Kingfishers have stout bodies, very short tails, short, rounded wings, large heads and long, dagger-like bills.
Their feet are very small, with the two outer toes partly fused together. They nest in holes tunnelled into earth banks. There is only one UK species, but many more worldwide, most of which are dry-land birds rather than waterside ones like the UK kingfisher.
Alex and Lisa have put together a remarkable video
Yesterday, in came an email from my son, Alex, about an amazing starling murmuration at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
Lisa took the video and together they uploaded it to YouTube.
Having watched the amazing video I then did a little bit of research. I came quickly across the science of murmuration and have included it below.
Murmuration refers to the phenomenon that results when hundreds, sometimes thousands, of starlings fly in swooping, intricately coordinated patterns through the sky.
Maybe you’ve seen a murmuration video before. But this one is especially beautiful. It was shot earlier this month in Wales, at Cosmeston Lakes in the Vale of Glamorgan, and posted on Facebook by the BBC Cymru Wales. (It’s not included, Ed.)
It’s all about science. Just how do the starlings manage to fly in such an amazingly coordinated way?
A few years ago, George F. Young and his colleagues investigated starlings’ “remarkable ability to maintain cohesion as a group in highly uncertain environments and with limited, noisy information” — a nice description of what goes on in a murmuration.
Going in, Young et al. already knew that starlings pay attention to a fixed number of their neighbors in the flock, regardless of flock density — seven, to be exact. Their new contribution was to figure out that “when uncertainty in sensing is present, interacting with six or seven neighbors optimizes the balance between group cohesiveness and individual effort.”
Young et al. analyzed still shots from videos of starlings in flight (flock size ranging from 440 to 2,600), then used a highly mathematical approach and systems theory to reach their conclusion. Focusing on the birds’ ability to manage uncertainty while also maintaining consensus, they discovered that birds accomplish this (with the least effort) when each bird attends to seven neighbors.
Continuing the theme of revisiting earlier posts this week!
More on Pharaoh’s life
What a wonderful relationship it has been.
Years ago if I was ever to own a dog, it had to be one breed and one breed only: a German Shepherd Dog.
The reason for this was that back in 1955 my father and mother looked after a German Shepherd dog called Boy. Boy belonged to a lovely couple, Maurice and Marie Davies. They were in the process of taking over a new Public House (Pub); the Jack & Jill in Coulsdon, Surrey. My father had been the architect of the Jack & Jill.
As publicans have a tough time taking holidays, it was agreed that the move from their old pub to the Jack & Jill represented a brilliant opportunity to have that vacation. My parents offered to look after Boy for the 6 weeks that Maurice and Marie were going to be away.
Boy was the most gentle loveable dog one could imagine and I quickly became devoted to him; I was 11 years old at the time. So when years later it seemed the right time to have a dog, there was no question about the breed. Boy’s memory lived on all those years, and, as this post reveals, still does!
Pharaoh was born June 3rd, 2003 at Jutone Kennels up at Bovey Tracy, Devon, on the edge of Dartmoor. As the home page of the Jutone website pronounces,
The Kennel was established in 1964 and it has always been the aim to breed the best German Shepherd Dogs for type and temperament. To this end the very finest German bloodlines are used to continue a modern breeding programme.
and elsewhere on that website one learns:
Jutone was established by Tony Trant who was joined by Sandra Tucker in 1976. Sandra continues to run Jutone since Tony passed away in 2004. Both Tony and Sandra qualified as Championship Show judges and Sandra continues to judge regularly. Sandra is the Secretary and a Life Member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of Devon.
Turning to Pharaoh, here are a few more pictures over the years.
The next picture of Pharaoh requires a little background information.
For many years I was a private pilot and in later days had the pleasure, the huge pleasure, of flying a Piper Super Cub, a group-owned aircraft based at Watchford Farm in South Devon. The aircraft, a Piper PA-18-135 Super Cub, was originally supplied to the Dutch Air Force in 1954 and was permitted by the British CAA to carry her original military markings including her Dutch military registration, R-151, although there was a British registration, G-BIYR, ‘underneath’ the Dutch R-151. (I wrote more fully about the history of the aircraft on Learning from Dogsback in August 2009.)
Anyway, every time I went to the airfield with Pharaoh he always tried to climb into the cockpit. So one day, I decided to see if he would sit in the rear seat and be strapped in. Absolutely no problem with that!
My idea had been to fly a gentle circuit in the aircraft. First I did some taxying around the large grass airfield that is Watchford to see how Pharaoh reacted. He was perfectly behaved.
Then I thought long and hard about taking Pharaoh for a flight. In the Cub there is no autopilot so if Pharaoh struggled or worse it would have been almost impossible to fly the aircraft and cope with Pharaoh. So, in the end, I abandoned taking him for a flight. The chances are that it would have been fine. But if something had gone wrong, the outcome just didn’t bear thinking about.
So we ended up motoring for 30 minutes all around the airfield which, as the next picture shows, met with doggie approval. The date was July 2006.
What a dear dog he has been over all the years and, thankfully, still is!
As if to reinforce the fabulous dog he still is, yesterday it was almost as though he knew he had to show how youthful he still was.
Because, when I took his group of dogs out around 7.30am armed with my camera, Pharaoh was brimming over with energy.
First up was a swim in the pond.
Then in a way he has not done before, Pharaoh wanted to play ‘King of my Island’, which is in the middle of the pond.
Then a while later, when back on dry land, so to speak, it was time to dry off in the morning sunshine.
Long may he have an enjoyable and comfortable life.
Pharaoh died of old age on June 19th, 2017. He was 14!
Despite the fact that we have six wonderful dogs including Cleo there is still a twinge of sadness when Pharaoh is mentioned. And now you know the origins of Pharaoh!
Not all heroes wear capes — but when it comes to helping animals in need, some really do.
That’s what one homeless pit bull named Koko learned when the Caped Crusader himself changed her life forever.
Koko arrived at the Pet Resource Center of Tampa as a stray. Day after day, she waited patiently for a family to choose her. But, before that day could come, she was put on the euthanasia list. With an hour left to live, Koko was pulled from the shelter by her foster mom and months later found a forever home in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
The only problem? She had no way of getting there.
Enter the Dark Knight — otherwise known as Chris Van Dorn, founder of the animal rescue nonprofit Batman4Paws.
An eight-hour road trip dressed in an elaborate Batman costume is all in a day’s work for Van Dorn. “I would say I’m just the middleman,” Van Dorn told The Dodo. “The real heroes are the people giving these dogs a good, loving home.”
Koko is one of many dogs and cats whom Van Dorn has helped transport from overcrowded shelters to the safety of their forever homes.
And while dressing as Batman isn’t necessary to save an animal’s life, it has helped Van Dorn open up a dialogue about the importance of adoption and fostering.
The costume just makes everybody happy and smile,” Van Dorn said. “It’s special to see Batman walking around, and when they find out that he’s doing a good deed in the world they get even more excited.”
“It kind of just came as a way to embody all the good I wanted to do in the world,” he added, “and make it easy for people to talk to me right off the bat.”
Van Dorn grew up watching the Batman animated series and began volunteering with animal rescues when his family adopted an Australian shepherd named Mr. Boots. When it came time for Van Dorn to start his own rescue organization, he decided to do it as Batman with, of course, Mr. Boots occasionally stepping in as Robin.
Every superhero has a secret identity, and for Van Dorn, wearing a mask was an intentional way of keeping the focus on his mission of saving animals.
“When I was first starting out, I was keeping everything really anonymous,” Van Dorn said. “I would sign everything ‘Bruce Wayne’ and not put my real name out there … My catchphrase is, ‘It’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me,’ and I still hold that true today.”
His cover was blown when GoFundMe honored his campaign, naming him as their GoFundMe Hero for May. Van Dorn hopes soon to put his private pilot’s license to good use by purchasing a plane so he can fly the animals to their forever homes every week.
But for the time being, he’s using his Batmobile, and making a difference whenever he can.
“Actions speak louder than words and I’m just doing my best to empty the cages,” Van Dorn said. “And I challenge anyone to go to their local shelter because it’s a depressing place, but if you can help out in any way — whether that’s to foster a dog or adopt a dog or just volunteer your time, then you should go out and do it.”
This is one amazing guy. Simple and straightforward!
This is the post (and I trust I can share it with you!)
If you have ever wondered what it must be like to be a bird flying alongside them is about as close as you can come.
Christian Moullec takes us some amazing flights with his birds in this wonderful video. He has been helping birds migrate from Germany to Sweden since 1995. His efforts have raised awareness about the disappearance of migratory birds in Europe. I hope you enjoy this beautiful video as much as I did!
This has nothing to do with dogs but it’s a beautiful story none the less!
I follow the Daily Dodo as it most frequently relays lovely stories about dogs.
But not always.
On the 28th May Lily Feinn wrote about the way that dozens of motorists avoided a bald eagle on the freeway and one in a particular, Dandon Miller, a motorcyclist, did much more than that. He saved her!
Guy Sees A Bald Eagle Caught In Traffic — And Saves Her Life
“It was just amazing to hold that bird and for her to be calm like that.”
BY LILY FEINN
PUBLISHED ON 05/28/2019
Dandon Miller’s favorite piece of clothing is a red and black flannel. He’s had the shirt for eight years and wears it all the time — but he never thought it would one day come in handy when saving a life.
On Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, Miller was on his way home from Philadelphia when traffic slowed in front of him. Miller pulled his motorcycle off to the side of the two-way highway and was shocked when he realized what was causing the traffic jam.
“I looked down to see why everyone was stopping and there was a bald eagle in the middle of the road,” Miller told The Dodo. “Another person was there and they kind of nudged her a little bit to see if she would walk off the road or fly away. She spread her wings open and was not going to go anywhere.”
An avid animal lover, Miller knew he had to help the injured bird get out of harm’s way.
The large animal was too hurt to fly, but her powerful talons were reason enough for Miller to take off his favorite flannel and throw it over her. To Miller’s surprise, the eagle remained sedate as he wrapped her in the shirt.
“I picked her up and she was very calm,” Miller said. “She got a little worked up when people started wanting to take pictures, but we were able to get that under control.”
Once Miller moved the eagle out of the road, he called 911 and eventually got in touch with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, a local rehabilitation center for wild birds. Miller held the 15-pound bird for about 45 minutes while waiting for rescue staffers to arrive. But the time seemed to pass quickly.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it when I was holding her,” Miller said. “I was just trying to keep her calm and make sure she knows she’s secure, and I wasn’t going to drop her or anything.”
“It was just amazing to hold that bird and for her to be calm like that,” Miller added. “Just amazing.”
After a few days of treatment, the rescue is confident that the bald eagle will eventually be able to be released into the wild.
“She had a mild injury to one eye and soft tissue injuries, but no broken bones,” Rebecca Stansell with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research told The Dodo. “Her wounds were treated by our wildlife veterinarian while the eagle was under anesthesia. The unexpected can always happen, but we are optimistic that she will make a full recovery.”
As for Miller’s favorite flannel, it has certainly seen better days.
The shirt now has a few large talon holes in it, but Miller knows it was for the best cause — and he will definitely be wearing it again.
Two days of nostalgia follow! (You have been warned!)
As many of you already know, my father died fairly suddenly on December 20th, 1956. I had turned 12 some six weeks previously.
After about a year my mother remarried. His name was Richard Mills. Richard came to live at the house in Toley Avenue and had the unenviable task of taking on a new ‘son’ and ‘daughter’. (My sister, Elizabeth, some four years younger than I.)
Richard was a technical author in the newly-arrived electronics industry and one day he asked me if I would like to build a short-wave receiver. He coached me in the strange art of soldering wires and radio valves and other components and in the end I had a working receiver. That led, in turn, to me studying for an amateur radio licence. More of that tomorrow.
Simply elegant, Morse code marks 175 years and counting
The elegantly simple code works whether flashing a spotlight or blinking your eyes—or even tapping on a smartphone touchscreen
By Eddie King
Ph.D. Student in Electrical Engineering, University of South Carolina
May 21st, 2019
The first message sent by Morse code’s dots and dashes across a long distance traveled from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore on Friday, May 24, 1844 – 175 years ago. It signaled the first time in human history that complex thoughts could be communicated at long distances almost instantaneously. Until then, people had to have face-to-face conversations; send coded messages through drums, smoke signals and semaphore systems; or read printed words.
Thanks to Samuel F.B. Morse, communication changed rapidly, and has been changing ever faster since. He invented the electric telegraph in 1832. It took six more years for him to standardize a code for communicating over telegraph wires. In 1843, Congress gave him US$30,000 to string wires between the nation’s capital and nearby Baltimore. When the line was completed, he conducted a public demonstration of long-distance communication.
Morse wasn’t the only one working to develop a means of communicating over the telegraph, but his is the one that has survived. The wires, magnets and keys used in the initial demonstration have given way to smartphones’ on-screen keyboards, but Morse code has remained fundamentally the same, and is still – perhaps surprisingly – relevant in the 21st century. Although I have learned, and relearned, it many times as a Boy Scout, an amateur radio operator and a pilot, I continue to admire it and strive to master it.
Morse’s key insight in constructing the code was considering how frequently each letter is used in English. The most commonly used letters have shorter symbols: “E,” which appears most often, is signified by a single “dot.” By contrast, “Z,” the least used letter in English, was signified by the much longer and more complex “dot-dot-dot (pause) dot.”
In 1865, the International Telecommunications Union changed the code to account for different character frequencies in other languages. There have been other tweaks since, but “E” is still “dot,” though “Z” is now “dash-dash-dot-dot.”
The reference to letter frequency makes for extremely efficient communications: Simple words with common letters can be transmitted very quickly. Longer words can still be sent, but they take more time.
The communications system that Morse code was designed for – analogue connections over metal wires that carried a lot of interference and needed a clear on-off type signal to be heard – has evolved significantly.
The first big change came just a few decades after Morse’s demonstration. In the late 19th century, Guglielmo Marconi invented radio-telegraph equipment, which could send Morse code over radio waves, rather than wires.
The shipping industry loved this new way to communicate with ships at sea, either from ship to ship or to shore-based stations. By 1910, U.S. law required many passenger ships in U.S. waters to carry wireless sets for sending and receiving messages.
Aviators also use Morse code to identify automated navigational aids. These are radio beacons that help pilots follow routes, traveling from one transmitter to the next on aeronautical charts. They transmit their identifiers – such as “BAL” for Baltimore – in Morse code. Pilots often learn to recognize familiar-sounding patterns of beacons in areas they fly frequently.
There is a thriving community of amateur radio operators who treasure Morse code, too. Among amateur radio operators, Morse code is a cherished tradition tracing back to the earliest days of radio. Some of them may have begun in the Boy Scouts, which has made learning Morse variably optional or required over the years. The Federal Communications Commission used to require all licensed amateur radio operators to demonstrate proficiency in Morse code, but that ended in 2007. The FCC does still issue commercial licenses that require Morse proficiency, but no jobs require it anymore.
Because its signals are so simple – on or off, long or short – Morse code can also be used by flashing lights. Many navies around the world use blinker lights to communicate from ship to ship when they don’t want to use radios or when radio equipment breaks down. The U.S. Navy is actually testing a system that would let a user type words and convert it to blinker light. A receiver would read the flashes and convert it back to text.
Perhaps the most notable modern use of Morse code was by Navy pilot Jeremiah Denton, while he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. In 1966, about one year into a nearly eight-year imprisonment, Denton was forced by his North Vietnamese captors to participate in a video interview about his treatment. While the camera focused on his face, he blinked the Morse code symbols for “torture,” confirming for the first time U.S. fears about the treatment of service members held captive in North Vietnam.
Navy pilot Jeremiah Denton, a prisoner of war, blinks Morse code spelling out ‘torture’ during a forced interview with his captors.
There are still many ways people can learn Morse code, and practice using it, even online. In emergency situations, it can be the only mode of communications that will get through. Beyond that, there is an art to Morse code, a rhythmic, musical fluidity to the sound. Sending and receiving it can have a soothing or meditative feeling, too, as the person focuses on the flow of individual characters, words and sentences. Overall, sometimes the simplest tool is all that’s needed to accomplish the task.
I do hope you read this article in full because it contains much interesting information. Many people will not have a clue about The Morse Code and, as you can see above, it is still relevant.
Finally, I can still remember the The Morse Code after all these years!
At the start of the week, indeed last Tuesday, a pair of geese hatched a brood of goslings.
I tried very hard to take some photographs of them but they stayed their distance and all I got was the following. (These are cropped down from the original.)
They are at the limits of the camera lens.
Nothing to do with dogs but I’m sure you enjoyed them! This is the second time that we have had a pair of geese build a nest, lay eggs and bring the goslings into the world. The last time was April 23rd, 2015. Pictures here!