Marsh tits in Poland, new research


This video shows first a nuthatch, then a great tit, then a marsh tit at a bird feeder.

From the Journal of Avian Biology:

Immense plasticity of timing of breeding in a sedentary forest passerine, Poecile palustris

Abstract

Numerous bird species have advanced their breeding seasons in response to climate warming. These changes were mostly brought about by phenotypic plasticity, i.e. flexible reactions of individual birds, rather than by microevolutionary change. Knowing the limits of plasticity is thus of paramount importance in any attempt to predict possible reactions of birds to climate warming. However, the breeding performance of the same individuals in contrasting environmental conditions, necessary to answer this question, is rarely observed.

Here, we provide data on the flexibility in timing of egg-laying of individual Marsh Tit Poecile palustris females breeding in an extremely late (2013) and early (2014) spring in Białowieża National Park (Poland). In both years the birds stayed in the same places in the primeval old-growth forest, free of direct human influences (no nest-boxes, no additional food). The weather variation was within the range of conditions observed during 40 years in the study area, and no climate warming occurred in the Marsh Tit’s pre-breeding period.

Females (n = 16) shifted the onset of laying by 13-23 (median = 20) days between the seasons. This range of individual flexibility encompasses almost the whole latitudinal range of the breeding dates found across Europe. Such a buffer of plasticity would probably be sufficient for Marsh Tits to adjust the onset of egg-laying to the forecasted range of climate change. A combination of temperature and photoperiod appears to be involved in fine tuning of the birds’ breeding times with spring conditions, but how the birds asses[s] and integrate this information remains poorly understood.

Maltese hunting season stopped after wounded kestrel falls among playing children


This 2014 video is about a kestrel couple and their chicks in their nest on a balcony in Poland.

From the Times of Malta:

Monday, April 27, 2015, 13:43

Hunting season closed after shot bird falls into school yard

The hunting season was closed today after a bird which was shot twice crashed bleeding into the yard of St Edward’s College in Cottonera while the children were on their school break this afternoon.

The decision was announced by the prime minister in a tweet. He said what took place today was inexcusable.

“Despite sharp decline in illegalities, today’s hunting incident is inexcusable. I have decided to immediately close down the season,” Dr Muscat said.

The season was supposed to close on Thursday.

The wounded kestrel on the playground in Malta

A teacher, Diana Triganza, who was on supervision at St Edward’s, said the boys, aged between seven and 10 were ‘traumatised’ by what they had seen. Some of them started screaming when the bird fell into the football pitch.

The incident happened at about 12.30. The bird, believed to be a Kestrel, was shot from outside the school grounds.

It was first shot once and hit, and them shot again. Five shots in all were heard.

The police were called and officers from the ALE took away the bird. Officials from the Animal Welfare Department told school teachers that the bird may survive.

HUNTING SEASON CLOSED

In a statement announcing the immediate closure of the spring hunting season, the government pointed out that immediately after the referendum, the prime minister had warned that he would not tolerate abuse.

During the season, the number of abuses fell drastically thanks to strong law enforcement and the collaboration of those involved.

Nonetheless, today’s incident could not be justified. No information about who had carried it out had been received.

Therefore the season was being closed immediately. This, the government said, should be a signal that such abuses would not be tolerated.

Good spadefoot toad news


This video is about a young common spadefoot toad; Poland, spring 2014.

Dutch Vroege Vogels radio reports about European common spadefoot toads.

This species was in danger of becoming extinct in the Netherlands. To prevent that, there was captive breeding in Nijmegen city. In 2012, hundreds of youngsters, bred in Nijmegen, were freed around Nuland village in Noord-Brabant province.

Spadefoot toads are doing well in the garden of Ignas van Bebber in Nuland. This week, he counted seventeen calling males and eleven spawn strings.

Auschwitz SS nazi on trial


This video says about itself:

The Liberation of Auschwitz (includes 1945 original Red Army footage)

23 January 2015

Warning – This historical documentary contains some explicit scenes that are of a violent nature and may be disturbing to some viewers!

This film contains footage taken by Soviet cameramen after the liberation of the Auschwitz camp in January 27, 1945.

Among other things, it depicts the camp area immediately after entry by the First Ukrainian Front of the Red Army.

Documentary pictures are interspersed with an interview with Alexander Vorontzov, the cameraman who accompanied the Red Army soldiers and did most of the filming. The whole is accompanied by commentary describing, among others, the selection and extermination process, medical experiments and everyday life in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The film was previously released in 1985, for the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. The commentary accompanying the current edition of the film reflects the latest findings by researchers studying the KL Auschwitz.

The Auschwitz Camp is a world symbol of the Holocaust, genocide and terror. Never before in the history of mankind were so many people murdered in a planned and industrial manner in such a small area.

In the years 1940-1945, German Nazis brought here over a million Jews, nearly 150 thousand Poles, 23 thousand Roma, 15 thousand Soviet prisoners of war and over ten thousand prisoners from other nations.

A vast majority of them perished in the camp.

This film is dedicated to their memory.

Runtime: 52 minutes, Production year: 1985, Director: Irmgard von zur Muehlen.

By Elisabeth Zimmermann in Germany:

Trial of former SS soldier begins in Germany

22 April 2015

The trial of 93-year-old former SS sergeant Oskar Gröning began yesterday at the fourth criminal grand chamber of the Luneburg district court. He is charged with assisting murder in 300,000 cases. From September 1942 to October 1944, Gröning was an SS guard and administrator at Auschwitz concentration camp in occupied Poland.

More than 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army on January 27, 1945, it is certain to be one of the last trials of living perpetrators of the indescribably hideous crimes committed by the Nazis at this and other concentration camps.

The name of the Nazis’ Auschwitz concentration camp has come to symbolise the worst crimes and horrors of the twentieth century, and is a byword for the barbarism of capitalism in its most extreme form. More than 1.1 million people were brutally killed there. Hundreds of thousands were exterminated in the gas chambers immediately after their arrival, while others died from hunger, physical exhaustion or hideous experiments by sadistic doctors like Josef Mengele, nicknamed the angel of death by the prisoners.

Some 90 percent of those killed in the camp were Jews. In addition, 150,000 non-Jewish Poles, including political prisoners, 23,000 Sinti and Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, other national minorities, as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals were murdered.

In addition to Gröning, two other former SS soldiers currently face thousands of charges of assisted murder. An investigation by the state prosecutor in Schwerin is underway into 94-year-old Hubert Z from Mecklenburg Pomerania, and another against 94-year-old Reinhold Z from North Rhine-Westphalia led by the Dortmund state prosecutor.

The SS soldiers currently being charged allegedly were not directly involved in the murders, but through their service in Auschwitz, they contributed to the functioning of the Nazi murder machine. Gröning himself described his role at Auschwitz as a “cog in the wheel.”

Oskar Gröning volunteered for the Waffen SS at aged 21 as a committed National Socialist, and was ordered by the SS business and administration head office on September 25, 1942, to be sent to administer the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Since he had previously worked in a savings bank, he was placed in the administration of prisoners’ money. His task was to stand guard as the victims were delivered to the camp in cattle wagons, and collect their possessions and valuables. The stolen money obtained during this process was then sent by him to the SS headquarters in Berlin.

The list of charges from the state prosecutor in Hannover, responsible for pursuing Nazi crimes in Lower Saxony, limits itself to the so-called Hungarian action of May 16 to July 11, 1944. In this two-month time frame, the SS deported some 425,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz. Around 300,000 were sent directly to their deaths in gas chambers on their arrival.

Within this period, 137 trainloads arrived at the Nazis’ death factory. Gröning’s task was to collect the belongings left by those sent to the gas chamber from the train platform and camp entrance. “In so doing, the traces of the mass murder would be eliminated for subsequent prisoners,” states the 85-page charge sheet. His activities had supported the Nazis’ systematic mass murder.

The trial has met with great interest abroad and more than 60 survivors from Hungary, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Israel wish to testify to the court as joint plaintiffs. Accordingly, the trial was moved from the Luneburg court to a larger building.

As with other trials on the subject of crimes during the Nazi period, the question is raised: Why has the trial taken so long?

The answer is largely that within the German political and judiciary systems, many former Nazis were utilised by the state and their careers continued unhindered after the war. A systematic legal investigation into the crimes of the National Socialists was consistently blocked.

Of the many thousands of Nazi criminals, relatively few were brought before the courts. Since the end of the war, the German judiciary has investigated 100,000 cases, but only 6,500 were convicted. They received relatively mild sentences considering the horrendous nature of their crimes. Generally, the perpetrators took the defence that they were just following orders, which the courts recognised as legitimate.

Of the 6,500 SS personnel who carried out their murderous work in Auschwitz and survived the war, only 29 were convicted in the Federal Republic, according to a report in Der Spiegel. In the GDR (East Germany) the figure was 20.

The Frankfurt state prosecutor had already investigated Gröning in 19y7, but broke off proceedings in 1985. Lawyer Thomas Walther, who is now representing around 30 joint plaintiffs, victims of the Nazi regime and their relatives, commented on this to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “They did not abandon the case, but buried it. In the 1970s and 1980s there were still ‘thousands of Grönings,’ so the investigators decided it was preferable to leave it alone.”

In Deutsche Welle, Walther explained, “in the Federal Republic, thousands of men and women would have to have been charged if current criteria had applied in the past.” But this was not desired, so the Nazi collaborators were not to be pursued. Oskar Gröning was never punished for his service in the death factory.

In 2011, the Munich district court sentenced the now-dead SS guard in Sobibor concentration camp John Demjanjuk to five years’ imprisonment for assisting in the murder of 28,000 Jews. Since then, there is no need to prove that a person being charged was directly involved in the murders. This is one of the reasons why trials are being conducted now against those SS soldiers who are still living.

In contrast to many previous defendants in these cases, Oskar Gröning has expressed his readiness to testify before the court on the events in Auschwitz. He had already spoken in interviews openly about his experiences and actions in Auschwitz, and written them down for his friends and family.

When an acquaintance sent him a book about “the Auschwitz lies,” he sent it back with a note saying that everything reported about Auschwitz was true: selections, gassing, burning—1.5 million Jews had been murdered in Auschwitz, and he had experienced it. Nonetheless, he did not feel guilty about the murders because he had not been directly active in the gas chambers.

The course of the current trial will reveal how much it contributes to the uncovering of one of the greatest crimes of the twentieth century. The survivors and relatives of the victims taking part in the trial as joint plaintiffs are hoping for something, even if only very, very delayed justice.