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Archive for April, 2011

You may or may not be familiar with the amusingly odd website Will It Blend? Basically, the website’s title says it all.

You may also remember that I have previously blogged about my irrational dislike of all things Apple. Such a cathartic moment, then, to discover that the folks at Will It Blend? have decided to apply themselves to the iPhone.

Enjoy!

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Small birds bounce back

31 March 2011

Over 600,000 people took part in this year’s RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, a record breaking number watching their garden birds.

And their counts revealed that some of the smaller birds that decreased in numbers last year, bounced back this year.

Sightings of goldcrests, the UK’s smallest birds, doubled, long tailed tits increased by a third and coal tits increased by a quarter.

The long, harsh winter of 2009/2010 hit birds like long-tailed tits, goldcrests and coal tits with all three species dropping significantly in last years’ Big Garden Birdwatch.

Although smaller birds can be particularly badly affected by harsh winters, a good breeding season can help reverse declines, and these new results suggest that may have been the case in 2010.

Thousands of people were also lucky enough to see waxwings.

The striking birds flood to the UK from Scandinavia every few winters and this year saw an influx, known as a ‘waxwing winter.’

Waxwings are bold birds that are comfortable feeding around our towns and cities, and over 7,000 were counted in this year’s survey, in almost 1,000 gardens.

Big Garden Birdwatch Co-ordinator Sarah Kelly says: ‘It’s fantastic that so many people stepped up for nature by taking part. We were really interested to see how the small birds fared, after such a disastrous last year. It appears that many may have had a decent breeding season and have been able to bounce back a little.

‘But we mustn’t be complacent –another hard winter could see numbers back down so it’s important everyone continues to feed their garden birds.’

RSPB Scientist Mark Eaton says: ‘We knew this was going to be a bumper year for waxwings as we’d had so many reports from all over the UK.

‘But the Big Garden Birdwatch is the first indicator of exactly how many were seen in gardens, and we’re pleased that so many people got to enjoy sightings of these beautiful birds.

‘They’d only come into gardens if the right food was available to them. They feed on berries so it shows that lots of people are planting the right things for wildlife and reaping the rewards.’

609,177 people counted 10.2 million birds

A total of 609,177 people counted over 10.2 million birds. Over 70 species were recorded in 300,780 gardens across the UK over the weekend 29-30 January.

Starlings and blackbirds have swapped positions on this year’s leader board, with starlings now at number two and blackbirds at number 3.

Starling sightings have increased by a quarter since last year, but their numbers are still down from when Big Garden Birdwatch began in 1979.

The house sparrow retained its top spot for the eight year running with an average of four seen per garden, and has increased by 10 per cent.

Numbers of blue tits increased by 22 per cent and great tit numbers were up by 12 per cent.

Almost 90,000 school children and teachers took part in the schools version of the survey, ‘Big Schools’ Birdwatch.’ The UK-wide survey of wildlife in schools, which celebrated its 10th birthday this year, introduces thousands of children to the wildlife visiting their school environment.

Nearly 3,000 classes from more than 2,000 schools were involved, which was also a record-breaking number for the survey. 87% of schools taking part reported seeing blackbirds, with an average of five being seen at each school, making it the most common visitor to school grounds.

From the RSPB.

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Last night I stumbled across one of the most inspirational and best-presented documentaries I’ve seen in years. Typically it was on in the middle of the night and a brief summary (a history of statistics presented by a Swedish professor) might make you think it was one from the early canon of Open University spectaculars.

However, Professor Hans Rosling is one of the most exciting and engaging presenters I’ve seen on television in a long time. After a long day in the office, his quirky, amusing and insightful jaunt through the past, present and possible future of statistics was gripping. If you missed it, you can look at The Joy of Statistics on BBC iPlayer.

One of the most engaging aspects was his demonstration of how the stories of numbers are often best told through visual depiction.

For instance, I had no idea that Florence Nightingale was a statistician. It was her meticulous record-keeping translated into startling pictures that drove the changes in nursing that she instituted:

Over a hundred years later, people like David Mccandless make their living finding ways to translate complex information into more readily understandable pictorial form.  On his Information Is Beautiful blog he finds different and exciting visualisations of statistical data. The Billion-pound-o-gram is his way of making those mad, large numbers more comprehensible:

Perhaps the most spectacular use of animation was Professor Rosling’s depiction of the progress of countries in terms of their life expectancy and their income. His enthusiasm, love and knowledge are a real joy to behold. To really see a story told in numbers, watch this little snippet below:

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