Lithuanian forest wildlife, film review

This video says about itself:

The Ancient Woods – Trailer

The 65th Sydney Film Festival – 6-17 June 2018

A magical ode to an ancient European forest, filmed in exquisite detail, this is a one-of-a-kind nature film that begs to be seen on the big screen. The setting is dense, old growth woods, rich with wildlife – on the ground, in the air and in the water. As seasons shift, creatures follow their eternal routines of foraging, grooming and raising their young. The camera, in almost-surreal detail, captures the forest’s endurance and undeniable beauty – the capercaillie’s red brow, the flight of an owl, an insect emerging from melting snow.

There’s no commentary, only birdcalls and the sound of the wind. Lithuanian biologist turned filmmaker Mindaugas Survila spent almost ten years making The Ancient Woods, often taking weeks to capture the right shot. His patience and unerring eye has resulted in an enchanting, meditative documentary experience.

On 27 October 2018, I went to see that film.

Like the Dutch wetland wildlife film Wad, it begins in winter and ends in winter.

Like Wad, part of it was filmed underwater. Meaning that in Wad, you see salt water wildlife. And in The Ancient Woods, you see freshwater fish, and the reflections of flying fireflies and bats in the water.

There is no commentary, not spoken, not in subtitles. While that may help in focusing attention on the beautiful imagery, it might cause problems for people in, eg, South America, Indonesia or otherwise who are not familiar with Lithuanian animal species.

There are three deer species in the film: from the smallest, roe deer, to red deer, to elk (or moose, if you are North American), the bigest species.

Also European bison, badgers, wolves and rodents.

One reptile: an adder.

While there is deserved attention for big bird species, like sea eagle, raven, black stork and tawny owl, as for smaller birds there is only a brief shot of a nightjar, and sound (no images) of golden oriole and blackbird.

A film definitely worth seeing.

Migrating Bewick’s swan discovered in Lithuania

This 1 November 2016 video is called Flight of the Swans – Ground crew find Daisy Clark.

The Flight of the Swans blog writes about this today:

Sacha [woman following migrating Bewick’s swans on a paraglider] ‘s in Lithuania and has found tagged swan Daisy Clarke!

Baltic sea birdlife

This video is called Spotted Nutcracker in Lithuania.

From BirdLife:

Lithuania: A Baltic Sea holiday

By Marguerite Tarzia and Julius Morkunas, 12 July 2016

If you’ve already island hopped through Greece, Spain and Italy, then why not head for the Baltic coast for a different sort of holiday? While we can’t guarantee that the ‘Baltic Beach escape’ will be the next on trend thing to do during the summer, there’s wildlife, beautiful views and originality on your side! The Baltic Sea coastline is shared by nine countries, offering different food, culture, languages and scenery. What more could you want on a holiday?

It is easy to travel between Baltic countries by ferry. This gives you the opportunity to spot seabirds and harbour porpoises as you travel from one country to another. It will also give you an appreciation for the quantity of ship traffic in this enclosed sea, which is one of the highest in the world.

Plenty of seabirds to see

The most spectacular time to visit the Baltic for seabirds is in autumn and winter, when migrating seabirds such as the Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck and Common Eider arrive to feed just off the coasts of the southern Baltic countries.

Despite its global importance for seabirds during winter, you can still get your seabird fix during your summer break! If you are lucky you might see some of the resident auk species, such as the Razorbill and Common Guillemot. If passing by the Swedish island of Gothland, look out for the small island of Stora Karlso, where up to 10,000 pairs of Common Guillemot breed during the summer.

A number of tern species can also be found breeding along the Baltic coast, such as the Caspian Tern, the Common Tern and the Sandwich Tern. The Caspian Tern breeds mostly along the Swedish and Finnish coasts and is considered regionally vulnerable due to its small population size and predation by invasive species (fox, mink) and gulls.

If you enjoy Great Cormorant colonies, visit the Curonian Spit in Lithuania. There are approximately 3.000 pairs of birds nesting high up in pine trees alongside some of largest sand dunes in Europe. You will hear and smell them before you see them!

Watch out for lots of ships and climate change

The Baltic Sea has become increasingly busy, with shipping of goods and people and development of energy infrastructure. There are a number of potential impacts to seabirds from this high density traffic, including chronic oil pollution and the risk of oil spills, and disturbance to the birds’ foraging grounds. Not to mention the possibility of more invasive marine species being introduced to the Baltic Sea, leading to ecosystem-wide changes in fish and benthic communities (those living at the lowest levels of the sea)! We need to better understand the cumulative impact of all these activities on the birds and other marine species.

Meanwhile, the Baltic Sea ecosystem is already changing: climate change and eutrophication (caused by pollution from land/agriculture) are altering food supplies for seabirds and their available habitat. As warmer winters reduce the sea ice, seabirds are moving to different parts of the Baltic Sea, including further north. This makes monitoring their population numbers even more challenging.

Seabird bycatch

As you pack up your beach lilos and head home, migrating seaducks will be preparing to take your place along the coast. At the same time, the fishing communities dotted along the coast start preparing for their winter fishing season. Many of the fishermen are looking to catch Atlantic Cod and Pike Perch.

This sometimes spells bad news for seabirds in the Baltic Sea, as it is a particularly problematic region for accidental capture of seabirds in fishing gear, especially in nets. It is currently estimated that up to 76,000 birds are caught by nets in the Baltic Sea each year.

The good news is that through our Seabird Task Force, fishermen and our team are working together on possible solutions to this problem. You can see more about the experimental panels that we have been attaching to nets on our website.

Tips from a local: Julius Morkunas

“The Curonian Spit in Lithuania is definitely worth visiting, even if you only have one or two days to spend along the coast. It is a great place to see the Tawny Pipit: you can see while on the beach or walking in the sand dunes. In August you can find Little Gulls and Black Terns hunting in the waves. Autumn is also a great time to visit the Curonian Spit: hundreds of thousands birds pass through it as they migrate.

Šventoji is another great beach, where just a few minutes away is a meadow with breeding Citrine Wagtails, cranes, Black Storks, Marsh Sandpiper and harriers. Just take binoculars and go through the grassland to the east of the beach.

Also, don’t forget to look closely at the ground under your feet; you could find some bits of amber.”

First ever calandra lark in Lithuania

This video, recorded in Spain, is called Calandra Lark – (Melanocorypha calandra).

From Tarsiger on Twitter today:

Calandra Lark – Calandra melanocorypha – Arokiuru near Panevezys, the 1st record for Lithuania.

Animal welfare violations in puppy trade

This 2011 video from the USA says about itself:

Puppy mills are large breeding facilities where dogs live in deplorable conditions, often without necessary food, water, or veterinary care. This is a look inside.

Another video, from Britain, used to say about itself:

13 November 2014

Puppy Smuggling Surge Raises Rabies Fears

Corrupt vets are creating false pet passports and faking vaccination records to get puppies into the UK, an investigation reveals.

A dramatic increase in the number of puppies crossing the border from eastern Europe into the UK is fuelling fears that rabies could return to Britain, a charity has warned.

Dogs Trust has uncovered a “high level of corruption” and “shocking” animal welfare following its investigation into the trade of puppies from Hungary and Lithuania.

Undercover footage shows vets creating false pet passports and rabies vaccination records.

The charity said its findings show that the Pet Travel Scheme, which allows pet dogs, cats and ferrets to enter Britain without quarantine, was being abused by criminal breeders, vets and transporters.

It revealed how under-age puppies slipped through the net undeclared due to a lack of checks at ferry ports and borders, enabling breeders to make up to £100,000 a year.

It also found that some puppies are forced to make journeys of more than 1,000 miles in appalling conditions without suitable treatments or vaccinations, increasing the risk of spreading diseases such as rabies in the UK.

Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust veterinary director, said: “While ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ remains our famous slogan, a puppy remains on the top of many wish lists.

“Unsuspecting British shoppers will continue to buy puppies online which may have been brought into the country illegally, meaning the risk of unknowingly bringing a puppy from eastern Europe with diseases and behavioural problems into the home is very real.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Dogs Trust uncovers cruel puppy smuggling

Friday 14th November 2014

A CHARITY has uncovered what it describes as a “high level of corruption” and “shocking” animal welfare breaches following an investigation into the trade of puppies from eastern Europe to Britain.

The Dogs Trust released footage yesterday which it says shows criminal breeders, vets and transporters in Hungary and Lithuania abusing the Pet Travel Scheme, which allows pet dogs, cats and ferrets to enter Britain without quarantine.

European vets were caught on camera creating false pet passports and rabies vaccination records.

The charity said that underage puppies slipped through the net undeclared due to a lack of checks at ferry ports and borders.

It also found that some puppies are forced to make journeys of more than 1,000 miles in appalling conditions.

More about this is here.

Saving birds in Europe

This video from Lithuania is called Globally threatened Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola) in Nemunas Delta in 2012. It says about itself:

4 June 2013

Aquatic Warbler (Acrocephalus paludicola) is the only globally threatened passerine bird found in mainland Europe.

Lithuania is among eight countries worldwide with suitable breeding habitats for this rare species. From 2011 it is breeding only in Belarus, Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania. In 2012 63-64 singing males were found in Lithuania.

Aquatic Warbler is a habitat specialist occurring mainly in open sedge fen mires and marshy habitats. Today it is facing extinction due to an increasingly abandoned farmland or transformation of meadows into a grazing land. Therefore its conservation is closely linked to sustainable farming practices.

Video recording made with special permission from Lithuanian Environment Protection Agency.

For more info about Aquatic Warbler conservation in Lithuania and Latvia visit

From BirdLife:

BirdLife Partners are LIFE masters!

By Elodie Cantaloube, Mon, 28/04/2014 – 15:34

Each year, the European Commission evaluates all completed projects funded through the LIFE programme and this year, 4 out of the 11 Best LIFE Nature projects receiving the award have been implemented by BirdLife partners. Tomorrow, an award ceremony will be held in Brussels where the leading BirdLife Partners, OTOP (Poland), the RSPB (UK), BirdLife Finland, HOS (Greece) and SPEA (Portugal) will receive an award.

Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Europe stresses “It is an extremely important recognition for our partnership, 2013 was a difficult year for conservation, but even more for our BirdLife Partners that fought the financial crisis without weakening their conservation objectives. These four awards are just another example of their incredible work.”

OTOP (BirdLife in Poland) and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) joined forces in the “Aquatic Warbler” project aiming to improve the conservation status of the Aquatic Warbler, at the edge of global extinction.

Europe hosts 99% of the global population of the Vulnerable Aquatic Warbler and Poland is a critical habitat for their survival, being its second-largest population stronghold. During the past century, this species experienced a steep decline due to the drainage of its territories for agriculture. The Aquatic Warbler LIFE project, spanning from 2005 to 2011, sought to stabilise populations at key sites (totally 4,200 ha) in Poland and Germany through the enlargement of suitable habitats and improvements to their condition. The project resulted in increasing populations of the bird species and the re-occupation of restored habitats. New management and enforcement plans are now in place and the future of the species is secured thanks to the project “Facilitating Aquatic Warbler habitat management through sustainable systems of biomass use.”

Kokemäenjoki – From Ancient to the Present Estuary, Kokemäenjoki Wetland Chain”, a BirdLife Finland project aiming to restore natural sites on the River Kokemäenjoki.

The purpose of the Kokemäenjoki project, started in 2006 by BirdLife Finland, was to restore five valuable natural sites on the River Kokemäenjoki, including eight Natura 2000 areas. Mowing and excavation were used to prevent overgrowth and preserve the wetlands that were at risk of becoming marshy and overgrown, causing the loss of valuable species. The area was also managed by cultivating and furrowing the reed roots, imitating the effects of being trampled by cattle, which has proven to be very effective at other similar sites. Birdwatching towers and information boards were put up and a number of nature trails were laid to increase awareness of the incredible natural value of the area. Finally, management and land use plans were developed to ensure future sustainable use of the site for both conservation and recreational activities.

BirdLife Greek and Portuguese Partners complete the project “Concrete Conservation Actions for the Mediterranean Shag and Audouin’s gull in Greece”.

This project, run by HOS (BirdLife in Greece) and SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal), focused on improving the conservation status and breeding performance of Audouin’s Gull and Mediterranean Shag, which inhabit the Aegean Sea and Ionian Sea areas of Greece. The project actions addressed the most relevant threats for the conservation of these two species, namely, rat predation, gull competition and commercial fishing activities that cause accidental birdcatch. Specific actions at project sites included the complete removal of all rats from five Natura 2000 sites, the modification of fishing gear and/or fishing regulations to reduce seabird bycatch and the pilot implementation of control measures to reduce Yellow-legged gull populations, a competitor for food and nesting sites. As a parallel result, 41 marine Important Bird Areas (IBAs) were identified and will be included in the Greek Natura 2000 network, securing their protection as a necessary step to avoid habitat loss and degradation. The project was of utmost importance for seabird and marine conservation in the Eastern Mediterranean; it improved critical habitats, allowed for better seabird breeding sites and created a model that could be easily repeated by neighboring countries.

SPEA and RSPB receive a second award for the project “Safe Islands for Seabirds”.The Azores islands used to be the home of millions of breeding seabirds, but today most of these colonies have decreased drastically as a result of introduced predators and invasive exotic plant species. Started in 2009 and focusing on Corvo (the smallest of all Azorean islands) and Vila Franca islet, this project worked towards the conservation of seabird colonies in the Azores, through habitat restoration and control and eradication of invasive alien species. It also built the first “pest-proof fence” in Europe, following successful experiences carried out in other remote areas such as the Hawaiian islands and New Zealand. As part of a wider restoration plan, several tests evaluating the chances of making Corvo an alien-free island were also implemented. The future of the pest-free fenced zone will be secured thanks to a management protocol signed into place by SPEA and the local authorities.

For more information, please contact Elodie Cantaloube, Media and Communications Officer at BirdLife Europe.

Scientists confirm worst fears: new EU Policy on Agriculture is bad for nature: here.

CIA torture in Lithuania scandal

This video is called Revealing CIA‘s political secrets in Europe(2010).

From the Baltic Times:

Lithuanian prosecutor accused in Guantanamo Bay case

Jan 29, 2014

From wire reports, VILNIUS

Vilnius Regional Court has ruled that prosecutor unfoundedly refused to launch a pre-trial investigation into allegations that Mustafa al-Hawsawi was illegally transferred to and secretly detained and tortured in secret CIA detention centre in Lithuania in 2004-2006, says Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) in a statement.

In September last year HRMI and REDRESS submitted a complaint against prosecutors calling for an investigation into the allegations. The request was refused, and the NGOs appealed to Vilnius Circuit Court, which upheld the prosecutor’s decision.

The higher instance court, however, overruled the judgement and found that prosecutors hastily refused to open an inquiry. The court believed that before making a categorical conclusion that there was no crime committed, the prosecutor should have tried to question al-Hawsawi, currently kept in detention in Guantanamo, and send requests to US institutions.

“This judgement is of great significance on national as well as international level,” said HRMI’s representative Meta Adutaviciute. “It is a huge step forward in protecting human rights [in] Lithuania.”

Al-Hawsawi has not been able to bring a complaint himself, or provide any information to any organisation to bring a complaint on his behalf, because of strict classification rules in place in the United States. The complaint was therefore based on information obtained from public sources.

Lithuania is perceived to be the country with the most widespread government corruption, according to an international survey involving almost 40 countries: here.

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Lithuanian voters reject austerity

This video from Lithuania says about itself:

Jun 25, 2012 by Vytautas Bakas

On June 21th National Association of Officers’ Trade Unions is organizing the protest action “Officers — against poverty in law enforcement”. Austerity affected the statutory officers in Lithuania probably the most in compare with other EU states. Mostly it has been unpaid vocation, lack of uniforms, limits for fuel (partly is the same till now). In 2008-2012 the authorities fails to any substantive and effective policies to tackle socio-economic problems of officers. Financing for the Interior and other statutory institutions fell more than 350 million LTL, including wages — more than 150 million LTL. The professional officers leaving the service and the beginners are earning less than 400 EUR.

The protest starts in the capital city Vilnius at the noon next to Parliament (Seimas). Policemen, firemen, state guard service officers, employees of the correction houses from all around the country will take part in demo, which starts 12.30.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Landslide election win for Labour

Monday 15 October 2012

by Our Foreign Desk

Lithuanians exasperated with austerity cuts handed a stunning victory to the left-leaning Labour Party, nearly complete results of Sunday’s election showed today.

The opposition Labour Party led by Viktor Uspaskich was leading with 23.4 per cent of the vote after nearly three-quarters of precincts were counted.

The victory set the stage for a coalition with the Social Democrats, who were second with 19.4 per cent, and Order and Justice, a populist party led by Rolandas Paksas, who became president in 2003 – only to be impeached the following year for violating the constitution and abuse of office. Paksas’s party was fourth with 9.2 per cent.

All three parties promised radical policy changes including increased wages and lower taxes.

The current conservative ruling coalition, led by erstwhile prime minister Andrius Kubilius, took only 12.3 per cent of votes.

The Kubilius government had dramatically raised taxes to ward off turning to international lenders for bailout funds.

Lithuania is beset with high unemployment – more than 13 per cent in the second quarter – and falling living standards due in large part to higher energy costs.

Leaders of the three opposition parties met early today to set out the broad outlines of an agreement for a new government coalition.

However only half the seats in the 141-member Parliament are determined by party lists while the other half consists of single mandates, many of which will require a run-off ballot in two weeks.

Only then will a clear picture of who could form the next government emerge.

Lithuania election: Voters ‘dump austerity government’: here. And here.

Germany’s super-rich are growing richer while the working class bears the cost of the financial crisis: here.

Lithuanian CIA torture scandal

This video is called Council of Europe digs for truth on CIA prisons.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain

Lithuania urged to reopen CIA torture probe

Thursday 29 September 2011

by Our Foreign Desk

Amnesty International challenged Lithuania today to reopen its investigation into alleged torture and CIA detention camps citing new evidence of a “rendition” flight to the country.

Amnesty counter-terrorism expert Julia Hall said that a Boeing 727 allegedly carrying Palestinian man Abu Zubaydah landed in Vilnius on February 17 2005 after taking off from Morocco and refuelling in Jordan.

“This is a previously undiscovered flight,” Ms Hall said. “It is crucial to note that this is a flight that does not appear in the parliamentary report, and we have never heard any explanation from the prosecutor general about this flight.”

Two Lithuanian probes – one by a parliamentary committee and another by the country’s prosecutors – have concluded that there was no evidence that people were held in camps controlled by the CIA in the country.

Lithuanian MPs said in a 2009 report that although the government provided two facilities to the CIA in 2002 and 2004 there was no evidence they ever held prisoners.

Prosecutors closed their own probe in January this year, citing the need to protect state secrets.

Ms Hall said: “The Lithuanian authorities should not hide behind the blanket claim of ‘state secrecy’ to prevent allegations of disappearance and torture from being properly investigated.

“They must reopen their investigation into these operations, including the activities of US officials, and hold accountable those responsible for complicity in all abuses that have taken place.”

Earlier this year the London-based Reprieve organisation provided investigators with confidential information that Mr Zubaydah, who was repeatedly tortured by US personnel, had been secretly imprisoned in Lithuania between 2004 and 2006.

“There is enough information in the public domain to make it imperative for the criminal investigation to be reopened. The Lithuanian authorities hold the key to unlocking the whole truth about their country’s role in the rendition and secret detention programmes,” Ms Hall said.

Lithuanian deputy prosecutor-general Darius Raulusaitis would not say yesterday whether the case would be reviewed.

But he said: “We are grateful to Amnesty for their job protecting human rights and would appreciate if more facts on alleged CIA prisons and detainees in Lithuania were presented.”

Reprieve calls on Lithuania to re-open torture site inquiry: here.

Guantanamo detainee takes Lithuania to European Court of Human Rights over secret CIA prison: here.

CIA: Zubaydah’s Torture Drawings, “Should They Exist,” to Remain Top Secret. Jason Leopold, Truthout: “In 2002, not long after he was subjected to so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ by Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, psychologists under contract to the CIA, high-value detainee Abu Zubaydah made about ten drawings depicting the torture he endured while in custody of the agency. One of the drawings Zubaydah had sketched captured in incredible detail the waterboarding sessions he underwent”: here.

CIA torture scandal in Lithuania continues

This video is called CIA secret prison in Lithuania.

From the Canadian Press:

Rights groups, citing own evidence, call for Lithuania to reopen CIA prison investigation

By Liudas Dapkus (CP) – 2 hours ago

VILNIUS, Lithuania — Human rights groups have called on Lithuanian prosecutors to reopen a criminal probe into a secret CIA detention centre set up in the country, and a top national security lawmaker said Wednesday that investigators had failed to weigh all the evidence.

Prosecutors closed the case last week, citing a lack of evidence, but human rights groups Amnesty International and Reprieve slammed the decision, claiming they have evidence that the site was used to interrogate and torture terrorism suspects.

Arvydas Anusauskas, chairman of parliament’s national security committee, urged prosecutors to reopen the case and weigh information provided by the groups.

“Two international organizations claim they have solid proof of illegal activities in Lithuania. … I believe these sources could provide public or nonpublic testimony to Lithuanian officials,” he said after meeting with President Dalia Grybauskaite, who also suggested the case could be reopened if new evidence surfaced.

“Nobody is certain that new information will not emerge,” Anusauskas added.

A parliamentary probe in 2009 concluded that although Lithuania, a Baltic country in northeast Europe, provided two facilities to the CIA, there was no evidence the facilities ever held terrorism suspects.

Prosecutors launched their own investigation to determine whether any crimes had been committed, particularly by Lithuania’s top national security officials.

Julia Hall of Amnesty International said prosecutors’ decision to close the case was “premature.”

“By shuttering the investigation before all the evidence has been gathered and all lines of inquiry pursued, the prosecutor cuts off a process that had the potential to hold people accountable for serious human rights violations,” Hall said.

Reprieve said it had provided investigators with confidential information that Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian repeatedly tortured by U.S. investigators, had been secretly imprisoned in Lithuania between 2004 and 2006. The NGO also said it supplied a list of individuals who could provide testimony — including CIA officials, Lithuanian handlers, and eyewitnesses.

The parliamentary probe determined that Lithuania’s top national security agency, the State Security Department, had struck a deal with the CIA in 2002 to create secret “black site” prisons near Vilnius to interrogate terrorist suspects.

Lawmakers did, however, reveal that aircraft involved in transporting prisoners had entered Lithuanian airspace and landed in Vilnius, the country’s capital, on several occasions in 2002-2005.

Gulet Mohamed, a 19-year-old American citizen, returned to the US Friday after being tortured—apparently on Washington’s orders—at the hands of the regime in Kuwait: here.