If you look at the places from where the rose-ringed parakeet originates, you’ll note that these are some of the hottest spots on the planet. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that large groups of these birds thrive in much colder climes.
Certainly the gardens behind my apartment aren’t part of the tropics, at least not last time I checked, which is when I took this photo.
Wikipedia claims the four largest cities in the country—Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and especially The Hague—are home to about 10,000 of these parakeets. It is assumed the birds are the descendants of parakeets once kept as pets. The male bird sports a red ring around its neck, hence the name rose-ringed parakeet.
A statue of philosopher Baruch Spinoza unveiled in Amsterdam in 2008 contains images of roses, rose-ringed parakeets and sparrows, representing Spinoza himself, immigrants and native citizens.
Other cities north of the Mediterranean with large rose-ringed parakeet populations are Brussels and London.
At hetregentbijnanooit.nl (it almost never rains dot nl) avid cyclist Gerard Poels from Grave near Nijmegen keeps track of how many of his bicycle commutes get rained on.
In the past five years it rained during an average of 9.4% of Poels’ rides, each of which took 40 minutes each way. Poels counts every little shower even if it rains for just a few minutes. He claims it happens only 4 or 5 times each year that it rains during the entire ride. During those five years Poels rode his bike to and from work 1,482 times.
Poels set up his site to counter the excuse “I am not going to take the bike to work because it always rains [in the Netherlands]“.
Eamelje.net points out that Peter Siegmund of the Dutch meteorological office (KNMI) calculated the probability that you will get wet if you stay outdoors (PDF). If you stay outdoors for an hour in the Netherlands, there is a 12% chance that you will get rained on. If you stay out for four hours, that probability increases to about 25%, and you will have to stay out for at least a fortnight to be absolutely sure to get wet. Siegmund adds that fans of camping are most likely to stay dry in June. Even then the probability of rain during a single week is still 91%.
The documentary about wildlife in the Oostvaardersplassen (‘the lakes of those who sailed to the East’) was released on 26 September 2013. For feature films 400,000 visitors is considered pretty successful, but for a documentary it’s practically a miracle. As a comparison, last year Hollywood blockbuster The Hunger Games took the number 13 spot with 458,816 visitors.
Part of the attraction of Ruben Smit’s De Nieuwe Wildernis may be that there is very little original nature left in the Netherlands. Biodiversity is at an all time low in this country, the Mean Species Abundance having dropped from 40% in 1900 to 15% in 2000. The average MSA for Europe is 40%.
The nature reserve Oostvaardersplassen came about by accident. It is situated on the north end of Flevoland, the largest artificial island in the world. Originally reclaimed in 1986, the area was to be bordered by another artificial island, Markerwaard, and intended for housing business parks, but in 1986 the national government decided not to build the extra island. With businesses also staying away, nature took over. In 1986 the area was designated a national nature reserve.
From 16 August to 30 September visitors can stay in one of the ‘creative shelters’ created by contemporary industrial designers. Each of the 15 mobile units on the campground are equipped with a comfortable bed and some of them have a bit more space that doubles as a small living space. The accommodation shown here is ‘Polaris’ designed by Boris Duijnevel of MUD projects.
Prices range from 20 to 80 euro a night, depending on the accommodation, and in the Story Caravan designed by Nancy Wiltink, she’ll throw in a bedtime story for an extra 55 euro between 10-11 pm that is either romantic or filled with horror so you will ‘sleep poor’, most probably no pun intended, just bad English (it should be ‘poorly’, Dutch adjectives and adverbs are often written the same way).
In addition, urban campsite offers guests a zone for campfires, hammocks to relax, a wood-fired sauna, and a picnic spot in front of each installation. the site also provides the visitors with general amenities — a restaurant, a well-stocked shop, laundry and a shower. the creative expression stop stop at the art objects: temporary photo exhibitions will be shown on the grounds, one of the fields will be arranged as a sculpture garden, and the terrain’s decoration will be changed regularly.
Parking in The Hague neighbourhood of Oud-Leyenburg is apparently a problem, which is the city is working on by creating some 500 parking spots. However, in the Soesterbergstraat, the construction workers worked some magic to get a round a tree that they didn’t have permission to move and have created a few completely useless ‘parking spots’.
On my street, Smart brand cars, which are very small, park quite creatively as well. Even Smarts wouldn’t fit in the wee spots The Hague has created. Smurf parking only?
When the city of Den Bosch expanded eastward in the 1980s, it gobbled up an old stretch of Meuse dike called Heinis. Originally developers wanted to build a business park there, but protests put a stop to those plans.
For ages this country road ran through the fields, but the city expanded and new parts were built north and south of this east west road in the late 1970s. Residential areas to the north and an industrial area to the south. By 1980 the old road was suddenly in the middle of the city.
When this was still a real country road there were many rural houses on it. [...] Many of the more contemporary houses were destroyed but all the monumental farm houses remained. There were so many of those that the road still has the atmosphere of a country road.
Motor traffic on the old road is now restricted, with bridges spanning gaps in the old dike to let bicycles across.
From a conservationist’s perspective, the area is important for its ‘wheels’ (I don’t think there is an English word for the phenomenon), small but sometimes deep ponds made by kolks breaking through dikes, what IVN/Vogel- en Natuurwacht ‘s-Hertogenbosch e.o. calls “mementos of the sometimes unsuccessful battle against water.”
Here is a Google maps link. Although I cannot show you many photos of the area, the link above to Mark Wagenbuur’s article also leads to a video of a bike ride through the area.
Today dozens of demonstrations were held against the actions and influence of Monsanto, an American company that produces genetically modified seeds.
Protesters expressed fear that genetically modified organisms cause harm to the health of human beings and animals, and disturb important natural processes.
In the Netherlands five of these Marches against Monsanto were organized, in Amsterdam, Wageningen, The Hague, Bergschenhoek and Leiden. According to Volkskrant, 1000 protestors showed up in Amsterdam and 1200 in Wageningen. Monsanto has offices in Wageningen, the location of an agricultural university, and Bergschenhoek.
Coffeeshop owner Theo Buissink of Groningen wants to launch a bunch of orange-coloured helium balloons with marijuana seeds in them with the text ‘Thank you Majesty’, referring to Queen Beatrix who will abdicate the throne on 30 April. When the balloons burst at high altitude, the seeds will spread and marijuana plants will grow all over the country. The plants will have orange tops, as the owner claims to have had those specially cultivated for the occasion. The first plants should start appearing in September 2013. The coffeeshop is appropriately called ‘De Vliegende Hollander’ (‘The Flying Dutchman’).
The whole thing makes for a nice animation video in your head using your imagination.
“When Willem-Alexander was 18 we sent him joints for his birthday. Now he will get an empty container that he can fill up with weed in our shop during his visit to Groningen.”
Dutch documentary filmmaker Henk Meeuwsen is looking for an assistant sound recordist (sign up through the link) to capture the sound of horse farts in the Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve, lodged in between the cities of Almere and Lelystad, Flevoland and home to the biggest herd of wild horses in all of Europe. You can see the horses and deers from the train when you travel from Amsterdam to Zwolle going North and it is indeed a beautiful sight.
Meeuwsen has managed to record horse farts, but unfortunately there has been either too much noise from passing trains and planes or from other nature sounds to be used in his latest nature film, due out this September. This job sounds like a fun challenge if ever there was one.
‘Room for the River’ is a Dutch state project that intends to widen the floodplains of the major rivers.
The project does something that is quite rare for the Dutch, it gives land back to the water. In 1993 and 1995 we had major river floods, the latter even leading to the evacuation of 250,000 people. Geographically, the Netherlands is a river delta, and the Dutch have always had to live with river floods. However, today the population pressure has made the consequences of floods much more expensive.
As the project website says: “The rivers are wedged between increasingly higher dikes behind which more and more people live. At the same time, the land behind the dikes has sunk. It is also raining more often and harder, causing rivers to swell. Water levels are rising and so is the chance of floods with a large impact on people, animals, infrastructure and the economy.”
The New York Times has visited one of those projects and uses it for an opinion piece on how big government is good.