March 17, 2014

Fuzzy Egyptian goose chicks during winter

Filed under: Animals by Branko Collin @ 8:35 am


I saw this Egyptian goose with its chicks yesterday near my home in Amsterdam.

As a Dutch proverb has it, in mei legt elke vogel een ei (‘every bird will lay an egg in May’), but apparently the proverb is getting further and further from the truth these days. An ever warming climate seems to have caused many birds to lay eggs earlier in the year—Vroege Vogels says the average day a songbird lays an egg has moved 14 days forward between 1986 and 2011. The site also points out that songbirds need insects to feed their young and insects have started to become active earlier in the year.

Like the parakeets I mentioned a couple of months ago, Egyptian geese are intruders from much warmer climes, but a quick web search didn’t reveal any info on wintry egg-laying habits. Do any of our readers know if these birds always hatch their young in late February or early March?


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February 28, 2014

American company brings tiger cubs to Dutch company party

Filed under: Animals,IT by Orangemaster @ 12:39 pm

You get invited to an American IT company’s opening party in Amsterdam smack downtown with food and drinks. You get there are and guests and playing with two tiger cubs, which makes you feel uncomfortable and you call the animal protection services.

Not only was it morally questionable to have the tigers amusing the guests, but apparently their caregiver didn’t have any papers for them, making them illegal to own in this country. On Facebook I’ve read that the tigers were bought from a bankrupt circus, and if that’s true, they should have had some sort of papers, just like anything else the company buys.

An employee of the company tried to diffuse the tiger incident by claiming that their “Manila office finds it to be normal to eat fermented bird fetus known as “Balut”, and our Istanbul office eats sheep intestins known as “Kokorec”, and our European and American offices eat pig, oysters, and other things that our other offices don’t find usual, but we don’t judge each other based on these.” [all typos left in]

Since when does an American company not know anything cultural about the Netherlands? There are thousands of American companies here functioning normally without a circus show at office parties.

(Link:, Photo of Tiger by ArranET, some rights reserved)


February 26, 2014

Play beekeeper at home, inside your house

Filed under: Animals,Food & Drink by Orangemaster @ 11:00 am

Just as spring began in 2012 we told you about how European bees are disappearing from the urban landscape, although many things are being done to counter this. As an unknowing consumer, I’ve noticed that the honey I buy has a lot of ‘non-EU’ honey in it, which means it’s probably from North America or the Middle East.

You could imagine that although keeping bees at home to gawk at (I like to try and spot the queen bee) and take their honey sounds really cool (pics), it has a hipster vibe to it. Back in 2011 Philips designed a beehive that you can place indoors, while the bees enter the hive from a sort of flower pot outdoors, so no bees flying around the house.

According to Philips, their urban beehive is a sustainable, environmentally friendly product concept that has direct educational effects. The city benefits from the pollination, while humans benefit from the honey and therapeutic value of observing the bees. As global bee colonies are in decline, this design contributes to the preservation of the species and encourages the return of the urban bee.

This sounds great if you’re up to smoking out the bees when you want the honey because you’ll need to do so eventually and you’ll need to have your own house to make those kinds of holes in your walls.

(Link:, Photo of Bee swarm by quisnovus, some rights reserved)

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February 25, 2014

Dutch authorities let nature have its island back

Filed under: Animals,Nature by Orangemaster @ 10:00 am

Considering how much land the Dutch have reclaimed over the years, giving an island back to nature is definitely newsworthy.

Back in 2012 we told you about how two lucky people could apply as a tandem to watch birds on the island of Rottumeroog as a summer job. Unfortunately, last December, a storm apparently weakened the dunes around the house, which has now been destroyed, leaving the island uninhabited.

Only last month the only trail on Rottumeroog was officially named ‘Jan Brandspad’. The island’s municipality, Eemsmond, had to give the trail a name as required by law. There were even plans to put up a street sign.”

(Link:, Photo of Texel island by Searocket, some rights reserved)

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February 15, 2014

Rare shrew born in Rotterdam zoo

Filed under: Animals by Branko Collin @ 9:15 pm

elephant-shrew-joey-makalintalThe Blijdorp zoo in Rotterdam announced the birth of a rare mouse-like creature last Thursday, a Black and rufous elephant shrew.

These critters originally come from East Africa and have a conservation status of ‘vulnerable’. They are rarely born in captivity, in fact before this birth there was only one other instance known in Europe (a child of the same mother). The zoo calls it fortunate that father Gambit and mother Gloria even hit it off (it would be, considering the father was flown in to breed).

The zoo isn’t entirely sure when the young elephant shrew was born, in fact it was first discovered by a visitor. Despite being unsure of its sex, people have already named it Guusje.

(Photo of a shrew held in the US by Joey Makalintal, some rights reserved)

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February 14, 2014

Fish drives itself in a small tank on wheels

Filed under: Animals,Design,Technology by Orangemaster @ 2:39 pm


Made possible by Studio diip in Leerdam, South Holland, a goldfish is able to swim in a small tank on wheels and drive itself around the room. It can swim towards something shiny and the small tank on wheels will go in that direction. The device is powered by a camera and computer vision software, putting the goldfish at the wheel. We’re also told that the fish gets to go back to a normal tank after going out for a spin.

Although not a proper comparison, it does remind of a cat on a Roomba.

(Photo of Goldfish by angs school, some rights reserved)

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January 7, 2014

Boffins develop first ever sports drink for horses

Filed under: Animals,Dutch first,Food & Drink by Orangemaster @ 12:10 pm

The Healthy Horse Hydration, already a mouthful to pronounce for many, is meant to be a sports drink for horses, the first ever of its kind.

For the record, if I were asked to come up with a better product name (I do get hired for product slogans), I’d call it ‘Power Horse’ or maybe ‘Horse Power’.

After a good run, the idea is to give your horse some HHH (why does that sound like a drug?) which apparently smells of apples. According to the video found in the link, it took hundreds of thousands of euro to develop the product, a pouch full of powder that dissolves in water when stirred that does look like apple juice. One of the scientists explains that the horse drinks the juice in the bucket thinking it will also get an apple and just ends up drinking the entire bucket.

On the whole, giving your horse a good drink after a good run sounds fine. Humans more often than not gulp down sports drinks for all the wrong reasons, including the insane amount of sugar in them. As well, comparing HHH to caffeine or taurine based drinks is already a huge mistake, as they are marketed as ‘energy’ drinks and not as sports drinks, plus they actually dehydrate instead of rehydrate.

And then there’s the Dutch word ‘paardenmiddel’ (paarden = horses, middel = means), which means ‘last ditch effort’ for something, which funny enough could work against the Dutch market image and partially explain the sour apple comments about HHH so far. Then again, if people don’t know the difference between sports drinks and energy drinks, their comments are for entertainment purposes only.

(Link:, Photo of Oostvaardersplassen horses by fransdewit, some rights reserved)

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October 21, 2013

NPR remembers Bert Haanstra’s Zoo (1962)

Filed under: Animals,Film by Branko Collin @ 4:13 pm

In 1962 Dutch cinema’s golden child Bert Haanstra visited the zoo of Amsterdam, Artis, during a sun-filled period and filmed the visitors as they were laughing, yawning, scratching themselves, chatting and taking naps. Then he filmed animals doing the same thing and edited the result to contrast the two groups and perhaps to say “we are not that different, you and I”.

The result seems comedic, making fun of the little people that are closer to the animals that they themselves seem to believe. The film itself is not too clear about which position its maker chooses. The editing and some of the videography is clearly done for comedic effect (ostriches’ heads popping up, the walk of the penguin), but the powerful walk of the tiger and the jazz music by Pim Jacobs do not fit the label ‘comedy’.

American broadcaster NPR seems to like the humane explanation the best:

Magically, [the film] makes the cages, the trenches, the walls disappear, and what you get is a real zoo — a mix-it-up porridge of animal life, where all the animals, the mischievous little boys, the oh-so-shy monkey, the proud baboon, the wide-eyed girl and the yawning lady trade moods, glances, worlds — our differences melt into little moments of us being like them, them being like us.

The name Artis was originally the zoo’s nickname. It came from a text written over the gates, “Natura Artis Magistra” (meaning “Nature is the teacher of art”). You can watch the video on the NPR page or by buying the complete works DVD set.

Thanks Fred Yoder for the tip.

(Photo: screenshot of the documentary)

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August 28, 2013

Foreign birds make history upon arrival in the Netherlands

Filed under: Animals,Dutch first by Orangemaster @ 7:00 am

Last May 11 Iago Sparrows flew aboard the MV Plancius on 6 May 2013 from the Cape Verde Islands. In the end, four birds (two male and two female) stayed on board until Hansweert, Zeeland, making them the first known individuals of that species (endemic to the islands off West Africa) to have reached Europe, and therefore writing history.

Once docked in Hansweert on 19 May, the sparrows stayed on board to eat breadcrumbs and hang out with the captain.

All four sparrows were timid and passive, up until the moment I released the male from his confinement on the bridge. The other male then sought the company of the Captain’s sparrow, and the two cocks started a fight. The aggressive display ended in a clear attempt to copulate. One male definitely mounted the other and tried to copulate. The male that was mounted did, however, not assume the classic submissive solicitation posture (crouched, neck drawn in, wings slightly drooped), a posture known from observation of female House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) that solicit copulation.

Please feel free to insert all kinds of good-humoured jokes in the comments.

(Links:,, Photo of Iago Sparrow by Hans Zwitzer, some rights reserved)

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August 23, 2013

Wolves return to the Netherlands

Filed under: Animals by Branko Collin @ 12:45 pm

When a dead wolf was found in Flevoland last July, it was originally thought that pranksters had planted it there. Wolves hadn’t been spotted in the Netherlands since 1897.

Now there are indications that it may have gotten into the country on its own power. Earth Island Journal writes:

The female wolf was about one and a half years old and appeared to be in good health, the coalition said in a statement (the statement is in Dutch). It said the body showed no signs of having been transported to the Netherlands post mortem. The body didn’t show any signs of having been frozen and there were no traces of wear on the fur, soles and nails that would indicate captivity, the researchers said.

Dutchnews adds:

In addition, possible wolf pellets have been found in a wood on the Noordoost polder, close to where the body was found, they said. [...] The pellets contained traces of deer and fox. Scientists had said earlier the wolf’s last meal appeared to be a beaver. ‘These are all animals found within 50 kilometres of where the wolf and the pellets were found,’ the researchers said.

Thanks Fred Yoder for the tip!

(Photo of European wolves by Gunnar Ries, some rights reserved)

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