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There's a murmuration in the air!


old man emu
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There's a murmuration in the air. A what!!??

 

In another thread over on the sister site, someone asked me to explain the aerial dance of flocks of birds, or the synchronised swimming ballet of fish. Let's watch the sunset dance of the Starlings with the sound turned ON.

 

 

Do you hear that noise like a torrent of water rushing over stones? That's a sound called murmuration, which derives from the Medieval Latin murmuratio (“murmuring, grumbling”). In fact "murmuration" is the collective noun for a lot of starlings, like a flock of geese or a parliament of owls. Well, it's OK to have a name to describe the motion of the birds, but how and why do hundreds of birds combine for this aerial dance?

 

The "why" is quite simple to explain. Starlings are the prey of the raptor birds - hawks, falcons and the like. By gathering in these massive groups, swirling around at random in unison, they baffle the predators who can't fix on a target. During the dance individuals have the chance to move from the outer edges of the formation, where the risk of being picked off is highest, towards the centre, where the risk is less. Every bird in the mass gets an equalish chance of being "Chicken Tonight" back at tpreditor's table. So, the birds gather like this as a defence against the raptors.

 

How do they do it?

It seems like an extremely complex pattern to fly as the changes in direction are random. Is there a leader, telepathically issuing orders? How are the triggers for changes in direction transmitted from the lead birds to the tail-end Charlies?

 

Murmurations have been studied closely in many places, but especially over Rome. Examination of high speed film recordings have shown that there is no "Leader". The birds start coming into the city in groups of a few birds, and join with other groups until the massive conglomerate is formed. The birds then begin their dance over the places where they will roost for the night. The dance is maintained until failing light removes the ability of the raptor birds to hunt by sight. Then the startling roost for the night.

 

The filmed records have allowed ornithologists to determine that far from there being communication over the whole murmuration, each bird "takes its mark" from the seven birds closest to it. The shape of the flock, rather than the size, has the largest effect on this number; seven seems optimal for the tightly connected flocks that starlings are known for. If one of those birds changes direction, the others follow. Since each bird is following seven others, the network of connections formed throughout the group is huge, so the message of the need to change direction speeds across the whole massive group very quickly. 

 

We have seen all types of birds change their direction of flight very quickly, say when there is a chance of a collision with a speeding vehicle. Since only groups of seven are involved in the change of direction, it should come as no surprise that the change of direction of the whole group is also fast.

 

The same behaviour is seen in fish, where it is called "shoaling".

 

Our military show a similar behaviour in two dimensions whilst drilling.

 

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13 minutes ago, Yenn said:

It looks a bit odd to see a rifle put down on the ground muzzle down. Not something you would want to do with a real firearm.

Resting arms reversed has a long history and is used for funerals and military ceremonies.    Just one of the useless bits off information I picked up as a RAAF musician back in the day.   You will see military guards of honour around the cenotaph on ANZAC day and other commemorations.   

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_arms#:~:text=Reverse arms and the related,armed forces of Commonwealth nations.&text=When resting on reversed arms,and the eyes are lowered.

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1 hour ago, spacesailor said:

Could it be to make certain that Old time Musket ball is OUT of the barrel ?.

spacesailor

I believe arms reversed traditionally was a position from which you could not easily fire the weapon.  This also applies to "present arms" a position that shows you are not intending to shoot anyone.    Also gun salutes (21 gun salute) is a way of assuring that all the guns or canons have been discharged and could not be easily fired again. 

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Reverse arms had the barrel on your toecap.

Present arms was correctly called "For inspection reverse arms" and you held the rifle diagonally across your body, with the bolt back and your thumb nail in the breech, reflecting light up the barrel. That was of course in the days of the Lee Enfield 303.

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25 minutes ago, Yenn said:

Reverse arms had the barrel on your toecap.

Present arms was correctly called "For inspection reverse arms" and you held the rifle diagonally across your body, with the bolt back and your thumb nail in the breech, reflecting light up the barrel. That was of course in the days of the Lee Enfield 303.

 

My basic training RAAF (1979) was with the 6.?mm SLR and the rifle was held vertically. Probably different now given a different weapon

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