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It’s Starting to look a Lot Like… October

Snow Dawn (©2012 by Andy Vickers)

Snow Dawn (©2012 by Andy Vickers)

I’ve just finished work for the holidays, Nat King Cole is on the radio wishing me Merry Christmas yet I’ve just been stood outside on the balcony, drinking tea in the sunshine and I didn’t need a winter coat.

Now in reality it hasn’t regularly snowed at Christmas in this part of Britain for many, many decades – the idea of snow on Christmas day comes in part from Charles Dickens’ whose childhood, at the end of the Little Ice Age, was a time of much snow and where even the Thames would freeze solid – but even so this feels bizarre.

These days I look forward to snow on my birthday, that happens regularly as can be seen in my Christmassy picture above taken on that day in February 2012 .

Anyway, despite the lack of the white stuff here in mid-England I will wish all my readers a Happy Christmas and a wonderful new year.

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Nature, Outdoors, Science, Tech

Satellites, Cows and Penguin Poop

English: King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus...

English: King Penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus patagonicus), West Falkland. Français : Un Manchot royal. Photo prise sur l’île de Falkland occidentale (ou Grande Malouine), dans les Malouines. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many people worry about all the satellites up there pointing cameras down here but for scientists as well as governments they can be invaluable – particularly if you need to p p p pick up a penguin, or 9,000.

In recent years wildlife researchers have used satellite and aerial imagery to watch animal movements and behaviour.  Dr Sabine Begall, from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany who had been studying magnetic sensing in animals, initially mole rats, decided to see if larger animals might have the same.  Dr Begall and colleagues used Google Earth to examine how cows stand in fields across the world (to rule out weather effects) and found that the majority faced north or south only, the effect was also seen in deer in the Czech Republic.

In 2009 a group monitoring how penguins were coping with changing environmental conditions wanted to confirm the location of breeding grounds.  Using satellite images, which didn’t have sufficient resolution to see individual birds, they were able to identify colonies due to the staining of the ground by guano – the penguins stay at the colony for around eight months.  The work confirmed the location of 26 colonies and found 10 more.

Then in December last year a team of Belgian and Swiss explorers visited one of these colonies, finding around 9,000 birds.  The article at The Atlantic has the photos.

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