Connect with us


BIRD: At 25, Backyard Bird Count Shows Power Of Citizen Science




Steve and Janet Kistler of Hart County, Kentucky, will definitely take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count when it starts on Friday. Since the now-global tradition began 25 years ago, they have done so yearly.

This will be the first count for Moira Dalibor, a middle-school math teacher in Lexington a couple of hours away. She’s leading a group of students and parents to a nursery for a data-gathering exercise.

They’ll be among hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, counting and recording over four days. The Great Backyard Bird Count, or GBBC, was completed by approximately 385,000 people from 192 countries last year.

“Every year, we see increased participation,” says Becca Rodomsky-Bish, project leader at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York, which organizes the count with the National Audubon Society and Birds Canada.

Tens of thousands of people submitted checklists in India, which had the highest participation outside of the United States last year — a 28% increase from 2021.

This global data is fed into the eBird database, which scientists use to research bird populations, which have declined dramatically in recent decades. It’s part of a growing trend of “citizen science” projects in which volunteers gather data about the natural world for researchers to use.

And, according to Steve Kistler, the more people interested in bird watching, the better.


Many Watchers Use eBird

“It’s fun and important to get the numbers, but it’s just a joyful thing to do,” says Kistler, who leads watching trips locally and internationally.

Many bird watchers use eBird all year, and it has amassed massive amounts of data — often between 1 million and 2 million bird checklists per month from around the world in the last few years, according to Rodomsky-Bish.

These figures assist researchers in tracking the ups and downs of various species, which aids in determining the direction of conservation efforts.

“We’re losing the net number of birds worldwide,” says Rodomsky-Bish.

Cornell University researchers discovered 3 billion fewer birds in North America in 2019 than in 1970.

“The bad news is that the declines in the data are coming out strong and hard,” Rodomsky-Bish adds. “The good news is that we wouldn’t know if we didn’t have that data. And this enables many areas to take direct action.”

According to her, the pandemic contributed to the increased interest in the GBBC and birds in general.

“Birds were company during this period of isolation,” she says, and observing them “is an accessible way to connect with the natural world. There are flyers everywhere. You are not required to leave your home. They will arrive… They’re also charming. They’re entertaining and fascinating to watch.”


Birds were company during this period of isolation

Compared to other counts, such as Audubon’s 123-year-old Christmas Bird Count and the Cornell Lab’s Project FeederWatch, the GBBC is user-friendly.

How it works: Participants observe birds by looking out the window for 15 minutes or traveling to a nature preserve. Organizers recommend the Merlin bird ID app for distinguishing birds based on size, shape, song, or other characteristics. Along with their phones, many participants carry field guides and binoculars.

They then enter their discoveries into the eBird app.

“‘I can contribute to science — it’s simple,’ anyone can say. “If I can identify one bird in four days, I’ve done my job,” says Rodomsky-Bish.

She says that counting in February gives a good picture of the situation before many birds start their yearly spring migrations.

Dalibor, who teaches at the Redwood Cooperative School in Kentucky, has been learning how to use the Merlin app and researching local species. The children will use pencils and clipboards to record bird sightings, and parent volunteers will enter those numbers into phones.

“It’ll be authentic data we collected ourselves that real scientists will use. Being connected to the larger world has a purpose and action behind it, which is unique for them,” Dalibor says.


50 grackles fly by in a flock; you get pretty good at estimating

Ganeshwar SV, director of the Salem Ornithological Foundation in India, prioritizes instilling a love of nature in young children. He works with schools to get them involved in conservation programs, such as the GBBC, and says the goal is “not to count but to enjoy birds.”

“It’s not uncommon for children to wander around in rural areas and use catapults (slingshots) to kill them,” he says. “The same hands that used catapults to hit them are now building nest boxes and taking notes on birds and their behavior.”

He claims that the students do not have smartphones and “wouldn’t have seen a binocular in real life.” They keep track of their sightings in notebooks.

Steve Kistler, in rural Kentucky, advises beginners to “start easy, birding around the home. Or go out with a group that day.”

“If 50 grackles fly by in a flock, you get pretty good at estimating,” he says, dismissing exact counts. We don’t need to have it down to the last grackle for what you’re doing.”

Bird counts can also become competitive.

“If you can outnumber last year’s species count, that’s a good day,” Kistler says.



U.K News

Indonesia’s Marapi Volcano Erupts For The Second Day As 12 Climbers Remain Missing




PADANG, Indonesia – Officials in Indonesia paused the search for 12 climbers on Monday when Mount Merapi volcano erupted again, sending a huge burst of scorching ash as high as 800 meters (2,620 feet) into the air.

The deaths of 11 climbers were discovered earlier in the day while searching for the missing, but efforts to locate them were hampered by the resumed activity, according to West Sumatra’s Search and Rescue Agency head Abdul Malik. He stated that the search would restart whenever conditions improved.

The agency shared a video of rescuers escorting an injured climber on a stretcher off the mountain and into a waiting ambulance to be brought to the hospital.


On Sunday, Marapi erupted, unleashing clouds of burning ash.

Since 2011, the volcano has remained at the third highest of four alert levels, indicating above-normal volcanic activity, prohibiting climbers and villagers from approaching the peak within 3 kilometers (1.8 miles), according to Hendra Gunawan, the head of the Center for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation.

“This means there should be no climbing to the peak,” Gunawan explained, adding that climbers were only permitted below the danger zone, “but sometimes many of them broke the rules to fulfill their satisfaction to climb further.”

On Saturday, over 75 climbers began their ascent of the nearly 2,900-meter (9,480-foot) mountain and became stranded. Rescuers saved 52 people, including three on Monday. According to Hari Agustian, an official with the local Search and Rescue Agency in Padang, the West Sumatra provincial capital, eight of those rescued Sunday were transported to hospital with burns, and one suffered a fractured leg.

Before beginning their ascent, all climbers registered at two command stations or online with West Sumatra’s conservation office, according to Agustian. When asked how many individuals may be stranded, he claimed it couldn’t be confirmed because some may have taken unauthorized routes up the mountain, and residents may have also been present.

During Sunday’s eruption, Marapi erupted thick ash columns as high as 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), and heated ash clouds extended for miles. Tons of volcanic debris buried nearby villages and cities. According to a social media video, volcanic dust and rain covered the faces and hair of evacuated climbers.

Authorities provided masks and urged inhabitants to wear eyeglasses to protect themselves from volcanic ash as falling ash blanketed several communities and obstructed sunlight.


Rubai and Gobah Cumantiang, the nearest villages about 5 to 6 kilometers (3.1 to 3.7 miles) from the peak, are home to approximately 1,400 people.

According to Gunawan, the Sunday eruption was not preceded by a large rise in volcanic earthquakes. Deep volcanic earthquakes were only detected three times between November 16 and Sunday, while the peak’s deformation equipment or tiltmeter revealed a horizontal pattern on the radial axis and a small inflation on the tangential axis.

“This shows that the eruption process is taking place quickly and the center of pressure is very shallow, around the peak,” the scientist stated.


According to Gunawan, Marapi has erupted on average every 2 to 4 years since 2004.

Gunawan added that this eruption was not the result of magma movement and that marapi eruptions are typically sudden and challenging to detect using equipment because the source is close to the surface.

Marapi has been active since a January eruption that left no one dead. It is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is vulnerable to seismic activity due to its placement on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircles the Pacific Basin.


Continue Reading


Astronaut Frank Borman, Commander Of The First Apollo Mission To The Moon, Has Died At Age 95




BILLINGS, Mont. — Frank Borman, the commanding officer of Apollo 8’s momentous Christmas 1968 journey that circled the moon ten times and cleared the stage for the lunar landing the following year, has died. He was 95.

According to NASA, Borman died on Tuesday in Billings, Montana.

Frank also commanded problematic Eastern Airlines after leaving the astronaut corps in the 1970s and early 1980s.

However, he was most known for his NASA responsibilities. He and his crewmates, James Lovell and William Anders, were the first to travel to the moon and glimpse Earth as a faraway sphere in space.

“Today, we honor one of NASA’s finest. In a statement Thursday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson stated, “Astronaut Frank Borman was a true American hero.” “His lifelong love for aviation and exploration was only surpassed by his love for his wife, Susan.”

The Apollo 8 trio launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on December 21, 1968, and spent three days traveling to the moon before entering lunar orbit on Christmas Eve. They returned home on December 27 after circling 10 times on December 24-25.


Astronaut Frank Borman, Commander Of The First Apollo Mission To The Moon, Has Died At Age 95

In a live telecast from the orbiter on Christmas Eve, the astronauts read from the Book of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” And the ground was formless and empty, and darkness covered the face of the deep.”

Frank closed the show by saying, “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.”

Lovell and Borman had previously flown together during the two-week Gemini 7 mission, which launched on December 4, 1965, and achieved the first space orbital rendezvous with Gemini 6 at only 120 feet apart.

“Gemini was a tough go,” Borman admitted to The Associated Press in 1998. “It was no bigger than a Volkswagen bug’s front seat.” It gave Apollo the appearance of a super-duper, luxury touring bus.”


Astronaut Frank Borman, Commander Of The First Apollo Mission To The Moon, Has Died At Age 95

In his book, “Countdown: An Autobiography,” Frank stated that Apollo 8 was initially intended to orbit Earth. The success of Apollo 7’s mission in October 1968 to demonstrate system reliability on long-duration flights convinced NASA that it was time to try flying to the moon.

But, according to Frank, NASA modified its plans to beat the Russians. Borman stated that he believed one orbit would be sufficient.

“My main concern throughout the flight was getting there ahead of the Russians and getting home.” In my opinion, that was a big accomplishment,” Borman said during a 2017 appearance in Chicago.

Anders captured the iconic “Earthrise” photo of a blue and white Earth rising over the grey lunar terrain during the crew’s fourth orbit.

“We were the first humans to see the world in its majestic totality, an intensely emotional experience for each of us,” Borman wrote about how the Earth seemed from afar. We didn’t say anything to each other, but I was certain our thoughts were the same – of our family on that spinning globe. And perhaps we discussed another concept I had, “This has to be what God sees.”


Astronaut Frank Borman, Commander Of The First Apollo Mission To The Moon, Has Died At Age 95

Borman’s aviation career continued after NASA when he joined Eastern Airlines, the nation’s fourth-largest airline. He eventually became Eastern’s president and CEO, as well as its board chairman, in 1976.

During Borman’s tenure at Eastern, fuel prices skyrocketed, and the government deregulated the airline business. The airline became more unprofitable, in debt, and riven by labor strife. In 1986, he resigned and relocated to Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Borman claimed in his memoirs that his interest in flying began in his teens when he and his father would build model airplanes. Borman began flying lessons at 15, using money he had saved from working as a bag boy and pumping petrol after school. After eight hours of dual instruction, he took his first solo flight. He kept flying until his 90s.

Borman grew up in Tucson, Arizona, after being born in Gary, Indiana. He graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1950 with a bachelor of science degree. Borman married his high school girlfriend, Susan Bugbee, the same year. She passed away in 2021.

After graduating, Borman worked as a fighter pilot, operational pilot, and teacher at West Point. Borman and his family relocated to Pasadena, California, in 1956, where he earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the California Institute of Technology. He was one of nine test pilots chosen by NASA for the astronaut program in 1962.

President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Congressional Space Medal of Honour.

Borman and his son, Fred, established a cattle ranch in Bighorn, Montana 1998. He was survived by another son, Edwin, and their families, in addition to Fred.


Continue Reading


Winter To Bring Best Northern Lights Displays For 20 Years, Scientists Say



northern lights

This winter is expected to be a record-breaking year for viewing the Northern Lights, with scientists forecasting the finest displays in 20 years, which have already been witnessed in southern England.

The sun is expected to reach the pinnacle of its about 11-year activity cycle – known as “solar maximum” – between January and October 2024, generating spectacular aurora displays both in the lower northern regions and further south in Europe.

The next solar maximum is especially anticipated as the previous one, which occurred in December 2019, was the weakest in a century.

The northern lights illuminated most of the UK and Ireland over the weekend, extending south of Stonehenge.

northern lights

Stonehenge in the Northern Lights

“I anticipate more aurora activity than in the previous 20 years,” said Njl Gulbrandsen, a space physics researcher at Troms Geophysical Observatory, part of the Arctic University of Norway (UiT). As the sun approaches its apex, more solar storms have formed, causing more aurora to be visible further south than usual.

“It’s mostly because of this 11-year solar cycle that the activity is now picking up quite a lot,” he said. “Another factor is that the previous solar cycle was weak, so activity now may be the strongest it’s been in nearly 20 years.” We must go back a long time to observe this amount of activity.”

Northern Norway, the northern areas of Finland and Sweden, Iceland, the northern US and Canada, and the southern part of Greenland are usually the finest places to see the northern lights, which are caused by many particles falling from the sun. However, during the solar maximum, the auroral oval extends, making it visible in spots around Europe.

northern lights

Winter To Bring Best Northern Lights Displays For 20 Years, Scientists Say

“There will be more spectacular displays in the usual locations that you think of, but also really nice displays further south than you would normally expect,” said Katie Herlingshaw, a space physics researcher at the University Centre in Svalbard (Unis). “It’s really exciting to get this good solar maximum now because a lot of people have forgotten what a good solar maximum actually looks like.”

“When we have these big solar storms, then you should be able to see it in Europe and the UK when you have something big on the way,” said Herlingshaw, who is exploring a new sort of aurora known as “fragments” (green light that appears near regular auroral arcs). The trick is that you should go to a dark spot. You wish to escape the city lights.”

source – (the guardian)


Continue Reading