Monday, October 27, 2014

The shag that was not a shag

Two days ago I was so pleased that I had discovered a shag and cormorant together. Today I have to revise that opinion. They were both cormorants - the one I thought was a shag was simply a young cormorant. As Alexander Pope put it "to err is human, to forgive divine." Forgive me, it was not a deliberate attempt to mislead. The photograph below clinches it. I sought further evidence afterwards and found it.

 Having got a closer view of the young cormorant I am now convinced that the two birds are the same type and this youngster is starting to get the white bib of an adult. Publishing before doing further research is almost as bad a mistake as my trusting Poroshenko to bring peace to Ukraine. Let me hope there are not too many more of these human peccadillos to come. But I have reached that age where I can blame every one of my human frailties on having reached that age.

It is a wonder there are any fish left in the lake. Just beyond the young cormorant was an old heron. It's reflection can be seen in this photo.

In mitigation for my identification mistake I have to say that the two small bird books I have are not very helpful. "The shag differs from the cormorant in its smaller size and the lack of a white chin and thighs" and "lacks white patches of Cormorant but has yellow gape." It was only when I came across this in-depth article that my suspicion from today's photos was confirmed.

As well as the heron and cormorant there was also this fellow, the great crested grebe, taking his fill.

The scavenging gulls will take some smaller fish as will the kingfishers. In the end though there's not much left for this fellow when the birds have raided the larder.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Shag in a tree

(This article contains multiple errors. This one contradicts them.)

Our seas are overfished. There was a time when the trawlers threw something back if it was not the main quarry. With modern fishing, which is much more scientific, they take the lot, and everything is separated on factory ships. Nothing goes to waste. It may not be the only reason but sea-birds like herring-gulls, black-backed gulls, black-headed gulls and even common terns have become residents of, or frequent visitors to, Birmingham lakes. Occasionally, when it is rough at sea, cormorants come too.

Cormorant on lake (Birmingham, John Goss 24/10/2014)

It is doubtful many people can tell the diference between a cormorant and a shag. These seabirds and able fishermen are almost look-alike members of the pelican family. In the bird kingdom both are monarchs with their regal dark-coloured cloaks. They are fliers and swimmers of similar shape and size. What is unusual about the next photograph is that it shows both a cormorant (on top) and a shag (underneath) in the same tree in Birmingham. Cormorants and shags are most usually found on craggy coastal rocks and normally do their fishing in the sea.

Cormorant (top) and shag (below) in same tree (Birmingham, John Goss 22/10/2014)

In spring it is much easier to tell the difference. The shag sports a crest and the cormorant has a patch of white on its thigh, which is lost following the mating season. After that the most evident distinguishing feature is a white area on the cormorant's face below the beak as can be seen in the first photograph. A shag does not have that patch of white. Here is a photograph of the Birmingham shag on the wing.

Shag in flight (Birmingham, John Goss 22/10/2014)

Another distinguishing feature can be found with the shag only having twelve tail feathers whereas the cormorant has fourteen. After fishing both birds dry their wings in the wind in a display which is eye-catching and heraldic, as one bird-book describes it. Here is the cormorant doing just that. You can clearly count the fourteen tail feathers.

Cormorant drying itself in the breeze (Birmingham, John Goss 23/10/2014)

In observing the cormorant it was noticeable that it sat low in the water and dived from that position with an arch of the back. It stayed under for about half a minute and made some fifteen dives (if I saw them all) before catching anything and flying back to its perch. The shag on the other hand was not as long away from its perch and flew beyond the range of my camera. It may be that the shag is a better fisherman. Here it is in the drying off display.

Shag drying itself in the breeze (Birmingham, John Goss 22/10/2014)

Cormorants are heavy birds which, as mentioned, sit low in the water. Getting airborne is quite an effort. For this cormorant it took three bounces on the water before lift-off and it looked like the bomb designed by Barnes Wallis in the Dambusters film.

 Cormorant 'bouncing back to happiness' (Birmingham, John Goss 23/10/2014) 

Learning about these two incredible and impressive dark angels of the sea has been an experience for this ancient mariner. The luck of having both birds to hand at the same time on a lake rather than the crags by a choppy sea has been a pleasure and I hope this short blog-piece has added something, however small, to the canon of knowledge. A bird in the hand is worth two in the tree, or something.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gossip: Birdwatching - grey wagtail or origami owl?

Gossip: Birdwatching - grey wagtail or origami owl?: My eyes are not as good as they used to be and this morning in wind that was not as strong as in some parts of the country, I spotted what a...

Birdwatching - grey wagtail or origami owl?

My eyes are not as good as they used to be and this morning in wind that was not as strong as in some parts of the country, I spotted what appeared to be a grey wagtail with its tail wagging on a rock. There are lots of these beautiful birds along the River Cole. The photograph below is enlarged through the camera lens from what I could actually see.

In fact one afternoon in summer I sat on the bank for half an hour snapping lots of photographs of them. For those unfamiliar with what a grey wagtail looks like here is one of the photographs I took that day.

Most birds are shy and you have to be very quiet and careful not to disturb them. So I crept quietly round to the other side of the rock where I took this photograph. Although the bird appeared to be moving I wondered why it never flew away because I was making too much noise. By the time I was close enough to see it was paper that was causing the illusion I was rather disappointed that I had been duped. Looking more closely I noticed that the paper caught on the rock had arranged itself into the shape of an owl and the wind had caused the illusion of movement. Can you see the origami owl?

Despite that disappointment I did go on to capture a few birds before it was time to take the dogs home. The dogs get bored when I take photographs. Anyway I captured a chaffinch, a goldfinch, a dunnock and blackbird.Birmingham is teeming with wildlife.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Breaking News! Moazzam Begg - charges dropped

Great news just in. Charges against Moazzam Begg have been dropped due to lack of evidence. Some of us have strongly suspected this was a fabrication from the start. It is why I have been carrying the ‪#‎ReleaseMoazzam‬ link and photo for the last eight months as my Facebook tag picture. Now all those who knew it was a put up job have been vindicated but that does not justify holding anybody prisoner under the unjust anti-terrorism laws enacted this century.

Moazzam (centre figure) at the disturbing Guantanamo Boy film showing earlier this year. Photo Robert Brenchley.

Asim Qureshi, Research Director of CAGE, said:

"This has been a testing time for Moazzam, his family and the Muslim community. The criminalisation of virtually any Muslim that has been to Syria has only increased in intensity, while CAGE has been attacked from every angle by a host of government agencies. We hope that Moazzam's release is a sign that the government are now willing to adopt a more measured strategy in relation to anti-terrorism policy and avoid the attempt to criminalise all dissent and crush any organisation like CAGE that stands up for the rule of law and justice."

"CAGE and Moazzam have been maligned , defamed and vilified by far too many and we hope that now our calls for the protection of basic rights and innovative approaches built on dialogue to dispute resolution will now be heeded. Violence and the destruction of freedoms and liberties inherent in the War on Terror doctrine can never be the solution."

"We thank everyone for their support of Moazzam, his family and the CAGE movement."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Is the United States trying to wipe out the black populations of Africa?

This is a serious question. One respected Liberian doctor and professor of plant pathology, Dr Cyril Broderick, believes his country may be testing out strains of Ebola and Aids viruses on native Africans. Why would be difficult to understand were it not for a flagging economy at home which is only kept afloat because of petrodollar debtor states. It is impossible for America to eradicate its own debt. This is the real reason for the wars in Iraq and Libya. The article just linked explains why. It is the best summary I have read this year.

Published in a Liberian newspaper, the Daily Observer, Professor Broderick speculates that the US Department of Defence (DOD) is behind an experiment which, if true, would have far-reaching consequences for the African continent, and civilisation in general. At the 2013 Bilderberg Group meeting held at the Grove Hotel in Watford one of the items on the agenda was 'Africa's Challenges' which was significant in being devoid of any academic or political figure from Africa. The secretive Bilderberg Group consists of powerful people like Henry Kissinger, heads of states and high-ranking politicians many of whom also belong to the Committee of 300. These people are self-appointed would-be administrators of world policy.

Some of the crowd at the 2013 Bilderberg Fringe opposed to world domination by an unelected elite

There is no doubt that with all its wars the United States has its eyes fixed firmly on world domination to protect the petrodollar. Its disregard for international law and the imposition of its own ever stricter domestic laws against US citizens is a reflection of the current crisis. Would the United States resort to deliberately infesting Africans with man-made killer viruses? The answer is yes, if they can get away with it. They have got away with similar things before, nearly always perpetrated against blacks or Asians. The classic example though was the virtual elimination and subjugation of native Americans. Descendants of those who survived are still treated often as second-class citizens in the ancestral land of their birth.

In the 1960s with the demise of the British Empire the UK came to an agreement with Mauritius to grant it independence but had a clause written in to retain the Chagos Islands - Diego Garcia, Peros Banhos and Salomen - just to have a bit of "rock" in the area. But the plan was much more than that. All the islanders were removed on the instruction of the United States, all the dogs were gassed and in true conspiratorial fashion the US and UK had a leasing agreement to build a naval and military base upon the bit of "rock". Chagossians were deliberately displaced without work or homes so that the United States could tell Congress that the islands were uninhabited. Diego Garcia is one of the places where Muslims were extraordinarily rendered (and probably tortured) prior to 9/11 and afterwards. It was also an island in the vicinity where the Malaysian airliner disappeared mysteriously and towards which it appeared to be heading.

Would the US experiment on unwitting Africans? In May 1997 Bill Clinton apologised to the eight Tuskegee survivors of  a syphilis experiment which lasted for forty years and began in 1932. Alabama victims were given syphilis and deliberately left untreated to see how the disease progressed. Those experimented on were Americans of African descent, in other words black Americans. As if that was not bad enough it was not the only syphilis experiment on non-white Americans. From 1946 to 1948 seven hundred Guatemalans were infected by the US with syphilis to monitor what effect penicillin had on the disease. In October 2010 Hilary Clinton apologised to the Guatemalan government for this experiment.

Apologies that take place 50, 60 or 70 years after the experiments that caused so much physical and mental pain for the sufferers and those who nursed them are of no consolation to blacks who died horrific deaths due to Dr Josef Mengele type experiments perpetrated by the United States. As one of the most powerful of countries it has become a neo-nazi proponent of the twenty-first century eugenics for its elite and a widespread abuser of its poor. It is racist-religionist government comprising white supremacists. The United Kingdom follows very closely behind.

What about the United Nations? The United Nations (UN) was set up after the Second World War to replace an emasculated League of Nations which could not deal with Japan's intrusion into Manchuria, Mussolini's adventures into Ethiopia and the rise of National Socialism and racism against Jews, Communists, Romany gypsies and other minorities in Germany. Today the UN, which should be stopping the illegal war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq is as powerless as the old League of Nations. It is even worse than that because the UN has become part of the problem. Today it is no more than a servant of US foreign policy. Take the case of cholera in Haiti.

As Dr Dady Chery writes: "The introduction of the cholera into Haiti could not have been more efficient if it had been deliberate." Haiti had never experienced cholera until more than 1,200 UN troops who had formerly been in the middle of a cholera epidemic in Nepal, were stationed there. 5 days later, in the summer of 2010, cholera was seen for the first time in Haiti. 7,000 people died in the epidemic and despite promises to withdraw troops the UN renews contracts to keep a presence in Haiti to protect its puppet, Michel Martelly, and keep him in power. Martelly came to power in an undemocratic election which excluded the main party, Fanmi Lavalas (the former party of Aristide).

I think Dr Broderick has hit the nail on the head.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Close Guantanamo now

As the US/UK/NATO embark on another illegal war against ISIS the torture camp at Guantanamo Bay is still operating and still torturing Muslims who have had no trial. Emad Hassan has been held there since 2002. I have just received a letter in which he describes how his brother Abu was dragged from his cell by the FCE (Forcible Cell Extraction) team. What they did to him is diabolical. They broke one wrist and the other was badly swollen, applied strangulation techniques, kneed him in the back and left him in his cell unable to move his finger, hand or leg. “Every nerve, every vein, every muscle seems to be screaming with me” said Abu. Emad could not sleep. He has been held without trial and was told, seven years ago, along with Shaker Aamer that he had done no wrong. So why are these people being held in captivity by the torturing USA?

Reprieve desperately needs funds to take action against officers from the FCE team who did this dreadful deed. Force-feeding is still going on and people held in Guantanamo are worried that the world will forget about them. Please donate at the above link. Thanks.