Dutch geese and swans counted


This video says about itself:

Part of a flock of an estimated 30,000 Barnacle Geese flies over our heads in February 2010.
Filmed in the Netherlands on a weekend tour with Birding Holland.

Translated from the Dutch SOVON ornithologists:

In the first two weekends of December, a total of more than 100,000 geese were counted in the four areas. Leader was the Biesbosch with 41,000 geese, followed by 37,000 geese in the Oostvaardersplassen. The most common species in the two areas was the white-fronted goose, followed by the gray lag goose and barnacle goose. Also in the Wieden the white-fronted goose was most common, with more than 17,000 individuals. In Fochteloërveen the tundra bean goose, with over 3,700 birds, was the top scorer.

Surprising were the Oostvaardersplassen white-fronted geese: they left in considerable groups across the IJsselmeer to North-Holland. Another beautiful phenomenon was the gathering of Bewick’s swans in the Biesbosch with on January 19, more than 1,500 birds. It is estimated that this means about ten percent of the total western flyway of this species. In both areas during the count sea eagles were seen, which caused panic among the geese. The two cranes seen in the Fochteloërveen, presumably local breeding birds, were special as well.

Common gulls, black-headed gulls, wood pigeons


After the birds on the balcony earlier today, now and then snow again.

On the roof opposite the balcony, jackdaws.

Sometimes, great tits.

A chaffinch in the tree.

One wood-pigeon on the balcony, the other one in the tree.

On the other side of the house quite some gulls on rooftops. Mainly black-headed gulls, but some common gulls as well.

This is a common gull video from Finland.

Greek police brutality report


From the New Statesman in Britain:

A disastrous and unconvincing case of brutality and mismanagment by the Greek police

Conflicting stories and doctored photographs reveal clumsy attempts by the Greek police to conceal the degree of forced used during and after the arrest of four anarchists.

By Yiannis Baboulias

Published 09 February 2013 13:56

A before and after montage of the photos released by the Greek police of one of the anarchists

A before and after montage of the photos released by the Greek police of one of the anarchists.

As more pictures of the four anarchists arrested last week were published today by the Greek police, a new round of controversy has set alight the Greek and international media. In an attempt to prove that the extensive abuse the suspects suffered took place during their arrest and not later as they and their lawyers claim, the Greek police’s Internal Affairs department was set on the case. Their conclusion was that, according to eyewitnesses and officers, signs of struggle were obvious and that the injuries were sustained after the suspects resisted arrest, a claim Nikos Dendias (Minister of Citizen Protection) backed and repeated himself.

This new set of pictures (contrasted against the photoshopped versions the authorities shared last week, see above and below) was also released. According to the police’s official statement, these pictures were taken around 13:00, only ten minutes after the arrest took place. A phone camera and a small digital camera were used and the pictures were sent to the appropriate agency via email on 13:45 after a failed attempt on 13:30. The extent of the bruises on the suspects’ faces is truly appalling and inevitably a series of questions arises.

Arrested person photos

Arrested person photos

While the police claims that these pictures were taken immediately after the incident (which they place at 12:50) and also that they attempted to first send them to the appropriate agency at 13:30 and 13:45, the EXIF data (pdf) they themselves provided show that some pictures were not taken until 14:31. Furthermore, to add to the confusion, in the background of one of the pictures a clock showing 08:25 can be clearly seen. As if this is not enough, the metadata of the files shows that the files weren’t created on that specific computer until 13:53, which again doesn’t support their claims. But the metadata and EXIF data were provided in such a manner (PDF file) that they could have been altered with a simple word processor. This is not to say it was actually altered, but rather to point out that it’s a mess and can’t be used to prove anything, just complicates the case even further.

Internal Affairs, after examining the reports, concluded that there was no torture nonetheless. It claims eyewitnesses to the struggle and officers that testified they saw the bruising as the arrestees were brought in and even claims a police officer was injured, a detail we only heard about yesterday, a week after the incident, not supported by a coroner’s report. But the testimony of one of the arresting officers offers much ground for doubt, as he makes no mention of the intense hand-to-hand fight the others describe but rather, a swift and clean arrest:

We’d realised during the pursuit that the driver was unarmed. On the contrary the other guy was holding a Kalashnikov. We didn’t know how many there were in the back of the van. When we blocked them and they were left with no escape route, I approached the passengers door, opened it as fast  as I could, grabbed the armed man, threw him on the street and we started wrestling.

Within seconds, I saw the back door sliding open and someone pointing a gun at me. Before he had the time to shoot at me, or his comrade as we were fighting, one of my colleagues hit his hand and disarmed him. That’s where it all ended and they didn’t make a move to escape.

So can anyone really rely on the police to investigate itself? Especially in cases like this one, the Greek police is infamous for its tendency to cover up incidents or stall cases to the point of scandal. For the period 2005-09, 281 cases of police brutality were investigated. From those, only thirteen reached any conclusion. And no one is yet ready to forget how this specific agency (North Greece Internal Affairs charter) handled the case of the severe beating of Augoustinos Dimitriou, a Cypriot student, by 8 police officers in Thessaloniki in 2006, before a video that proved his abuse was published. Then, as now, ministers and police officials had gone on record saying they saw no signs of police brutality but “sheer professionalism” and blamed a flower pot for his injuries.

The situation with Internal Affairs is so bad that a new agency had to be founded. The new division for dealing with police arbitration therefore came into being, unfortunately only on paper, as the agency is still inactive. Even if activated, it will still be under police management, and not an independent body that would secure some impartiality. This comes after a number of convictions in European courts and officials from Amnesty International publicly condemning the police for co-operating with the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn.

Before engaging in this panicked crisis management drill, the Greek Police and the Ministry of Citizen Protection ought to consider if these conflicting storylines and timestamps offer anything in the way of truth. By releasing these pictures without a coroner’s report that confirms their claims, they only offer more ground for doubt. And while trying to simply prove the suspects were not harmed after the arrest, the use of excessive force during the arrest is left wide open as a possibility.

For better or for worse, this has been a disastrous case for the police. Photoshopped pictures, half-baked excuses, lack of medical data and muddled information do not constitute the work of a serious and transparent police force. A government that backs them up nonetheless, while lacking evidence itself, appears as reckless and deaf to the reality of the problem. It is well established by now that torture and excessive force is utilised by the Greek police in the street, in holding cells and in prisons. By choosing not to deal with this, the Greek government renders its citizens hostages to the whims of a police force that is now a threat to social cohesion.

Following a visit to the Grevena prison, the justice minister tells parliament’s standing committee on prisons that inmates bear identical burn marks on their bodies. An investigation into allegations of police beatings is underway: here.

On June 29 a solidarity demonstration with Kostas Sakkas took place in Athens. Sakkas is an anarchist who has been imprisoned for 2,5 years without a trial (when the legal maximum is 18 months) and has been on hunger strike since June 4. The demonstration saw a participation of 6,000+, starting from Monastiraki and crossing through most of central Athens: here.

Pygmy sperm whale beaches in Cayman islands


This video is called Professor Malcolm Clarke talks about his research into Pygmy Sperm Whales.

By Norma Connolly, at cayCompass.com:

Pygmy Sperm Whale washes up at Beach Bay

08 February, 2013

A Pygmy Sperm Whale washed up at Beach Bay Thursday night.

The animal was apparently alive when local residents called to alert the Department of Environment of the stranding, but had died by the time department staff got to the beach.

Tim Austin, department deputy director, and other staff secured the whale at the site overnight.

“It measured 2.75 meters [9 feet] in length and probably weighed around 650 pounds… There were no obvious signs as to why it stranded and died but perhaps the necropsy will tell us more,” said Mr. Austin.

The whale was transported to St. Matthew’s University for a necropsy Friday morning.

The animal had lost skin from lying on the rocks and was bleeding from those wounds.

“It’s not our first stranding of this species, but it is not a common occurrence,” Mr. Austin said.

The Department of Environment has reported the stranding to the Caribbean Stranding Network and US Stranding Network and is collecting samples to assist in regional research and reporting.

“This species lives at sea in deep water feeding on deep water squid and is rarely seen due to its habit of surfacing quietly and slowly and hanging motionless in the water,” said Mr. Austin.

A comment about this, at cayCompass.com:

Posted by Banana Republic on 2/8/2013 2:08:32 PM

Last time this happened I proposed salvaging this rare whale and having the skeletal remains assembled and put on display for public viewing.

The end result was having it towed out to sea and turned into fish bait because the smell offended ‘people’ who were staying along that particular beachfront and demanded immediate relief for their self-centered selves as opposed to saving it for posterity’s sake.

They put their ‘noses’ ahead of this very infrequent opportunity rather than allowing others the chance to see something so scarce.

It’s a given that 99.99 percent of us will never see a live pygmy sperm whale in our lifetimes, along our shores, so let’s take advantage of this situation.

This creature is going along the path of the dinosaurs.

A request to St. Matthew’s University; please don’t throw this one back into the sea or the GT dump.

I’d rather see something rather than nothing.

United States governmental assassinations of citizens


This video from the USA says about itself:

8 February 2013

DemocracyNow.org – President Obama’s nominee to run the CIA, John Brennan, forcefully defended Obama’s counterterrorism policies, including the increase use of armed drones and the targeted killings of American citizens during his confirmation hearing Thursday. “None of the central questions that should have been asked of John Brennan were asked in an effective way,” says Jeremy Scahill, author of the forthcoming book “Dirty Wars.” “In the cases where people like Sen. Angus King or Sen. Ron Wyden would ask a real question, for instance, about whether or not the CIA has the right to kill U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. The questions were very good — Brennan would then offer up a non-answer. Then there would be almost a no follow-up.” Scahill went on to say, “[Brennan has] served for more than four years as the assassination czar, and it basically looked like they’re discussing purchasing a used car on Capitol hill. And it was total kabuki oversight. And that’s a devastating commentary on where things stand.

USA: A Google report released Monday shows a marked increase in government requests for private communications of Internet users: here.

Blackbird eating apple on the balcony


This video is called Blackbird and Robin feeding in winter snow :-) Simbird Birds Birdcam UK.

Snow this morning.

Yesterday, we had cut an apple in half. The halves went to the dish on the balcony.

This morning, a male blackbird fed on them.

Two magpies came as well; but they ate only seeds and fat.

Great tits at the feeder.