Dutch butterflies flying at Christmas


Large tortoiseshell

Kars Veling, of the Dutch Vlinderstichting entomologists, reports today (translated):

Dec 27, 2015 – People hoped and speculated that this year butterflies would be seen at Christmas. On Christmas Day the weather was not good enough, but on [sunnier] Boxing Day dozens of active butterflies were seen. The red admiral was the most numerous, but the observation of the large tortoiseshell was probably the most spectacular. …

The most commonly reported butterfly on Waarneming.nl and Telmee was the red admiral. 16 individuals were seen. In second place came the brimstone with seven animals and there were six peacock butterflies. Two cabbage white butterflies were seen flying and observers could not determine what species they were. Probably small whites, who also last week had been seen a number of times. Really spectacular was the observation by Marcel Prick and Anton Cox in South Limburg, where they discovered a large tortoiseshell. This is a very rare butterfly in the Netherlands. It remains warm [for December] and who knows how many more butterflies will be seen in this tail end of 2015.

Dutch asparagus growing at Christmas: here.

Merry Christmas, birds say


Christmas birds

In this BirdLife card, birds, from the dove of peace on top to others like a puffin and a northern cardinal at the bottom, wish you a Merry Christmas.

I wish all readers of my blog happy holidays as well!

Archbishop bans ’pagan’ Christmas trees from Catholic churches in Sri Lanka: ‘These do not belong’: here.

British Daily Mail anti-refugee witch-hunt and Christmas, satire


Daily Mail on refugees, satire

This picture is a parody of a front page of right-wing British daily The Daily Mail. The picture is from the Twitter account of British poet Attila the Stockbroker.

The Daily Mail often has xenophobic witch-hunts against refugees.

The parody page is about how the Daily Mail about 2,000 years ago would have described Saint Joseph, Mary and the birth of baby Jesus in Bethlehem, named in the Christian New Testament; the origin of Christmas.

Somali, Brunei Pentagon allies ban Christmas


This video about Los Angeles in the USA says about itself:

Breaking Up With The Beverly Hills Hotel

12 February 2013

Dear Beverly Hills Hotel:

It’s over. And we are never, ever getting back together. Like ever.
That is, until your owners change their homophobic ways.
The Beverly Hills Hotel is owned by the nation of Brunei, where it is illegal to be gay.
Take a stand against homophobia — don’t eat, meet or sleep at the Beverly Hills Hotel!

Sign the petition here.

Homosexuality is illegal in Brunei and can be punished with up to death by stoning.

As this blog reported, the absolute monarch of Brunei has banned Christmas.

The princely dynasty of Brunei are traditionally allies of the British empire. The present Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah was educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom. Like his father, he has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, of which Brunei was a protectorate until 1984. He holds an honorary commission in the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom as an Air Marshal. He is also an Honorary Admiral of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, a title given to him by Queen Elizabeth II when he took the salute at the passing out parade of the 2001 summer term at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, the Royal Navy’s officer-training school in the United Kingdom. He has an English residence at Binfield Manor in Berkshire. In 1962, a rebellion against absolute monarchy in Brunei was put down by British troops from Singapore.

The full title of His Majesty is Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan dan Yang di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam.

The princely family has been accused of sexual abuse.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is one of the richest men in the world. The spoils of the country’s oil riches are shared between His Majesty and the Shell oil corporation.

The United Kingdom maintains a military base in Seria, the centre of the oil industry in Brunei, with 1,500 soldiers.

To make a long story short: the absolute monarch is Brunei is a staunch ally of the British empire … err … Commonwealth, of NATO, and of the Western ‘free world’.

Apparently, it is very possible to be both a close buddy of the Western ‘free world’, and to ban Christmas.

There is another example of that. Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

In Somalia it is prohibited from this year on to celebrate Christmas in public places. … “In our country Muslims should not celebrate Christmas“, said a government spokesman.

The security forces in Somalia are instructed to drive away large groups celebrating Christmas. For foreigners it is allowed to dwell on the Christian holidays, provided they do so in private.

There are few Christians living in the African country, which established sharia law in 2009. Somalia is after Brunei the second country to enact a ban on Christmas. In Brunei Muslims who celebrate Christmas face many years of imprisonment.

The Somali government consists of warlords, relying on military help from the United States Pentagon, British armed forces and other NATO countries, ever since the days of George W Bush.

This 2013 video says about itself:

Somalia jails alleged rape victim

In Somalia a woman who said that she had been gang-raped by soldiers has been jailed for a year by a Somali court, along with the journalist who reported her allegation.

Non-Christians at Christmas: ‘I love it as much as I love Diwali’. From Jews dining in Chinese restaurants to atheists indulging in Belgian beer, non-Christian readers tell us what they do at Christmas: here.

Second day of Christmas, British turtle doves


This video, recorded in France, is called European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur).

From BirdLife:

Second day of Christmas brings Turtle-doves to CEMEX quarries in the UK

By Shaun Hurrell, Tue, 22/12/2015 – 10:54

The second day of Christmas is December 26 and, as most carolers know, that’s the day a true love will give the gift of two Turtle-doves. This year, a joint effort between CEMEX in the UK, Spain and in France along with BirdLife national Partners in a project to create much-needed nesting habitat along the bird’s flyway have achieved one better: three juvenile European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur have been observed at CEMEX quarries in the UK this year.

Sadly, the Turtle-dove was up-listed to Vulnerable globally in 2015 on the IUCN Red List by BirdLife (the Red List authority for birds). Nationally, their UK population is currently halving in number every six years making the Turtle-dove the UK’s fastest declining bird.

Knowing that there is a very real chance the Turtle-dove could be lost from the UK in the near future, in 2014 CEMEX and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, BirdLife in the UK) embarked on a 3-year pilot conservation project at CEMEX quarries in central England.

This is supporting the work of Operation Turtle Dove – a partnership between the RSPB, Conservation Grade, Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, and Natural England. Together, they are identifying the primary causes of the decline, developing and delivering practical solutions for the species.

Though there are many factors thought to be behind the declines, the main contributor is thought to be the loss of suitable habitat and associated food shortages in their breeding grounds. With that in mind, the initial project involved growing a special flower mix on four of the quarries to provide the birds’ ideal food, complemented by the creation of suitable nesting habitat.

Unlike other UK dove species, Turtle-doves rely upon seeds for food. Changes in farming practices have led to field margins and hedges, once rich with seed-bearing plants, being replaced by commercial crops – offering very few of the small seeds that they need. CEMEX quarries have the potential to support this threatened bird.

Now in the second year of the conservation project, CEMEX have sowed the special seed mix at a fifth UK quarry and are surveying a total of ten CEMEX quarries in the UK twice each breeding season, using CEMEX staff and local volunteers.

We are delighted to report that Turtle-doves have been found at two of these quarries, including three juveniles, so it is very likely that they were born on a CEMEX site this year.

With support from RSPB’s conservation scientists, the intervention will be assessed to determine the effectiveness.

Rob Doody, CEMEX’s Director for Aggregate Operations, CEMEX UK said “This project is so important in saving this iconic bird. It highlights the positive impact that we can make on the natural world. The balance between the natural and built environment is a delicate one which must be preserved not only for nature but future generations.”

Across borders

“Turtle-dove is a migratory species, so it is important that its conservation is continued along its flyway”, said Richard Grimmett, Director of Conservation, BirdLife International.“Many CEMEX quarries fall along the Turtle-dove’s western European migration corridor and have the potential to support this threatened bird.”

“This is the first project of its kind, working to save a globally threatened species on quarry operations across borders through multiple local collaborations.”

Encouraged by the success so far, CEMEX France has launched a pilot site at their Bouafles quarry. Here, actions scheduled to begin in 2016 include maintaining and creating dense hedges using local tree species. They will also fence-off certain areas accessible to the public so that the birds are not disturbed during the breeding season. Furthermore, they plan to devote plots to extensive cultivation favorable to Turtle-dove, using plants such as Arnoseris minima which grows well on the quarry’s sandy free-draining substrate.

In Spain, at Soto Pajares quarry where the CEMEX-BirdLife partnership are piloting a Biodiversity Action Plan, SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain) is working closely with CEMEX Spain to complete the conservation jigsaw across the birds’ Western-most migratory flyway.

Should the project prove successful, the project could be used as a best practice to scale up with other operators, right across the western European flyway – across potentially thousands of sites, helping to ensure Turtle-dove are not lost to extinction, nor from Christmas folklore.

“After all, what would the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ be without two Turtle-doves!” said Rob.

The classic carol The 12 Days of Christmas always brings birds to mind during the holiday season, but how do the lyrics actually match up in a birding sense? While there are many different interpretations of the song – even some lyrics have changed slightly with different languages or versions – it is always a bird-friendly tune to celebrate the holidays: here.