Singing Beethoven for refugees

This video was recorded on 31 October 2015 in Paddepoel shopping center in Groningen city, the Netherlands.

The local orchestra KamerFilharmonie Der Aa, and local choirs Braga and Sica played Beethoven‘s Ode an die Freude.

This was a pro-refugee concert; all money collected was for helping refugees.

There is more pro-refugee music for a choir in the Netherlands: written recently by composer Willem Jeths, with a text by poet Rodaan al Galidi, a refugee from Iraq living in the Netherlands.

Fidelio is animated by the ideals of the Enlightenment. It was composed in the midst of the upheavals and the upsurge unleashed by the French Revolution. It stands alongside Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, with its world-famous choral finale, as a moving musical expression of “liberty, equality, fraternity.” Director Claus Guth and the others responsible for the latest Salzburg production are not interested in this theme. Guth has imposed an entirely different conception. As we shall explain in more detail below, the director turns away from the realities and struggles that engaged Beethoven, substituting a purely psychological and neo-Freudian conception. The result is an oddly schizophrenic production at best, with the glorious music and theme of Fidelio undermined if not contradicted by a set and a directorial artistic idea that belong to a different opera: here.

Dutch Montagu’s harriers, new study

This video is about a young Montagu’s harrier, foraging in Lauwersmeer national park in the Netherlands.

From Ibis ornithological journal:


2nd November 2015

Enhancing food abundance and availability for harriers

Birdfields – a novel Agri-Environmental Scheme to improve foraging conditions for a vole-eating raptor

Almut Schlaich
Dutch Montagu’s Harrier Foundation & Conservation Ecology Group,
GELIFES (Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences),
Groningen University, The Netherlands

Testing a novel agri-environment scheme based on the ecology of the target species, Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus
Schlaich, A.E., Klaassen, R.H.G., Bouten, W, Both, C & Koks, B.J. 2015. IBIS 157: 713-721. DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12299

The Montagu’s Harrier is a rare farmland breeding bird, not only in the UK, but also in the Netherlands where we have a small population of around 40 pairs. In the highly intensified agricultural landscape farmland birds struggle to find sufficient food to breed successfully. We tested a novel agri-environment scheme (AES) – coined Birdfields – to provide accessible food sources for breeding Montagu’s Harriers.

A small population of Montagu’s Harriers established in our study area in Eastern Groningen, the Netherlands, in the early 1990s when farmland was set aside on a large scale to counteract wheat overspill (Koks et al. 2007). The set-aside habitat was used for foraging, and the harriers nested in large wheat fields that characterize this intensively farmed area. After the set-aside regulation ended, the number of breeding pairs directly decreased again. To preserve Montagu’s Harriers for the Netherlands, agri-environment schemes (AES) like field margins and set-aside fields were introduced. This led to an increase in numbers and we nowadays have a population fluctuating around 40 breeding pairs (Figure 1).

In the Netherlands, Common Voles are the most important prey, which is exemplified by the fact that vole abundance determines breeding success and population growth (Koks et al. 2007). In order to understand where Montagu’s Harriers exactly find these prey in the intensively farmed landscape, and the exact role of AES in this, we tracked individual harriers using radio-transmitters and UvA-BiTS GPS-loggers. Surprisingly, the birds were not spending much time hunting on set-aside, but strongly preferred freshly mown grass fields (Trierweiler 2010, Klaassen et al. 2014). This seems paradoxical as vole abundance is much higher in set-aside habitats compared to other crops (Koks et al. 2007, Schlaich et al. 2015). The answer probably lies in the fact that prey are difficult to capture in dense set-aside vegetation. Thus, prey availability rather than prey abundance per se dictates habitat selection in foraging harriers.

Integrating knowledge on the Montagu’s Harrier ecology, we designed a novel AES – coined Birdfields – that aims at increasing both prey abundance and availability. Birdfields consist of alternating strips of set-aside and alfalfa (Figure 2). Set-aside strips are sown with a mixture of cereals, grasses and herbs, and their most important function is to enhance local densities of voles. Alfalfa strips are harvested three times per year, and their main function is to enhance prey availability. An additional advantage of growing alfalfa is that the harvest of alfalfa reduces the overall costs of the AES, making Birdfields a more economical alternative to current AES.

In 2011, two Birdfields were created close to a core breeding area of Montagu’s Harriers. These Birdfields were monitored in 2012-2013. During the same period, high-resolution tracking data of individual male Montagu’s Harriers was collected using UvA-BiTS GPS-loggers. With the help of volunteers vole abundance was monitored in set-aside and alfalfa strips, and small mammals killed during the mowing events were identified (Figure 3). This involved counting vole burrows in 6184 1m²-plots and walking 93.9 km behind the mowing machine! As expected, vole abundance was much higher in set-aside than in alfalfa, and nearly 90% of all observed small mammals were Common Voles. Detailed tracking data from four male Montagu’s Harriers in each season showed that birds used the Birdfields intensively during and after mowing events, in which the birds strongly preferred mown over unmown habitat (Figure 4).

Our results show that Birdfields form an efficient AES for Montagu’s Harriers as this novel measure not only enhances prey abundance but also prey accessibility. In addition, it is a more economic AES. Furthermore, many other species seem to profit from Birdfields in particular breeding Skylarks, breeding and wintering vole-eaters and wintering farmland birds. Consequently, the measure ‘Birdfields’ has now been officially implemented as a greening measure in the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 in The Netherlands. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has started a country-wide pilot, executed by BirdLife Netherlands, Louis Bolk Instituut and the Dutch Montagu’s Harrier Foundation, to evaluate scientifically the general value of Birdfields for soil, insects, and farmland birds and already 230 ha of Birdfields have been implemented throughout the Netherlands. More than 300 ha will follow in 2016.

References and further reading

Klaassen, R. H. G., A. E. Schlaich, M. Franken, W. Bouten & B. J. Koks. 2014. GPS-loggers onthullen gedrag Grauwe kiekendieven in Oost-Groningse akkerland. De Levende Natuur 115:61-66.

Koks, B. J., C. Trierweiler, E. G. Visser, C. Dijkstra & J. Komdeur. 2007. Do voles make agricultural habitat attractive to Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus? Ibis 149:575-586.

Trierweiler, C. 2010. Travels to feed and food to breed. The annual cycle of a migratory raptor, Montagu´s harrier, in a modern world. PhD, University of Groningen, Groningen.

NATO poisonous paint scandal continues

This video from the USA says about itself:

23 March 2011

In the final installment of our 12-part series on cobalt and chromium blood levels, metal toxicology expert Dr. Michael McCabe discusses whether the metal wear debris generated by large diaphragm metal-on-metal hip implants, such as the recently recalled DePuy ASR hip device, may cause cancer. Metal wear debris is known to cause soft tissue damage, tissue necrosis, pseudo-tumors, cobaltism, metallosis, and other potential long term health problems. This is part 12 in our 12-part series.

For more information on cobalt & chromium toxicity, visit If you have found that you have elevated chromium levels, call 888-290-4472 to find out how to protect your legal rights.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Former employees of NATO depot in Ter Apel sound the alarm at health service

Today, 08:54

Former employees of the former NATO depot in Ter Apel have recently sounded the alarm at the health service in Groningen. According to RTV Noord places they question the investigation about remains of chromium-6 and uranium in the buildings.

The health service this year at the request of the Ministry of Defence did research at all former NATO depots where carcinogenic chromium paint used to be applied.

The ministry wanted to know if the current users of the buildings are also at risk to be exposed to chromium-6 now. That, according to the GGD Public Health Service, is not the case. In Ter Apel no chromium-6 was found; but uranium was found.

Additional research

The origin of this uranium is (still) not known. Uranium also occurs as a natural element in the soil. According to the Public Health Service, additional research by means of air samples is necessary. The Ministry of Defence has now adopted that recommendation.

Former employees, however, sounded the alarm, because the investigation is incomplete according to them. In the buildings in Ter Apel there are since the late nineteen nineties ventilation systems. There are grains in these which retain moisture.

The GGD has not investigated these fans, but is considering now to do so.


The concerns of the former employees have not only to do with the current use of the buildings, but also with the past.

A number of large warehouses that were once part of the NATO depot were thoroughly cleaned about 18 months ago. The employees of the cleaning company then wore no gloves and only paper masks.

“With four people we clean one shed”, says one of the men. “Sometimes two boxes of face masks were used on one day. Each box contains sixteen masks. Within an hour they were sometimes black, so much junk lying there. If you then read things about chrome paint, then you are wondering what you’ve cleaned up.”


Hundreds of former employees of the former NATO depots in the Netherlands in recent years have become ill. Since 1984 they have worked for a long time with carcinogenic chromium paint. Dozens of people who have worked in Ter Apel have been reported with health complaints.

Wildlife in Dutch Groningen park, film

This video is the trailer of the nature documentary film about the Noorderplantsoen park in the city of Groningen in the Netherlands.

The organisers of the Wildlife Film Festival in Rotterdam write about it:

The Noorderplantsoen represents the green heart of Groningen, The Netherlands. This unique park, styled like an English landscape garden, offers citizens ease and joy and is a home to many animals. Most visitors are unaware of how nature takes its course right at their doorstep. Animals that have adapted thrive in our cities, allowing a peek in their life history for those who are observant.

To the animals the urban environment is just as wild as any other, confronted with all its coherent ordeals. This film is about the survival of the common moorhen, the coot and other inhabitants of the park, showing quite some unexpected turns. During WFFR Hilco Jansma has another film that will be screened: the short A Leap of Frog.

Dutch football club welcomes refugees

This video shows highlights of the Dutch football cup final 2015, won by FC Groningen 2-PEC Zwolle 0.

Dutch NOS TV reports today that Groningen football club has invited 800 refugees in the Bellingwolde and Onnen camps to its Dutch soccer cup match against FC Twente, on Wednesday 23 September.

Buses will take the refugees to the Groningen stadium where they will get a meal as well.

A much-needed change after getting food thrown at them like at pigs by Hungarian police, for the refugees

FACEBOOK, GOOGLE MAPS KEEPING MIGRANTS OUT OF TRAFFICKERS’ HANDS “In the past, people in these situations had no choice but to put their money and faith in the hands of traffickers who are known to jack up prices and force passengers to pay in human organs if they can’t come up with the cash, Business Insider reported. But now that they have access to smartphones, they can pretty much bypass traffickers and make the trek to Europe safely, on their own.” [HuffPost]

Refugees, depression and nature reserves: here.

New nature reserve near Dutch Groningen city

This 12 June 2015 Dutch regional TV video is about a new nature reserve, Kardinge; meadowland just east of Groningen City.

Conservation organisation Natuurmonumenten wrote about this, on 11 June 2015:

Hartog [of Natuurmonumenten] will, together with farmer Hendrik Jan Elzinga, make the area better, particularly for grassland birds. “We would like to raise the water level so that the soil wildlife will increase. That is good for many species of birds, such as black-tailed godwits, curlews, lapwings and oystercatchers. And we want maybe in the future to make the banks of the ditches more environmentally friendly, by flattening them. Visitors to the area will soon have a more varied landscape experience.”

Grey heron eats eel, video

In this video, a grey heron manages, with some difficulty, to eat an eel.

Jacques Westerveen made this video in Groningen, the Netherlands.