This video is called OrchidWeb – Dendrobium spectabile.
This video is called OrchidWeb – Dendrobium spectabile.
This 16 October 2016 video was recorded in the Lakenhal museum in Leiden, the Netherlands. In the background, a reproduction of the triptych The Last Judgment, by sixteenth century painter Lucas van Leyden. The original was not exhibited then, as 16 October was the last day the museum was open to the public before a big reconstruction.
On that day there, the Jan Wolkers Prize, the prize for the best Dutch natural history book of the year, was awarded. The prize is named after Dutch visual artist and author Jan Wolkers, keenly interested in wildlife. Jan’s widow Karina Wolkers was a member of the jury, and awarded the prize.
There was a shortlist of five nominated books. The authors of three of these books lectured about their work in the Lakenhal. As this blog has reported, first Ms Arita Baaijens. Then, the two authors of the book about crustacean scientist Lipke B. Holthuis.
And as third speaker came Albert Beintema; including slides about black-tailed godwits. Cellphone photos of these slides are in this blog post.
This was the first slide, of a black-tailed godwit on a pole.
Fifty years ago, this species had 120,000 nesting couples in the Netherlands; 80% of the total for all of Europe. Of the Icelandic subspecies there were then only 5,000 couples.
Now, there are only 40,000 couples in the Netherlands. While the number of Icelandic couples has risen to 50,000.
What is the cause of this decline of this bird; which recently won the vote for national bird of the Netherlands?
Various people name various possible causes for the decline of Dutch black-tailed godwits.
Is it crows, or birds of prey, as hunters often say? No.
Is it red foxes, as hunters also often say? No; or only to a small extent.
Is it because those horrible people in Africa are all the time shooting godwits when they winter in Africa, as prejudiced people in the Netherlands say? No; not true.
Is it because in Friesland province until recently it was legal to collect northern lapwings’ eggs, as many conservationists outside Friesland and also some in Friesland say? No, to a large extent. It was not legal to take godwits’ eggs; and in other provinces than Friesland, taking lapwings‘ eggs was illegal as well.
Is it because there have been drastic ecological changes in farmland in the Netherlands during the past fifty years, leading to more chances of godwit eggs being destroyed by agricultural equipment?
Economical and ecological changes leading to less food and greater chances of being killed by agricultural equipment for young godwits?
Economical and ecological changes leading to more cows per meadow, meaning more chances of cows trampling nests, not only of the northern lapwing in this picture, but of black-tailed godwits as well?
Yes, that is the main cause, according to Beintema.
This is mainly not the fault of farmers as individuals, but of the economic context in which the ‘free market’, the Dutch government and the European Union compelled them to work.
There was and is pressure on farmers to stop ‘old fashioned’ farming, and to become agribusiness businessmen, in dog eat dog competition in which big farmers survive and small farmers perish.
Sicco Mansholt, first Dutch Minister of Agriculture, later European Commissioner of Agriculture, bears a big part of the blame for this, according to Beintema. Mansholt later, after his retirement, expressed better ideas than when he was still an active politician. He said he regretted the damage he had done to small farmers and the farmland environment. However, this is part of a more general problem, of politicians getting better ideas after they have retired; thought they should have been earlier with these.
These birds are so beautiful, Beintema said, showing this slide of ten thousands of godwits on a small wetland in Portugal during spring migration.
Is there a chance of keeping black-tailed godwits as nesting birds in the Netherlands? Yes, in spite of all problems, said Beintema. Scientists like Theunis Piersma are taking good pro-godwit initiatives. We should change agricultural policies (difficult because of the powerful Big Agribusiness lobby). Some farmers farm in a pro-grassland birds way (like on Terschelling island, as Beintema told me). Also, in nature reserves, godwits can survive.
That is an annual prize for the best Dutch book about wildlife. It is named after Dutch visual artist and author Jan Wolkers, who was keenly interested in natural history. Jan’s widow Karina is one of the members of the jury.
This photo shows Mr Beintema with his prize between the presenters of the Vroege Vogels radio show, Ms Milouska Meulens and Menno Bentveld, on the staircase of the Lakenhal museum in Leiden, where the winner was announced.
The other four nominees were:
– Botanische Revolutie, by Norbert Peeters. It is about Charles Darwin’s significance as a botanist.
– Dit is mijn hof – by Chris de Stoop; about farmland in Zeeland province.
– Zoektocht naar het paradijs – Arita Baaijens. It is about Ms Baaijens’ journey to the Altai mountains.
Three of the five (or: four of the six, as the crabs book is by two authors) nominees lectured on their work on that 16 October in the Lakenhal museum. I will report on these three lectures, by Ms Baaijens, by misters Alsemgeest and Fransen, and by Mr Beintema, in separate blog posts.
Norbert Peters did not lecture in the Lakenhal, but guided his readers in a tour of the botanical garden. Chris de Stoop was not present.
We heard the choir there on 10 September 2016, Heritage Day.
Through the windows, one can see the buildings around the church; many of them ancient as well.
On the church floor, many tombstones, from, eg, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Some of them still legible; some so worn that they are now illegible; some in which a few letters are still legible, like on the left of this photo. The window reflects on the church floor in this photo.
Beautiful late summer light through the windows.
In this 31 August Dutch video, guide Auke-Florian shows people around Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden for the last time before the start of a big reconstruction of the museum buildings; meant to accommodate newly arrived big Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops fossils etc.
Naturalis butterfly collection: here.
This video from the Netherlands says about itself:
22 May 2015
There is at least one youngster on the nest, as a photo shows.
Hobbies are rare as breeding birds in the Netherlands. In Leiden, they used to nest in poplar trees along a road. After these trees were cut down, local authorities provided a new nest in another tree, near Naturalis museum. Fortunately, that worked.
See also here.