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.

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.

GenealogyInTime Magazine

People working on their family history will want to explore GenealogyInTime Magazine. This is a substantial online resource for articles, news, and resources, and ti offers  two custom search engines: the Genealogy Search Engine, and the Family Tree Search Engine. There is also a free weekly e-newsletter. In fact the entire site is free with just a few Google ads to sustain it.

GenealogyInTime Magazine site

GenealogyInTime Magazine site

The GIT team knows web search – the articles on how to use Google are very good and include excellent guidance on using advanced search features (although section would benefit from a few updated screenshots). The writers examine the presence and consequences of geographic bias of search engines and the personalization of results, and recommend strategies and tools for circumventing both;  very few guides recognize those problems.

The site has articles for getting started in genealogy, guides to finding records, and tips on “brickwall” problems – my favourite was “How to read old handwriting”.

Based in Ottawa, Canada, GIT describes itself as “one of the largest independent and free genealogy website in the world (according to Alexa the internet traffic source). People like our website because we are independent and we provide valuable, honest information. We are also much more than just an online magazine. We are a genealogy platform with tools and resources to help people find their ancestors.”

Archiving the Web – a very big job

Tremendous article about archiving efforts to preserve Web content in the New Yorker by Jill Lepore – The Cobweb: Can the Internet be archived? .

First point – “The average life of a Web page is about a hundred days. ” Pages disappear for many reasons: sites die with their hosts – MySpace as an example; organization purposely deletes the pages – as British Conservative Party did with 10 years of speeches; website is reconfigured and content isn’t moved or is impossible to find. This is a plague of link rot for footnotes.

Internet Archive is the largest program to save Web content – archive.org. It has captured 425 billion pages. There are associated services to help it – Archive It, and “Save Page Now” at archive.org. Also a new Perma.cc to be used to create permalinks for articles referenced in footnotes.

There are other initiatives – Europeana as a digital library in Europe, and Digital Public Library of America.

Biggest issue is copyright – and the right to save.

Internet Archive blogged about this article also – The New Yorker: The Cobweb–Can the Internet be archived?. We hope they archived it.

Article does not mention the work Internet Archive has done to save other media and digital books.

Wikipedia vs Encyclopedia Britannica

Which of these do you prefer – Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica?  I use both, though it depends on how much Britannica will reveal.  This article asks — Which Has More Bias? Wikipedia or the Encyclopædia Britannica — by Feng Zhu, Working Knowledge at the Harvard Business School. (Jan 19)

It’s not easily untangled. They both show bias, although articles in Wikipedia, if edited by enough people, become more balanced or unbiased. Conclusion seems to be – be aware of bias, and use both.

Archiving the web

University of Toronto Libraries has been archiving web content in four areas through its relations with the Internet Archive and its service for capturing pages, Archive-It.

These are available at Archiving-It.

  • Canadian Government Information
  • Canadian Labour Unions
  • Canadian Political Parties and Political Interest Groups
  • University of Toronto Web Archives

The collections are searchable and one can refine by format.

To see the list of sites included, enter the collection and click on the collection name. There are excellent filters for narrowing the search: subject, creator, year, language.

University of Toronto - Archive - Canadian Government Information

University of Toronto – Archive – Canadian Government Information

World War One in the London Illustrated News

Archive material from the London Illustrated News and the “Great Eight illustrated magazines”  1914 to 1919 will be available at the Illustrated First World War site.

Browse the wartime pages of the Illustrated London News in a new online archive, First World War Centenary (Aug 13)

The project means that for the first time in 100 years, the public will be able to browse the wartime pages of The Illustrated London News and its sister titles; discover paintings, illustrations and sketches by war artists; and read articles, many of which have not been seen since they were first published.

Website has

  • timeline to the war
  • ILN articles – that seem to be timed to the current week 100 years ago
  • War artists who were illustrators.
  • A blog

WW1 Prisoners of War database

Here’s another resource of war records for the  researcher into World War One  – the names and information about people held in the prisoner-of-war camps.

New, Free Website Has Millions of World War I Prisoner of War Records, Genealogy Insider (Aug )

Records were collected by and are made available through the International Committee of the Red Cross — http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/

Records include the ledger entries for prisoners, some postcards or pictures of camps, and a few personal accounts.

Must have been a mammoth job to digitize it all – see the video at http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/MakingOf

Riches in the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is best known for the Wayback Machine to archived web pages but it has much more – books, images, music, and specialized collections.

5 Types Of Free Content Riches You Can Dig Up At The Internet Archive by Jessica Coccimiglio, Make Use Of (Jul 16)

Canadians will be interested in the long list of texts and collections from Canadian schools and associations — Canadian Libraries