Less goldcrests, more firecrests in Britain


Firecrest

From Wildlife Extra, about Britain and Ireland :

Goldcrests numbers crash while Firecrests thrive

16/12/2009 08:51:53 Mixed fortunes for crests

Goldcrests and Firecrests have experienced very mixed fortunes this autumn.

Goldcrests – Very low numbers

Several Bird Observatories have reported a distinct lack of Goldcrests, backed up by anecdotal reports from many birders. The apparent population crash is reflected by the BirdTrack reporting rate which shows that they have featured on less than half the complete lists than normal for this time of year. Last winter was the coldest for 12 years and the very low temperatures both here and in Scandinavia seem the most likely cause for the decline.

Firecrests – Population boom

In contrast, it has been an excellent autumn for Firecrests. During September, October and November there were 23% more reports on BirdGuides than 2008. The difference between the two crests’ fortunes is probably attributable to the more southerly distribution of Firecrest, meaning that a smaller proportion of the population suffered the effects of the exceptionally cold winter 2008/09.

Birdtrack Goldcrest report.

Birdtrack Firecrest report.

Atlantic pomfrets on Dutch beaches


Atlantic pomfret

From Dutch daily De Telegraaf:

Atlantic pomfrets wash up on West Frisian Islands

AMELAND – In recent weeks, on the beaches of Ameland and Terschelling dozens of Atlantic pomfrets have washed ashore. Dirk Visser of Rijkswaterstaat Ameland found in two weeks time, every day about ten specimens of this tropical fish. “A total of one hundred washed up on Ameland and about eighty on Terschelling,” Visser said.

The Atlantic pomfret, officially “Brama brama”, is especially common in the Atlantic Ocean. The animal can be one meter long. The fish owes his nickname in Dutch, zilvervis, to the “beautiful silver color,” according to Visser. The specimens which he finds are about 40 centimeter long.

According to him, every now and then, the fish reach the North Sea. “As they get cold, they come straight into the surf. Then they get pecked to death by seagulls. “They just leave the skin. That’s for the crows which come later.”

The Atlantic pomfrets are often still in good health as they arrive on the islands. “Until they get pecked to death.”

Visser does not expect many more Atlantic pomfrets will beach on the islands. “It is really colder now. So I do not think many more will come.”

Jeppesen Dataplan torture flights lawsuit


This video from the USA is called ACLU Challenges Jeppesen Dataplan and CIA Rendition.

From the San Francisco Chronicle in the USA:

Torture suit too hot to be heard, U.S. says

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PST SAN FRANCISCO — A lawsuit accusing a Bay Area flight-planning company of aiding an alleged CIA program of kidnapping and torturing terror suspects threatens national security and is too sensitive to discuss fully in a public courtroom, an Obama administration attorney argued Tuesday.

“The case cannot proceed without getting into state secrets,” Justice Department lawyer Douglas Letter told an 11-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Several judges noted that most of the essential facts of the case have been widely aired – the existence of the “extraordinary rendition” program under President George W. Bush, the five plaintiffs’ accounts of their abduction and torture, and the alleged participation by Jeppesen Dataplan of San Jose – and asked why the case is too sensitive for the courts to hear.

Letter said he could reply only in a closed session. For the record, he said, “the U.S. government will not confirm or deny any relationship with Jeppesen.”

The court met privately with Letter after the one-hour public hearing, a practice that the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, described as common in cases involving government claims of secrecy.

During the public session, Wizner accused the administration of trying to cover up wrongdoing.

The CIA has engaged in kidnapping and torture and declared its crimes state secrets,” he said. Dismissing the suit without deciding whether the plaintiffs’ rights were violated, he said, would be “dangerous to democracy.”

Omar Deghayes confirms allegations of British collusion in secret detention and rendition: here.

Obama Nobel prize cartoons


Obama Nobel prize, cartoon by Mikhaela

This cartoon is from the blog of Mikhaela in the USA:

I wasn’t planning to do two “Obama is a Mean Old Warmonger” cartoons in a row but come on… accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo with a speech about how war IS peace? Dude was asking for it…

Mikhaela’s other recent cartoon about this is here.

Obama and escalation in Afghanistan, cartoon by Mikhaela

The first in a two-part series examining the significance of US President Obama’s Nobel Prize speech and his repudiation of Nuremberg principles, in the context of the history and development of international law: here. Part 2 is here.

Alan Grayson: Afghan War ‘Futile’: here.

Waterbirds in winter


Small canals are already frozen. However, today there is no ice on the river Rhine yet.

If the frost continues, the river will freeze; with only a few spots of water kept open by swimming birds.

Today, a great cormorant, a mute swan, and mallards. A herring gull sitting on a bridge.

This video says about itself:

A black swan and a mute swan both shake their wings out one after the other, conviniently illustrating the difference between the species. Filmed in Cambridge.