Pigeons v Pollution

Here’s more news from London, where things are warming up, and where pollution levels will surely rise in the heady heat of those halcyon summer days. But, how best to monitor this phenomenon? Dogs with briefcases? Rats with duffel bags? No – it’s pigeons with backpacks.


Pigeons wearing backpacks with air quality sensors are now flying around London.

Half a dozen racing pigeons have been released into the capital with GPS devices and a 35g sensor to measure levels of nitrogen dioxide being produced in the city. The pigeons took off from their Brick Lane base on Monday.

I’m unsure as to the benefits of the pigeon-based system rather than the more traditional ground-based sensors, but hey – pigeons with backpacks!

The birds are then, using the power of the internet, tweeting those who ask for a reading.

Coo! It works – I tried it:

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The pigeon people suggest that close opn 10,000 people die each year as a result of air pollution in London. Ironically, they refer to Asthma UK as “their friends”, although pigeons aren’t exactly the best pets to keep if you have pulmonary problems.

Still, just six backpack-wearing birds spread across ‘The Big Smoke’ can’t make you cough too much, right?

One stone

This week, I have been mainly plagued by birds.
And not in a good way.

On Wednesday, I spotted a pigeon sitting on the one of the roofbars of my car, repeatedly defaecating onto the roof. I tried to shoo it away. I tried clapping. It was unimpressed. And so, I approached it and, almost in slow motion, took a swipe at it.
Hand connected with bird, hard.
Bird crashed off the roof and onto the car park floor, hard.
Unfortunately for me, my shooing and clapping had attracted the attention of the ladies in the office next door. All that they saw was me klapping an innocent pigeon.
Given the lack of context, they were rightfully horrified. But at least the pigeon didn’t come back.

And then, on Thursday morning, still half asleep, I opened the curtains at home to find another pigeon on the patio. It stared at me – its eyes burning through to my very soul – as if it knew all about the klapping incident the previous day. This time, I shooed and I clapped, but at least when it didn’t leave, I refrained from attempting to strike the thing (even though there was no-one there to witness it this time).
This pigeon had leg rings on and with a bit of help from google, I managed to contact the local pigeon racing union and they came round to collect it. Turns out that it had been in a race from Springbok in the Northern Cape, back to Cape Town (but not to my back garden). I guess it got lost and lost the race.
The winner got R100,000. Once again, I realised that I am in the wrong career.

Yesterday, on the drive down to Agulhas, I killed two birds (1x Cape sparrow, 1x Cape weaver) by smashing 1300kg of car into their puny little bodies at 120kph. I’d rather have avoided them, but I couldn’t.

Again, as with the pigeon encounters, this is an unusual occurrence. I was once in a taxi that killed a magpie between the airport and Castletown in the Isle of Man in 2002, but that’s it.
Birds and I are not mixing well this week.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’m planning to braai a chicken this evening and I’m now convinced that it’s going to kill me. So, thanks for reading all these years. It’s been fun, but I’m guessing that this is the last you’ll be hearing from me.
And stop that cheering at the back. Now.