Blogging birds: Diaries of birds written daily by computers

The stories of the Scotland’s red kites that are tagged by satellites are now being written by computers in almost real time so that the real world can read them. The project, Blogging Birds, is being run by RSPB’s conservationists in collaboration with University of Aberdeen’s environmental scientists. The project takes data which is relayed from the tagged birds 6 times a day and it is then fed into sophisticated computer software so as to provide the daily and weekly blogs on the activities of the birds. The readers can then follow the eating patterns of the birds, the changing habitats and the flights that are made by Moray, Wyvis, Ussie, and Millie, the red kites that are being tracked for the project. One can also be able to further explore the movements of the bird by the use of the tagged maps that specify the bird’s locations at the various times and dates.

Blogging BirdsAfter their extinction from Britain in the mid 20th century, the kites were introduced again in 1989 to the Chilterns and the project was successful. However, the Kites struggled to take hold after being reincorporated into the Black Isle, Scotland. René van der Wal, of the School of Biological Sciences and the Digital Economy Hub at University of Aberdeen says that it can be safely concluded that the kites struggle since they are poisoned if they get into some of the highland’s parts. According to René van der Wal, the kites are scavengers and thus they easily pick up carcasses of whatever they come across and if by any chance the meat has been poisoned, and not necessary for them, they will die.

This is what caused the RSPB to start tagging the birds so as to find out where the places they went and what occurred to them. The project was an outreach one known as Eyes to the Skies and it encouraged the connection of the kites with the communities. The primary schools adopted the birds and named them while the RSPB officers tried to write blogs about the birds which were based on the collected satellite data from the birds. According to van der Wal, this proved to be a nightmare and they resulted to using a software, Natural Language Generation, which has been out of commission for many years but was used to access summaries of rich data by professionals

The software was beneficial in such that it could create captivating stories that have no input from human beings. The blogs could thus write and maintain themselves. Van der Wal says that this is a hard task for the computers, making of something that is non-sterile and non-repetitive. However, while reading through the blogs created, the flow in them is tremendously natural and seems to be very knowledgeable and so is formulate of the questions which relates to the birds activity. The data aggregation has enabled the researchers to understand the movements of the birds more. From the blogs, one can look at the habitat, the weather that was nearby, potential interest objects that were near and other kites that were in the same area. This can even be done using summaries in texts, rather than just figures.