For the Birds

Northern Mockingbird Songbird

Northern Mockingbird Songbird (Source: Pixabay)

Bird populations are in alarming decline – songbirds especially – as we see in CBC’s Nature of Things program on SongbirdSOS (March 2015). We have lost nearly half of songbirds in the last 50 years. The episode is available online along with supplementary information on what action we can take.

There are several excellent websites for learning more about birds – whether aspects of birding through field guides and tutorials, or the urgent need today to protect birds and their habitat.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a good starting point for bird lovers of every age and knowledge level – especially its section on All About Birds. The main Cornell website also has tutorials, news, and videos for free viewing, and some learning resources for sale.

Audubon is all about birds and birding – news, projects, magazine, conservation, advocacy. It provides THE Field Guide to North American birds. Those in the United States can join a local Audubon chapter.

Bird Studies Canada advances “the understanding, appreciation and conservation of Canada’s wild birds and their habitats.” BSC is based in Port Rowan in Ontario and has regional offices across Canada. It issues a monthly e-newsletter, the quarterly Bird Watch Canada, and occassional studies. The newsletter will keep you informed of events, surveys, new studies, and opportunities for volunteering.

eBird Canada partners with Bird Studies Canada to provide a means for participants to record their bird observations through a real-time, online checklist program.

Boreal Songbird Initiative focuses on protecting the North American Boreal forest for birds and wildlife. The boreal forest in Canada’s north is “North America’s bird nursery” that are essential for migratory birds. The BSI aim is to conserve at least 50% of this forest. It is currently running a program to gain widespread support for Boreal Birds Need Half.

I hope that this short resource list will help us all appreciate birds more and do what we can to halt the population decline.

Google’s Knowledge Card Patent

Google had developed the means to identify and employ entity analysis at least as far back as 2013 as this posting by Bill Slawski shows. The purpose of the patent he describes is to “to provide a factual response to a query showing different aspects related to a ‘single conceptual entity.'”

Google’s Knowledge Cards by Bill Slawski, SEO by the SEA (Mar 18)

Knowledge cards assemble “name, description, image, facts and related searches.”

Getting past barriers

Hola - a great Chrome or Firefox browser extension for accessing  web sites that would otherwise be blocked based on your IP number. A WebSearchGuide reader sent me this tip. Hola makes it possible to access from outside the United States and view anonymously (ie privately) the search results complete with in-depth articles – a feature still not rolled out to the rest of the world. Canadians will also appreciate that it  makes it possible to receive music played from US-based services.

From the FAQ:

Hola’s goal is to make the Internet faster and fully accessible to everyone. Install Hola on your PC, phone or tablet to make your Internet faster, more open and more anonymous. Hola lets you have unlimited access to information that is otherwise not available in your geography while protecting your online privacy. It also lets you stream videos faster than ever before. Hola is a collaborative Internet — it works by sharing the idle resources of its users for the benefit of all.

Worth taking some time to try out.

Snowden Archive Built by Canadian Team

Bravo – “A Canadian team has created a searchable database of all the publicly released classified documents leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in hopes it’ll help citizens better understand the complex files trickling out around the world. ”   Two principal agents were  the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and the Politics of Surveillance Project at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. Through their work, the database holds 386 indexed and searchable publically released documents and some supplementary documents. More will be added as they become available.

Edward Snowden archive aims to ‘piece together the bigger picture’, CBC News (Mar 4)

The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression is hosting the Snowden Archive website.

This was launched on March 4 at Ryerson University with a live Q and A with Edward Snowden and a panel discussion moderated by CBC’s Anna Maria Tremonti.  See Snowden Live: Canada and the Security State for background and video recording.

Canadians might like to browse for Communications Security Establishment Canada under Creating Agency.

Getting to

Sometimes we want to use the US (or global) version of Google – – and not our country version. There used to be a link at the bottom of the page. Not so much anymore – and maybe not at all.

How Google Made It A Little Harder To Reach From Outside The US, Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land (Mar 4)

Sullivan suggests that Google may have been under some pressure to control access. Google just says local is better for searchers.

There is a browser extension – SEO Global for Google Search – available for Chrome and Firefox for easily selecting the country version. It was described in See how your SEO Ranks in Google Search from Anywhere (Sept 24, 2013)

How private are health queries?

Very alarming report on how much data is “vacuumed” up about us from our searches. This article summarizes research by Tim Libert, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, on what happens with health queries.

Looking up Symptoms Online? These Companies are Tracking You, by Brian Merchant, Motherboard (Feb 23)

Here’s what’s happening in a bit greater detail: Let’s say you make a search for “herpes.” Plugging that query into a search engine will return a list of results. Chances are, whatever site you choose to click on next will send information not just to the server of the intended site—say, the Centers for Disease Control, which maintains the top search result from Google—but to companies that own the elements installed on the page

Enough to get us to change to a privacy-minded search engine such as DuckDuckGo.

Digital Repositories – Use Them

Digital Repositories - An important research resource

Digital Repositories – An important research resource

Many scholarly materials and research reports are not easily found by the big Web search engines. Google, even with Google Scholar, may not uncover the research and discussion that is available through a digital repository. There are thousands of these repositories created by universities, research centres, and other organizations to advance the work of their faculty, students, or members, and to offer the research to the public. Our challenge is to locate these.

HathiTrust is one ( It partners with research institutions and librariesin the United States and internationally  to provide smooth access to digital collections of books, serials and publications. Its metadata enables search by subject, author, language, date range, country, and format.

Many digital repositories are associated with the open access (OA) movement for providing scholarly resources that are digital, free of charge, and free of most restrictions in use. There are two major directories to open access repositories for academic research.

Directory of Open Access Repositories in the UK – OpenDOAR – It has over 2,600 listings, searchable by country, subject, repository type, language and a couple of other parameters, as well as a keyword search on content.

The Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR – reports on growth and status of repositories. It can be used to locate repositories in a country or subject which you would then search directly.

Repositories can also be found through directories to users of a particular platform. Two of the prominent platforms are:

The University of Toronto created TSpace to “preserve and disseminate” the “scholary record” of the university – and makes this freely available to all users.  Repositories might also be a digital collection on a particular topic such as the ones listed on this University of Toronto page for  “local digital special collections”.

This is just a small sampling. Whenever academic research may be applicable to your search quest, consider the repositories.  Find more just by using repository as a search term together with your topic.

Reader Mode for Chrome

The designers of the Chrome browser are experimenting with a reader-mode button that will make a web page more readable on both mobile and desktop. Hallelujah – an antidote to cluttered pages with crazy fonts, boxes, and ads.

Google is working on a Chrome reading mode, try it out, Jessica Condiit, EnGadget (Feb 25)

Posting has instructions on how to activate this using the DOM Distiller in Chrome.

There is also the Readability app.