A BIRD AND THE MEAD OF POETRY

The red-necked phalarope is an extraordinary bird and a real wanderer between the worlds and above the sea of fog although it is not really big (length of 19 cms). The photo above shows the outlook during breeding, in autumn and winter the plumage will change to a simple white/grey. Quite exceptionally in nature the gender roles of these birds are completely different than normally while the male birds are breeding the eggs and also guiding afterwards the young birds while the female birds perform the courtship displays in order to attract the male birds and will as well protect the breeding site against external enemies.


Red-necked phalarope (Odinshühnchen) in breeding plumage,
photograph by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters

The birds are breeding from May until July all over the Northern arctic and subarctic hemisphere including Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Norway. During the rest of the year the birds are staying scattered over the tropical and subtropical oceans but also at the coastal side of Patagonia and the Southern part of Japan. The German name is a bit unusual Odinshühnchen (meaning literally Odin chicken) such making reference to the Northern & Scandinavian mythology – one of its glamorous homelands in the circle of the year.

Odin steals the Mead of Poetry while being chased by Suttungr,
illustration by Ólafur Brynjúlfsson, 18th century

In the old European mythology ‘Edda’ the divinity Odin (German: Wodan) steals the Mead of Poetry in the shape of an eagle out of Suttungr’s cave. The Poetic Mead is a real magic beverage and, whoever drinks it, soon thereafter can recite any information and solve any question. While being chased by Suttungr, Odin spits the Mead of Poetry into several vessels. But the chase was so fierce, that some spits dropped backwards. Hence, anybody could now drink this part, and subsequently poetry was finally gifted to mankind by a single bird.


Birdwatching excursion led by ornithologist Derk Ehlert
on Poel Peninsula/Baltic Sea in August 2016

In Central Europe the red-necked phalarope can only be discovered rarely during their passage to the South in August when making a rest in the German coastal region, sometimes as well in Austria at Lake Neusiedl. So in August 2016 I was really lucky to see an Odinshühnchen during an ornithological trip to Poel Peninsula/Baltic sea in large distance to the shore on an inland-pond which is one of their preferred sites. Then you need of course a very good binoculars / spotting scope for such purpose and without an experienced guide who knows where to look you will never have such a seldom chance. During such trips sometimes you can only hear the multiple birds, so we must also listen to their polyphonic concert starting early in the morning because birds can tell a lot of stories of their global wanderings around our world.

Postcard by artistampex, Canada, 1984

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #49: Favorite Things

 

WHY HOMO SAPIENS MIGHT NOT SURVIVE: ONE WORD SAYS IT ALL

The Secular Jurist

By Robert A. Vella

In the popular animated sitcom Family Guy, a recurring gag features the character of Cleveland Brown.  He’s sitting in his upstairs bathtub when some improbable catastrophe destroys his home (typically caused by his mentally juvenile neighbor Peter Griffin) sending the naked man and his soap-water filled tub sliding down onto his front lawn while yelling “No, no, no, no, no!”

Poor Cleveland is exclaiming shock-induced denial when confronted with a painful reality he was ill-prepared for.  While other popularized phrases are more expressive, such as “I DON’T believe it!” (actor Michael Forest, Star Trek episode Who Mourns For Adonais?, 1967) and “This CAN’T be happening, man!” (actor Bill Paxton, Aliens, 1986), the shouting of “NO!” basically says it all.  But, exactly what is it that we’re trying to say?

All of us – every man, woman, and child who…

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EXPLORING THE ISLAND OF USEDOM / BALTIC SEA

In early June 2019 we spent again some days on the varied and ancient island of Usedom in the Baltic Sea which is connected by two shorter bridges with the German mainland being separated from the island only by the river Peene and huge coastal backwaters.

Anklam Gate in the old Hanseatic City of Usedom

Rural countryside near Mellenthin Castle

Usedom lies in Western-Pomerania (Vorpommern) and on the European Route of Brick Gothic architecture. In German there exists an old lullaby featuring Pomerania and sounding in fact more like a nightmare: “Maikäfer flieg, der Vater ist im Krieg, die Mutter ist im Pommernland, Pommernland ist abgebrannt.”  The besetting content most probably goes back to the Seven-Years-War (1756-1763) when the Swedish army devastated great parts of Pomerania. Why this dramatical song is used for making children sleep, likely remains a secret for me.

Abandoned barn near Grüssow

Hiking on the coastal path from Grüssow to Warthe

Today however, the island of Usedom means just a real nice and peaceful place at the wild shores of the Baltic Sea. In hot summers it is usually much cooler than on the mainland. You will find there long white beaches and spas, big forests with inland lakes, dreamy villages, old castles and beautiful natural reserves.

The medieval church of Rankwitz

Wildness at the natural reserve Lieper Winkel

We did some hiking on bikes which allows very well to reach the remote and original sites of this island. Some of these amazing and stunning places are featured here on a few photos which require to return sometime in the very future.

Ancient blue fisher house with a thatched roof at Warthe

Bathing area of Dewichow with view on the backwaters

Tuesday Photo Challenge – Ancient

THE RED LINES OF BEING

31-Otis-tarda-Jiri-BohdalCourtship dance of male great bustards in early spring   © Jiri Bohdal

Great bustards have been already mentioned long time ago in older writings of Pliny the Elder as avis tarda, and in 1758 they were classified with their scientific name Otis tarda by Carl Linnaeus while the description tarda is Latin for slow and deliberate which is apt to describe the typical walking style of these possibly heaviest flying birds in the world who breed in southern and central Europe and across temperate Asia. European population are mainly resident, but Asian birds move further south in winter. Portugal and Spain now contain about 60 % of the world’s population (approx. 50,000 birds in total). The birds are often described as magnificent, stately birds because of the males’ great size, cocked tails and large white whiskers.

In the rural countryside of the great bustards

This species has suffered rapid population reductions across most of its range owing to the loss, degradation and fragmentation of its habitat, as well as hunting leading to a complete extinction in Great-Britain already in the midst of the 19th century. In Germany around 200 birds are now living again at three different locations in the eastern part what means an increase of 400 % in relation to the bad situation in 1997. This is only possible by heavy intervention of ornithologists and nature conservationists who for example achieved that the new railway trail from Berlin to Hannover had to be redirected several years ago in order not to disturb the birds – meanwhile fenced areas have additionally been constructed at suitable locations as a protection for the birds because unfortunately, the great bustards are also a bit stubborn and conservative in their behavior what may be quite dangerous for a vulnerable species.

Single great bustard – photo: Andrej Chudy  CC BY-SA 2.0

So the flexible and intelligent fox could normally always very easily steal their eggs while the great bustards simply do not take enough care of it. But these reserved islands here in Germany seem to be also a little bit like an outdoor-zoo hosting ornithological observation towers for bird watchers of all kind (one good observation point is situated for example near the city of Märkisch-Luch, urban district Garlitz, in the federal  state of Brandenburg) but observation is normally only possible in early spring during the courtship displays. So you need always binoculars as the birds can only be watched in a minium distance of ca. 300 m.

Their distant relative – the crane – instead could be a good teacher in this regard who overflies each year the continents of this world in order to find the best places for survival. But when you do not cross the red lines of being, hence you will never know what is lying there behind the horizon of singularity. Even if you subsequently discover only a half-filled glass of water this is definitely always much better than a dried-up big river in front of your door.

Lens Artists Challenge “Delicate”

THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF ROCKS

In this interesting post Sharon raises some questions which can not be answered however. Have a look for fascinating visions about rocks.

Echoes in the Mist

Arunachala

By Sharon St Joan

No serious person in the modern world really believes that rocks are conscious. There are a few exceptions which we’ll come to in a moment.

Watching the TV series, The Universe, being shown on the H2 channel, one can absorb fascinating facts. Underneath the vast atmosphere of Jupiter, for example, lies an ocean – not an ordinary ocean, but an ocean of hydrogen that is brighter than the sun and intensely blue, also hotter than the surface of the sun.

0105-4x5color.ai

In between the planets of the solar system lie immensely vast spaces, so large as to be incomprehensible – and far vaster distances separate the galaxies from each other. The universe is expanding. Not only is it expanding, but the rate of expansion, counter-intuitively, is speeding up, not slowing down. Our galaxy is zooming at an ever increasing rate of speed away from all other…

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THE CROOKED WOOD IN POMERANIA / POLAND

If only trees could talk to us. What strange stories would then submerge subsequently from densely wooded grounds like this weird forested site in the very North-West of Poland?

This most curious natural monument is situated Southern from the city centre of Gryfino at Nowe Czarnowo in Western Pomerania near the border to Germany. The fairytale forest consists of at least 80 pine trees showing a mysterious deformity and shape (other sources name 400 pine trees, but I have not counted them while being there). All of the trees have the same northward 90-degree bend at the base of their limb but despite bent beginnings, all of the trees have grown to be tall and seemingly unhampered by this deformation. There are traces of rowed plantings, however, the majority of trees are scattered about the normal pines. Some of them are in small groupings.

The most popular theory about how the trees became crooked is that a group of German farmers planted these trees in the 1930s, intentionally damaging the base in order to create some sort of product, perhaps uniquely shaped furniture.  The world may never know if it’s true because the German farmers were unable to finish their work due to their forced migration after World War II.

Others assume that a snowstorm could have knocked the trees like this, freezing them into a bent position until the snow and ice melted in spring.  There are plenty of trees in the area, all of which grow upright from the base without the funky curve distinct of the crooked trees. So the Crooked Wood remains an odd occurrence and unsolved mystery of exceptional green.

Jo’s Monday walk : Back lane beauty

 

HOW DO ALIENS SOLVE CLIMATE CHANGE?

An interesting lecture for the weekend with astonishing perspectives and visions.

The Extinction Chronicles

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/05/how-do-aliens-solve-climate-change/561479/

Scientists recently modeled a range of interactions between energy-intensive civilizations and their planets. The results were sobering.

Artist's rendition of the exoplanet Kepler-20e
NASA / Ames / JPL-Caltech
The universe does many things. It makes galaxies, comets, black holes, neutron stars, and a whole mess more. We’ve lately discovered that it makes a great deal of planets, but it’s not clear whether it regularly makes energy-hungry civilizations, nor is it clear whether such civilizations inevitably drive their planets into climate change. There’s lots of hope riding on our talk about building a sustainable civilization on Earth. But how do we know that’s even possible? Does anyone across the cosmos ever make it?

Remarkably, science has now advanced to point where we can take a first step at answering this question. I know this because my colleagues and I have just published a first study mapping out possible histories of alien planets, the civilizations…

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