Nuthatch and hawfinches at the cemetery

Today, to the cemetery.

In a big tree near the entry, a male chaffinch.

A bit later in the same tree, a female chaffinch and a greenfinch.

Nuthatch, 19 January 2013

Then, a nuthatch on a thick branch near a patch of snow.

A blue tit on another branch.

Hawfinch, 19 January 2013

Later, not far away, two hawfinches, and a great tit.

Jay, magpie, and blackbird sounds.


Roman art discoveries in Colosseum

This video is about the Colosseum in Rome.

From Huffington Post:

Colosseum Cleaning Yields Ancient Art Discoveries Including Old Frescos, Graffiti


01/18/13 12:02 PM ET EST

ROME — A long-delayed restoration of the Colosseum’s only intact internal passageway has yielded ancient traces of red, black, green and blue frescoes – as well as graffiti and drawings of phallic symbols – indicating that the arena where gladiators fought was far more colorful than previously thought.

Officials unveiled the discoveries Friday and said the passageway – between the second and third levels of the 1st Century Colosseum – would open to the public starting this summer, after the (EURO)80,000 ($100,000) restoration is completed.

The frescoes were hidden under decades of calcified rock and grime, and were revealed during a cleaning and restoration project over the last two months. The traces confirmed that while the Colosseum today is a fairly monochrome gray travertine rock, red brick and moss-covered marble, in its day its interior halls were a rich and expensive Technicolor.

“We’re used to thinking that during excavations, archaeological surprises are a risk for builders and for the city’s development,” Rome archaeological heritage superintendent Mariarosaria Barbera said. “But here is a beautiful archaeological surprise … a monument that has been studied and known and appreciated across the world, yet still provides surprises.”

While intriguing, none of the fragments restored so far rival the gorgeous frescoes found in other nearby ruins of the Roman Forum, such as the 6th century biblical scenes in the Santa Maria Antiqua church. But officials stressed that they are nevertheless remarkable because they give a very different impression of what the Colosseum must have looked like in its heyday.

Colosseum director Rosella Rea said less than 1 percent of the painted surfaces of the Colosseum remain. And while the exposed seating area was covered in white marble, “the insides, the galleries, all the corridors and transverse hallways were completely colored.”

“We need to imagine a building with extreme contrasts of color,” she said. “This was a surprise.”

Many of the splashes of color are covered with layers of more recent graffiti. “Ricciu” signed his name there with the date 1943. “Maria” and “Filippo” did as well. Someone else left some drawings in 1620.

But there are also older types of graffiti as well that officials say may date from the 3rd century, after the Colosseum was restored following a fire in A.D. 217.

A red palm frond and a drawing of a crown are believed to have been drawn by a gladiator fan as he or she passed through the passageway, officials said. Another restored section has images of a phallus, which officials said was commonly drawn for good luck.

Asked how such details could have gone undetected for nearly 2,000 years, officials said flatly: money. There simply wasn’t funding available to carry out the restoration of the passageway, which Rea said had been a goal for her office for 20 years.

Aside from the hallway cleaning, the Colosseum is set to undergo (EURO)25 million ($33.31 million) head-to-toe restoration funded by Italian businessman Diego Della Valle, founder of the Tod’s shoe empire. The effort is primarily designed to shore up the monument, one of the world’s most famous, which is crumbling under years of neglect.

Pieces of masonry and rock have fallen from the rafters, and the travertine is covered in gray dirt from car exhaust and pollution. The nearby subway rattles its foundations, such that the Colosseum has begun sinking in the same way the Leaning Tower of Pisa does, with a 40-centimeter (nearly 16-inch) inclination on its south side.

“It’s not serious, but it needs to be restored,” Rea said, noting the last major restoration was carried out in the 1970s. “The later you start, the worse it is.”

Work has been delayed because of court challenges to the contract bidding process, with the latest hearing this week put off until the end of the month.

Otter in Dutch nature reserve

This is an otter video.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Otter seen in Oostvaardersplassen

Updated: Saturday, 19 January 2013, 17:03

In the Oostvaardersplassen an otter has been seen for the first time. The animal was observed this week with a camera. According to the Forestry Department its presence is a tribute to the water quality in the Flevoland nature reserve.

Probably the animal came from the Weerribben, where ten years ago otters were set free. According to the Forestry Department, the arrival of the otter in Flevoland is due to the Ecological Network, a network of connections between natural areas.

In the Netherlands, about sixty otters live, especially in North-Western Overijssel and South-East Friesland.

See also here.

September 2013. An elusive otter has been caught on camera at Steart in Somerset, where the largest new wetland nature reserve in the UK is being developed by the Environment Agency and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust: here.

National garden bird count

This weekend, there is national garden bird count in the Netherlands.

Every participant counts garden birds for half an hour.

In the garden where I counted this morning, not so many birds then: one great tit and three wood pigeons.

The national results so far today:

Total counts so far in the Netherlands: 10.932

House sparrow House sparrow 52.158 Great tit Great tit 37.826 Blackbird Blackbird 32.353
4 Chaffinch Chaffinch 29.116
5 Blue tit Blue tit 23.247
6 Jackdaw Jackdaw 16.203
7 Collared dove Collared dove 14.081
8 Starling Starling 13.184
9 Wood pigeon Wood pigeon 13.052
10 Robin Robin 10.910

Bahrain dictatorship update

This video is called Bahrain, A Kingdom of Human Rights Violations.

From Jurist:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bahrain court releases human rights activist on bail pending trial

Max Slater at 10:22 AM ET

Flag of Bahrain

[JURIST] A court in Bahrain on Thursday released [AI press release] human rights activist Sayed Yousif Al-Muhafda [official Twitter] on bail pending trial for charges of spreading false news to harm security, according to Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. Al-Muhafda, the acting deputy head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) [advocacy website], was arrested in November [JURIST report] during an unauthorized protest. After being released without charge, Al-Muhafda was arrested again in December during a clash between protesters and the government in Manama, Bahrain’s capital. In its press release, AI declared that Al-Muhafda was likely arrested because of his advocacy for human rights and proclaimed that he has freedom of expression rights under international law that Bahrain’s government must not violate:

The 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders expressly reaffirms the right to freedom of expression guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), by which human rights defenders have the right to freely publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and to draw public attention to their observance, both in law and in practice.

Al-Muhafda is scheduled to appear in court on January 29 when witnesses are expected to testify.Bahrain [JURIST news archive] has faced international scrutiny recently regarding its treatment of political prisoners. Last week the highest Bahraini appellate court upheld the convictions [JURIST report] of 13 prominent pro-democracy protestors convicted by military tribunal in 2011 on charges of plotting to overthrow the monarchy. In December Bahrain’s High Criminal Court of Appeals commuted death sentences [JURIST report] for two protesters, instead sentencing them to life imprisonment. Earlier in December the prison sentence for outspoken Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab was reduced by one year [JURIST report]. In November AI released a brief [JURIST report] detailing how Bahrain had failed to meet its obligations and promises to ensure respect for human rights and prevent further torture within the country. In October the Bahrain appeals court upheld verdicts against two teachers [JURIST report] for organizing a teacher’s strike to support anti-government protests. Earlier in October the Bahrain Court of Cassation upheld jail sentences [JURIST report] issued to nine medics convicted for their involvement in Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising in February and March of 2011.

Police attack Bahrain protest, leading activist released: here.

NGOs: Obama Should Support Release of Bahrain Activists: here.