Dutch whales beached because of NATO war games?


This video is called Navy Sonar & Whales.

First, a humpback whale beached on Noorderhaaks desert island in the Netherlands.

A few days later, a dead sperm whale stranded on the same island.

There has been a lot of attention to attempts to save the humpback’s life, which ultimately did not succeed.

Another issue: why did these two whales beach so soon after each other, on the same island?

On his blog, Arjan Berkhuysen, director of the Wadden sea conservation organisation, discusses this question.

He writes that shortly before the beachings, there were NATO war games in the Wadden sea region. Military planes broke the sound barrier. The sound of these war games may have disoriented the whales. Like navy sonar causes whale deaths.

There is still no scientific consensus on why humpback Johanna and the sperm whale beached on Noorderhaaks.

Dutch humpback map: here.

Laura van Dolron, Dutch comedian


Laura van Dolron is a Dutch comedian. She calls herself a stand-up philosopher. Her last show before her present New Year’s Eve show was about French philosopher and author Jean-Paul Sartre.

This video is about Laura van Dolron’s New Year’s Eve show.

On 19 December 2012, she did a tryout show for her New Year’s Eve show.

It was in a small new theatre: Ins Blau in Leiden.

Laura van Dolron was born in 1976. Then, and earlier, every 31 December, there was a famous New Year’s Eve show by comedian Wim Kan. In the fifties, millions of Dutch people listened to it on the radio. When, in the 1970s, the show went on TV, millions watched. The theme of the show was mainly Dutch and international politics.

Audiences often expect comedians or clowns to be funny all the time, also in their private lives. Often then, there is a discrepancy between what people expect of these entertainers, and how these entertainers really are as human beings. Wim Kan in his everyday life and in his diaries was often somber.

Laura van Dolron said that, for Wim Kan, there was an extremely big discrepancy between what others expected of him, and how he really was. That is not just Wim Kan’s problem; he was an extreme example. Laura said that she herself should be careful not to become alienated from herself too much by conforming to audiences’ expectations.

Now, at the end of 2012, Laura van Dolron asks herself what has changed since 1976. In this show, she has things in common with Wim Kan. She wears white tie clothes similar to him. However, contrary to Wim Kan, she does not want to hide things which she feels bad about from her audience behind jokes.

So, a big part of Laura’s show was about relationships between men and women going wrong. Another difference with Wim Kan, Laura said. As Wim Kan loved his wife for half a century. During World War II, Kan was a prisoner in a Japanese camp. He desperately missed his wife, and wanted her back.

Humpback whale watching on Dutch coast


This video from Mexico is called Humpback Whale Shows AMAZING Appreciation After Being Freed From Nets.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

“Humpback to the left of the flag!”

Thursday, December 20, 2012, 16:56

By reporter Pauline Broekema

He is from Sousse, Tunisia. Grew up near the sea and is used to marine animals. But for Hesni Sougnir, owner of the beachbar the Weather Vane on the boulevard in Egmond aan Zee this is a unique day. He interrupts his work regularly. In his blue apron he watches intensively behind the surf. In front of his bar the two whales swim. He can not believe his luck.

Regularly, whale watchers come. The humpback whale spotters are of the helpful kind. “To the left of the flag!” it sounds. “Keep the binoculars focused on the surf, then you will see it there!”

Excellent condition

A passerby without binoculars can borrow one. Though there is little to see of the humpback, still the sudden blow fountain is an unexpected sensation. A fin that suddenly pops up out of the sea creates turbulence on the coast. Sougnir has many nature lovers among its customers. “They have been waiting for this for thirty years,” he says.

It’s probably a mother with a baby. This morning, the men of the Egmond lifeboat were close to them in an open boat. “The animals were a in fine condition, as far as I could see” says Henk Biesboer of the lifeboat.

Good Namibian leopard news


This video is about Namibian wildlife.

From the Namibia Economist (Windhoek):

Namibia: Return of Large Cats to Gondwana

By Waldo, 20 December 2012

Many years of conservation and restoration has turned former commercial farms in the arid South into a wildlife paradise. Great was the excitement when the Gondwana Canyon Park game rangers recently scanned the images taken from a camera trap at one of the waterholes, and found a picture of a female leopard and her two large cubs.

“Leopards actually don’t need to drink”, park warden Sue Cooper explains. “They can get all their water from their prey.” Park warden Trygve Cooper adds, “Where waterholes are available leopards will use them opportunistically. Temperatures are very hot around here at present, so I guess the leopards were looking for a chance to drink, just like all the other animals in the park.”

The waterholes in Gondwana Canyon Park are currently frequented by many animals, among them mountain zebra in particular. Every now and then the solar-powered pumps at the four waterholes on the plains can barely keep up with the demand. A few months ago a fifth waterhole was re-activated. Within just ten minutes the Canyon Park rangers counted 98 blue wildebeest, 45 red hartebeest, some 30 oryx, 60 springbok and 30 ostriches at one of the waterholes.

After years of reintroducing game which occurred in this area in previous centuries, Gondwana Canyon Park – which covers 1,260 km² by now – is described as the ‘Little Etosha of the South’. Animals can be spotted at a waterhole next to the main road or on the self-drive routes through the private nature reserve. Gondwana’s management said conflicts with neighbouring farmers are minimised by routine patrols to check the fence and by frequent meetings.

How young songbirds learn singing


A baby house finch and its father. Just like humans, baby birds learn to vocalize by listening to adults. Credit: iStockphoto.com

From Emory University in the USA:

Doing the math for how songbirds learn to sing

December 20, 2012

(Phys.org)—Scientists studying how songbirds stay on key have developed a statistical explanation for why some things are harder for the brain to learn than others.

“We’ve built the first mathematical model that uses a bird’s previous sensorimotor experience to predict its ability to learn,” says Emory biologist Samuel Sober. “We hope it will help us understand the math of learning in other species, including humans.” Sober conducted the research with physiologist Michael Brainard of the University of California, San Francisco. Their results, showing that adult birds correct small errors in their songs more rapidly and robustly than large errors, were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Sober’s lab uses Bengalese finches as a model for researching the mechanisms of how the brain learns to correct vocal mistakes. Just like humans, baby birds learn to vocalize by listening to adults. Days after hatching, Bengalese finches start imitating the sounds of adults. “At first, their song is extremely variable and disorganized,” Sober says. “It’s baby talk, basically.”

The young finches keep practicing, listening to their own sounds and fixing any mistakes that occur, until eventually they can sing like their elders. Young birds, and young humans, make a lot of big mistakes as they learn to vocalize. As birds and humans get older, the variability of mistakes shrinks. One theory contends that adult brains tend to screen out big mistakes and pay more attention to smaller ones. “To correct any mistake, the brain has to rely on the senses,” Sober explains. “The problem is, the senses are unreliable. If there is noise in the environment, for example, the brain may think it misheard and ignore the sensory experience.” The link between variability and learning may explain why youngsters tend to learn faster and why adults are more resistant to change.

A detailed 3D image of a bird’s voice box has been created by scientists investigating how the animals sing: here.

How Can Birds Sing Without Pausing To Breathe? Here.

December 2013: New findings from the University of Washington show that consistent individual differences exist not only for how aggressive individual song sparrows are but also for how much they use their signals to communicate their aggressive intentions: here.

Irish women’s rights after death of Savita Halappanavar


This video is called Protest at death of Savita, denied an abortion in Irish hospital.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Abortion ban reforms fail to impress pro-choice activists

Wednesday 19 December 2012

by Our Foreign Desk

Irish pro-choice campaigners gave a cautious welcome to moves toward reform of the abortion ban today – but warned that government proposals did not go far enough.

Health Minister James Reilly said on Tuesday that the government would have a Bill before the Dail by Easter which would allow women to receive abortions if a continued pregnancy threatened their lives, including from their own threats to commit suicide if denied one.

The Enda Kenny administration promised action on abortion following the October death of Savita Halappanavar, who died from blood poisoning and organ failure after doctors refused to terminate her pregnancy because her 17-week-old foetus had a heartbeat.

Mr Kenny said the government was determined to push through its legislation and TDs who vote against would risk expulsion from his right-wing Fine Gael party.

About a dozen have indicated that they would vote against any move to ease access to abortion under any circumstances, while the country’s powerful Catholic church has urged the government to exclude the threat of suicide as grounds for granting abortion – which would effectively leave the law as it stands.

But critics said the proposed Bill – which would mark the first time Irish TDs hold a vote on abortion – was merely a long-overdue legislative recognition of a 1992 Supreme Court ruling on the case of a 14-year-old girl who was threatening to kill herself if forced to bear the child of a man who had raped her.

Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) chairwoman Lynda Walker said the government’s proposal was just “one small step on the road to providing women with the reproductive services they require” and was “the very least that can be offered to women in any civilised society.”

The CPI called for the repeal of the 1861 Offence Against the Persons Act which bans abortion and an investigation into the number of deaths and complications that have occurred in the republic in circumstances related to abortion law.

The parents of Savita Halappanavar, who died after being refused an abortion in Ireland, want the amended abortion law to be named after their daughter: here.

Update June 2013: here.

The fate of Savita Halappanavar, who died of septicaemia shortly after she was refused an abortion, has drawn attention to Ireland’s reactionary abortion laws: here.