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Songbirds detecting tornadoes two days ahead and fleeing?

These birds weigh only 9 grams, but they can apparently tell that the weather is going to get really nasty. Is it infrasound? And how often do thousands of birds split the scene for a false negative scare…

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – You might want to be careful about who you call a birdbrain. Some of our feathered friends exhibit powers of perception that put humans to shame.

Scientists said on Thursday that little songbirds known as golden-winged warblers fled their nesting grounds in Tennessee up to two days before the arrival of a fierce storm system that unleashed 84 tornadoes in southern U.S. states in April. The researchers said the birds were apparently alerted to the danger by sounds at frequencies below the range of human hearing

The storm killed 35 people, wrecked many homes, toppled trees and tossed vehicles around like toys, but the warblers were already long gone, flying up to 930 miles (1,500 km) to avoid the storm and reaching points as far away as Florida and Cuba, the researchers said.

Local weather conditions were normal when the birds took flight…

Read more at newsdaily.com

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Songbirds detecting tornadoes two days ahead and fleeing?, 7.8 out of 10 based on 48 ratings

Tiny Url for this post: http://tinyurl.com/mpbdf4c

98 comments to Songbirds detecting tornadoes two days ahead and fleeing?

  • #
    DevonshireDozer

    They should have left a message. Something like; “Goodbye and thanks for all the nuts”.

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  • #
    edwina

    The term apparently is used. I would say other causes may be at work. Years ago I read where a certain moth of one gender could emit pheromones which were detected by a moth of the other gender many kms or miles away. How could the molecules, whatever, get carried so far I wondered. I still have no answer. But I wonder if something like quantum entanglement is or not involved. We do not know all about the universe as some claimed around 1900. Which is why I am a skeptic regarding climate change via CO2.

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    • #
      Anton

      Can’be quantum entanglement; such correlations would be lost in microseconds due to collisions with air molecules. Entanglement can be seen only in a very high vacuum.

      10

    • #
      All's right...

      Prior to storms in the US, there is typically a strong S-SW wind too. I wouldn’t be surprised if insects were blown north and the birds proceeded south to find more. Autumn and Spring storms have been occurring that way for millions of years and the birds would have adapted. Plant bloomings, insect reactions, and movements have likely been happening on small and large scales that we have had no idea as to why. I am skeptical of the low frequency sounds 2 days in advance, although perhaps humidity and unusually moist, warm southerly winds may have an impact too.

      30

      • #
        Olaf Koenders

        As a child I used to see roving ants with raised abdomens usually 2 days before rain set in. It’s probably got much more to do with changes in barometric pressure and humidity than audio. Many people, such as my late mother, also complained of joint pain days before inclement weather.

        20

        • #
          The Backslider

          When I live in Lightning Ridge I had several ways to tell that rain was coming.

          One was “mares tails” in the sky.

          Another was ants hurrying to secure their nests against the expected flood.

          20

      • #
        clive

        I have lived in Qld since 1979 and have been through many Cyclones,the last one in January 2013,whilst on holiday at Coolangatta,just South of the Gold Coast.It did a lot of damage on it’s way south from North Qld.I don’t recall seeing any Bird Life before it struck,or any dead birds or even feathers around after it passed.Maybe they were watching the weather warnings on the TV?

        10

  • #
    Greg Cavanagh

    “Is it infrasound?” That was my first thought too.

    But the next questions would then be; “did the storm exist 2 days before, when the birds fled?”.

    If yes; then it’s possibility.
    If no; then perhaps a sudden drop in barometric pressure, or similar.

    I can detect an oncoming storm when it’s still over the horizon. The temperature of the breeze suddenly changes.

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    • #
      Ken Stewart

      Infrasound is exactly a sudden change in barometric pressure, as is all sound. The storm need not exist if a strong weather front that produces tornadoes is approaching.

      Not only birds but insects, especially ants, appear to change behaviour before weather events, and some plants too. Old timers’ signs of rain coming include: ants becoming more active, especially climbing higher in buildings; wasps building nests under eaves instead of out in the garden say; Ulysses butterflies becoming more active; mock orange (‘rain tree’) flowering. Don’t forget arthritis or rheumatism. Black cockatoos and storm birds probably are breeding at this time of year anyway so just a coincidence that they call out a few days before rain? Birds certainly go very quiet, possibly clear out, just before a storm. And after the 1918 cyclone seagulls were seen 100km inland of Mackay NQ at Nebo- were they blown there or did they fly deliberately? Winds would have been south east or south, not north east, so they should have ended up at Townsville if blown. Strange animal behaviour has also been reported before earthquakes IIRC. We have much to learn about nature.

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      • #
        Unmentionable

        Frogs too, last night I heard a solitary frog croaking for about 10 seconds. First one I have heard this summer, went out side and it was a clear sky. The frogs are never wrong, and sure enough, it started raining this afternoon, almost 50 mm so far, more on the way.

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      • #
        Greg Cavanagh

        A most interesting list. I watch the ants, they seen to know.

        I grew up on a farm and my mom always said Black Cockatoos would fly over 3 days for rain. It’s uncanny how often they actually did that. No Black Cockatoos all year and suddenly they’d be squawking their heads off. There was no missing them :)

        I’ve long been fascinated about Lake Eyre in central Australia. It’s dry for years at a time, yet when it does fill with water on those rare occasions, it also fills with Pelicans. How do they know a lake 500 miles inland now has water in it, and to fly there?

        Cows and horses can detect caves underground. They refuse to walk on the ground that has a cave underneath. Which is probably echo from their footfall, but quite extraordinary non the less.

        30

      • #

        Good observations Ken, I note the ants coming into the house a couple of days before heavy rain.
        I have noted the black cockatoos flying over and calling out one to two days before rain. They are not perfect in their prediction (sometimes overcast with no rain) but I have noted their behaviour over periods such as one or two months and found that the black cockatoos are more successful predictors than BOM.
        Without doubt atmospheric pressure changes are an indicator for birds, insects and animals. It is possible that magnetic field changes also are an influence. Certainly, many animal and birds can sense on-coming earthquakes and volcanic action. There have been papers linking earthquakes with magnetic field changes. There was a paper (by Russian authors I think)linking (in hindsight) the large Japanese earthquake and Tsunami with magnetic field changes and short term local atmospheric temperature changes from satellite measurements.
        So-called “climate Scientists” are ignorant and have no idea about engineering science.

        20

      • #
        Bob Cormack

        I see seagulls all year (even in winter) in Colorado — about 2000km from the nearest ocean.

        This is my theory.

        00

    • #
      Roger

      Glad that others use the breeze and temperature changes to know when rain is shortly to arrive.

      I taught my children long ago to feel and recognise the change in temperature and strength of a breeze or light wind which happens 5 – 10 minutes or more before rain arrives. If we, with our dulled senses, can tell that then the infinitely more acute senses of animals and birds will show them vastly more than we are ever able to sense.

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    • #
      TedM

      My thoughts exactly Greg

      00

  • #
    Rereke Whakaaro

    There are also stories from the first World War, of rats disappearing from the trenches two or three days before a major artillery attack. More than one astute Intelligence Officer got a lot of kudos, simply by leaving out food for the rats, and waiting for it not to be eaten.

    It was surmised, at the time, that the rats, who could cross no-mans-land with apparent impunity, recognised the patterns of frantic activity associated with an attack and made rat-tracks out of there.

    Similarly, birds might also be able to detect changes in the gradient patterns of atmospheric pressure long before we, with our discrete spatial measurements, at singular points in time, can.

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    • #
      Dariusz

      No birds sing in the concentration camps, even in the areas that have been destroyed by retreating Germans to remove any evidence of genocide.

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    • #
      Graeme No.3

      This is bad news. We can’t refer to the trolls as bird brains or rats as these animals can work out where they shouldn’t be.

      70

    • #
      Anton

      Decent reference please, Rere?

      01

      • #
        Rereke Whakaaro

        I learnt the story about the rats, as part of my military training, as an illustration of why intelligence can be defined as, “Thinking outside of the box”. Contemporary records from the time, will probably be accessible through the British Imperial War Museum, although I have never felt the need to search for a reference.

        The story was also referred to, later in the training, when we were cautioned against adding too much weight to “the advice of experts”, on the basis that experts tend to focus on specific details in support of a narrow range of hypotheses, within their own speciality. Thereby, of course, overlooking potential explanations from other disciplines. That advice has stood me in good stead, over the years.

        The comment on birds was simply my observation that flighted birds live in an environment that is highly dependent on patterns of air pressure, and so will be constantly monitoring it — to them it is an analogue signal. Humans only measure air pressure at discrete intervals, at a predetermined sampling frequency. That digital information then has to be synthesised back into an analogue pattern of change that can only be a) as accurate as the sampling frequency will allow, and b) as broad in scope, as the computing power available is able to process a set of measurements in real-time. In short, birds are better adapted for processing information in four dimensions than humans are, even though humans have mechanical assistance.

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      • #
        Rereke Whakaaro

        Oh, and “Rere”, is Maori for “fly”, just so you know … :-)

        40

  • #

    If you aren’t on the memo list……

    30

  • #
    Retired now

    I’m not surprised and have heard other stories of animals leaving before earthquakes.

    I know that just before a shower of rain I feel some sort of change and my bewildered husband wonders why I suddenly lurch outside to get the washing in. It came from living in New Zealand with young children before the advent of clothes driers. There we could get short sharp showers just long enough to wet the washing before another few hours without rain. Without indoor drying facilities one wanted to make the most of what drying weather there was so with changeable weather I developed a sense of when the shower would come would race outside, bring the washing in, only to have to hang it out again some time later. On average I could take 20 pegs off the line before it wasn’t worth it from a wetness perspective, so I would link as much washing together as possible with just those 20 pegs. Such changeable weather could go on for weeks at a time and it was a proud day when i could tell hubby when he came home that “I got the washing dry today.” Such was life back then.

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    • #
      ROM

      Don’t laugh, at least not too loud.
      Rural people seem to often have a sense for a change in the weather. I suspect that we all have it considering where we have come from as a species and not all that many generations ago either.
      But in the urban hives such primitive senses are overwhelmed by all the other sensory inputs from vast masses of people and our artifacts of every type and nature. Plus the no longer required sensory inputs originally needed to give warning of weather and natural events that those ancients had to be sensitive to for their very survival.

      Animals such as sheep and no doubt cattle become very restless beginning perhaps some two days before a change in the weather patterns. Sheep, notably ewes and lambs will carry on all night, baa’ing away loud and long as the change gets closer.
      Following the change the nights are peaceful again as I guess everybody catches up on their sleep.

      Now the don’t laugh bit
      My wife and self have both come to realise that we also in our oncoming dotage, become quite restless and can’t sleep very well before a major weather change just like those restless sheep. And its getting worse as we get older.

      I have also on a too few and very irregular occasions, wandered outside in the still of the night and smelt “Rain”, even when none was forecast.
      And in every one of those rare occasions down it came a couple of days later.

      110

      • #
        pattoh

        As a dumb jaffa wandering around the paddock with a gravity meter for a few years; I can well attest to being held up & even shut down by seismic activity cranking up a quarter of the way around the world (e.g. Kobe to central NSW).

        If an instrument as old as I am ( & I’m no spring chicken) can be driven nuts, it is not hard to imagine continuing life forms, with whatever senses they posses for navigation & preservation, must be as good as Darwin postulated or they would not last long enough to breed a population to leave fossils.

        40

    • #
      Mark A

      Sorry for being totally anecdotal here but one of Mark Twain’s characters I think it was Jim on the island with Huck Finn who mentioned this phenomena about birds being able to detect weather changes. So it’s not exactly a new discovery.

      40

    • #
      Rereke Whakaaro

      I used to ride event horses, and they can certainly give an early warning of earthquakes. They do not want to be in stalls, indoors. If you let them out, they will go and stand in the middle of any open area, and wait for the shake to come through.

      And yet, with all our technology, we think we are so cleaver — after the event.

      130

      • #
        Manfred

        No, no…..we have a multiplicity of predictive models for the vagaries of nature. Who needs or even wants special or extra-special senses finessed over 2 million years or even that colossus of inconvenience, a cerebral cortex?

        100

  • #
    J.H.

    Might be just stories on top of coincidence heaped upon bad observations.

    73

    • #
      Mark D.

      J.H. says:

      Might be just stories on top of coincidence heaped upon bad observations.

      Sure, but still better than current climate science.

      241

    • #
      Rereke Whakaaro

      Nobody, apart from you, is claiming that observation equates to proof. Reread the thread, above your head.

      We totally understand that it is only climate science that is allowed to combine coincidence with bad observations, in order to reach a proof, and we recognise and acknowledge that they own the “intellectual property” on that idea. Far be it, for us, to impinge on that.

      Have a nice day, J.H. :-) Thank you for dropping in.

      161

    • #
      Manfred

      This’ll help loosen your socks a little.

      Followed by this.

      Happy new year.

      60

      • #
        Roy Hogue

        Now that’s a crow with something to crow about! ;-)

        30

        • #
          Rereke Whakaaro

          But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
          Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
          Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
          Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore –
          What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
          Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

          00

    • #
      Roy Hogue

      Might be just stories on top of coincidence heaped upon bad observations.

      You could actually be right… …except that in this case the birds were being closely watched and suddenly disappeared only to be tracked to locations a long way from where they had been. So bad observation seems to be ruled out. It isn’t known why they suddenly packed up and left but it isn’t good science to simply write off something you don’t understand. And the connection with the approaching violent storms is too enticing to ignore.

      The question now is, will these birds repeat this behavior just ahead of the next string of violent storms? It means nothing if they don’t do it the next time, no more than coincidence. But if it’s repeated then correlation with the violent weather means something.

      50

  • #
    Leonard Lane

    I have seen videos of a dog sleeping, then suddenly jump up and start running around (apparently trying to get out of the building–but that information was not provided)

    Birds also migrate up to several thousand miles, some flying night and day yet stay on course. Bees dance to communicate distance and direction to good nectar/pollen source.

    So small birds hearing tornadoes and thunder well in advance of a major storms does not surprise me. What is surprising in the long flights from Canada and the US of Monarch butterflies to south-central Mexico and then back again the next year. How a butterfly does that is truly amazing.

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  • #
    ROM

    Just referring to song birds detecting some serious natural event a few days ahead is narrowing the field right down compared to what is seen in nature as numerous species, including dogs and cats seem to be able to predict a near catastrophic event a day or so ahead.

    And it’s not only animals.
    Before Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin in on Christmas day 1974, the locals, from my daughter’s [ a Darwin nurse for some 15 years or more ] conversations with some of those who went through Tracy, spoke of how it was remarked by the locals that well prior to Tracy hitting Darwin, all of the “Long Grassers”, the aboriginal flotsam who are often rejects from their own communities and live and sleep in the long tropical grass areas around Darwin and were often seen are in numbers in the City were no longer to be seen around the City at all.

    They were gone. Dissappeared. Where to nobody knew or knows. Nor do they seem to know to this day as those aboriginal Long Grassers were never asked by any inquiry how they knew and why they left Darwin when they did, a few days before Tracy struck..
    _________________

    The Use Of Animals In Earthquake Prediction

    [ quoted ]

    Research being carried out in China has indicated that recognition of unusual animal behavior in a systematic way can lead and be used, in conjunction with other methods, as a means of predicting large and potentially destructive earthquakes. The following are examples of observed unusual animal behavior before major earthquakes occurred.

    Unusual Animal Behavior

    In 1920, the largest earthquake to hit China with a magnitude of 8.5 occurred in Haiyuan County, Ninghsia Province. According to reports of eyewitnesses, prior to this earthquake, wolves were seen running around in packs, dogs were barking unusually, and sparrows were flying around wildly. It is reported that prior to the 6.8 magnitude earthquake in 1966 in Hsingtai County, Hopei Province, in Northern China, all the dogs at a village near the epicenter had deserted their kennels and thus survived the disaster.

    Prior to the earthquake of July 18, 1969, (magnitude 7.4) in the Pohai Sea, unusual behavior was observed in seagulls, sharks, and five different species of fish. Based on observations of unusual behavior of giant pandas, deer, yaks, loaches, tigers and other animals, a warning was issued at the Tientsin People’s Park Zoo, two hours before the earthquake struck.

    The Chinese began to study systematically the unusual animal behavior, and the Haicheng earthquake of February 1975 was predicted successfully as early as in mid-December of 1974. The most unusual circumstance of animal behavior was that of snakes that came out of hibernation and froze on the surface of the earth. Also a group of rats appeared. These events were succeeded by a swarm of earthquakes at the end of December 1974. During the following month, in January 1975, thousands of reports of unusual animal behavior were received from the general area. Local people saw hibernating snakes coming out from their holes and into the snow. In the first three days in February the activity intensified even more and unusual behavior of the larger animals such as cows, horses, dogs and pigs was reported. On February 4, 1975, an earthquake of magnitude 7.3 struck the Haicheng County, Liaoning Province.

    [ more ]
    _____________

    The July 28th 1976 Tangshan earthquake mentioned above was the deadliest earthquake of the 20th century. Its consequences and the enormous death toll was almost unknown in the west as China was a closed society still under Mao Zedong’s nominal rule. Mao died in Sept of 1976.
    Major earthquakes in the old China were often seen as a prelude and prediction of the fall of a ruler.

    After the earthquake hit, 242,419 people lay dead or dying, along with another 164,581 people who were severely injured. In 7,218 households, all members of the family were killed by the earthquake.

    Ref; http://history1900s.about.com/od/horribledisasters/a/tangshan.htm

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  • #
    Gordon Cheyne

    Even my Granny’s cat knew when a snow-storm was brewing.
    I remember Granny chastising her: “Don’t run around like that, Pussy: you’ll bring on a storm!”

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  • #
    jorgekafkazar

    Skeptical.

    40

  • #
    Debbie

    Birds are way smarter than we think.
    They are highly opportunistic creatures and understand things such as slip streams, oncoming storms, approaching danger etc etc.
    I know when there’s an unwelcome snake around 0ur property because of the birds’ behaviour.
    I also know when a bad storm is on the way because the birds all take off and congregate in safer places.
    They cleverly use all sorts of interesting paraphernalia to build their nests, including rubbish thrown out on the roadsides and those nests are able to withstand amazing winds. They mostly seem to know how to avoid the branches that would likely break in storms too.
    They have no problems using my clothesline or the power lines or the aerial or my sprinklers or my pergola or our farm equipment or our sheep or whatever else suits them to roost and survey the surrounding landscape.
    It is indeed a compliment to be called a bird brain :-)
    This is OT but spotted this little gem this morning:
    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/heat-is-on-abbott-government-over-climate-change-as-world-turns-20150102-12ghrj.html
    I wonder what the birds would think of Peter Hannam????

    81

    • #
      King Geo

      These 9 gram warblers are a lot smarter than the “Warmists” – at least they can predict the weather – their brains must be as big as a pin head, clearly larger than those of the “Warmists” – so if these warblers are ‘bird brains” then what does that make the “Warmists”? I look forward to some ideas from my fellow AGW skeptics.

      83

    • #
      Unmentionable

      Prior to coal burning there were no routine heat waves, periodic droughts or annual bush fires in Australia, all this environmental stress is caused by human beings, and that is what this will be the year of, “extinction for the climate-change denier”.

      It makes sense, we can end bush fires droughts and heat waves, all we have to do is ride camels to work and use candles at night. If we reduce emissions enough we can eliminate all cyclones as well and then the Philippines will have a better time of it and the islands won’t sink.

      Just stop fighting it. “It is hard for thee to kick against the PRICKS.” Acts 26:14

      [@mod ;) :D ]
      [I have let this one pass, but do not try to be over-cleaver. I may be less kind next time -Fly]

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      • #
        Radical Rodent

        Prior to coal-burning, there were no recorded heat waves…

        Well, you might be right, with that slight correction…. Then the white man came along, with his propensity to burn coal, and record things.

        I take it you were being sarcastic…?

        As an aside, here, in the UK, it has been noticed that the humble ladybird (ladybug, for the Americans) can foretell the coming winter: if it is to be bad, they hibernate deep, and are hard to find; if will not be so bad, they are easy to find.

        I have not yet managed to test that idea, myself, as I do too much travelling to spend much time hunting ladybirds, but it would be interesting to have a keen gardener’s views – or even several keen gardeners.

        00

  • #
    TdeF

    It might not be sound as such, just patterns of barometric pressure changes over hours and even days. While humans watch the air pressure and draw their diagrams of isobars, the variations may not be monotonic but have underlying patterns which are recognizable. You might also combine that with the birds proven sense of magnetic direction to provide patterns, some of which are more worrying than others in their direction. It may also be simply the rate of change of barometric pressure, the steepness which we recognize too, but for them like a rising crescendo. Then it could all be combined with falling light levels, indicating heavy and tall clouds. This all would have been reinforced by selection.

    Farmers can probably draw the same conclusions without instruments. These are not small events but having flown through a massive wall of black cloud West of the Pecos river, these are huge solid walls of black cloud, miles high and hundreds of miles long. There were 72 tornadoes in Texas that day. On the other side of the cloud, it was dry and sunny. You have to see storms in the South East US to believe them. I doubt the songbirds could fly far enough.

    50

    • #
      Debbie

      Farmers can indeed draw some quite accurate conclusions about oncoming weather…some of it is because they watch the birds :-)
      They note the behaviour of ants, certain species of flowering natives, moisture in the ground, the cloud patterns, the wind patterns, the behaviour of their stock etc…and they of course also carefully monitor several different weather sites including sites from other lands such as YRNO from Norway.
      Quite often the birds, plants, clouds, winds, stock etc are more accurate than all those high tech weather sites :-)
      The work that Abbot and Marohasy have been doing on seasonal forecasting using ANN looks somewhat promising for those who work in agriculture, or mining, or transport, or construction, or logistics etc…
      Probably along with the birds, we’re far more interested in the weather forecasts (including precipitation) for the coming season… rather than the forecast global average temp for 2070!!!

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      • #
        Binny

        Farmer are reasonable good at weather predictions, because unlike weather forecasters… if we get it wrong we don’t get paid :)

        20

    • #
      TdeF

      Also missed the point that tornadoes are not separate events but very local, very unpredictable, spectacular and dangerous events entirely within what is already an immense “storm system” lasting many days over a huge area. It is this system the birds sense, not the random tornadoes. Storm chasers look for the tell tale signs of forming tornadoes but the huge storm itself is disastrous with high winds and very heavy rain over many days. No one can predict individual tornadoes or their paths or especially where they touch down, so it is about the birds sensing the coming fronts but you can see those for days on a weather chart. The extraordinary thing is that they can’t read.

      At least with huge storms, scientists recognize the inherently random nature of the weather and the vast number of variables involved. How any scientist became convinced that CO2 was the main driver of world temperature in the turbulent atmosphere is impossible to understand. What sort of hothouse model is it with no walls, no roof, wild winds, a stormy ocean, snow, ice, desert, plains and mountains for a floor and covering so many different temperature zones? It is Green madness, not science modelling.

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  • #
    Yonniestone

    Here’s an interesting link to Bird Senses with a surprising quote regarding smell: ‘songbirds simply cannot detect the human scent’ wouldn’t have thought that one.

    About 2 months ago we found/rescued a Budgerigar from the footpath outside a shop in the main street, he was just sitting there quite tame to pick up, it was then I was informed from my better half that she was wanting a budgie for a while and this was fate so off to the pet store for a cage and bingo another member of the family!

    Never having a bird before I was astounded at the online budgie sites and information available, I think he’s a Recessive pied and between chattering and singing a lot he is very attentive when talking to him(Pippin), funny thing is we noticed recently he goes quiet before a storm comes, I actually checked on him as he usually won’t shut up, this behavior seems common upon an internet search so maybe there’s something to the songbird’s behavior?

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  • #
    handjive

    Unfortunately for the birds, they can’t detect the hottest year ever.

    Otherwise, they would know not to fly south in winter, to the austral summer.

    “Around 36 Australian bird species use the East Asian-Australasian Flyway for the mass migration which sends them north to food-rich Arctic summer nesting habitat, then south to capitalise on the austral summer.” (SMH)

    PS. When will Tony abbott’s $200M gift to the UN-IPCC stop the bushfires in Australia?

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    • #
      Yonniestone

      Stop the bushfires in Australia? only if the $200m gift is used for effective back burning/fuel reduction and a fleet of fire bombing aircraft with Capital punishment for Pyromaniacs thrown in for good measure…hang on we could’ve done this if we’d kept the money and told the UN-IPCC NO! in the first place.

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      • #
        Chris in Hervey Bay.

        With $200million, we could get one of these
        DC 10 / MD11

        And with the money saved by getting the fires out early, buy a couple more !

        But the experts will find ways why we can’t !

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        • #
          handjive

          Yonnie & Chris,

          Sadly the aircraft are only temporary measures, able to react when & where needed.

          Longterm solutions like tax-payer funded action on climate, much like $200M to the UN-IPCC the Bob Brown World Bank to be distributed to third world countries is more effective at stopping the current fires, apparently.

          Otherwise, I have a terrible feeling Tony Abbott, or Australia, just was diddled of $200M.

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        • #
          John F. Hultquist

          The USA has 2 DC-10s for fire work. Last year (2014) one with the number 910 made tight circles over our place as it dropped retardant on the burning hills about 3 km away and 300 m. higher. When empty they flew about 100 km. east to reload. This is an impressive sight. There were other, smaller planes and helicopters, fighting the fire – called the Snag Canyon Fire. [Stick those 3 words into a Bing search using 'images' and have a look.]

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          • #
            ROM

            The DC10 was not a success tactically for fire bombing as it had to use Avalon Airfield down near Geelong because of runway length and strength due to the high take off weight.
            An actual fire in the Sun Set Country National Park up near Mildura required the DC10 to travel the 400 kms to drop it’s load and then return to Avalon to reload.
            It was just too big and heavy for our conditions and tactically unsuited as a fire bomber due to the long distances between Australian airfields with runways both long enough and heavy enough to take the DC10′s fully loaded take off weight.

            Victoria currently has two large fire bombers leased from Canada .
            One is running hard on the current large and dangerous Moyston fire south of Stawell and ESE of the Grampian Mountains in Victoria’s west.

            Details and photos including a fire bomber in action here on the Moyston fire via the Stawell Tmes.
            I see one of the young Ararat gliding boys got a couple of shots of the fire from his glider published as well today.

            On the large fire bombing tankers currently in Victoria with photos ; Fire Aviation

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      handjive

      Americans are a little like birds heading south:

      Americans on the move want warmth, affordability: reports

      Reuters) – Americans moving out of state in 2014 were most likely to head to places that were warmer and more affordable, such as the South and Southwest, according to studies by two major moving companies.

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    Ross

    This is nothing new. I was bought up in a city near a river and near the sea. When a storm was coming the sea gulls always were seen much further up the river a day or so before it he Storm came in from the sea.
    Also during the Christchurch earthquakes there were many stories of pet cats and dogs behaving unusually before the quake occurred.

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    ossqss

    Sorry, but I have my doubts about flying to Cuba to avoid storms in Tenn.

    Just sayin…..

    Probably a result of the prior weeks crappy weather in the end.

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    Richo

    Nesting wood ducks are good sign that an extended period of wet weather is on the way a couple of months in advance of the heavy rainfall. I was laughed at by my CEO when I advised him that he would need to make an additional allowance in the road maintenance budget due to my observation of the wood ducks. The wood ducks were proven correct by the 2010/2011 floods along the Australian east coast.

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    Say, I guess this might just be referred to as anecdotal, but it is worthwhile noting.

    We have a pretty prolific bird life around where I live here in Rockhampton, and I (and my good lady wife as well) have learned over the many years to be able to distinguish between some of of the bird calls, not that either of us could be referred to as twitchers, but it just comes as one of the things with advancing age I guess.

    We have noticed, not only here, but wherever we have lived that there are some birds which can be relied on as good predictors of rain, and probably foremost among them would be the Currawong. It’s a little larger than a magpie, but with a slightly longer and stronger beak. Some are all black and others have patches of white on the tail and outer wing feathers, (Pied Currawong) and they are easily distinguished from the (not very much) smaller magpie, because the Currawong has distinctive and very yellow eyes.

    We have noticed that prior to any rain event, small or large, they have this distinctive call. They call at other times as well, as do most birds, but there always seems to be more calls just prior to rain.

    The call is hard to describe, and while distinctive from other birds, that call however can only be coming from this one bird.

    I chased down a video on their call which gives it better than I could ever explain, and this was taken during rainfall, as you can hear.

    Link to Currawong call video. (only 1.10 in length)

    We have numerous other birds here as well, but this one is probably the loudest of them all, especially just prior to rain.

    And when it comes to bird calls, nothing can surpass that of the Butcher Bird.

    Tony.

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      Yonniestone

      Tony, at Mt Buninyong where we walk a lot there’s plenty of Currawong’s living amongst the gums but I never knew of the three types, I’ll have to take a photo next time and find out, this won’t be hard as they are very cheeky and follow us through the trees as we walk the mountains road, I do take exception to Wiki’s description of their ‘comical flight style in amongst foliage’ as I think them very deft and graceful in the trees considering their size.

      I also have some shots of Wedged-tailed Eagles that appear at certain times and the other day just missed an Owl that was taking off with a rodent in it’s talons, I’m looking at a Go-pro to record the walk so I can capture some of our encounters, unless you get out there people forget what a magnificent array of species we have.

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      John F. Hultquist

      Get one of these:
      Vermont weather stick

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    Ken Stewart

    Good one Tony. Nothing like a Butcherbird song, and they love rain too. We’ve only lived in Rocky for 2 years, still getting used to the birdlife (and weather). From ant, wasp, mock orange behaviour, surely we must be in for some rain soon.

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      Thanks Ken.

      For all our non Australian readers, the term Mock Orange covers a range of plants and shrubs. Here in Oz, it is most commonly associated with the Murraya paniculata, sometimes referred to as the orange Murraya or mock orange because of its tiny orange (and sometimes red) fruit it bears with white flowers which have a beautiful and strong scent, oddly smelled best just prior to rain, probably another indicator, and at every home we have lived in, this is one of the first plants we get to put in our garden.

      As a member of the RAAF, whenever we were posted, the Social Club threw a small party, you know, any excuse for a pi$$ up, and you were presented with an engraved pewter. When I was posted from the Trade Training school, they asked me what I wanted instead of a pewter, and that’s where I got my trusty Macquarie Encyclopedic Dictionary. That posting was internal at RAAF Wagga Wagga to Exam Flight where I was the Senior Electrical Trades Examiner. Same same when I was posted from there, only this time I asked for a reference book on Australian Native Plants, the first of the many, and I now have seven of them, the best being one I got hold of a few years later, Australian Native Plants by John Wrigley and Murray Fagg, (mine is the 3rd Edition, as they progressively got bigger and bigger, and now they are up to Edition 6) probably the Australian master reference when it comes to Australian Native Plants, so that’s where my interest in Australian native plants comes in.

      There is nothing to compare to Australian Native plants, especially the trees.

      Perhaps my favourite would be the Swamp Bloodwood, Corymbia ptychocarpa (originally Eucalyptus ptychocarpa, and changed genus in 1995) In fact I use an image of the flowers from this tree as my computer desktop image, for nigh on ten years now, so soothing to see. This is the tree of the gumnut, and here I mean gumnut, as these can sometimes be two inches or so in size. The leaves are a deep green and can be anything up to ten inches in length, one leaf, and the flowers are the richest of pinks and so delicate, as well as being quite big themselves.

      Link to image of C. ptchocarpa flowers

      You want Australian birds in your own patch, then plant Australian Native plants.

      Tony.

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        Byron

        You want Australian birds in your own patch, then plant Australian Native plants

        Don’t tell that to the 50+ mob of Sulphur Crested Larrikins that descend onto My walnut tree for about 5-7 weeks a year . I reckon if You went near that tree with a chainsaw it’d look like a scene from a Hitchcock movie .

        For people outside of Australia I’m referring to the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo , these are wild ones being polite and not so polite

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          Roy Hogue

          As far as Sulphur Crested Cockatoos being not so polite — teasing any animal, especially with tempting food, doesn’t sound like a very good idea to me.

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            Byron

            Yup , locals know better , tourists tend to think it’s like playing “where’s the biscuit gone ?” with Your dog but these are still very much wild animals .

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        Annie

        Very pretty, that Corymbia.

        We don’t need to plant natives in order to get native bird life! Huge mobs of Sulphur Crested Pestilences descend on us frequently and wipe out various fruit crops…picture a towel-waving harridan storming out of the house at 0610 to shoo them away. White netting helps but it’s darned expensive in the amounts we need. The Black Cockatoos are less bothersome and just eat all the pine nuts out of the cones of our Pinus Radiata trees. We never have stray seedlings of these appear. There are lots of other native birds, including Currawongs and Butcher Birds, so now I’ll be paying extra attention to their songs.

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        Willy

        Planted a couple of hundred natives in place of old cypress trees here. Gums, paperbarks, bottlebrushes, banksias, wattles, surround orchard trees. A few years in a row, young crimson rosellas (green ones) would eat all the unformed almonds. For some reason this year they left them all.
        Never had problems with any other native birds. Sparrows can get into ripened fruit some, especially stone fruit. That and they swarm the poultry feeders. Got around that problem by re-naming them Australian Brown Finches, so don’t mind feeding them as much ;)
        Ravens are very clever, pinching eggs and even dog bones.

        Always find it fascinating to watch black swans. In winter they build their nest in the wetlands, always to the perfect height not to get flooded out, yet safe from foxes. In other seasons if you see them flying high heading nth/inland, its usually rough weather coming for a few days. Opposite if they are flying south to the coastal wetlands.

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    edwina

    Another strange bird behavior is after massive rain years cause areas like Lake Eyre to fill with water. Huge numbers of seagulls, etc, fly hundreds of kilometers from the coast to feast. How they know the water and food are there seems a big mystery in itself. Even more, to me is where the fish come from. The preservation of eggs for long years in the harshest conditions would be worthy of intense study by the large host of ecobiologists.

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      ROM

      Birds don’t only predict rain.
      A friend from Kaniva on the Melbourne -Adelaide highway or goat track and near the SA border has a large swamp on his property which in that area of higher winter rainfall usually has a good spring time level of water in it which a large number of Swans use as a nesting site.

      Some years ago when the considerable numbers of swans were nesting on their raised nesting sites in the swamp and had hatched out a good bunch of chicks , to my friends utter surprise and very considerable consternation, that whole bevy / flock of swans, every single one of them, just up and left, all in just one day, leaving their now quite well developed chicks to die of starvation.

      Well it subsequently turned out that the rains had ceased and a full on drought was setting in where no significant rainfall was to come for some many months ahead, something that nobody had predicted .

      But the Swans knew somehow that if they continued to try and feed those chicks with a drought looming, they were putting their own existence at a serious risk plus it was almost certain that those chicks even if close to maturity were going to die in any case as the drought hit.

      So Nature’s solution was for the adult Swans to abandon those chicks as a lost cause which was pointless to continue to expend energy to continue to feed.
      So those Swans left, abandoning their chicks, so as to ensure their own survival as the adult breeding stock for the next nesting season or for when the drought finally broke again.

      To paraphase Winston Churchill and his quote on Russia ;

      Nature is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

      ref; Winston Churchill Quotes

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        Roy Hogue

        Nature definitely prefers survival of the species over survival of the individual — a very cold blooded decision but as you say, very necessary. It’s only we humans who think it should be the other way around. I’ve known several firefighters over the years. And one of them told me that they very carefully assess the possibility of getting out again before attempting a rescue. It’s of no benefit to lose both the victim and the rescuer. I suspect they don’t talk very openly about the need for cold blooded decision making in a crisis because the public wants a rescue without thinking through the consequences of an ill advised attempt. But real life isn’t anything like the movies or your favorite TV series where the hero always pulls off the impossible at the end of the hour.

        Nature seems to run on cold blooded decisions rather than emotions and I wonder why we can’t manage to do the same thing when we should.

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          Binny

          I remember my father telling about a conversation he had with an old Aboriginal more than 80 years ago. The subject was what happen if the waterhole they were on went dry. Before the forced march in the hope of finding water at another hole, began. Any children too big to carry, and too small to walk, were knocked on the head. The situation is the same, if they tried to carry them or walked slowly – everyone died. Only people who have never been in a life or death situation, think the needs of the individual out-weight the needs of the group.

          [Without any reference this is not worth much. We don't condone knocking anyone on the head.] ED

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            Binny

            ED:I can see no reason why it would be made up, it’s just the grim reality of actual life or death situations. Something the modern western world (perhaps thankfully) has forgotten. I always tell it to anyone feeling sorry for themselves, for having to make tough decisions in the face of a drought.

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            ROM

            I am going to support Binny in her comments on aboriginal infanticide against the unfortunate comment on Binny’s post.
            Binny who was merely pointing out, even if it affected our sensibilities and moral beliefs, that infanticide was accepted by those aboriginal peoples, and was just one element of the survival strategy during times of great stress within the aboriginal tribes and groups.

            Infanticide was a common practice amongst most primitive peoples almost everywhere when it came down to the groups, families or tribe’s actual survival in times of severe stress.

            My father spent a decade or so in the 1960′s on the Board of the Finke River Lutheran Mission centred on Hermmannsburg to the west of Alice Springs.
            Aboriginal infanticide was well known to the original Lutheran Missionaries and to the Catholic Missionaries who first went into those very isolated regions in the very late 1800′s.
            Only because of our christian based western moral code it has become an almost taboo subject to even mention such practices as infanticide even though they are well known to anthropologists

            The strong strictures and legal redress and strong revulsion which I share, against infanticide in western society are due to our long history of a Christian shaped moral ethos and culture.

            That moral ethos and cultural practices are very different in other societies which have permitted and even condoned infanticide as anybody can read in the following texts I have listed below.

            And given circumstances are we with our Christian based moral code any more moral than those other peoples who have developed their own moral codes including infanticide or other moral dilemmas created by the need for the continuing survival of the group or tribe.

            A Brief History of Infanticide
            [quoted ]
            In 1978, Laila Williamson, an anthropologist of the American Museum of Natural History, summarized the data she had collected on the prevalence of infanticide among tribal and civilized societies from a variety of sources in the scientific and historical literature. Her conclusion was startlingly blunt:

            Infanticide has been practiced on every continent and by people on every level of cultural complexity, from hunters and gatherers to high civilization, including our own ancestors. Rather than being an exception, then, it has been the rule

            &
            Infanticide in Earlier Seventeenth Century England

            &
            And for moral codes and the differences between peoples and societies as to what is moral and permissable

            The Challenge of Cultural Relativism

            Morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits.
            – Ruth Benedict (Patterns of Culture, 1934)

            [Ok right, you've provided evidence of infanticide, something that Binny did not. WE STILL DO NOT CONDONE IT!] ED
            [Good Grief!]

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      ROM

      Edwina; If you really want to marvel at the astonishing ability of life to survive in some of the most desolate and arguably most unreliable situations one could imagine have a read of the Fish of the Mound Springs which lay along the western side of the Lake Eyre basin.
      Fish live in no more than few centimetres of water as it runs from some of these springs.

      Incidently the original Ghan railway from Pt Augusta to Alice springs was routed through that heavily channeled and rough country on the western side of Lake Eyre instead of the much better country further west where the Darwin line now runs, so that the steam engines could get water for their steam from the mound springs every 100 miles or so.

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    Fred

    Being a professional hunter in NZ for 40 yrs you learn how to read animals, before a storm comes through deer will wallow in mud pools and feed up large usually about 12 hrs before the storm.After a lot of observation i found out that it is not just a pressure drop that triggers this but it has to be accompanied by a sudden rise in moisture,just watch a hygrometer rise 12 hrs before heavy rain it will go up to about90% for an hour then drop back to 65% about 12 hrs later it will rain. If the pressure drops but no hygrometer rise it will not rain and no deer will show.

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    cedarhill

    Actually, this one might help Darwin. Little birds do very poorly in high winds so it’s easy to imagine/project birds with a sense of atmospheric preasures will “disappear” and/or “hide” using a genetic “weather” sense might survive while those without are simply smashed.

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    Roy Hogue

    Like many of you I’ve seen stories of animal behavior that baffle our ability to figure out why they do what people can easily see them doing. But I would be a little careful about theorized reasons for behavior which, in this case, appears to be a single known instance of the warbler fleeing from oncoming danger.

    I suppose I can add my own little story as food for thought. When my son was growing up we had a dog named Snoopy. Snoopy was a mutt of completely uncertain genetic heritage but he was a very bright, intelligent little guy (by dog standards). My wife told me that whenever I was away from home after dark Snoopy would come sit next to her as if guarding her until I got home again. I never saw this behavior because he never did it if I was there. He never guarded our son, which is what I would have suspected he would do if he thought there was any danger. I’ve always wondered what he thought he was doing and even more baffling, how he knew I was actually away from home vs. simply out in the garage doing something. And why only after dark? A dog is as at home after dark as in broad daylight. They have night vision nearly as good as a cat. So why would darkness appear to be any danger?

    Have fun theorizing.

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      Willy

      I’ll have a guess at that one Roy. Maybe whenever you were out after dark, your wife might have been ever so slightly anxious, even subconsciously. She might not have even realised. Snoopy would have picked up on that though and stood by her until you arrived home.

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        Agreed. Animals pick up on slight changes in human behaviours and respond to them. That’s part of what makes them handy for detecting low blood sugars, epileptic seizures, sniffing out drugs, seeing eye dogs, handicap helper dogs, etc. I look forward to finding out what other interesting things dogs will turn out to be able to do.

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          Willy

          True Sheri. We had a brilliant cattle dog here a way back. On request he could find a glove, boot, many things and retrieve. He was also great moving any type of stock.

          Heard that dogs have been tried to sniff out cancer too.

          Army dogs also sniff out explosives.

          Don’t let them fool you with the big pull toward something to smell it, they can smell it from where they are.

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        Roy Hogue

        Willy,

        I think that’s as good a guess as any. It makes sense that Snoopy would be attuned to the people around him on whom he depended for everything from food to shelter to a ride in the car (which he loved, even if it took him to the vet). He was very territorial and if anyone was in the house or the back yard he would growl and threaten until he could see that we approved and then he was OK with it.

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          I had a Yorkie who growled and bit anyone who got close to me, whether I said it was okay or not! Darling little creature!

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            Roy Hogue

            Maybe there’s something to the theory that a mutt is more intelligent. But I know this for a fact — my neighbor’s two Bassets were the dumbest pair of dogs I’ve ever seen, even without the following story. Anyway, if Snoopy heard them in their backyard he would walk back and forth on his side of the wall growling in a very low voice. It would drive those Bassets crazy and then Snoopy would strut around with a self satisfied look on his face. He was playing with those two hounds and enjoying it no end. The Bassets didn’t have a clue.

            Animals aren’t as dumb as we give them credit for — at least some of them aren’t.

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      jorgekafkazar

      If you were in the garage, his nose or ears would have detected you there.

      My parents had a dachshund who would go the front door about three minutes before my dad arrived home, no matter what time he left his office. He was doctor and his quitting time was unpredictable. I believe it may have been that Fritz could hear the distinctive sound of the 12 cyl Lycoming engine in my dad’s Auburn, even at a distance of a mile.

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    A C of Adelaide

    I was wondering if nesting birds could goog-le the weather

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      John F. Hultquist

      Having raised bird-dogs (Brittanys) for many years, I have seen some astonishing things – game birds and bird-dogs seem to interact on a level humans can only guess at. However, nesting birds can only goog-le the weather if the nest is under a current bush.

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    bruce

    sure humans could do as well as the critters, if humans weren’t so invested in what they want.

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