European birds, and Asian plants exhibition

This video is about the exhibition Crown Jewels from Asia, which is at present in the botanical garden in Leiden, the Netherlands.

The exhibition celebrates the bicentenary of the botanical garden in Bogor, Indonesia, the Kebun Raya.

We went to that exhibition on 25 June.

As we walked to the botanical garden, two great spotted woodpeckers, a youngster and its mother. Sometimes they sat on the trees along the canal; sometimes on a home’s balcony.

A bit further in that canal, a great crested grebe couple building their nest. A few meters further, a coot nest with a youngster and its parents. Still about fifty meters further, another coot nest; in the part of the canal inside the botanical garden.

Near the garden entrance, information signs on the Crown Jewels from Asia exhibition. Especially about seventeenth century naturalist Rumphius, who wrote the first book on plants in Indonesia (more specifically Ambon island); work which inspired the later Bogor botanical garden.

In a hothouse, another sign about Rumphius at Nepenthes carnivorous plants. Rumphius knew that insects die in Nepenthes pitchers; he did not know yet that the plants digest them as food. Even to Charles Darwin in the nineteenth century, discovering carnivory in plants was surprising.

In the hothouse, the big Australian stick insects were still present.

In the Victoria amazonica hothouse, there was a Crown Jewels from Asia sign as well. Though these giant water lilies are from South America, not Asia. That was because in the nineteenth century there were experiments in cultivating Victoria plants in the Bogor garden before they arrived in the Leiden garden.

Outside, greenfinch and ring-necked parakeet sounds.

Beautiful orchid flowering in botanical garden

This video is called OrchidWeb – Dendrobium spectabile.

This orchid species is from New Guinea island and the Solomon islands.

Leiden botanical garden in the Netherlands reports that today a Dendrobium spectabile is flowering in their hothouse, and will continue to do so for some days.

Black-tailed godwit book wins Jan Wolkers Prize

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.

The winner was De Grutto (The black-tailed godwit), a book by Albert Beintema.

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.

Black-tailed godwit on a pole, 16 October 2016

This was the first slide, of a black-tailed godwit on a pole.

Beintema mentioned that famous Dutch naturalist Jac. P. Thijsse had called the black-tailed godwit ‘the king of the grassland birds‘.

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?

Godwit eggs destroyed

Economical and ecological changes leading to less food and greater chances of being killed by agricultural equipment for young godwits?

Lapwing nest

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.

Godwits in Portugal

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.

Black-tailed godwit wins Jan Wolkers Prize

In this 2014 video from the Netherlands, a black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) calls from the top of a willow tree.

On 16 October 2016, a book about black-tailed godwits won the Jan Wolkers Prize.

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.

There was a shortlist of five books. The winner was De grutto [The black-tailed godwit], by Albert Beintema.

Milouska Meulens, Albert Beintema, Menno Bentveld

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.

In krabbengang door kreeftenboeken – by Alex Alsemgeest and Charles Fransen. It is about the big valuable collection in Naturalis museum of books on crabs, lobsters and their relatives.

– 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.

Tyrannosaurus rex in Dutch museum, video

This 9 September 2016 Dutch video shows Tyrannosaurus rex fossil Trix, which arrived recently in Naturalis museum in Leiden in the Netherlands.

Modern classical music in medieval Dutch church

Choir in Hooglandse Kerk, 10 September 2016

This photo shows the Leids Kamerkoor choir performing in the Hooglandse Kerk, St. Pancras church in Leiden, the Netherlands. Like all photos in this blog post, this is a cellphone photo.

We heard the choir there on 10 September 2016, Heritage Day.

Hooglandse kerk windows, 10 September 2016

The church was built in the late middle ages. It is in Gothic style, as one can see from the tall windows.

Buildings through Hooglandse kerk windows, 10 September 2016

Through the windows, one can see the buildings around the church; many of them ancient as well.

Tombstone, 10 September 2016

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.

Light through windows, 10 September 2016

Beautiful late summer light through the windows.

The Leids Kamerkoor choir on this 10 September sang twentieth and twenty-first century classical music, from, eg, Dutch and Canadian composers.

In this 2015 video from a concert in Tampere, Finland, the Leids Kamerkoor sang nineteenth century music: “Die Nachtigall” (The Nightingale), by Mendelssohn.

Leiden Naturalis museum, just before big changes

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.