World Bird Festival in China


Barn swallowFrom BirdLife:

The Beijing Bird Watching Society’s (BBWS) World Bird Festival events included an Olympic theme.

Among the mascots that will welcome visitors to the 2008 Games in Beijing is Nini the swallow.

“We organised the event, ‘to protect swallows in Beijing, to welcome the Olympics’, in Daxing Milu Garden,” explained Fion Cheung, BirdLife’s China Programme Officer.

“Visitors could not only watch the Barn Swallow, the character of the festival, and see the end of their southern migration, but also enjoy a variety of activities including a display of artificial nests, and kite-making. The idea was partly to show Beijing citizens how they can take part in conservation activity.”

More than 40 volunteers helped, and more than 1,200 people took part in the event.

Beijing’s Olympic swallow mascot – known as Nini- reflects the popularity of the swallow shape among Beijing’s traditional kite-flyers. Because of the swallow’s graceful aerobatic flight, Nini has also been chosen to represent gymnastics among the Olympic events.

Nini is one of five mascots, or “Fuwa”, along with Beibei the Fish, Jingjing the Panda, Huanhuan the Olympic Flame and Yingying the Tibetan Antelope. Together, the first syllables of their names spell out Bei Jing Huan Ying Ni – Welcome to Beijing.

World Bird Festival in Dominican Republic: here.

In the Americas: here.

Birds in Phoenix, USA: here.

Vietnam: rare bat species discovered


This video says about itself:

“Asia’s Best Kept Secret” TV programme by Channel News Asia. Segment highlights on BATS & CAVES OF MULU (World Heritage Site) in Sarawak, Borneo. DEER CAVE – World’s Largest Cave Passage home of 3 million bats.

From VietNamNet:

Rare bat species discovered in Vietnam

31/10/2006

A species of grey-nosed bat, which is very rare in the world, has been found in Vietnam, reported the Institute for Natural Ecology and Resources.

A group of scientists from the institute cooperated with experts from the UK, Iceland, Germany, Malaysia, and Thailand to make a survey of bats at the national parks of Cat Ba and Cuc Phuong in August and September under the sponsorship of the Darwin Initiative Foundation and the BP Conservation Programme.

Through the survey, scientists discovered a species of large grey-nosed bat in the two above national parks. This is the first time this species of bat has been found in Vietnam.

This species of bat, called Hipposideros grandis, was found for the first time in 1936 in the Akulnti area of Myanmar.

Before being found in Vietnam, the bat had only been found in Thailand and Myanmar.

According to the survey, the big grey-nosed bat species is living in Vietnam in large numbers. They often live with the small-nosed bat (Hipposideros alongensis).

Ngoc Huyen

Bats in Malaysia: here.

Bats in the USA: here.

USA: new Sylvia Plath poem discovered


Sylvia Plath

Associated Press reports:

Online magazine to feature unpublished Plath poem

October 30, 2006

RICHMOND, Virginia. An unpublished sonnet that Sylvia Plath wrote in college while pondering themes in F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s novel “The Great Gatsby” will appear Wednesday in an online literary journal.

Plath, who committed suicide in 1963 at the age of 30, wrote “Ennui” in 1955 in her senior year at Smith College, said Anna Journey, a graduate student in creative writing at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Journey discovered the sonnet while researching Plath archives at Indiana University.

The poem will be featured in Blackbird, published online by VCU’s English department and New Virginia Review.

In her personal copy of Fitzgerald‘s book, Journey said, Plath wrote the phrase “le ennui” — boredom — next to a passage in which Jay Gatsby’s love interest, Daisy Buchanan, complains that “I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.”

“She was observing; her notes were creative, metaphorical reactions,” she said of Plath. “She was riffing off of Fitzgerald’s passages.”

The 14-line Petrarchan sonnet opens:

“Tea leaves thwart those who court catastrophe,

designing futures where nothing will occur.”

The ironic poem pokes fun at people who consult tea leaves or psychics, hoping they will foretell impending disasters, but says that real life is seldom as dramatic or romantic as a fairy tale, said Gregory Donovan, a VCU English professor and Blackbird co-editor.

It was notable that a woman who suffered dramatic depression and marital difficulties had examined the concept of boredom as a college student, Donovan said.

But what is more illuminating was that the poem is another example of how hard Plath worked at her craft at a young age.

“That’s what made it possible to write such amazing poems later in life,” he said.

“Poets don’t just come out of an overwhelming emotional experience. They come out of study and hard work.”

Linda Wagner-Martin, author of “Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life,” thinks there still might be more early, unpublished works by the prolific writer.

When Plath’s widower, British poet Ted Hughes, put together a collection of Plath’s poetry in 1981, “he didn’t pay much attention to her earlier poems,” said Wagner-Martin, professor of English and comparative literature at the University of North Carolina.

“He had the audacity to say, ‘Plath’s career started when she met me.’”

But what makes the discovery of any unpublished Plath poem noteworthy, Wagner-Martin said, is the groundbreaking expression of humor and anger by a female writer, and her works’ lasting impact.

“These were not voices you would hear in the ’60s in women writers,” she said.

Plath’s “The Bell Jar,” which is considered by many as the first American feminist novel, was published in 1963 and was a precursor to decades of feminist writing.

But Wagner-Martin said Plath never saw women adopt contemporary attitudes — she killed herself two weeks after the book was published.

Update: read the poem with introduction here.

See also here.

Sylvia Plath’s play: here.

A journal which launched the career of late poet laureate Ted Hughes and led to him meeting first wife and muse Sylvia Plath was acquired by the British Library.

Thoreau: here. And here.

Ted Hughes’s poem on the night Sylvia Plath died: here.

A close friend of Sylvia Plath responds to Ted Hughes’s “Last letter”: here.

Sylvia Plath’s hidden drawings: here.

The Salem murder that inspired the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne: here.

History of depression by Barbara Ehrenreich: here.

South Africa: black rhinos in new nature reserve


Black rhino

From the WWF:

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – Twelve black rhino have recently been released into a game reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal, forming the third founder population of a rhino conservation project.

As part of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project — a partnership between WWF and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife — the rhinos were released in the Pongola Game Reserve on 13,000ha of land made up of six neighbouring properties. This adds to 80,000ha of land in KwaZulu-Natal that have been set aside especially for black rhino conservation.

The black rhino, which used to be the most numerous rhino species in the world, became critically endangered following a catastrophic poaching wave in the 1970s and 1980s that wiped out 96 per cent of Africa’s wild black rhino population in only 20 years. At the lowest point, there were just 2,500 black rhinos left. Today, thanks to conservation efforts, numbers have increased to about 3,600.

The WWF-supported rhino project aims to increase black rhino numbers by increasing the land available for their conservation, thus reducing pressure on existing reserves and providing new areas in which they can breed rapidly.

Kenya: British soldiers kill white rhino.

From the Google cache:

Rhino, goat strike unlikely bond

Mon May 23, 2005

KROMDRAAI, South Africa (Reuters) – A pair of orphans have formed an unlikely bond on a South African game park although horns and a love for horse pellets are about the only things they have in common.

Clover is an 11-month-old female [white] rhino calf who was orphaned in the wild when her mother was slain by poachers.

Her constant companion these days is Bok-Bok, a young goat who was also lonely and abandoned.

Improbably, the two made a perfect match and have become inseparable companions at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve about 18 miles northwest of Johannesburg.

Black rhinos in Tanzania: here.

Zimbabwe: April 2011. Game scouts reported a severely wounded black rhino wandering around Save Valley Conservancy. Rangers were despatched to locate the rhino and were met with a horrifying and gruesome sight. The rhino had been shot several times by poachers and the horns had been hacked out: here.

White rhino born in Florida zoo: here.

Malaysia: new pitcher plant species discovered


In this video, Planet Earth shows some pitcher plants and their relationships with insects and arachnids.

From the Daily Express in Malaysia:

New pitcher plant species that went unnoticed

28 October, 2006

Kota Kinabalu: World authority on the ecology of pitcher plants Dr Charles Clarke has discovered a new species in Sabah.

It has been named Nepenthes chaniana (Nepenthaceae) after Sabahan Datuk CL Chan, who has become the first Malaysian to gets a nepenthes species named after him.

The species was found on Gunung Alab – the highest peak on the Crocker Range Park [see here], which also means a protected habitat.

The discovery was published in the Sabah Parks Nature Journal.

This gives Sabah another added credential as one the 12 mega-biodiversity hot spots in the world.

After taxonomic efforts with Ch’ien Lee and Stewart McPherson confirmed it was new, the James Cook University research scientist decided to name it after Chan, as a tribute to Chan’s enormous publishing efforts on the biodiversity of Borneo and elsewhere.

“I feel it’s a great honour,” beamed Chan, Managing Director of Natural History Publications (Borneo).

The twist to the big breaking news is that this particular pitcher plant had actually been sighted in Sabah for ages.

But for a long, long time, N. chaniana was mistaken as Nepenthes pilosa Dans.

The latter was found in the remote mountains of Kalimantan in 1899 by Indonesian botanist, Amdjah who was part of the Nieuwenhuis Expedition and was subsequently described by Dutch botanist, B.H. Danser, in 1928.

Amdjah collected two and only two specimens of N. pilosa Dans on January 28, 1899 at 1,600m from Bukit Batu Lesung which is located geographically close to the center of Kalimantan but the population of N. pilosa from which his (Amdjah) material was collected has never been seen since.

As such, Dr Clarke had long doubted whether the so called ‘N. pilosa’ in Sabah is the same as the N. pilosa of Kalimantan.

Clarke made a personal expedition to Bukit Batu Lesung in July 2006 to check it out and found to his astonishment the real N. pilosa of Kalimantan is much more rounder and broader in shape.

Hence, Sabah’s so called ‘N. pilosa’ is decisively a different species.

Clarke, who has written a record of five books on nepenthes, rectified the mistake and that means N. chaniana is the newest species of nepenthes in the world!

Secret Of The Carnivorous Pitcher Plant’s Slurp — Solved At Last: here.

Pitcher Plant Doubles as Toilet for Tree Shrews: here.

The Pitcher Plant Sarracenia purpurea Can Directly Acquire Organic Nitrogen and Short-Circuit the Inorganic Nitrogen Cycle: here.

Asplenium nidus, bird’s nest fern, in the ecology of Malaysia: here.

Ancient Egypt: sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, and religion?


This National Geographic video is about Queen Hatshepsut.

MSNBC reports:

Sex and booze figured in Egyptian rites

Archaeologists find evidence for ancient version of ‘Girls Gone Wild

… back in 1470 B.C., this was the agenda for one of ancient Egypt’s most raucous rituals, the “festival of drunkenness,” which celebrated nothing less than the salvation of humanity.

Archaeologists say they have found evidence amid the ruins of a temple in Luxor that the annual rite featured sex, drugs and the ancient equivalent of rock ‘n’ roll.

Johns Hopkins University’s Betsy Bryan, who has been leading an excavation effort at the Temple of Mut since 2001, laid out her team’s findings on the drinking festival here on Saturday during the annual New Horizons in Science briefing, presented by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

“We are talking about a festival in which people come together in a community to get drunk,” she said.

“Not high, not socially fun, but drunk — knee-walking, absolutely passed-out drunk.”

The temple excavations turned up what appears to have been a “porch of drunkenness,” associated with Hatshepsut, the wife and half-sister of Thutmose II.

After the death of Thutmose II in 1479 B.C., Hatshepsut ruled New Kingdom Egypt for about 20 years as a female pharaoh, and the porch was erected at the height of her reign.

Some of the inscriptions that were uncovered at the temple link the drunkenness festival with “traveling through the marshes,” which Bryan said was an ancient Egyptian euphemism for having sex.

The sexual connection is reinforced by graffiti depicting men and women in positions that might draw some tut-tutting today.

The rules for the ritual even called for a select few to stay sober — serving as “designated drivers” for the drunkards, she said.

On the morning after, musicians walked around, beating their drums to wake up the revelers.

Prayerful party

The point of all this wasn’t simply to have a good time, Bryan said.

Instead, the festival — which was held during the first month of the year, just after the first flooding of the Nile — re-enacted the myth of Sekhmet, a lion-headed war goddess.

According to the myth, the bloodthirsty Sekhmet nearly destroyed all humans, but the sun god Re tricked her into drinking mass quantities of ochre-colored beer, thinking it was blood.

Once Sekhmet passed out, she was transformed into a kinder, gentler goddess named Hathor, and humanity was saved.

See also here. And here.

Tomb of pharaonic beer-maker Khonso Em Heb found in Egypt’s temple city, Luxor – ABC Online: here.

Ancient beer: here.

Want To Try Ancient Sumerian Beer? Here.

Egyptian Middle Kingdom papyruses: here.

Mummy of Hatshepsut: here.

Mummy with golden mask found: here.

Tomb of Hatshepsut’s official, Djehuty: here.

Women pharaohs: here.

A very ancient Egyptian Easter: Sham El-Nasim: here.

Jane Peyton, 48, an author, said women created beer and for thousands of years it was only they who were allowed to operate breweries and drink beer: here.

The dawn of beer remains elusive in archaeological record: here.

A team of experts from Ohio’s Great Lakes Brewing Company, along with archaeologists from the University of Chicago, have replicated 5,500-year-old beer from Mesopotamia using clay vessels, a wooden spoon, and an ancient recipe. But the end result left much to be desired: here.

Lager’s mystery ingredient found: Missing ancestor of yeast used in cold-brewed beer is identified: here.