Welsh, Icelandic puffins use tools, new research


This 27 December 2019 video says about itself:

Watch a puffin use a stick as a feather-scratching tool | Science News

A remote motion-sensitive camera captured a puffin on Grimsey Island in Iceland picking up a stick and using it to scratch its feathers in July 2018. It’s the second time researchers studying puffins have spotted such tool use and the first time it’s been documented in seabirds.

By Jonathan Lambert, 30 December 2019:

Stick-toting puffins offer the first evidence of tool use in seabirds

Two birds observed four years and a sea apart turned sticks into feather scratchers

Annette Fayet was scanning a colony of Atlantic puffins off the coast of Wales when something caught her eye. A puffin, gently bobbing on the sea, held a stick in its orange-black bill. Then, the seabird used it to scratch its back.

“I was surprised and excited,” says Fayet, an ecologist at the University of Oxford who studies puffin migration. Puffins (Fratercula arctica<) had never been seen using tools. In fact, no seabird had.

Fayet recorded the unusual behavior in her notebook, but it would take four more years before she got photographic evidence. In 2018 on Grimsey Island in Iceland, one of her motion-sensitive camera captured a puffin snatching a stick from the ground and using it to scratch its chest feathers.

Those observations, described December 30 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, represent the only known example of a bird in the wild using a tool to scratch itself.

Scientists have long known that some birds use tools, mostly to extract food. Stick-wielding crows wow biologists with their ingenuity  (SN: 9/14/16), some parrots grind down seashells with pebbles and Egyptian vultures can crack ostrich eggs with rocks. But seabirds, which tend to have smaller brains, were written off as prospective tool users, Fayet says. The puffin discovery suggests that tool use in birds may be more widespread and varied than previously thought, she and her colleagues say.

“I’m not surprised that seabirds can use tools,” says Corina Logan, a behavioral ecologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who wasn’t involved in the study. She says so many creatures’ cognitive abilities remain undiscovered because detecting them takes so much time and energy.

Despite the small sample size, Logan says she’s convinced puffins can use tools in part because the behavior was seen in two populations four years and 1,700 kilometers apart. Most tool use in birds revolves around eating, but this study “expands our predictions about which species engage in [tool use] and why they might need or want to do so.”

The puffins might be using sticks to flick ticks, a common puffin parasite, from their plumage, Fayet and her colleagues suggest. Summer 2018 in Iceland, when the behavior was caught on video, was an especially bad tick season.

British police dodgy facial recognition


This 6 August 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Why Cities Are Banning Facial Recognition Technology | WIRED

A handful of US cities have banned government use of facial recognition technology due to concerns over its accuracy and privacy. WIRED’s Tom Simonite talks with computer vision scientist and lawyer Gretchen Greene about the controversy surrounding the use of this technology.

From daily News Line in Britain:

STATE SPYING: Police launch facial recognition app – UN slams state spying on disabled

9th August 2019

SOUTH Wales Police have launched a facial recognition app which is to be installed on their officers’ phones, prompting human rights campaigners Liberty to exclaim: ‘This technology is intrusive, unnecessary, and has no place on our streets.’

In a three-month trial of the new police facial recognition app which has already prompted a legal challenge, 50 officers will be given the app.

The force’s use of facial recognition technology prompted a legal challenge by a man whose picture was taken by officers while he was out shopping.

Some other forces have already trialled the technology including the Metropolitan Police.

Hannah Couchman, of Liberty, said: ‘It is shameful that South Wales Police are rolling out portable facial recognition technology to individual officers while their so-called pilots are being challenged by Liberty in court. Far less intrusive means have been used for decades by police to establish a person’s identity where necessary.’

Meanwhile, the UN’s investigator into global poverty has said innocent people are being caught up in the mass surveillance system used by the UK’s welfare state to ‘combat benefit fraud’.

Philip Alston, the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty, described it as a tragedy that people imagined that ‘the ever-more intrusive surveillance system by the UK welfare state’ was used only against alleged ‘welfare cheats’.

‘It’s not. It will soon affect everyone and leave the society much worse off. Everyone needs to pay attention and insist on decent limits,’ he said.

Alston said the UK’s surveillance system stood the presumption of innocence on its head. He said this was because everyone applying for a benefit was ‘screened for potential wrongdoing in a system of total surveillance’.

Rick Burgess, an activist with Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts, said fears that footage of his members and supporters demonstrating was being passed from police to the DWP had had a ‘chilling effect’ on people’s willingness to protest.

‘There are people who are not protesting today because they are terrified by what the DWP might know about them,’ he said. ‘The idea that information the police gather at protests about some of those taking part could be passed to the DWP for welfare fraud investigations is Stasi-like.’

USA: CLASS ACTION AGAINST FACEBOOK OVER FACIAL RECOGNITION A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a group of Facebook users can move forward with their class action lawsuit challenging the company’s use of facial recognition technology. [HuffPost]

Red kites in Wales, videos


This 3 April 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Red Kites: Birds Flying in Slow Motion, filmed at Gigrin Farm in Wales UK

Video Produced by Paul Dinning

This 9 April 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Red Kites Feeding at Gigrin Farm, Rhayader in Wales – Filmed in Slow Motion

Video Produced by Paul Dinning – Wildlife in Cornwall