Birds, bee, Karl Marx and architecture

Canal, Leiden, 13 August 2017

As this blog reported before, on 13 March 2017 we went to the botanical garden. We walked back along the same canal where we had seen a herring gull couple earlier that day. All photos in this blog post are macro photos.

Coot, 13 August 2017

There were birds now as well: the parent coot we had seen earlier, with its two youngsters, one older than the other one. The parent coot stood on a boat.

Mute swan youngster, 13 August 2017

A group of adult and young mute swans passed.

Karl Marx, 13 August 2017

A bit further, we met Karl Marx. Not the person, but the small boat named after him.

Leiden, 13 August 2017

We went left along another canal.

Doelenpoort, 13 August 2017

We passed the 17th century Doelenpoort gate.

Butterfly-bush, 13 August 2017

Finally, we passed a butterfly-bush with a bee on it.


Leiden botanical garden plants

Drynaria pleuridioides, 13 August 2017

As this blog mentioned, on 13 August 2017 we saw the carnivorous plants exhibition in the botanical garden in Leiden. Outside the exhibition hall were interesting plants as well. Like this Drynaria pleuridioides, which is a species from Asia, and other fern species in one of the hothouses.

Drynaria pleuridioides, on 13 August 2017

All photos in this blog post are macro lens photos.

Bulbophyllum medusae, 13 August 2017

Another species in the hothouses was Asian as well; an orchid, not a fern: Bulbophyllum medusae.

Among other orchids in the hothouses were Trichoglossis geminata and Dendrobium bracteosum.

Yet another species in the hothouses was not a plant at all, but an insect: giant prickly stick insects from Australia were still present.

Sacred lotus, 13 August 2017

Outside, there was a small pond in the Chinese garden. Sacred lotus growing there.

Sacred lotus flower, 13 August 2017

With sacred lotus flowers …

Sacred lotus ex-flower, 13 August 2017

sacred lotus ex-flowers …

Sacred lotus bud, 13 August 2017

and sacred lotus buds.

Botanical garden, 13 August 2017

A bit further, a speckled wood butterfly.

We went back from the botanical garden, and saw some birds. So, stay tuned!

Carnivorous plant exhibition

Sarracenia, 13 August 2017

As this blog wrote before, on 13 August 2017 we arrived at the carnivorous plants exhibition in Leiden botanical garden. Where we saw this Sarracenia, a North American plant. Among the species at the exhibition were Sarracenia oreophila, Sarracenia eva and Sarracenia leucophila.

Sarracenia, on 13 August 2017

All photos in this blog post are macro photos.

Drosera binata, 13 August 2017

There were Drosera carnivorous plants as well, like this Drosera binata from Australia.

Drosera binata, on 13 August 2017

And this one.

Drosera binata, Leiden, 13 August 2017

Drosera capensis and many others were present as well.

Carnivorous plant, 13 August 2017

Also at the exhibition was Nepenthes ampullaria from Asia. Though related to carnivorous plants, it is not really carnivorous itself. It does not produce enzymes to digest insects, but formic acid to digest fern leaves.

Carnivorous plant, on 13 August 2017

We went to the exit of the carnivorous plants exhibition hall, to see the rest of the botanical garden. Stay tuned!

Pigeons, young coots and herring gulls

Pigeons, 13 August 2017

13 August 2017. While we were on our way to a carnivorous plant exhibition in the Leiden botanical garden, we saw these domestic pigeons. Like all photos on this blog post, a macro lens photo.

Pigeon, 13 August 2017

While the pigeons looked for food on the bank, an adult coot swam in the canal with two youngsters. One of the chicks was obviously older than the older one, having already a white belly and being bigger. A man threw a piece of apple near the coots. Immediately, a herring gull dived to catch the apple. Also immediately, the parent coot drove away the herring gull.

Pigeons, 13 August 2017

Meanwhile, the pigeons kept looking for food.

Pigeons, on 13 August 2017

Domestic pigeons in various colours.

Pigeon, on 13 August 2017

Sometimes, many birds flew away, leaving only one.

Pigeon, Leiden, 13 August 2017

Herring gull, 13 August 2017

We continued, along another canal. There, we met two herring gulls. Maybe one of them was the gull we had seen earlier with the piece of apple and the coots.

Herring gulls, 13 August 2017

Maybe the bird on the left is the male of this couple; and the bird on the right the female (females being a bit smaller in this species).

We arrived at the carnivorous plants exhibition. So, stay tuned!

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.