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robertogreco : ravens   19

Spy Birds
"Of the many military projects conducted by ABE, those involving birds were among the most intriguing.

Birds were used to save lives, as shown in the Rescue Birds page, but they were also used for reconnaissance and espionage. ABE used pigeons, ravens, and crows for this work. For example, birds were taught to deliver or pick up packages from windowsills or similar locations. They were directed to the appropriate location with a laser pointer. ABE was among the first company to use large laser pointers as they became available. Today, a key feature of Robert Bailey�s workshops is teaching chickens to follow a target in the form of a red-dot delivered by a laser-pointer.

Other projects involved teaching ravens standing on exterior building ledges to take pictures of the interior rooms of the building. The raven would carry in its mouth a small camera that was triggered whenever the camera was pushed against the window pane. The exact location of this window was also indicated to the bird with a laser pointer.

In another body of work, pigeons were trained to detect ambushes and snipers hiding along well-traveled roads. This work was conducted during the Vietnam era. The bird was launched from a transport vehicle and flew ahead on the road. Attached to the bird was a device that continued to send a radio signal back to the vehicle as long as the bird was flying. If the bird detected a sniper on the side of the road, the bird would alight nearby. This would turn off the radio signal traveling back to the transport vehicle and indicate to the person monitoring the radio signal that the bird had stopped flying and probably had detected a person hiding on the side of the road. These demonstrations were remarkable in that they indicated that these birds could accurately discriminate persons from the surrounding environment even when these persons were well-hidden in the underbrush. Further, these birds could discriminate persons lying in wait from ordinary citizens walking along the road, which might be the situation in an environment like Vietnam."
cia  birds  ravens  animals  morethanhuman  multispecies  pigeons  corvids  foreden 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The CIA’s Most Highly-Trained Spies Weren’t Even Human | History | Smithsonian
"As a former trainer reveals, the U.S. government deployed nonhuman operatives—ravens, pigeons, even cats—to spy on cold war adversaries"
morethanhuman  multispecies  cats  pigeons  ravens  corvids  birds  animals  cia  2013  foreden 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Raven Brings Light to this House of Stories — UW Libraries
"A Native American, Pacific Northwest Coast story tells how once it was so dark here that the People sent Raven and Mink to bring back light. Artworks by Mare Blocker, Carl Chew, Ron Hilbert Coy, and J.T. Stewart located throughout the Kenneth S. Allen Library are parts of a contemporary retelling of this story. In this retelling, light symbolizes the Library's collected knowledge.

Raven Brings Light to this House of Stories is a project of the Washington State Arts Commission, Art in Public Places Program in partnership with the University of Washington. The title of the work can be found written along the southeast wall in the Ground Floor Lobby, Allen North. It is in Lushootseed and English. Lushootseed speaking people are the Native Americans ancestral to where Seattle is today.



The installation includes:

• Ravens and Crows
By the artist team. In the Lobby and throughout the Library.

• Table of Knowledge
A cedar table by Ron Hilbert Coy celebrating the passage of knowledge from one generation to the next. In the Lobby.

• Presentations from the International Symposium of Light
A book by the artists, printed and bound by Mare Blocker. In the Lobby on the Table of Knowledge.

• Broadsides
Poems by J.T. Stewart, printed by Mare Blocker. In the Lobby, and 2nd Floor Bridge between Allen North and South Wings.

• Study Desks
Two Cawpets by Carl Chew. Balcony 1st Floor Allen North, and 3rd Floor Allen South.

• Things the Crows Left
Special Collections.

Mare Blocker is an artist book maker and publisher from Jerome, Arizona.
Rug designer and manufacturer Carl Chew, artist, carver, and story teller Ron Hilbert Coy, and literary artist and instructor J.T. Stewart reside in Seattle."
universityofwashington  seattle  washingtonstate  ravens  rt  corvids  mareblocker  art  installations  carlchew  ronhilbertcoy  jtstewart  knowledge  libraries 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Mount Sutro - FoundSF
"Mount Sutro, a hill in San Francisco, is difficult to characterize. At 908 feet, it’s a very tall hill that comes close to being a small mountain. (Another 92 feet, and it would have that distinction.) Many hundreds of years ago it might have started life as a hybridized sand dune/chert rock outcropping: it sits to the south of the Great Sand Bank of the outer lands of the city where offshore gusts threw sand from west to east with impunity one hundred years ago. It has a lot of trees growing on it, so many that it’s called a forest, although properly speaking it’s more like a tree plantation. Most of the trees are from one species, Eucalyptus globulus, the Tasmanian blue gum eucalyptus. When Mount Sutro is viewed from a distance, it looks almost cartoonishly rounded, a great tree-laden lump rising in the center of the city. The ravines and slopes of Mount Sutro are filled with blue gum eucalyptus, Himalayan blackberry and English ivy. They are all non-native.

Craig Dawson, the executive director of Sutro Stewards, a habitat restoration organization, likes eucalyptus trees and prefers the native blackberry over its invasive cousin. “Native blackberries are sweeter,” he says. “Himalayan blackberries are really tart.” He is openly dismayed by the English ivy, Hedera helix, the villainous plant of the understory which prevents native plants from growing well or at all and kills eucalyptus trees. “The birds eat the berries,” he says, “and the seeds gets distributed everywhere. You can’t fight all this,” he says, gesturing at the glossy leaves of the ivy."



"The North Ridge Trail is steep. I huffed and puffed after Craig, while he continued to name plants as he went. We stopped before a tall tree. “Toyon,” said Craig. We looked at it in silence. Here was a tree, solid and growing confidently in its old home. Maybe it had always been here— a historic remnant of a once larger community. Or maybe the seed it sprang from had been scarified in the acidic confines of a bird’s digestive tract and shat out to land— miraculously— in the one place it could sprout. We didn’t plant hardly any of this, Craig had said. Overhead the ravens croaked and chattered. Craig looked up in amusement. “When the ivy is in fruit, you can’t hear yourself talk. They’re very loud,” he said. Seed bearers to blackberry and toyon alike, they proved one thing: Invasion depends on movement. All things that creepeth and crappeth add more weight to Mount Sutro’s unbalanced ecological system, top-heavy with homogeneity. The current ecological system in the reserve depends on movement in the sky and on the trail below: hikers, bikers and birds all help propagate the eucalyptus, ivy and blackberry. We walked out of the murky confines of the reserve and into the summit. I saw the first direct sunlight I’d seen since meeting Craig in the Parking lot.

Rotary Meadow sits on about two inches of topsoil. The dirt was removed during the construction of a Nike radar base in the 1950’s. In an email sent to me later, Craig elaborated: “Rotary Meadow is planted in a debris field of unconsolidated rubble atop solid chert. On the top there is a bare minimum of a couple of inches of gravel, rock chips, and 50 years of composting resulting from the broom, blackberry and weeds that called it home.” The summit plant community, fragrant with mugwort and artemisia, is scraping by. It’s the only place in the reserve that supports a coastal scrub community. It does so on just under two acres of land.

Two bush lupines sat alongside a San Francisco gum plant. The lupines, small and fragile looking, are the only source of food on Mount Sutro for the tiny and endangered Mission Blue butterfly. “They’re no bigger than your fingernail,” said Craig, extending his for comparison. The lupine is also the butterfly’s nursery. The butterfly sips nectar from the lupine and lays its eggs on the underside of the leaves. The eggs hatch in six to ten days and continue feeding and living on the plant as caterpillars. The caterpillars are protected from insect predators (mostly wasps), by ants. Lupines, butterflies, ants: this elegant triad illustrates the basic schematic of ecology: a relationship between locale, plant and animal that is historically congruent and interdependent. It’s simple and very easy to disrupt. On Mount Sutro, the relationship is struggling. Two elements are missing: the butterfly and the ant.

Prenolepsis imparis, the ant, is missing. The ant/nursemaid to the Mission Blue caterpillar feeds on honeydew, a substance secreted by the caterpillar. The ants defend this food source from other predators like wasps. But a 2008 study performed jointly by biologists from San Francisco State University and the California Academy of Science described a startling finding: the absence of any native ants— any ants at all— in the interior greenbelt of Mount Sutro, downhill of the summit. The ant, it was surmised, was missing so completely because of the absence of habitat. Like elk clover, ants need the sun. And like mice, ants also need bare patches of land to travel. The study concludes that dense understory plants and too much moisture discouraged the ants from making it to the summit, effectively removing one crucial element from the three-part production that results in a population of healthy lupines and adult Mission Blue butterflies. The understory rolling and tumbling in the depths below affects the summit ecology dramatically: People literally can’t see the ants because of the trees.

A look of consternation flitted across Craig’s face. “Look at that,” he said. I looked. Purple star thistle had sprouted in a recently cleared patch to our right. “Workmen brought that up here,” he said. He said nothing more: he didn’t need to. Purple star thistle is a “major problem” according to the California Invasive Plant Council plant; the sort of plant that people who manage urban forests and regional parks cite as an example of why herbicides must be used."



"For the general public, living on the margins of (or downstream from) urban forests, the use of glysophate and triclopyr seems not to be accepted at all. Tired of high-handed interventions into the earth’s ecological systems, they’re perhaps protesting not only an intentionally toxic process, but also the seemingly endless interference, or management, of meddlesome humans. When will the earth be left to itself? Craig looked at the star thistle disgustedly. We walked on.

We entered the south ridge, project area number one. The south ridge has been thinned not once but twice; first in the 1930’s when the Works Progress Administration employed local men to log the eucalyptus grove, (there was a mill on Seventh Avenue and Clarendon) and again in 1954 to make room for a new Nike Missile radar base. “These trees are 58 years old,” said Craig and they look it: epicormic shoots sprout weirdly from the sides of the trees, evidence of logging, military installations and the most common method of thinning, fire. There have been seven fires in the reserve since the late 1800’s. The largest, in 1899, burned 60 acres, practically the entirety of the reserve. Another fire in 1935 burned ten acres and took 400 firemen to extinguish. Mount Sutro, with its wet western perimeter and persistent fog, is not exempt from California’s fire ecology. In California, everything can burn."



"In the battle to understand and manage the future, one fire regime tends to gets pitted against another. Chaparral is dangerous, say the critics of the UCSF forest management plan. Grasslands are dry. Coastal scrub doesn’t harvest fog or moisten the soil as efficiently as eucalyptus trees do. Eucalyptus trees explode, counter indignant Californians weary of hearing their native plant communities maligned. They increase the fuel loads to dangerous levels. They hog water. They perpetuate a mistaken vision of beauty for California: one that lionizes imported trees, while the glory of California’s coastal scrub and chaparral gets denigrated as dangerously “dry” brush with little or no regard for the astonishing amount of biodiversity it promotes. But the words of Andy Hubbs resolve this argument: “Everything burns,” he said. Eucalypts, native chaparral, southern coastal scrub communities, and the type of maritime coastal scrub/chaparral plant community that once grew on the hills in San Francisco- all of it.

In California, everything burns.

As Craig and I walked through the south ridge, the change in ambient moisture was abrupt. Minutes before the air had been fairly dry. Now dripping water fell everywhere. We were in the fabled “cloud forest” of Mount Sutro, standing in fog so thick that there was nothing to be seen but tree after tree, shrouded in whitish-grey mist. “You should be able to see the Marin Headlands from here,” said Craig. I felt like a ghost standing there. There’s an odd lack of “place” on Mount Sutro, a landmark isolated from its cousin landmarks, the Marin Headlands, the sea, and the southern reaches of the San Miguel Hills. There is no context to widen the understanding of what you’re standing on, no chance to compare the hill with other hills, bluffs and beaches. There is no way to appreciate the contiguity of the coastal ridge that runs from Point Reyes down the peninsula. One is forced to consider only the spindly trees and the shrouding fog. We walked back to the parking lot. Craig pointed to a eucalyptus tree. “See that? That’s what a healthy euc looks like,” he said. I looked at it and saw what I’d been looking at my whole life, in paintings or in windbreaks that edge the 101 freeway: a magnificent tree with a truck the color of pale ivory and a crown of dark green leaves radiating horizontally from the branches. It was the very picture of edenic California, lovely, healthy and serene.

We love what we know. Perhaps California’s native plant landscape is not … [more]
mountsutro  sanfrancisco  history  classideas  blackberries  plants  trees  eucalyptus  elizabethcreely  trails  forestknolls  midtownterrace  clarendonheights  innersunset  nature  ivy  ravens  ecology  craigdawson 
december 2017 by robertogreco
10 Fascinating Facts About Ravens | Mental Floss
"Edgar Allan Poe knew what he was doing when he used the raven instead of some other bird to croak out “nevermore” in his famous poem. The raven has long been associated with death and dark omens, but the real bird is somewhat of a mystery. Unlike its smaller cousin the crow, not a lot has been written about this remarkable bird. Here are 10 fascinating facts about ravens.

1. Ravens are one of the smartest animals.
When it comes to intelligence, these birds rate up there with chimpanzees and dolphins. In one logic test, the raven had to get a hanging piece of food by pulling up a bit of the string, anchoring it with its claw, and repeating until the food was in reach. Many ravens got the food on the first try, some within 30 seconds. In the wild, ravens have pushed rocks on people to keep them from climbing to their nests, stolen fish by pulling a fishermen’s line out of ice holes, and played dead beside a beaver carcass to scare other ravens away from a delicious feast.

If a raven knows another raven is watching it hide its food, it will pretend to put the food in one place while really hiding it in another. Since the other ravens are smart too, this only works sometimes.

2. Ravens can imitate human speech.
In captivity, ravens can learn to talk better than some parrots. They also mimic other noises, like car engines, toilets flushing, and animal and birdcalls. Ravens have been known to imitate wolves or foxes to attract them to carcasses that the raven isn’t capable of breaking open. When the wolf is done eating, the raven gets the leftovers.

3. Europeans often saw ravens as evil in disguise.
Many European cultures took one look at this large black bird with an intense gaze and thought it was evil in the flesh … er, feather. In France, people believed ravens were the souls of wicked priests, while crows were wicked nuns. In Germany, ravens were the incarnation of damned souls or sometimes Satan himself. In Sweden, ravens that croaked at night were thought to be the souls of murdered people who didn’t have proper Christian burials. And in Denmark, people believed that night ravens were exorcized spirits, and you’d better not look up at them in case there was a hole in the bird’s wing, because you might look through the hole and turn into a raven yourself.

4. Ravens have been featured in many myths.
Cultures from Tibet to Greece have seen the raven as a messenger for the gods. Celtic goddesses of warfare often took the form of ravens during battles. The Viking god, Odin, had two ravens, Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory), which flew around the world every day and reported back to Odin every night about what they saw. The Chinese said ravens caused bad weather in the forests to warn people that the gods were going to pass by. And some Native American tribes worshipped the raven as a deity in and of itself. Called simply Raven, he is described as a sly trickster who is involved in the creation of the world.

5. Ravens are extremely playful.
The Native Americans weren’t far off about the raven’s mischievous nature. They have been observed in Alaska and Canada using snow-covered roofs as slides. In Maine, they have been seen rolling down snowy hills. They often play keep-away with other animals like wolves, otters, and dogs. Ravens even make toys—a rare animal behavior—by using sticks, pinecones, golf balls, or rocks to play with each other or by themselves. And sometimes they just taunt or mock other creatures because it’s funny.

6. Ravens do weird things with ants.
They lie in anthills and roll around so the ants swarm on them, or they chew the ants up and rub their guts on their feathers. The scientific name for this is called “anting.” Songbirds, crows, and jays do it too. The behavior is not well understood; theories range from the ants acting as an insecticide and fungicide for the bird to ant secretion soothing a molting bird’s skin to the whole performance being a mild addiction. One thing seems clear, though: anting feels great if you’re a bird.

7. Ravens use “hand” gestures.
It turns out that ravens make “very sophisticated nonvocal signals,” according to researchers. In other words, they gesture to communicate. A study in Austria found that ravens point with their beaks to indicate an object to another bird, just as we do with our fingers. They also hold up an object to get another bird’s attention. This is the first time researchers have observed naturally occurring gestures in any animal other than primates.

8. Ravens are adaptable.
Evolutionarily speaking, the deck is stacked in the raven’s favor. They can live in a variety of habitats, from snow to desert to mountains to forests. They are scavengers with a huge diet that includes fish, meat, seeds, fruit, carrion, and garbage. They are not above tricking animals out of their food—one raven will distract the other animal, for example, and the other will steal its food. They have few predators and live a long time: 17 years in the wild and up to 40 years in captivity.

9. Ravens show empathy for each other.
Despite their mischievous nature, ravens seem capable of feeling empathy. When a raven’s friend loses in a fight, they will seem to console the losing bird. They also remember birds they like and will respond in a friendly way to certain birds for at least three years after seeing them. (They also respond negatively to enemies and suspiciously to strange ravens.) Although a flock of ravens is called an “unkindness,” the birds appear to be anything but.

10. Ravens roam around in teenage gangs.
Ravens mate for life and live in pairs in a fixed territory. When their children reach adolescence, they leave home and join gangs, like every human mother’s worst nightmare. These flocks of young birds live and eat together until they mate and pair off. Interestingly, living among teenagers seems to be stressful for the raven. Scientists have found higher levels of stress hormones in teenage raven droppings than in the droppings of mated adults. It’s never easy being a teenage rebel."
ravens  corvids  classideas  birds  animals  behavior  myth  myths  2016  play  intelligence  ants  tools  empathy  toys  adaptability  gestures  communication 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Beasts Of Iceland: The Icelandic Raven - The Reykjavik Grapevine
"After a trip around the Golden Circle, you—our tourist reader—might be wondering: “How the hell does any animal survive on this godforsaken mid-Atlantic rock?” It’s a fair question. With a lack of vegetation, a merciless climate, and generally inhospitable conditions, Iceland isn’t an easy place for any living creature to survive.

That said, there are a number of cool fauna in the country. So, let’s meet the…

Icelandic Raven

From Edgar Allen Poe to Bran Stark, the hypnotic black eyes of the raven have captivated society for millennia. Iceland is of course no exception. In the Sagas, the birds were considered symbols of wisdom and prophecy. Even Óðinn himself had two raven bros—Huginn and Muninn (“Mind” and “Memory,” in English).

Upon first sight, the Icelandic raven, or corvus corax varius, might resemble your average run-of-the-mill creepy raven, but their feathers are actually noticeably less glossy. This is probably because, like Lancome Juicy Tubes, gloss is tacky. Icelanders are way too classy for that shit.

Beauty fades, though, while dumb is forever. Luckily, ravens are one of the smartest birds out there. Not only can they do somersaults, but they have also been known to follow fishing boats and pull up unsuspecting seaman’s lines for a quick snack—a level of avian MacGyver-ness far beyond losers like Huey, Dewey, or Louie.

Nevermore, bitches

Unfortunately, the population of Icelandic ravens has been steadily decreasing for years—so much so that they are now a vulnerable species on the Icelandic Red List of Birds.

It’s quite a quandary. Ravens don’t taste good, nor do they make tasteful wall ornaments like tigers and lions. Why then are Icelanders so raven-ravenous? The answer, obviously, is that all Icelanders are secretly White Walkers and, like Stalin, want to control the amount of information that’s available about Iceland, globally. Don’t worry though, considering Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen just fucked, things aren’t looking too rosy for our blonde, blue-eyed brethren. Long live the raven!

Bonus: here is a cute video of a raven flying around a cat."
iceland  ravens  corvids  birds  nature  2017 
september 2017 by robertogreco
'We Thought We Would Be Ruled By Robots' - CityLab
"American crow populations are swelling in cities. Perhaps by better understanding them we can better understand ourselves."
crows  corvids  cities  nature  multispecies  wildlife  animals  birds  ravens  2017  arielaberg-riger  urban  urbanism 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Meet the Bird Brainiacs: Common Raven | Audubon
[See also:

"Crows and Ravens are Masters of Self-Control: New study shows that corvids know when patience pays off." (2014)
http://www.audubon.org/news/crows-and-ravens-are-masters-self-control-0

"Remarkably Curious and Intelligent, Crows and Ravens Deserve a Closer Look: A new book offers a close look at the lives of these wonderfully smart, charismatic birds." (2013)
http://www.audubon.org/magazine/may-june-2013/remarkably-curious-and-intelligent-crows-and ]
2016  ravens  corvids  birds  animals  alisaopar  2013  2014  nature  crows  intelligence 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Ravens have paranoid, abstract thoughts about other minds | WIRED UK
"Cementing their status as the most terrifying of all the birds, a new study has found that ravens are able to imagine being spied upon -- a level of abstraction that was previously thought to be unique to humans.

The ability to think abstractly about other minds is singled out by many as a uniquely human trait. Now, a study from the Universities of Houston and Vienna have found that ravens are able to adapt their behaviour by attributing their perceptions to others.

The study, published in Nature Communications, found that if a nearby peephole was open, ravens guarded pockets of food against discovery in response to the sound of other birds -- even if they didn't see another bird. This was not replicated when the peephole was closed, despite hearing the same auditory clues.

According to the study's authors, the discovery "shed[s] a new light on Theory of Mind" -- the ability to attribute mental states to others. A number of studies have found that animals are able to understand what others see -- but only when they can see the head or eyes, which provide gaze cues. This suggests that these animals are responding only to surface cues, and are not experiencing the same abstraction as humans.

The ability to hide food is extremely important to ravens, and they behave completely differently when they feel they are being watched -- hiding food more quickly, for example, and are less likely to return to a hiding place for fear of revealing the location to a competitor.

The study replicated this behaviour. Two rooms were connected by windows and peepholes, both of which could be opened and closed. The ravens were trained to look through the peepholes to observe human experimenters making stashes of food. Finally, both windows were covered while a single peephole remained open -- and, though no bird was present, the ravens still hid the food as if they were being watched.

"Completing this evolutionary and developmental picture will bring us much closer to figuring out what's really unique about the human mind" —Cameron Buckner, University of Houston

"We showed that ravens can generalise from their own experience using the peephole as a pilferer, and predict that audible competitors could potentially see their caches through the peephole," the authors wrote. "Consequently, we argue that they represent 'seeing' in a way that cannot be reduced to the tracking of gaze cues."

Although ravens may not seem similar to humans, the two species do have something in common -- their social lives. Like humans, ravens go through distinct social phases, from fluid interaction with other birds as adolescents to stable breeding pairs in adults. "There is a time when who is in the pack, who's a friend, who's an enemy can change very rapidly," said Cameron Buckner, lead author of the research. "There are not many other species that demonstrate as much social flexibility. "Ravens cooperate well. They can compete well. They maintain long-term, monogamous relationships. It makes them a good place to look for social cognition, because similar social pressures might have driven the evolution of similarly advanced cognitive capacities in very different species".

It's not the only thing ravens can do -- they've also been found to mimic human speech, complete complex logic puzzles and show empathy for fellow birds, which Buckner says could "change our perception of human uniqueness". "Finding that Theory of Mind is present in birds would require us to give up a popular story as to what makes humans special," he said. "Completing this evolutionary and developmental picture will bring us much closer to figuring out what's really unique about the human mind"."
ravens  theoryofmind  corvids  birds  2016  animals  nature  psychology  intelligence 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Like Humans and Apes, Ravens Have the Foresight to Save Up for the Future | Audubon
"Even to a casual observer, it’s fairly obvious that corvids—a family of birds that includes crows, ravens, and jays—have got more going on between their ears than most birds. They’re masters at curbing impulses, are cognizant of familiar faces, and meticulous when taking stock of their stash.

A new study, published today in Science, suggests that ravens are even smarter than suspected. The series of experiments shows that ravens are able to use past experiences to plan ahead for future events, and exhibit some self-control in the process—behaviors previously observed only in humans and apes.

“Evolutionarily, there is a vast separation between great apes and corvids,” says Can Kabadayi, an author of the study and graduate student in cognitive science at Sweden’s Lund University. The last time ravens and apes shared a common ancestor was 320 million years ago, he says, “yet ravens show similar skill sets and combine them, similarly to great apes.”

In a first set of experiments, similar to those conducted on great apes and humans, Kabadayi and Lund University’s Mathias Osvath looked for signs of corvid foresight by studying how Common Ravens use and store objects with no immediate use, but in the future might provide them with a reward. Five adult ravens were presented with a selection of objects: some could be bartered with a person for treats, and others could open a puzzle box with a treat hidden inside. The ravens quickly learned that they could trade certain tokens for treats, or use the correct tool—in this case a small stone—to release the treat from the box. They began saving tokens and stones, as though they planned to use them when the next opportunity to trade or open a box presented itself.

“Ravens like to hide and cache items, but not at random,” Kabadayi says. “Caching shows that they value items for a specific purpose. In this context, ravens cached boring stones and tokens because they saw value based on how they used the items before.”

[video]

The researchers then tested whether the birds could remember how their ‘boring’ objects worked, first after 15 minutes, and again after 17 hours. During the waiting periods, the ravens continued to fixate on the tokens and tools they’d need for future treats, and ultimately, they excelled at the task. Even after the delays, they were better at planning future trades than orangutans, bonobos, and chimpanzees, and they matched apes at planning and using tools—despite the fact that they never need tools to gather food in the wild.

“These experiments nicely show that ravens flexibly tackle a certain problem outside of what they do naturally,” says Markus Böckle, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge who wrote an opinion piece for Science about the new research.

In a second set of tests, the researchers wanted to see if ravens could show some self-control. They presented the ravens with a number of objects on a tray, including bartering tokens, box-opening stones, miscellaneous items, and a treat that was subpar compared to the treat in the box. Instead of going for the instant gratification of the subpar treat, the ravens opted to use the tokens and tools to get the superior treat from the box—100 percent of the time when they could nibble on their prize immediately after opening the box, and about 70 percent of the time when they had to wait 15 minutes. The longer they had to wait, the less they valued a future reward.

Even though the ravens’ abilities matched those of apes—or even surpassed them—they actually evolved separately. “In the early 1990s, we discovered that birds share several neurobiological structures with mammals, showing the capability of complex cognition,” Böckle says. “We are sure that the common ancestor of ravens and great apes didn’t have complex cognitive behavior, so somewhere along the line, we believe birds evolved cognition independently.”

The discoveries by Kabadayi and his team open up new avenues for understanding how intelligence has developed in different branches of the evolutionary tree. And for many birders, this work confirms what we’ve long known: Raven smarts aren't too far off from our own."

[Study referenced:
"Ravens parallel great apes in flexible planning for tool-use and bartering"
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/357/6347/202
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/sci/suppl/2017/07/12/357.6347.202.DC1/aam8138-Kabadayi-SM.pdf ]

[See also:
"Evermore: ravens can plan for the future, scientists say"
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/13/raven-think-about-future-planning-science-experiment

"More Evidence That Ravens Are Ridiculously Intelligent Birds"
https://gizmodo.com/more-evidence-that-ravens-are-ridiculously-intelligent-1796882085

"Ravens Surprise Scientists By Showing They Can Plan"
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/13/537040868/ravens-surprise-scientists-by-showing-they-can-plan

"Ravens ignore a treat in favor of a useful tool for the future: Planning ahead means they're even smarter than we thought."
https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/07/ravens-ignore-a-treat-in-favor-of-a-useful-tool-for-the-future/ ]
ravens  corvids  birds  intelligence  animals  nature  2017  cankabadayi 
july 2017 by robertogreco
how to do nothing – Jenny Odell – Medium
[video: https://vimeo.com/232544904 ]

"What I would do there is nothing. I’d just sit there. And although I felt a bit guilty about how incongruous it seemed — beautiful garden versus terrifying world — it really did feel necessary, like a survival tactic. I found this necessity of doing nothing so perfectly articulated in a passage from Gilles Deleuze in Negotiations:
…we’re riddled with pointless talk, insane quantities of words and images. Stupidity’s never blind or mute. So it’s not a problem of getting people to express themselves but of providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people expressing themselves but rather force them to express themselves; what a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, and ever rarer, thing that might be worth saying. (emphasis mine)

He wrote that in 1985, but the sentiment is something I think we can all identify with right now, almost to a degree that’s painful. The function of nothing here, of saying nothing, is that it’s a precursor to something, to having something to say. “Nothing” is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, but rather a necessary part of meaningful thought and speech."



"In The Bureau of Suspended Objects, a project I did while in residence at Recology SF (otherwise known as the dump), I spent three months photographing, cataloguing and researching the origins of 200 objects. I presented them as browsable archive in which people could scan the objects’ tags and learn about the manufacturing, material, and corporate histories of the objects.

One woman at the Recology opening was very confused and said, “Wait… so did you actually make anything? Or did you just put things on shelves?” (Yes, I just put things on shelves.)"



"That’s an intellectual reason for making nothing, but I think that in my cases, it’s something simpler than that. Yes, the BYTE images speak in interesting and inadvertent ways about some of the more sinister aspects of technology, but I also just really love them.

This love of one’s subject is something I’m provisionally calling the observational eros. The observational eros is an emotional fascination with one’s subject that is so strong it overpowers the desire to make anything new. It’s pretty well summed up in the introduction of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, where he describes the patience and care involved in close observation of one’s specimens:
When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book — to open the page and let the stories crawl in by themselves.

The subject of observation is so precious and fragile that it risks breaking under even the weight of observation. As an artist, I fear the breaking and tattering of my specimens under my touch, and so with everything I’ve ever “made,” without even thinking about it, I’ve tried to keep a very light touch.

It may not surprise you to know, then, that my favorite movies tend to be documentaries, and that one of my favorite public art pieces was done by the documentary filmmaker, Eleanor Coppola. In 1973, she carried out a public art project called Windows, which materially speaking consisted only of a map with a list of locations in San Francisco.

The map reads, “Eleanor Coppola has designated a number of windows in all parts of San Francisco as visual landmarks. Her purpose in this project is to bring to the attention of the whole community, art that exists in its own context, where it is found, without being altered or removed to a gallery situation.” I like to consider this piece in contrast with how we normally experience public art, which is some giant steel thing that looks like it landed in a corporate plaza from outer space.

Coppola instead casts a subtle frame over the whole of the city itself as a work of art, a light but meaningful touch that recognizes art that exists where it already is."



"What amazed me about birdwatching was the way it changed the granularity of my perception, which was pretty “low res” to begin with. At first, I just noticed birdsong more. Of course it had been there all along, but now that I was paying attention to it, I realized that it was almost everywhere, all day, all the time. In particular I can’t imagine how I went most of my life so far without noticing scrub jays, which are incredibly loud and sound like this:

[video]

And then, one by one, I started learning other songs and being able to associate each of them with a bird, so that now when I walk into the the rose garden, I inadvertently acknowledge them in my head as though they were people: hi raven, robin, song sparrow, chickadee, goldfinch, towhee, hawk, nuthatch, and so on. The diversification (in my attention) of what was previously “bird sounds” into discrete sounds that carry meaning is something I can only compare to the moment that I realized that my mom spoke three languages, not two.

My mom has only ever spoken English to me, and for a very long time, I assumed that whenever my mom was speaking to another Filipino person, that she was speaking Tagalog. I didn’t really have a good reason for thinking this other than that I knew she did speak Tagalog and it sort of all sounded like Tagalog to me. But my mom was actually only sometimes speaking Tagalog, and other times speaking Ilonggo, which is a completely different language that is specific to where she’s from in the Philippines.

The languages are not the same, i.e. one is not simply a dialect of the other; in fact, the Philippines is full of language groups that, according to my mom, have so little in common that speakers would not be able to understand each other, and Tagalog is only one.

This type of embarrassing discovery, in which something you thought was one thing is actually two things, and each of those two things is actually ten things, seems not only naturally cumulative but also a simple function of the duration and quality of one’s attention. With effort, we can become attuned to things, able to pick up and then hopefully differentiate finer and finer frequencies each time.

What these moments of stopping to listen have in common with those labyrinthine spaces is that they all initially enact some kind of removal from the sphere of familiarity. Even if brief or momentary, they are retreats, and like longer retreats, they affect the way we see everyday life when we do come back to it."



"Even the labyrinths I mentioned, by their very shape, collect our attention into these small circular spaces. When Rebecca Solnit, in her book Wanderlust, wrote about walking in the labyrinth inside the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, she said, “The circuit was so absorbing I lost sight of the people nearby and hardly heard the sound of the traffic and the bells for six o’clock.”

In the case of Deep Listening, although in theory it can be practiced anywhere at any time, it’s telling that there have also been Deep Listening retreats. And Turrell’s Sky Pesher not only removes the context from around the sky, but removes you from your surroundings (and in some ways, from the context of your life — given its underground, tomblike quality)."



"My dad said that leaving the confined context of a job made him understand himself not in relation to that world, but just to the world, and forever after that, things that happened at work only seemed like one small part of something much larger. It reminds me of how John Muir described himself not as a naturalist but as a “poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist-naturalist etc. etc.”, or of how Pauline Oliveros described herself in 1974: “Pauline Oliveros is a two legged human being, female, lesbian, musician, and composer among other things which contribute to her identity. She is herself and lives with her partner, along with assorted poultry, dogs, cats, rabbits and tropical hermit crabs.” Incidentally, this has encouraged me to maybe change my bio to: “Jenny Odell is an artist, professor, thinker, walker, sleeper, eater, and amateur birdnoticer.”

3. the precarity of nothing

There’s an obvious critique of all of this, and that’s that it comes from a place of privilege. I can go to the rose garden, or stare into trees all day, because I have a teaching job that only requires me to be somewhere two days a week, not to mention a whole set of other privileges. Part of the reason my dad could take that time off was that on some level, he had enough reason to think he could get another job. It’s possible to understand the practice of doing nothing solely as a self-indulgent luxury, the equivalent of taking a mental health day if you’re lucky enough to work at a place that has those.

But here I come back to Deleuze’s “right to say nothing,” and although we can definitely say that this right is variously accessible or even inaccessible for some, I believe that it is indeed a right. For example, the push for an 8-hour workday in 1886 called for “8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, and 8 hours of what we will.” I’m struck by the quality of things that associated with the category “What we Will”: rest, thought, flowers, sunshine.

These are bodily, human things, and this bodily-ness is something I will come back to. When Samuel Gompers, who led the labor group that organized this particular iteration of the 8-hour movement, was asked, “What does labor want?” he responded, “It wants the earth and the fullness thereof.” And to me it seems significant that it’s not 8 hours of, say, “leisure” or “… [more]
jennyodell  idleness  nothing  art  eyeo2017  photoshop  specimens  care  richardprince  gillesdeleuze  recology  internetarchive  sanfrancisco  eleanorcoppola  2017  1973  maps  mapping  scottpolach  jamesturrell  architecture  design  structure  labyrinths  oakland  juliamorgan  chapelofthechimes  paulineoliveros  ucsd  1970s  deeplisening  listening  birds  birdwatching  birding  noticing  classideas  observation  perception  time  gracecathedral  deeplistening  johncage  gordonhempton  silence  maintenance  conviviality  technology  bodies  landscape  ordinary  everyday  cyclicality  cycles  1969  mierleladermanukeles  sensitivity  senses  multispecies  canon  productivity  presence  connectivity  conversation  audrelorde  gabriellemoss  fomo  nomo  nosmo  davidabram  becominganimal  animals  nature  ravens  corvids  crows  bluejays  pets  human-animalrelations  human-animalelationships  herons  dissent  rowe  caliressler  jodythompson  francoberardi  fiverr  popos  publicspace  blackmirror  anthonyantonellis  facebook  socialmedia  email  wpa  history  bayarea  crowdcontrol  mikedavis  cityofquartz  er 
july 2017 by robertogreco
OUT NOW! Shitgulls and environmental education – SAND
"“We were standing at the edge of an uncovered compost area with the child. Rest of the children were further away. The area was filled with birds scavenging for food. A Seagull flew over our heads. ‘That’s a SHITgull!’ said the boy pointing at the bird. ‘My dad says they’re SHIT birds and they ought to be SHOT’ he said, looking at me.

The shitgull as a child–within–nature configuration was a fleeting bond that was simultaneously enabled by and transgressed the boundaries of ‘child’ and ‘nature’. The bird was looking for food when we interrupted him. Leftover food that had been collected from humans and dumped in the huge open compost. Causing seagulls, ravens, crows and magpies to flock and populate the compost heaps, attracting also rats and smaller rodents. Causing the landfill personnel to put up scarecrows and nets to which the birds would get tangled and hang flapping upside down until their slow death. Because of eating human waste. Shit. The relation between the Seagull and the boy was that of mutual disaffect and avoidance – of categorical, concrete and symbolic using of each other. The Seagull for food, the boy for seeking a let out for his feelings and confusion over his dad, it seemed. Without the bird, the boy could not have been an unhappy, angry, death-wishing child – an adamant and intentional non-child. Knowing that I take care of injured birds, plenty of seagulls included, his wish for the bird to be dead, pointed at me, was especially weighty. As the child declined his childness the bird declined his wildness. He survived on human waste and witnessed his fellow gulls dying, tangled in the nets above the compost. The ‘shitgull’ was an event of ill-being for all involved; yet it was an event of the utmost interdependence. An interdependence gone wrong.”"

[points to: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13504622.2017.1325446 ]
multispecies  human-animalrelationships  human-animalrelations  2017  pauliinarautio  riikkahohti  riita-marjaleinonen  tuuretammi  seagulls  gulls  animals  nature  birds  children  ravens  crows  corvids  magpies  interdependence  independence 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Why ravens, crows are more common now in Bay Area - SFGate
"Not so long ago, common ravens were uncommon in the Bay Area. A 1927 reference calls them "rare" except at Point Reyes. American crows lived mostly along the Marin County coast, not in the East Bay.

In 1991, Audubon Christmas Bird Counts tallied 17 crows and 54 ravens in San Francisco; 60 crows and 23 ravens in Oakland. The 2011 San Francisco count reported 599 ravens and 566 crows; Oakland had 1,152 crows and 193 ravens.

Remarkable, especially considering that crows, if not ravens, are highly susceptible to the West Nile virus. California Department of Public Health statistics show more dead crows than any other bird species testing positive for West Nile: 1,792 in 2008; 468 last year. (Raven mortality was minor.) The disease devastated crow populations in the East and Midwest, but California populations weren't dented.

Much of the crow and raven boom is urban. Birder Josiah Clark has seen flocks of 90 ravens in San Francisco. City crows are hard to miss in Berkeley and elsewhere in the East Bay; they're certainly, noisily, all over our neighborhood.

What brings them here? Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes that they don't get shot in cities; they benefit from both federal protected status and local firearms ordinances. That alone may encourage boldness. Also, he says, cities tend to be warmer than the countryside, and have large trees for night roosting. Urban crows are less likely to encounter their mortal enemy, the great horned owl, and city lights let crows spot owls before the owls spot them.

There's food, too: not so much the landfill smorgasbord (more the gulls' beat) as the fast-food parking lot buffet. "We eat so much out of doors now that these very intelligent birds can access all those food scraps we just drop or toss on the street," said Dan Murphy, compiler of the San Francisco Christmas Count. Some people feed them on purpose, too."

[See also:

"Clever crows, ravens crowd the Bay Area"
http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/thedirt/article/Clever-crows-ravens-crowd-the-Bay-Area-2738443.php

"They’re everywhere! Crows, ravens overrun Bay Area"
http://www.mercurynews.com/2015/02/14/theyre-everywhere-crows-ravens-overrun-bay-area/ ]
sanfrancisco  crows  ravens  birds  corvids  bayarea  2012 
january 2017 by robertogreco
How to Tell a Raven From a Crow | Audubon
"You’re outside, enjoying a sunny day when a shadow at your feet causes you to look up. A large, black bird flies over and lands in a nearby tree. You wonder: is that a crow or a raven?

These two species, Common Ravens and American Crows, overlap widely throughout North America, and they look quite similar. But with a bit of practice, you can tell them apart.

You probably know that ravens are larger, the size of a Red-tailed Hawk. Ravens often travel in pairs, while crows are seen in larger groups. Also, watch the bird’s tail as it flies overhead. The crow’s tail feathers are basically the same length, so when the bird spreads its tail, it opens like a fan. Ravens, however, have longer middle feathers in their tails, so their tail appears wedge-shaped when open.

Listen closely to the birds’ calls. Crows give a cawing sound. But ravens produce a lower croaking sound.

We’re back looking up at that tree. Now can you tell? Is this an American Crow or a Common Raven?

That’s a raven. The bird calls you hear on BirdNote come from the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. To hear them again, begin with a visit to our website, BirdNote.org. I’m Michael Stein."

[audio here: http://birdnote.org/show/ravens-and-crows-who-who ]
crows  ravens  corvids  2012  birds  animals  nature 
january 2017 by robertogreco
Chris Skaife, Master Raven Keeper at the Tower of London, & Merlin the Raven | Spitalfields Life
"The keeping of ravens at the Tower is a serious business, since legend has it that, ‘If the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall…’ Fortunately, we can all rest assured thanks to Chris Skaife who undertakes his breakfast duties conscientiously, delivering bloody morsels to the ravens each dawn and thereby ensuring their continued residence at this most favoured of accommodations.“We keep them in night boxes for their own safety,” Chris explained to me, just in case I should think the ravens were incarcerated at the Tower like those monarchs of yore, “because we have quite a lot of foxes that get in through the sewers at night.”"
ravens  corvids  2014  london  domestication  birds  animals  via:anne  photography  chrisskaife 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Huginn and Muninn - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"In Norse mythology, Huginn (Old Norse "thought") and Muninn (Old Norse "memory" or "mind"[3]) are a pair of ravens that fly all over the world, Midgard, and bring the god Odin information. Huginn and Muninn are attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources; the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson; in the Third Grammatical Treatise, compiled in the 13th century by Óláfr Þórðarson; and in the poetry of skalds. The names of the ravens are sometimes modernly anglicized as Hugin and Munin (with a single n each)."
hugnn  hugin  muninn  munin  ravens  crows  corvids  norse  norsemythology  mythology  odin  memory  information  thought  mind  annabelscheme  poeticedda 
december 2009 by robertogreco

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