheffield who led the study, said: “Mathematical models help us understand nature in an extraordinary amount of ways and our study is a fantastic example of this.”

“Long-tailed tits are too small to be fitted with GPS trackers like larger animals, so researchers follow these tiny birds on foot, listening for bird calls and identifying birds with binoculars. The fieldwork is extremely time consuming and without the help of these mathematical models these behaviours wouldn’t have been discovered.”

Black Lives Matter, also in England


People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Brighton, England, sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis

This photo shows people taking part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Brighton, England, sparked by the death of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 12 July 2020:

Thousands march in Brighton Black Lives Matter protest

THOUSANDS of people marched through Brighton on Saturday shouting “black lives matter every day” after a video showing a man pinned to the ground by police officers circulated online last week.

Around 5,000 protesters marched along the seafront towards the city centre carrying placards reading “the UK is not innocent” and “decolonise everything”.

It follows outrage over a video circulated on Tuesday showing a man shouting “I can’t breathe” as he’s restrained on the ground by three officers in Brighton.

This 9 July 2020 video, by the British Conservative Daily Telegraph, says about itself:

I can’t breathe‘ UK police restraint referred to watchdog

A police force is reviewing whether footage of its officers restraining a man who repeatedly shouts “I can’t breathe” needs to be investigated.

In a video circulating on social media, a man is lying on the ground, restrained by three officers, on a hill behind a police car in Brighton.

USA: VIDEO SHOWS PENNSYLVANIA COP USING KNEE ON MAN’S NECK Protesters are demanding the suspension of officers seen in a video restraining a man by placing a knee on his neck in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The department released its use of force policy earlier this month, five weeks after a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee on George Floyd’s neck for several minutes. [AP]

Black-tailed godwits and their young in England


This 1 July 2020 video from England says about itself:

How do godwits rear their chicks? Godwit-cam highlights | WWT

Black-tailed godwits are beautiful wading birds. but they are now Red Listed in the UK (BoCC4), which is why they’re one of the wetland species we’re helping in the wild. We also have a small population in captivity and, in spring 2020, we placed a nest cam near two of our breeding birds to capture all the action as they hatched and reared their chicks. Senior Conservation Breeding Officer, Tanya Grigg, explains what happens at each stage of the parent and chick journey.

Managing these birds in captivity helps us develop some of the techniques we use to boost productivity (breeding success) in the wild. As part of Project Godwit, we are using a range of methods to help black-tailed godwits that breed at the Nene and Ouse Washes in East Anglia, including headstarting. Headstarting involves protecting chicks until they are capable of flight and are much less vulnerable to predators and flooding. We released 112 fledglings at the Nene and Ouse Washes from 2017-2019 and the wild breeding population has grown in size. Unfortunately, we had to cancel our plans for 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

British singer Vera Lynn, RIP


This is a video of British singer Vera Lynn singing We’ll Meet Again.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

British singer Vera Lynn has died at the age of 103, reports British public broadcaster BBC. …

The song We’ll meet again, which she recorded in 1942, was seen as a boost for the many lovers who were separated by the war. The song helped the soldiers express and share their experiences, their fears and their sorrows, she later said, “A lot of these boys never told anything about the war.”

Ms Lynn supported the World War II fight against nazi Germany. However, later she opposed the Afghan war of United States President George W Bush, British Blairite Prime Minister Tony Blair and later Conservative Prime Ministers.

A side of Vera Lynn not mentioned in either the BBC or the NOS reports.

English slave trader Colston, Tina Turner parody


This 9 June 2020 satirical music video from Britain is a parody of the song Proud Mary by Tina Turner.

It says about itself:

[17th-century Bristol, England slave trader] Edward Colston – Rolling to the River

The statue of Edward Colston sings.

LYRICS:

Left a good job in the city
Joined the Royal African Company
Worked my way up to Deputy Governor
19,000 slaves died on our journeys
Statue was still erected
But it seems some of you objected
Now I’m rolling, rolling, rolling to the river

Grave of enslaved African in Bristol vandalised in ‘retaliation attack’: here.

Pink flamingos, pale flamingos and food fights


This 8 June 2020 video says about itself:

Not so pretty in pink! Researchers found lesser flamingos that are the pinkest push their paler cohorts around more when fighting over food, showing how color plays a part in their complex social structures.

From the University of Exeter in England:

Pinker flamingos more aggressive

June 7, 2020

Bright pink flamingos are more aggressive than paler rivals when fighting over food, new research shows.

Pink plumage is a sign of good health in lesser flamingos, and a flush of colour often means they are ready to breed.

So when the birds squabble over food, the pinkest flamingos — both male and female — tend to push the others around.

The study, by the University of Exeter and WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, also found the birds fight more when food is available in a small area such as a bowl — so the findings suggest captive birds should be fed over a wide space where possible.

“Flamingos live in large groups with complex social structures,” said Dr Paul Rose, of the University of Exeter.

“Colour plays an important role in this. The colour comes from carotenoids in their food, which for lesser flamingos is mostly algae that they filter from the water.

“A healthy flamingo that is an efficient feeder — demonstrated by its colourful feathers — will have more time and energy to be aggressive and dominant when feeding.”

Dr Rose studied the behaviour of Slimbridge’s lesser flamingos in different feeding situations: at an indoor feeding bowl, a larger indoor feeding pool, and outdoors with food available in a large pool.

In the outdoor pool, birds spent less than half as much time displaying aggression, while foraging time doubled (compared to when fed from a bowl).

“When birds have to crowd together to get their food, they squabble more and therefore spend less time feeding,” Dr Rose said.

“It’s not always possible to feed these birds outdoors, as lesser flamingos only weigh about 2kg and are native to Africa, so captive birds in places like the UK would get too cold if they went outside in the winter.

“However, this study shows they should be fed over as wide an area as possible.

“Where possible, creating spacious outdoor feeding areas can encourage natural foraging patterns and reduce excess aggression.

“This research shows that zoos don’t have to make huge changes to how they keep their animals to make a big, beneficial difference to animal behaviour.”

Lesser flamingos do not have a breeding season — they breed when they’re in good enough condition.

This is often displayed by a “pink flush” in the feathers, Dr Rose said, and the birds then become paler again during the tiring days of early parenthood.

He added: “This study is a great example of why I love working with WWT Slimbridge.

“Based on my observations, I suggested some changes — and the keepers were willing to try them out.

“As a result, we get pinker, more relaxed flamingos.”

The colour of individual birds in the study was scored from one (mainly white) to four (mainly pink).

No difference was found between males and females in rates of feeding or aggression.

One English care home spared from COVID-19


This 24 May 2020 video from England says about itself:

As coronavirus ravages UK care homes, it spares one centre

At least a quarter of all the United Kingdom’s coronavirus deaths have been in care homes for the elderly.

But managers in a facility for seniors on the Isle of Wright managed to buck the trend.

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull reports from the Isle of Wight, the UK.

Flamingos form friendships, new research


This 2015 video from England is called Andean Flamingo courtship dance | WWT Slimbridge.

From the University of Exeter in England:

Flamingos form firm friendships

April 14, 2020

Flamingos form friendships that last for years, new research shows.

The five-year study reveals that, despite being highly social as part of large flocks, flamingos consistently spend time with specific close “friends.”

They also avoid certain individuals, suggesting some flamingos just don’t get on.

The University of Exeter study examined four flamingo species at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, and found social bonds including “married” couples, same-sex friendships and even groups of three and four close friends.

“Our results indicate that flamingo societies are complex. They are formed of long-standing friendships rather than loose, random connections,” said Dr Paul Rose, of the University of Exeter.

“Flamingos don’t simply find a mate and spend their time with that individual.

“Some mating couples spend much of their time together, but lots of other social bonds also exist.

“We see pairs of males or females choosing to ‘hang out’, we see trios and quartets that are regularly together.

“Flamingos have long lives — some of the birds in this study have been at Slimbridge since the 1960s — and our study shows their friendships are stable over a period of years.

“It seems that — like humans — flamingos form social bonds for a variety of reasons, and the fact they’re so long-lasting suggests they are important for survival in the wild.”

Dr Rose said the findings could help in the management of captive flamingos.

“When moving birds from one zoo to another, we should be careful not to separate flamingos that are closely bonded to each other,” he said.

The study — which used data from 2012-16 — examined flocks of Caribbean, Chilean, Andean and Lesser flamingos.

The flocks varied in size from just over 20 to more than 140, and the findings suggest larger flocks contained the highest level of social interactions.

“The simple lesson of this is that captive flamingo flocks should contain as many birds as reasonably possible,” Dr Rose said.

The study found that seasons affected social interactions, with more bonds forming in spring and summer — the breeding season.

In three of the four flocks, the study also looked at the condition of the birds (measured by the health of their feet) to see if there were links between social lives and health.

No link was found, and Dr Rose said this could mean that socialising is so important to flamingos that they continue to do it even if they are not feeling at their best.

What seagulls eat, new research


This 5 March 2020 video from England says about itself:

Seagulls are more likely to pick up food that humans have handled

Seagulls prefer to approach food that has been handled by people, suggesting that the birds may use human cues to find a meal.

Madeleine Goumas at the University of Exeter, UK, says the idea for her research came from observing how seagulls acted around humans. “Are they just looking for food, or are they noticing what people are doing and picking up on their cues?” she says.

Read more here.

The video shows a herring gull.