Rare Spanish sparrow in the Netherlands


This is a video about a Spanish sparrow, on 26 October 2014 on the Maasvlakte in the Netherlands.

This south European species is rare in central and northern Europe.

André Strootman made the video.

Rare fungus discovery in Dutch Flevoland


Trichoglossum walteri

Translated from the Dutch Mycological Society:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Recently, on black clayey soil, some black fungi were found in the Spijkbos woodland among fallen leaves. The finder sent them to a specialist to see if it were some earth tongues. They turned out to be the rare Trichoglossum walteri. This is only the second time that this earth tongue species has been found in the Netherlands.

British Conservatives, elections and racism


This video from England says about itself:

Smethwick council buying vacant homes to prevent more coloured people moving in on Marshall Street

Video 1 of 3

In 1964 Peter Griffiths, Conservative candidate in Smethwick constituency won his seat using the slogan “If you want a nigger for a neighbour VOTE LABOUR”.

The general election was won by Labour, overturning 13 years of Conservative government. In contrast, largely because of the race issue, a Labour majority of 3,544 was turned into a Tory majority of 1,774, defeating the senior Labour MP Patrick Gordon in Smethwick.

The “nigger for a neighbour” slogan was attributed to the Griffiths campaign in a BBC interview by Labour leader Harold Wilson. Griffiths denied using those words, but said that they accurately reflected the frustrations of locals.

Immediately after the election Wilson (as prime minister) attacked Griffiths in the House of Commons, calling him the “parliamentary leper”.

Additionally the Tories had also taken control of the local council, instituting a policy on Marshall Street of buying houses which came up for sale and putting them back on the market for sale to whites only. …

Soon after, America’s Malcolm X visited Marshall Street and was interviewed, saying:

“I have come here because I am disturbed by reports that coloured people in Smethwick are being badly treated. I have heard they are being treated as the Jews under Hitler. I would not wait for the fascist element in Smethwick to erect gas ovens.”

Malcolm X was shot dead in Harlem days after his return from this trip.

These two videos are the sequels.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Every election the Tories play the race card

Wednesday 29th October 2014

PETER FROST discovers when it comes to Tory election tactics things haven’t changed much in 50 years

“IF you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.”

That was the horrific obscene message pasted up all over the streets of Smethwick in October 1964.

It won Tory Peter Griffiths the seat, defeating a huge Labour majority.

Griffiths stood behind the racist message. “I would not condemn any man who said that,” he told the media during his campaign. “I regard it as a manifestation of popular feeling.”

Nationally in the election, Labour took power in Westminster for the first time in 13 years with a swing from the Tories of 3.5 per cent. But in Smethwick, shadow home secretary Patrick Gordon Walker lost on a 7.2 per cent swing to the Tories.

As the defeated Walker left Smethwick town hall after the count gloating Tories catcalled after him: “Where are your niggers now, Walker?” and “Take your niggers away!”

This racist campaign shocked right-thinking Britons. New Labour prime minister Harold Wilson called on then Tory leader Sir Alec Douglas-Home to disown Griffiths. He called the racist Smethwick MP his “parliamentary leper.”

Twenty-five Tories walked out of the chamber in protest and proposed a motion deploring Wilson’s insulting language. Labour members proposed a motion criticising the prime minister for insulting lepers.

Griffiths didn’t last long. He lost his seat in 1966 and wrote a book called A Question of Colour? In it he argued that “apartheid, if it could be separated from racialism, could well be an alternative to integration.”

Black Country-born comedian Lenny Henry chose to make fun of the deeply ingrained racism of some Midlands people. When the National Front wanted to give black people £1,000 to go home, Henry said: “Fine, that would more than cover my bus fare back to Dudley.”

Smethwick was originally a Staffordshire country town but with the coming of the industrial revolution it grew and grew, eventually meeting the borders of Birmingham. Today it is part of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough.

In the 18th century the Birmingham Canal Navigations were built through Smethwick, carrying coal and goods between the nearby Black Country and Birmingham. The canals brought industry, wealth and work to the town.

Matthew Boulton and James Watt opened their Soho Foundry in the north of Smethwick.

Soon Smethwick was alive with dirty but profitable manufacturing industries.

The town built railway carriages and wagons; made screws and other fastenings at Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN); built giant mill steam engines at Tangye’s works.

They made everything from steel pen nibs and bicycle saddles to London’s famous Crystal Palace.

With industry came the arts. The Ruskin Pottery Studio, named in honour of the artist and socialist John Ruskin, was in the town, and many English churches have fine stained-glass windows made in Smethwick.

After the second world war, Smethwick attracted a large number of immigrants from Commonwealth countries, the largest group being Sikhs from the Punjab in India.

Race riots hit the town in 1962 and, like many other British cities, the problems actually caused by factory closures and a growing waiting list for council housing were often blamed on immigrants.

In 1961 the Sikh community converted the Congregational Church on the High Street in Smethwick to what is now the largest Gurdwara in Europe.

In 1968 Enoch Powell, the Tory MP for Wolverhampton South West, made his famous “Rivers of Blood” speech to the general meeting of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre in Birmingham, just down the road from Smethwick.

The speech violently attacked Commonwealth immigration and anti-discrimination legislation.

“As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.”

Powell’s racist rant caused a political storm, making him one of the most talked-about politicians in the country. It lost Powell his place in the shadow cabinet but undoubtedly contributed to the Conservatives’ surprise victory in the 1970 general election.

Fifty years on, what are the lessons we can learn from what happened in Smethwick in 1964?

Nigel Farage, for all his denials, is putting forward exactly the same political message that immigrants are taking jobs and housing from native-born Britons.

Sadly David Cameron and his backwoodsmen — and women too — are riffling through the political playing cards looking for the race card that has served them so well in the past.

Nick Clegg and his shrinking band and even Ed Miliband, whose dad certainly taught him better, are making suspicious noises too.

Make no mistake about it. Farage and his right-wing obsessives will make sure racism plays a major part in next year’s general election.

It up to those of us who despise these evil ideas to make sure it doesn’t play the decisive role it did in Smethwick half a century ago.

Peter Frost blogs at www.frostysramblings.wordpress.com.

MICHAEL Fallon, Tory defence secretary, did an Enoch Powell (he made his anti-immigrant ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968) when he claimed on Sunday that British towns are being ‘swamped’ by immigrants and their residents are ‘under siege’. After the ensuing outcry he was urged to admit that his language should be slightly moderated by PM Cameron, and responded that he had been ‘careless’ in his use of words: here.

27 new animal species discovered in Tanzania


This video says about itself:

The 2008 edition of the Exo Terra expedition headed for the Eastern Arc Mountains and the Southern Highlands of the Republic of Tanzania in East Africa. The main goal of this expedition was to map the amphibian and reptile biodiversity of these regions and to get a better understanding of the species inhabiting these complex ecosystems.

From Wildlife Extra:

27 new species found in Tanzanian forests

A recent study revealed that 27 new vertebrate species have been found in the forests of Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountains. Of these, 23 were amphibians and reptiles. Of the total species that were identified in the region, the study found that there are 211 vertebrate species that are found only in the Eastern Arc Mountains, and 203 of them are found in Tanzania alone. These findings, says the study, re-enforce the importance of the Eastern Arc Mountains as one of the top locations on Earth for biological diversity and uniqueness.

“The Eastern Arc Mountains were already known for the unusually high density of endemic species,” explains Neil Burgess, a leading expert on Africa’s biodiversity and vice-chair of the TFCG, “however we lacked comprehensive data from at least six of the 13 mountain blocks.”

The study was conducted by an international team, and included researchers from the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) and MUSE-Science Museum in Italy, and was financed by Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

The Eastern Arc Mountains are an isolated chain of geologically ancient mountains that extend from southern Kenya to south-central Tanzania. According to scientists, the forest has existed on the mountains for more than 30 million years and was once connected to forests in the Congo Basin and West Africa.

Good Galapagos tortoise news


This video says about itself:

Island-hopping in Galápagos: meet the world’s rarest tortoise and the birds of Española Island

10 October 2011

In the second part of his Galápagos island-hopping adventure, Andy Duckworth talks to naturalist guide Robert Naranjo, seeks out sea lions, a friendly hawk, dancing albatrosses and more prancing blue-footed boobies. He also meets Lonesome George, the last surviving Pinta Island tortoise and the rarest creature on the planet

From the BBC:

28 October 2014 Last updated at 19:16 GMT

Giant tortoise makes ‘miraculous’ stable recovery

By Jonathan Webb, Science reporter, BBC News

Where once there were 15, now more than 1,000 giant tortoises lumber around Espanola, one of the Galapagos Islands.

After 40 years’ work reintroducing captive animals, a detailed study of the island’s ecosystem has confirmed it has a stable, breeding population.

Numbers had dwindled drastically by the 1960s, but now the danger of extinction on Espanola appears to have passed.

Galapagos tortoises, of which there are 11 remaining subspecies, weigh up to 250kg and live longer than 100 years.

The study, based on decades of observations of the variety found on Espanola, was published in the journal Plos One.

Slow release

It offers some good news that contrasts with the tale of Lonesome George, the very last of the related subspecies found on Pinta, on the other side of the archipelago. George’s death, at the age of about 100, made international news in 2012.

Lead author Prof James Gibbs told BBC News the finding on Espanola was “one of those rare examples of a true conservation success story, where we’ve rescued something from the brink of extinction and now it’s literally taking care of itself”.

Prof Gibbs, from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York (SUNY-ESF), said he felt “honoured” to be reporting the obvious success of the reintroduction programme, which the Galapagos Islands National Park Service commenced in 1973.

His team has found that more than half the tortoises released since that time are still alive, and they are breeding well enough for the population to plod onward, unaided.

“It looks like we can step back out of the picture,” Prof Gibbs said.

It is quite a contrast to the 1960s, when just 12 females and 3 males roamed the island.

“They were so rare at that point, they couldn’t find one another. Many of the females had lichens growing on their backs, and fungi, that indicated they hadn’t been mated in a very long time.”

Those animals were taken to an enclosure [on] another island, to concentrate on breeding. Over the subsequent decades, more than 1500 of their captive-raised offspring have been released on Espanola.

Competing for cacti

It wasn’t as simple as putting the tortoises back, however. Their problems began when feral goats were introduced in the 1800s and devoured much of the island’s vegetation, severely disrupting the ecosystem.

“They can literally turn a rich ecosystem into a dustbowl,” Prof Gibbs said.

The goats even learned to feast on very tall cactus plants, whose dropped pads are a key food source for the tortoises in the dry season.

“They would feast on the roots… and chew away at the bark, and eventually that would topple these cacti. And then they had an incredible buffet of maybe 500-1000 years of cactus growth, demolished in a week or two.”

Conservationists set about culling the goats in the 1970s and finally eradicated them in the 1990s.

Their legacy, Prof Gibbs discovered, remains.

Analysis of the island’s plant life and its soil show that it has seen a major shift to bigger, woodier vegetation in the 100 years since the goats started stripping the undergrowth.

These shrubs and trees are a problem both for the tortoises and for their summer food of choice, the cacti.

The trees even get in the way of an endangered albatross that breeds on the island, making it difficult for the big, ungainly birds to take flight.

“Population restoration is one thing but ecological restoration is going to take a lot longer,” Prof Gibbs said.

Dr Rebecca Scott, an ecologist who studies turtles at GEOMAR in Kiel, Germany, said the results showed how important it is to monitor reintroduction carefully.

“Reintroducing these large, keystone species, in combination with reducing the spread of invasive species, can really help return ecosystems to native state.

“This work highlights the merit of well-managed reintroduction programmes, but also of really monitoring how these animals do.”

Dr Gerardo Garcia, a herpetologist at Chester Zoo, agreed that the situation was complex and the programme had succeeded because of careful, long-term management.

“It’s a long process but it’s quite normal for it to take decades,” he told BBC News.

“Nothing gets released and stable in less than 20 or 30 years.”

See also here.