Birds of Antarctica and Argentina

This video, recorded in Argentina, says about itself:

Birds & More: Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego

Fabulous scenery, wide open spaces, whales, extraordinary Andes and the bottom of the world. Spectacular Magellanic Woodpecker, very scenic cruise in Drake Channel; 11-12/2008.

Brent Stephenson is a wildlife photographer, guide, and birder based near Napier, New Zealand.

From B1RDER: The birding blog of Eco-Vista | Brent Stephenson (with photos there):

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Looking back to January – Antarctica

Well the year to date has been a hectic one, but with a lot of fantastic places along the way. First off was a trip to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica – I always say if you are going to go to Antarctica, then you HAVE to do a trip that includes the Falklands and South Georgia. So this is one of my favourite trips, and despite the increase in tourism in the Antarctic you still get the feeling of isolation and that you could well be the first people looking at the landscape.

We started in Ushuaia, with awesome views of both male, female and young Magellanic woodpeckers in the National Park – stonking views! Epic birds, and also got great views of ashy-headed geese. Then out of the Beagle Channel and heading to Saunders Island in the Falklands. This has to be one of the best islands for diversity in the Falkland group, with a great array of species there nesting within easy walking distance. To be so close to nesting black-browed albatross is always a treat, and whilst we were there the birds had young chicks in the nest, so there was a lot going on. Having spent four incredible days on this island camping under a rock at ‘The Neck’ back in 2004 this place is one of my all-time World favourite spots!

Next stop South Georgia, and with landings at Salisbury Plain and St Andrews Bay we got to see a fair sack of the king penguin population that breeds on the island. Our afternoon at St Andrews was just spectacular, with incredible weather and so much going on. I managed a bit of time with tripod and neutral density filters to play around with some long exposures which was fun – let me know what you think of the images below. There might still be a slight colour cast from the ND filters, but I am pretty happy with the results…I’d just like to spend some more time experimenting with these filters.

This video says about itself:

Albatross – Penguins – ICE BIRDS – Antarctica © 2009 C. Hunter Johnson

Nesting Albatross Chicks, King Penguins and Gentoo Penguins. … on a recent visit to South Georgia Island to explore and photograph these rare endangered Albatross in natural, unspoiled surroundings.

The Brent Stephenson article continues:

We also called in to Coronation Island in the South Orkneys, with a little bit of sleet and drizzle it was a chilly landing, but thousands of chinstrap penguins were there to keep us company! Back onboard that afternoon my Canon 1Dx decided to give up the ghost – leaving me with my old worn out 1D MkIV for the rest of the trip. On getting back to NZ it turns out the 1Dx was the first in the country to have completely died – making me wonder if i was lucky or unlucky (!) – having blown a circuit board and some fuses. All covered under warranty when I got home, but effectively an expensive paper-weight for the rest of the trip!

Down on the Antarctic Peninsula we had stops at Brown Bluff, with a little foray along the ice front of the Weddell Sea in Antarctic Sound. There had been an Emperor penguin reported, but rising winds meant we could’t get too close, and had to head back onto the western side of the Peninsula and carry on to the South Shetlands. A morning at Hannah Point was fantastic with lots of activity amongst the chinstraps and gentoos – including the gory killing of a gentoo chick by several giant petrels. At Deception Island, not normally know for its wildlife (at least the interior of the island), we had an awesome leucistic chinstrap penguin. At first it seemed to be playing hard to get, and then at the end walked up on to the shore with another bird, and right into the middle of our group! Ha, what little show off!

Then it was off south along the Peninsula, making landings at Petermann Island and Plennau. Awesome iceberg graveyard, and VERY ‘friendly’ leopard seals – one of which came steaming in and chomped on the end of my zodiac! That was a new experience – it all happened so quick I didn’t have time to get out of there, so after our 2.5 hour zodiac cruise one of the pontoons was VERY flat! We only lost two people out of the zodiac…just kidding! We also had an incredible show with a female and calf humpback right at the stern of the ship. With everyone out on the stern of the ship, they came right in under us and just hung out at the back of the ship for more than 15 minutes – just incredible.

A final afternoon at Portal Point – after finally catching up with killer whales in the Neumeyer which I managed to spot a few miles off. We had stunning views of a pretty large pod of these Type B (small form) killer whales, in what looked like a feeding slick. There was a huge slick on the surface and clearly something attracting large numbers of Wilson’s storm-petrels, giant petrels and other species, but we couldn’t spot anything that looked like chunks of prey. A mystery!

And then we were on our way back to Ushuaia. Time just flies so quickly on a trip like this, with days at sea and the start of the trip seeming to go relatively slow, and then all of a sudden you are heading back across the Drake Passage! A great trip with great folks and an excellent Zegrahm Expedition team!

Argentine military dictatorship in London theatre

This video from Britain says about itself:

These Trees Are Made of Blood – Minidoc (Client: Lucy Jackson Productions)

2 March 2014

1978. With the world watching, Argentina has won the World Cup and patriotism is running riot.

After some development time at BAC, director Amy Draper continues exploring her cabaret style show about Argentina’s Disappeared, which intertwines live music and narrative.

By Michal Boncza in England:

Theatre: War crimes caught in the acts

Wednesday 25th March 2015

MICHAL BONCZA recommends a cabaret exposing the long night of fascism in Argentina; These Trees Are Made of Blood, Southwark Playhouse, London SW1 4/5

THE THOUGHT of a play dealing with the “dirty war” in Argentina during the 1970s and ’80s might fill anyone familiar with that grim period with trepidation.

The appalling enormity of the crimes instigated by the US beggars belief to this very day. But These Trees Are Made of Blood by Amy Draper, Paul Jenkins and Darren Clark rapidly dispels such misgivings.

In the theatre’s small C-shaped auditorium, the crowded intimacy of a cabaret is recreated as the quartet of musicians in the corner play The Boy from Buenos Aires.

The “hosts” for the night are the 1976 putschists, the supreme commanders of the three branches of the armed forces, whose rationalisation of their odious deeds is subjected by the authors to biting ridicule — the targeting of the nazis in the musical Cabaret comes to mind — yet the hint of menace and foreboding is never far away.

To the authors’ credit, the combination of slapstick and song is an effective device — bar some ancient jokes — in advancing the narrative in which Greg Barnett is suitably slimy as The General while Alexander Luttley as the air force chief emanates egotism and duplicity.

So far, so satirical, but in an unexpected development one of the guests of the show Gloria Benitez (Val Jones) sees her daughter disappear when invited on stage to join the naval chief (Neil Kelso) in his magic tricks.

This tragedy, and her evolution from housewife to protester with the legendary Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, is charted with unassuming mastery by Jones.

After the interval the mood changes and, in a series of rapid vignettes, the historical blanks are filled in.

Everything from CIA involvement, the torture chambers at the school of naval mechanics, the Malvinas war and finally the trial of the military chiefs comes under scrutiny.

There’s a fair degree of disconcerting detail, some loose ends and short cuts that may baffle some in what occasionally comes across as over-elaborate. But it remains a riveting production, directed by Amy Draper with panache, with a cast that is as gifted as it is passionate. The songs by Darren Clark effectively catch the nuances of mood and, Greek chorus-style, comment on the action.

That culminates in a powerful theatrical moment at the conclusion when the curtains around the auditorium are drawn back, revealing walls filled top-to-bottom with the faces of the disappeared to a shell-shocked audience.

This video is called Amy Draper: These Trees Are Made Of Blood; rehearsal.

These video from London says about itself:

These Trees are Made of Blood Trailer

16 March 2015

At Southwark Playhouse from 18 March – 11 April 2015


Call 020 7407 0234 or click here to buy tickets.

And for our next act …

The Magical Military Junta …
Will make 30,000 people disappear before your very eyes.

During the 70s and 80s, Argentina was locked in a period of state terrorism, with a military dictatorship waging war on suspected left-wing political sympathizers. Thousands of citizens were “disappeared”; seized by the authorities and rarely heard from again.

Set in a timeless Buenos Aires cabaret club before, during and after Argentina’s Dirty War, These Trees are Made of Blood tells the story of one Mother’s search for her daughter. Blending original live music and exciting cabaret acts with an urgent narrative, this is a new piece of political theatre which promises to be an unforgettable audience experience.

So come on in. The club’s open all hours and history can always be rewritten after one too many.

This video says about itself:

These Trees are Made of Blood: How to make empanadas

5 March 2015

The team behind These Trees are Made of Blood give you a taste of what’s to come from this new production.

Remembering Latin America’s Disappeared: here.

Argentina’s military dictatorship on trial

This video from the USA says about itself:

Argentine Torture Survivor Tells of Her Struggle to Bring Her Torturers to Justice

12 November 2010

Democracy Now! speak with Patricia Isasa, a torture survivor from Argentina’s military dictatorship. She was a 16-year old student union organizer in 1976 when she was kidnapped by police and soldiers. She was tortured and held prisoner without trial for two-and-a-half years at one of the 585 clandestine detention and torture centers set up during the dictatorship. After a long legal battle to bring her torturers to justice, six of her nine torturers were recently sentenced to prison.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Dictatorship-era soldiers to reveal missing dead

Thursday 11th December 2014

FOUR former soldiers charged with committing crimes against humanity during Argentina‘s 1976-1983 military dictatorship have said they will admit guilt and help to identify victims and burial sites.

Presiding judge Diaz Gavier said on Wednesday that the men had “voluntarily expressed their intention to provide information that will facilitate the location of some human remains.”

The four are on trial for participation in crimes committed at clandestine detention centres in Cordoba province during the US-backed dictatorship that cost the lives of 30,000 people.

Ernesto Barreiro, who is accused by human rights groups of being the chief torturer at the La Perla detention centre, indicated places on Wednesday where 25 missing people might have been buried.

Mr Barreiro led a 1987 military rebellion that forced the elected government of President Raul Alfonsin to pass an amnesty law for accused human rights abusers.

The amnesty law was overturned almost two decades later, allowing prosecutors to reopen hundreds of cases.

Anne Frank statue in Argentina

Anne Frank statue, Merweedeplein, Amsterdam

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Anne Frank statue unveiled in Argentina

Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 21:39

In Argentina, a statue of Anne Frank has been unveiled. The statue is in Buenos Aires on the Plaza Reina de Holanda.

The artwork is a replica of the bronze statue which stands on the Merwedeplein in the Amsterdam Rivierenbuurt neighbourhood, by sculptress Jet Schepp. The 74-year old artist was present at the unveiling in Argentina.

The statue of Anne Frank has been put there on the International Human Rights Day. The monument is a joint initiative including the Argentine Ministry of Education, the Dutch Embassy in Argentina and Centro Ana Frank Argentina.

The statue at the Amsterdam Merwedeplein was unveiled in 2005. Anne Frank lived for almost ten years at the square before the Frank family went into hiding in 1942 at the Prinsengracht.

Classical music world tour, new film

This video is the trailer of Heddy Honigmann‘s new film on the jubilee world tour of the Concertgebouw Orchestra from the Netherlands.

I saw that film on 7 December 2014 in a crowded cinema. The name of the film is Around the world in 50 concerts (Dutch: Om de wereld in 50 concerten).

The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in 2013 made a tour around the world, as they had been founded 125 years ago. The film is not about all places where the orchestra played then.

It concentrates on four cities: Amsterdam, where the orchestra is usually. Buenos Aires in Argentina. Johannesburg in South Africa. And Saint Petersburg in Russia.

In the opening scene of the film, we see an empty Concertgebouw hall in Amsterdam. Well, not completely empty: there is one musician. A percussionist. He explains that he plays in a symphony by Bruckner, which lasts ninety minutes. During all that time, he says, he just has to do one thing: crash the cymbals once. He has to watch out not to crash the cymbals at the wrong time, as what the other musicians play is quite unchanging for some time before the cymbals’ short, but important role. It would be interesting at this point to mention the difference between the roles of percussionists in classical music versus jazz or rock, where they play during most of the music.

Amsterdam is also in another film scene: an open air concert by the Concertgebouw Orchestra at the inner city canals of Amsterdam; more precisely, the Prinsengracht. There, they play the song ‘Aan de Amsterdamse grachten‘, about these canals.

It is not really classical music, more a music hall waltz, about the beauty of the canals. In the 1970s, there was a political satirical version of the lyrics, wishing that politicians like Dries van Agt and Hans Wiegel (then Prime Minister, respectively Vice Prime Minister) should preferably be ‘in the Amsterdam canals, or, still better, under tramway #10′.

After the first scene in the Concertgebouw, the film continues with transporting the many instruments to the airport for the world tour. The violin cases have to be packed inside plastic ‘winter coats': as it is cold inside aircraft holds, and else the transition to hot concert halls would be a problem for instruments.

The aircraft brings the orchestra to South America. The continent where director Honigmann (originally from Peru) was born.

Memorial Park wall, with names of dictatorship's victimsMs Honigmann interviews a Buenos Aires taxi driver about the role of classical music in his life. She also shows images of a monument to the bloody Argentinian dictatorship: a wall where victims’ names are inscribed. Buenos Aires in 1997 opened the Memorial Park – A Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism.

Heddy Honigmann’s camera pans over the names of the junta’s victims; but without any explanation. It is a pity that as a spectator one is supposed to already know about Argentinean history beforehand.

After South America, the film moves to Johannesburg in South Africa.

There, the orchestra members are not only depicted as playing music, but also as listening to music: the sounds of the Soweto Marimba Youth League.

This video is called Soweto Marimba Youth League performs at Rosebank Market. Johannesburg, South Africa.

The film also has an interview with a Johannesburg violin player. He told that, when he was small, during the apartheid regime, he wanted to learn to play the violin. But his parents did not have money for a violin or for music lessons. His father gave him a violin bow. He then played ‘air violin‘. White music teachers did not want to teach this young black boy, as they were afraid of the apartheid system. Finally, a Jewish music teacher was willing to teach ‘as Jews knew what it is like to be discriminated against’, the now elderly violinist told. Now, he teaches the Soweto Youth Orchestra.

The final scenes of the film are in Saint Petersburg in Russia. There, Ms Honigmann has an interview with elderly Sergey. He tells his ancestors were nobility during the czars’ empire. They used to like Gustav Mahler‘s music. Things went well with the family, until Sergey was twelve years old in 1937. Then, the Stalin regime arrested his father and later executed him. When Sergey was fifteen, he became a prisoner of the German nazi invaders and was put into a concentration camp which he barely survived. He was very happy to hear the Concertgebouw orchestra play Mahler.

Southern right whales get satelitte tags for first time

This video is called Breeding Southern Right Whales – Attenborough – Life of Mammals – BBC.

From Wildlife Extra:

Right Whales tagged for first time to help solve mystery

For the first time satellite tags are being used to remotely track Southern Right Whales from their breeding/calving grounds in the sheltered bays of Península Valdés, Argentina, to unknown feeding grounds somewhere in the western South Atlantic.

It is hoped the results from the study will help solve why more than 400 Southern Right Whale calves have died between 2003-2011.

Different hypotheses put forward for this mortality include disease, certain types of contaminant, and harassment and wounding by kelp gulls, a frequent occurrence in Península Valdés.

Over the past month, a team of top scientists from a range of organisations, including the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Aqualie Institute of Brazil and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have succeeded in affixing satellite transmitters to five Southern Right Whales in Golfo Nuevo.

This area is one of the two protected gulfs of Península Valdés and an important breeding ground for southern right whales. The team selected calving females and solitary juveniles so they can glean insights into habitat use and migratory movements for different sex and age groups.

“Over the last several centuries, and as recent as the 1960s, southern right whales were hunted, at times close to the verge of extinction. But they have now managed to rebound in numbers thanks to protected refuges such as Península Valdés,” said Dr. Martín Mendez, Assistant Director of WCS’s Latin America and the Caribbean Program.

“The recent increase in mortality is being caused by something that remains unsolved. Determining where the whales go to feed may offer clues to solving this complex question.”

So far the data received shows that two of the five whales have remained in the waters of Golfo Nuevo, while the other three have already left the bay. One of the animals is currently in deep waters of the South Atlantic, one has been spending its time over the continental shelf, and another has moved into deep offshore waters, but has returned to the continental shelf break.

“As the tags continue to transmit, we hope our whales lead us to new insights about their lives in the vastness of the South Atlantic and provide possible clues related to the die-off,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program.