Cormorants and black redstart in Germany

Bulrush, 4 October 2016

Still the morning of 4 April 2016 near Kamp village in Germany. After we had seen many cranes, and also many great white-fronted geese, wake up and fly from their sleeping quarters to places for eating, we walked back to Kamp. On both sides of the road, marshy areas with bulrush plants.

A sea eagle flies.

Two roe deer cross the road.

Great cormorants, 4 October 2016

A flock of great cormorants flying.

Four barn swallows fly; passing through on migration to Africa.

Trees, 4 October 2016

Closer to Kamp, more trees grow.

On a roof in the village sits a black redstart.

Black redstart, 4 October 2016

And a great tit as well.

House sparrows.

Eurasian cranes wake up, photos

Sunrise, 4 October 2016

As this blog reported, on 3 October 2016 our ship had arrived in Kamp village in Germany. In the evening, we had seen many Eurasian cranes and geese on autumn migration arrive to sleep in the wetlands. Next morning, we went there again, around sunrise.

Cranes waking up on 4 October 2016

Gradually, the cranes woke up.

Cranes waking up, 4 October 2016

Some of them started to fly in the morning light.

More cranes flying

More and more cranes started flying from their sleeping quarters to places where they might find food …

Yet more cranes

… and yet more cranes …

And yet more cranes

… and yet more cranes.

Cranes flying and standing

Though many cranes flew away, for the moment many stayed as well.

Cranes flying

As the sun rose further, more cranes started flying …

Cranes flying away

… encouraging others to fly as well.

Cranes flying away, 4 October 2016

Stay tuned, as there will be more on this blog about 4 October 2016 near Kamp village!

Cranes in Germany: here.

African Irish photographer’s exhibition

This video from England says about itself:

A Short Film on the London Irish Centre

Shot in Camden, north London, on 6th of February 2008.

Filmed & Edited by Eoin O’Donnell.

By Angela Cobbinah in London, England:

Black, Irish and proud

Saturday 22nd October 2016

LORRAINE MAHER tells Angela Cobbinah what inspired her to mount the ground-breaking #iamirish photography exhibition at the Irish Centre in London

WHEN she was growing up in County Tipperary in the 1960s, Lorraine Maher met no other black people and on the few occasions they came into her midst she would avoid them.

“I didn’t want to draw attention to myself in any way,” she says.

“I grew up in a beautiful town full of beautiful people but there was racism all around me. This was the age of the golliwog and the ‘black baby box’ to collect money for starving African babies.

“I knew I was different but my blackness was never spoken about and I spent my childhood just wanting to hide away and not be noticed.”

It did not help that her mother had handed her over to her grandmother to be brought up while she lived nearby with her new family.

“In those days it would have been very hard for my mother to have not only had an illegitimate child but a black one too,” Lorraine acknowledges.

“However, I had a very difficult upbringing and I am living with the effects of that.”

There were children like herself scattered all over Ireland, many fathered by African doctors who were based there in the 1950s and ’60s as a result of bilateral work and study programmes. The unluckiest ended up in the dreaded “industrial schools”, children’s homes run by the Catholic Church where abuse was said to be widespread.

Not surprisingly, Lorraine left Ireland as soon as she could, heading for the bright lights of London aged 17. It proved to be a liberation. “I arrived at a place where I met people of all colours and where no-one questioned my identity,” she says.

“At last I felt I belonged. I dropped my Irish accent and I started seeing myself as a black woman.”

But as time went on, she realised she was still very much Irish. “It is the culture I was brought up in and it is important to me. These days I say I am black, I am Irish and I am proud.”

It is this often painful journey to self-realisation that laid the seeds of the #iamirish exhibition she has curated for the London Irish Centre, tellingly its first ever contribution to Black History Month. Opened last week by Ruaidri Dowling on behalf of the Irish embassy, it is a display of stunning portraits by photographer Tracey Anderson that aims to question the concept of what it looks like to be Irish.

“It is a celebration of Ireland’s diversity,” explains Lorraine, who works as an education manager at the Clean Break Theatre Company and has four children.

“The photos are accompanied by family crests, linked to Irish surnames, to dispel the idea that if you are from a non-white community you are automatically an immigrant. I myself can trace my ancestry back thousands of years.”

The Ireland of today is very different to the one she grew up in, she agrees. The economic boom of the 1980s and ’90s brought in migrants from all over the world transforming the country’s monocultural view of itself and when Muhammad Ali visited Ennis in County Clare in 2009 where his great great-grandfather hailed from he was given a huge welcome.

But according to Lorraine: “Ireland may look very different but it is not as blended as it looks.”

The contradictions were brought home to her by two events earlier this year, which spurred her into organising the exhibition.

The first was the mayor of Ennis’s announcement that he was going to attend Ali’s funeral and the second was news the following day that two African students had been refused entry into a Dublin bar.

“I felt I really had to do something to bring the two communities together.”

The exhibition consists of images of people aged from one to 70-plus but all are anonymous. Despite that, it is full of warmth and optimism.

Bar a few Facebook trolls, the response has been extremely positive, says Lorraine, touching as it does the hitherto hidden lives of children like herself and the generations who have followed.

#iamirish runs at London Irish Centre, Camden Square, London NW1 until October 31. There will be an accompanying workshop and a panel discussion during the month. Details:

Baltic sea eagles, cranes and storm

This 2016 German video is about wildlife of the Greifswalder Bodden bay and its islands in the Baltic Sea.

This 2014 video is about sailing on the Rügischer Bodden bay in the German Baltic sea.

On Monday 3 October 2016, after yesterday, our ship was supposed to sail from Wieck to Baabe town on Rügen island, across the Rügischer Bodden bay.

Grey seals live there. So do harbour porpoises.

And various duck species.

There is a ‘ghost net‘ problem in this part of the Baltic. There is a project to get these ghost nets out of the sea.

However, storm warnings prevented us from going north. Instead, we went first, before the storm started, east on the sea; then south, on the quieter waters of the Peene river.

At 7:45, we departed from Wieck harbour, saying goodbye to a black-headed gull on a mooring dolphin.

Baltic sea

About thirty mute swans swimming in the sea.

A greater black-backed gull swims. A great cormorant flies.

A two-years-old sea eagle flies. Then, an adult of that species. Sea eagles (or white-tailed eagles), the biggest birds of central Europe, nest here. But many of the eagles here now are on autumn migration from the north-east to the south-west. Like the smallest birds of Europe, goldcrests; and many other species.

Cormorants on artificial island

We pass an artificial island where scores of great cormorants rest.

Sea eagle flies, 3 October 2016

Then, a sea eagle flies to the island. The cormorants leave. Only a hooded crow stays.

Sea eagle sits, 3 October 2016

After the eagle had landed on the island, some of the cormorants came back.

Along the Peenestrom, three sea eagles sit on a tree. A herring gull swims.

We pass Grosser Wotig island, a nature reserve.

Sea eagles

Two eagles on the bank. Many ducks and grey lag geese behind them. And a common gull. Teal. We hear a bearded reedling sound from the reed bed.

Sea eagle flying, 3 October 2016

Another white-tailed eagle flying.

At 11:55, over 100 northern lapwings fly past. And two red kites.

12:30: we arrive at the bridge in Wolgast town.

Great black-backed gulls

On the mooring dolphins, great black-backed gulls rest.

This video shows two great black-backed gulls in Wolgast along the Peenestrom river.

I see something less attractive as well. On the shipyard of Wolgast, the Peenewerft, a ship is built. The letters on the ship, in English and Arabic, say its name: Jeddah. And: Saudi border guard. A part of the armed forces of the Saudi absolute monarchy. So, some German millionaire is profiting from the bloody war of that absolute monarchy on the people of Yemen.

Black-headed gulls on poles, 3 October 2016

We pass common gulls and black-headed gulls sitting on poles. A herring gull swims in front of them.

A comma butterfly passes the ship.

15:50: two Caspian terns pass.

16:00: fifteen cranes pass.

Peene river

We are almost at our destination, the harbour of Kamp village.

Early in the evening, we walk inland from Kamp, to see thousands of geese and cranes arrive to sleep in the wetlands.

There will be more on these birds in later blog posts; so, stay tuned!

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.

Crabs, lobsters, shrimp and books

Mantis shrimps

This picture is a cell phone photo, like the others in this blog post. It depicts various mantis shrimp species. As depicted on a slide, part of a lecture on 16 October 2016 in the Lakenhal museum in Leiden in the Netherlands. That was after the lecture by Ms Arita Baaijens in the same hall.

The lecture was about malacostracans: crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill, woodlice and many other related crustaceans. It was by Alex Alsemgeest, an expert on books, and Charles Fransen, a biologist of Naturalis museum, specialised in crustaceans.

The title of the book is In krabbengang door kreeftenboeken, ‘Going like a crab through books about lobsters’. The book was on the shortlist of five books for the Jan Wolkers Prize; though it did not win.

It is about the work of Leiden university professor and Naturalis museum collector Lipke B. Holthuis (1921-2008).

Holthuis was of Frisian ancestry. The name Lipke means ‘northern lapwing‘ in Frisian.

Malacostracans are an important group of animals. On the morning of the lecture, diver Ms Aaf Verkade had caught several of them in the Oude Vest canal next to the Lakenhal. All invasive species: two North American crayfish species, and a Chinese mitten crab.

According to Charles Fransen, there are 70,000 malacostracan species; including 20% of all marine animals.

Isopods, 16 October 2016

This photo shows a slide about isopods, another malacostracan group.

Holthuis was recognized all over the world as an expert on this group. He described and named many newly discovered species. Eg, 279 new shrimp species.

Other species were named after him.

During the second world war, Holthuis hid from the German nazi occupiers between animal skeletons and biology magazines in the old building of the natural history museum (now: Naturalis, in a new building). During the last winter of the war, hunger caused Holthuis to get edema. He then moved to his sister’s home; where also Jews hid from the nazis.

Holthuis kept working on crabs and lobsters until two weeks before his death in 2008. He published about 12,000 pages about them. During that time, he collected about eight thousand books, and many pictures and objects (eg, porcelain depicting crabs) about these animals. These are now part of the Naturalis museum collection.

Some of the books are very old; like the 16th century De Aquatibus, by Pierre Belon.

Crab with barnacles

Holthuis also collected art depicting his favourite animals. Like this picture of a crab with barnacles (its distant relatives) on it.

Madonna with child in landscape

And this engraving by Aegidius Sadeler. ‘Madonna and child in landscape’; depicting the Virgin Mary, baby Jesus, and in the lower right corner, a crab.

Sowerby and Leach

One of the fine books collected by Holthuis is Malacostraca Podophthalmata Brittaniae. It is by British illustrator James Sowerby (1757-1822), misspelled as ‘Sowersy’ in the slide, and British naturalist William Elford Leach (1790-1836).

Lamotius, 16 October 2016

This slide is about Holthuis’ last book, published in 2006. It is about Isaac Johannes Lamotius, 17th century Dutch colonial governor of Mauritius, and interested in marine animals.

Holthuis memorial volume, 16 October 2016

After Holthuis’ death, this book was published: Studies on Malacostraca: Lipke Bijdeley Holthuis Memorial Volume.

Caspian tern and bearded reedling

Uckermark cattle, 2 October 2016

We arrived on Koos island in Germany on 2 October 2016. We saw these Uckermark cattle there. This cattle breed was originally reared in 1972, the German Democratic Republic time. They are good for stopping marshy areas from over growing.

Uckermark cattle on 2 October 2016

This German video is about Koos island.

Warden Roland Abraham told us about birds which had nested on Koos in 2016. These were the nesting couples numbers:

6-8 corn bunting
4-6 shelduck
12 avocet
1 oystercatcher
1 ringed plover
1 little ringed plover
2 red-breasted merganser
22 northern lapwing
6-8 redshank
10-15 bearded reedling
7-10 water rail
1-2 short-eared owl
2 bluethroat

As for migratory birds, staying there in the fall of 2015, the numbers of individuals were:

3800 Eurasian crane
20,000-40,000 starlings, sleeping in the reed beds
160 Caspian tern
5000 golden plover
5000 northern lapwing
500-800 barnacle geese
50-80 curlews

During spring migration, 20,000 scaups. 50,000 barn swallows used to rest here.

Pomerania, 2 October 2016

We see a wigeon flying. And two shelducks flying.

Ringed plovers and dunlin on the ground.

A Caspian tern flies past.

As we walk back, a young bearded reedling in a reed bed.

Whitethroat, 2 October 2016

A whitethroat on a bush. Probably, this bird is on migration.

Whitethroat, on 2 October 2016

On the horizon, a church tower.

Church tower, 2 October 2016

Our guides hoped to see corn buntings, but I did not see any.

We have lunch at the home of Hans Joosten, a Dutch ecology professor living here. He tells us about his activities in restoring peat bog biodiversity in various countries.

In the afternoon, we see a sea eagle on a tree.

Pomerania, afternoon 2 October 2016

In a coastal tidal zone, we see an adult and a juvenile Caspian tern.

Then, in Wampen village, 15:55: house sparrows.

This video shows an aerial view of Wampen and Greifswald.

16:10, Greifswald harbour: a black-headed gull.

Then, to Wieck harbour, where our ship had arrived meanwhile.

A great black-backed gull on top of a wind vane.

Mallards, a mute swan and an adult herring gull swimming.

A magpie flying.