Lockdown Lab

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Stranger Mouse
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Lockdown Lab

Post by Stranger Mouse » Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:10 pm

What non Covid effects will a three week or longer UK lockdown (and similar efforts elsewhere) have? It’s a pretty big experiment which couldn’t be done without unusual circumstances. Will it have a noticeable effect on global warming? More obesity and heart disease? More mental health issues? More babies?
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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by lpm » Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:48 pm

Figures for road kill might be an interesting experiment.

A reduction in the main predator of foxes, rabbits, squirrels etc, just in time for spring babies, should see increases in the prey species.
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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by headshot » Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:49 pm

Insect numbers increasing into the summer months because of a lack of air pollutants from vehicles.

Might be more to do with insecticides though...

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by raven » Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:58 pm

lpm wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:48 pm
Figures for road kill might be an interesting experiment.

A reduction in the main predator of foxes, rabbits, squirrels etc, just in time for spring babies, should see increases in the prey species.
Well, n=1 and everything, but the red kites seem to be flying a bit lower than usual here. Saw one have a go at a crow on a roof ridge today too, which I haven't seen before, and I said to MrRaven that maybe they're hungry because there's less roadkill.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by Martin Y » Mon Mar 23, 2020 11:19 pm

raven wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:58 pm
Well, n=1 and everything, but the red kites seem to be flying a bit lower than usual here. Saw one have a go at a crow on a roof ridge today too, which I haven't seen before, and I said to MrRaven that maybe they're hungry because there's less roadkill.
Hmm. I shall warn the cats.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by Gfamily » Mon Mar 23, 2020 11:26 pm

Martin Y wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 11:19 pm
raven wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:58 pm
Well, n=1 and everything, but the red kites seem to be flying a bit lower than usual here. Saw one have a go at a crow on a roof ridge today too, which I haven't seen before, and I said to MrRaven that maybe they're hungry because there's less roadkill.
Hmm. I shall warn the cats.
I think I read somewhere that RKs are birds that steal from other birds; and rather than directly scavenging, they are happier to let other birds do the work of getting food from the roadkill, but then harrying them to make them drop the food.

So your cats are probably OK, but leave them indoors for a while after they've eaten. :)
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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by raven » Tue Mar 24, 2020 2:31 pm

Gfamily wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 11:26 pm

I think I read somewhere that RKs are birds that steal from other birds; and rather than directly scavenging, they are happier to let other birds do the work of getting food from the roadkill, but then harrying them to make them drop the food.

So your cats are probably OK, but leave them indoors for a while after they've eaten. :)
RK are mostly scavengers, so as long as the cat's alive and kicking/capable of running away it's probably safe.

I've not seen it, but I can imagine them harrying other birds of prey for their catches. They harry each other quite a bit in the spring, not sure whether that's pairing behaviour or establishing territory. We sometimes have a dozen of them spiralling up the same thermal on hot days.

I've seen them take roadkill off the road though, so they're not fussy about that. (Took a back road over the downs, came over a hillcrest and there were three of the buggers on the ground, eyeing a squished deer. And a distinctly ruffled-looking buzzard sitting on a fence post, watching them and looking disgruntled. I did not have a camera, sadly.)

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by bagpuss » Tue Mar 24, 2020 2:52 pm

raven wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 2:31 pm
Gfamily wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 11:26 pm

I think I read somewhere that RKs are birds that steal from other birds; and rather than directly scavenging, they are happier to let other birds do the work of getting food from the roadkill, but then harrying them to make them drop the food.

So your cats are probably OK, but leave them indoors for a while after they've eaten. :)
RK are mostly scavengers, so as long as the cat's alive and kicking/capable of running away it's probably safe.

I've not seen it, but I can imagine them harrying other birds of prey for their catches. They harry each other quite a bit in the spring, not sure whether that's pairing behaviour or establishing territory. We sometimes have a dozen of them spiralling up the same thermal on hot days.

I've seen them take roadkill off the road though, so they're not fussy about that. (Took a back road over the downs, came over a hillcrest and there were three of the buggers on the ground, eyeing a squished deer. And a distinctly ruffled-looking buzzard sitting on a fence post, watching them and looking disgruntled. I did not have a camera, sadly.)
I think most people round these 'ere parts have a story of rounding a corner to find a red kite swooping down on roadkill right in front of them, or having to brake hard as a red kite dodged down between cars to grab something. So yes, they definitely do happily take it straight from the road. I am led to believe that they will also take small live creatures, if they're hungry, but would almost always go for carrion first if it's available. That may be wrong, I haven't intensively researched it, it's just based on stuff I've read over the years.

I have seen red kites harrying other red kites and other birds. And also red kites being harried by other birds, but to this very layperson's eye, they seem more like territorial disputes than birds pinching food from each other.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by Woodchopper » Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:00 pm

Stranger Mouse wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:10 pm
What non Covid effects will a three week or longer UK lockdown (and similar efforts elsewhere) have? It’s a pretty big experiment which couldn’t be done without unusual circumstances. Will it have a noticeable effect on global warming? More obesity and heart disease? More mental health issues? More babies?
Probably differing effects depending upon how people understand it in the future. For example, just based upon older members of my family some appreciate it very much that the rest of the country is rallying round to protect them, while others are pissed off at the selfish gits that are more interested in stockpiling bog roll and having a nice day out in the sun. Both are basing their opinions on similar information, just choosing to emphasize different bits of it. If the former becomes most popular then it might lead to an increase in solidarity, if the latter then to more selfishness.

There will probably be a concerted attempt to encourage the 'we all rallied round' narrative.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by dyqik » Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:56 pm

I am wondering if the reduction in road and air traffic might have a small but measurable effect on the weather. Particularly since last night we had one of those difficult to forecast weather events - mixed rain and snow, for 12 hours, where a 1 °C change in temperature somewhere between clouds and ground can change it from heavy snow to medium rain or vice versa.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by Gfamily » Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:03 pm

dyqik wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:56 pm
I am wondering if the reduction in road and air traffic might have a small but measurable effect on the weather. Particularly since last night we had one of those difficult to forecast weather events - mixed rain and snow, for 12 hours, where a 1 °C change in temperature somewhere between clouds and ground can change it from heavy snow to medium rain or vice versa.
We were saying on Sunday how clear the sky was, as last seen during the volcano related groundings of 2010. However, yesterday evening, it seemed to be pretty much back to normal.
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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by lpm » Thu Mar 26, 2020 8:26 pm

I'll miss him after he's died in the pandemic

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by raven » Fri Mar 27, 2020 12:01 am

Further to the red kite discussion:

Stepped out the back door to put something in the bin this afternoon, glanced up and was confronted with 6 red kites overhead, some not much above roof level. I then spent quarter of an hour hanging out of the bedroom window with a camera, trying to get a decent photo of the dozen kites playing silly buggers between our row of houses and the next, diving bombing each other around the apple tree three houses down.

It was both spectacular and a little bit scary.

Much lower than I've seen them doing that sort of thing, but that could be because it was sunny and yet the air's still cold. Usually when it's sunny, they're up high, gyring around a thermal.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by Rich Scopie » Fri Mar 27, 2020 8:03 am

raven wrote:
Fri Mar 27, 2020 12:01 am
Further to the red kite discussion:

Stepped out the back door to put something in the bin this afternoon, glanced up and was confronted with 6 red kites overhead, some not much above roof level. I then spent quarter of an hour hanging out of the bedroom window with a camera, trying to get a decent photo of the dozen kites playing silly buggers between our row of houses and the next, diving bombing each other around the apple tree three houses down.

It was both spectacular and a little bit scary.

Much lower than I've seen them doing that sort of thing, but that could be because it was sunny and yet the air's still cold. Usually when it's sunny, they're up high, gyring around a thermal.
At my last job, because of the local geography and the location of the building, you could sometimes look out of the canteen window and watch red kites from above. Magnificent. :-)
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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by raven » Fri Mar 27, 2020 10:00 pm

They are indeed :D

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by bjn » Thu Apr 02, 2020 6:22 am

More sleep for me. Far fewer planes flying into Heathrow, so I’m not being woken by the QF01 flight from Australia passing over head at Oh God! o’clock in the morning. West London is super quiet now.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by bjn » Thu Apr 02, 2020 6:23 am

Rich Scopie wrote:
Fri Mar 27, 2020 8:03 am
raven wrote:
Fri Mar 27, 2020 12:01 am
Further to the red kite discussion:

Stepped out the back door to put something in the bin this afternoon, glanced up and was confronted with 6 red kites overhead, some not much above roof level. I then spent quarter of an hour hanging out of the bedroom window with a camera, trying to get a decent photo of the dozen kites playing silly buggers between our row of houses and the next, diving bombing each other around the apple tree three houses down.

It was both spectacular and a little bit scary.

Much lower than I've seen them doing that sort of thing, but that could be because it was sunny and yet the air's still cold. Usually when it's sunny, they're up high, gyring around a thermal.
At my last job, because of the local geography and the location of the building, you could sometimes look out of the canteen window and watch red kites from above. Magnificent. :-)
I’ve shared a thermal while paragliding with what I thought was a red kite. Some very large raptor anyway. Birds are great tells for the location of thermals.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by greyspoke » Thu Apr 02, 2020 6:50 am

bjn wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 6:23 am
Rich Scopie wrote:
Fri Mar 27, 2020 8:03 am
raven wrote:
Fri Mar 27, 2020 12:01 am
Further to the red kite discussion:

Stepped out the back door to put something in the bin this afternoon, glanced up and was confronted with 6 red kites overhead, some not much above roof level. I then spent quarter of an hour hanging out of the bedroom window with a camera, trying to get a decent photo of the dozen kites playing silly buggers between our row of houses and the next, diving bombing each other around the apple tree three houses down.

It was both spectacular and a little bit scary.

Much lower than I've seen them doing that sort of thing, but that could be because it was sunny and yet the air's still cold. Usually when it's sunny, they're up high, gyring around a thermal.
At my last job, because of the local geography and the location of the building, you could sometimes look out of the canteen window and watch red kites from above. Magnificent. :-)
I’ve shared a thermal while paragliding with what I thought was a red kite. Some very large raptor anyway. Birds are great tells for the location of thermals.
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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by Pucksoppet » Thu Apr 02, 2020 7:16 am

bjn wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 6:22 am
More sleep for me. Far fewer planes flying into Heathrow, so I’m not being woken by the QF01 flight from Australia passing over head at Oh God! o’clock in the morning. West London is super quiet now.
That must be nice. I guess you are looking forward to the 3rd runway. Or the Prime Minister lying in front of a bulldozer. Or something.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by basementer » Thu Apr 02, 2020 7:29 am

bjn wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 6:22 am
More sleep for me. Far fewer planes flying into Heathrow, so I’m not being woken by the QF01 flight from Australia passing over head at Oh God! o’clock in the morning. West London is super quiet now.
My mornings are quieter too. Normally when the wind is Northerly, 6 am flights to Australia turn left out of Wellington and go over my house. Not been happening recently.
I'll think of something.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by science_fox » Thu Apr 02, 2020 9:21 am

https://twitter.com/billybragg/status/1 ... 2726937600

Deer in Harold Hill (east london) presumably feeling free to explore wider from the Parks. And the goats in Llandudno.

AIr pollution should be significantly lower, but I don't know if you'd notice on an individual level. NOx normally breaches recommended minimum levels, so presumably the Gov will have an excuse not to make any changes as the yearly average will not drop into acceptable levels.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by FlammableFlower » Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:40 am

On a much smaller scale - we've had goldfinches in our front garden, when normally we see no birds, so presumably they are happy with the lack of traffic. Also, the foxes have been much bolder - in the early hours of this morning (4:45) I was woken up by a repeated noise, and went down to discover it was three foxes fighting over our (locked) food waste bin, that was out for collection today, and in the process it was being moved (noisily) down the road, so I had to go out and recover it and put it away until later on this morning.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by greyspoke » Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:46 am

There will also be a load of interesting data in social science and economics. Suddenly cutting off many forms of interaction, and removing huge numbers of players from markets, is a massive intervention. The Government is having to find out on the fly which bits of the economy actually are essential and how the bits feed into each other. It will keep academics in all kinds of disciplines in work for decades sorting out what went on and measuring it up against models.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by greyspoke » Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:47 am

The sort of experiment on the human species we normally only see taking place with others.

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Re: Lockdown Lab

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Apr 02, 2020 1:10 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:40 am
On a much smaller scale - we've had goldfinches in our front garden, when normally we see no birds, so presumably they are happy with the lack of traffic. Also, the foxes have been much bolder - in the early hours of this morning (4:45) I was woken up by a repeated noise, and went down to discover it was three foxes fighting over our (locked) food waste bin, that was out for collection today, and in the process it was being moved (noisily) down the road, so I had to go out and recover it and put it away until later on this morning.
There is quite good monitoring of birds in gardens in the UK, in particular via the British Trust for Ornithology's Garden BirdWatch program which collects weekly data across the country. I expect there will be some interesting results presented at the end of the season. Effects on breeding birds will be harder to be confident about, as the data for long-term timeseries can't be collected while folks are on lockdown - but there is stacks of data, so some cautious inferences might be possible with careful analysis.

Goldfinches are an interesting species right now as they are increasingly colonising suburbia and becoming more common in gardens and parks etc. They're quite fun to watch at this time of year - they'll often be in twos, with one appearing to follow the other. Generally, the female flies around doing what she wants, while the male follows to make sure she doesn't mate with anybody else. They can also be quite aggressive to bigger birds - that red face means business!
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