As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday 20 March 2016

Pigeon patrol takes flight to tackle London's air pollution crisis

Flock of racing pigeons equipped with pollution sensor and Twitter account take to the skies in bid to raise awareness of capital’s illegally dirty air

Monday 14 March 2016 15.38 GMT
Last modified on Thursday 17 March 201612.26 GMT

They’ve been driven from Trafalgar square for being a nuisance, derided as rats with wings and maligned as a risk to public health.

But now pigeons could play a small part in helping Londoners overcome one of the capital’s biggest health problems – its illegal levels of air pollution blamed for thousands of deaths a year.

On Monday, a flock of half a dozen racing pigeons were set loose from a rooftop in Brick Lane by pigeon fancier, Brian Woodhouse, with one strapped with a pollution sensor to its back and one with a GPS tracker.

But while the 25g sensor records the nitrogen dioxide produced by the city’s diesel cars, buses, and trucks and tweets it at anyone who asks for a reading, its real purpose – and the use of the pigeons – is to raise awareness.

“It is a scandal. It is a health and environmental scandal for humans – and pigeons. We’re making the invisible visible,” said Pierre Duquesnoy, who won a London Design Festival award for the idea last year.

“Most of the time when we talk about pollution people think about Beijing or other places, but there are some days in the year when pollution was higher and more toxic inLondon than Beijing, that’s the reality.”

He said he was inspired by the use of pigeons in the first and second world wars to deliver information and save lives, but they were also a practical way of taking mobile air quality readings and beating London’s congested roads. They fly relatively low, at 100-150ft, and fast, at speeds up to 80mph.

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