We are living in very dangerous times with Neoliberalism and fascism on the rise. Do watch what George Monbiot has to say about this here.
Melete salacia Black-striped White is a regional endemic found only on Cuba and Hispaniola. It is not very common and the lovely picture above of a male was taken recently in Cuba. Its range is mainly in the east of the country though it does occur as far west as Topes de Collantes and the Bay of Pigs wherever the foodplants grow.
Reddish Egret has two morphs in Cuba, the first like this is grey with a reddish chestnut head and neck, and the second is entirely white. In breeding plumage the adults have a pink base to the bill but here the adult has an all black bill.
They feed primarily on small fish; shrimp and crab, and are quite widespread around the coasts of Cuba. It is just occasionally found on freshwater lakes inland. They are active, animated foragers and employ their wings frequently when hunting, either opening the wings briefly to startle their prey, or by keeping the wings extended and open, probably to coax prey to take shelter in the shade of the wings. They also extend their wings fully over the head and hunt beneath the umbrella they create. This “canopy feeding” also attracts prey to a shaded environment and permits the egret to see prey clearly, without sun glare.
Thank you to Ernesto Reyes Mouriño for his great pictures taken recently at Zapata.
Thank you to Jemma Forte's Dad for this poem about the wonderful succession of Tory leaders we’ve had.
CAMERON As smooth as a plastic banknote, a cipher in a suit,
A bottomless pit of nothingness, he started the dispute,
With our European neighbours, to appease the rabid right.
He proposed the referendum, that has turned our world to shite.
THEN MAY Strangely forward leaning, but only in her walk,
She preached the Brexit gospel, and talked the Tory talk.
A fervent believer in Brexit, though she’d campaigned to remain,
She spread the Brexit mantra, whilst sounding quite insane,
‘No deal is better than a bad deal.’ she honked like an angry goose,
But she didn’t get her deal through, and the bastards cut her loose.
JOHNSON People liked this funny chap, this rumpled clubbable Tory,
But his days as Bullingdon hoodlum, tell quite a different story.
A greedy lying narcissist, feathering his nest.
Milking Tory donors was the one thing he did best.
His horrendous Brexit deal went through, making millions for his chums,
Whilst leaving others destitute, millions of credulous bums
Leveling up was a great success, though not everyone got more,
While millionaires became billionaires, it was leveling down for the poor.
As food banks fed the destitute, the ruling class got richer,
He’d done horrendous damage, by the time he left the picture.
AND NOW TRUSS
Truss – ‘A surgical appliance’, only this one inflicts pain,
The ultimate horror tory, borderline insane.
The red meat of racist rhetoric, hooking codgers in the Shires,
Pandering to xenophobes, and stoking their desires.
Spouting shit more freely, than the shit flowing into the sea
Picking fights with global leaders, completely out of her tree.
Pig-headed and thick as mince, a fatal combination,
What Cameron did to a pig’s head, she’ll now do to a nation.
This spectacular image of a pair of Antillean Nighthawk, or Querequete to use the Cuban name, was the recent winner of Flora and Fauna Category of the Naturaleza Digital Online 2022 Competition organised by Gaviota Turismo at Topes de Collantes. It was taken by Yadiel Veunes Alonso near Matanzas. He says that he spotted the female sitting on the low wall and crept closer through the grass lying on the ground taking pictures as he went. Then the male appeared and they mated.
And this beautiful picture of a male Northern Bobwhite calling, also by Yadiel, shows just how much photography of the natural world has progressed in the last few years.
Well done Yadiel and thank you for letting me use your photos.
This beautiful moth is a member of the Noctuoidea: Erebidae: Arctiinae. It is called Syntomidopsis variegata and is only found on Hispaniola, Jamaica and Cuba. This one was photographed by professional photographer Carlos de Soto Molinari in the Dominican Republic. My grateful thanks go to Carlos for allowing me to use his picture.
This tiny but beautiful Tortricid moth above called Mictopsichia cubae was photographed recently by Deryl Varela Cienfuegos at San Miguel de los Baños. And thank you to Rayner Núñez for the identification.
And the following Sphinx moth (Hawk-moth to us here in the UK) was found and photographed recently by David Naves. It's called Eumorpha vitis Vine Sphinx.
This lovely image of a White-tailed Tropicbird was taken recently by Roberto Jovel on a birding visit with friends from Baracoa to the Guantanamo bay area. They are known to nest in Cuba only at two areas in the south-east of the island. They are the smallest of the three Tropicbird species and are widely distributed around the Tropics.
If you are looking for a beautiful casa in Baracoa with a wildlife friendly garden and wonderful hosts then try the highly recommended Villa Paradiso where they have some great birds in the garden as well as rare anoles.
"If we can't consign this serially incompetent abuser of office to the dustbin of history, we can at least do something else: never forget Jean Charles de Menezes.
For those of us who were in London in July 2005, the events of that month are unforgettable. But that was 17 years ago, and younger people may be completely unaware of them. In light of this week's political events, that awful time is worth revisiting.
It started on a high, on 6 July, when London was awarded the right to stage the 2012 Olympics. It was a surprise victory – Paris had been the clear favourite – and caused massive excitement. Hundreds celebrated in Trafalgar Square that night. But the joy didn't last.
The next morning, terrorists set off rush-hour bombs on three tube trains and a bus. 52 people died, all UK residents, of 18 nationalities. More than 700 were injured. It was the UK's worst terrorist attack since Lockerbie in 1988 and the country's first Islamist suicide attack.
Exactly two weeks later, bombers struck the tube and bus network again, in another four places. This time the bombs were badly made and there was only one minor injury, but it was terrifying – and the whole transport network was shut down.
Since the bombs hadn't gone off properly, the would-be suicide bombers didn't die. Manhunts were launched, based on fairly clear CCTV imagery.
At 9.30 the next morning, this man came out of his flat in Tulse Hill, south London. He was a 27-year-old Brazilian called Jean Charles de Menezes, on his way to fix a broken fire alarm in Kilburn, on the other side of London. As you can see, he looks nothing like the bombers.
Nevertheless, an officer on duty decided he did, and radioed his commander, who told him to follow the man and to make sure he didn't get on the tube. Several plain clothes officers now followed Jean Charles on the bus to Brixton, the nearest tube station to his home.
Brixton tube turned out to be closed – the transport network was still in chaos – so Jean Charles walked to the next station, Stockwell. He picked up a free paper at the entrance, used his Oyster card to get through the barriers, and reached the platform just as a train arrived. Officers then followed him onto the train and shot him seven times in the head, in full view of all the other petrified passengers. Yes you read that right. Seven times. In the head.
The Met immediately said he was a terror suspect, but it quickly became clear he was nothing of the kind. He wasn't carrying a bomb, or anything suspicious, and he looked nothing like the actual bombers. They then claimed he had been acting suspiciously: he vaulted the barrier, he wore a bulky coat in hot weather (potentially covering a suicide vest), and he failed to respond when challenged. None of those things were true. All flat-out lies.
In truth, the operation was a shitshow from start to finish: sloppy surveillance by the police, appalling communications along the way and then lie upon lie from the Met as the institution scrambled to cover its arse and defame the innocent man its officers had assassinated.
Revulsion over the incident led to demonstrations in the UK and shock waves abroad. Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a formal apology to the government of Brazil.
No individual officer was ever charged with the shooting, but the Met commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, was prosecuted under health and safety laws. Even then, the Met continued to play dirty. They mounted a character assassination of the man they'd killed, falsely suggesting he was high on drugs at the time and had behaved in an aggressive and threatening way. More lies. In addition, they issued a picture attempting to show that the dead man did look a bit like one of the suspects. It turned out that picture had been wildly distorted, in a further attempt to deceive.
The bad smell eventually cost Ian Blair his job, although of course it didn't prevent his elevation to the House of Lords – Lord Blair of Boughton is now a legislator for life – nor stop him walking away with a massive payoff. And what of the person at the end of the radio, who gave all the orders all the way along? They too were quietly put out to pasture, right?
Wrong. Gold Commander Cressida Dick – for it was she – was promoted, first to Deputy Assistant Commissioner, then to Assistant Commissioner. Then she went to a director-general role at the Foreign Office before returning to the Met as Commissioner, Britain's top police officer.
She was also awarded the Queen's Police Medal for Distinguished Service, was made a Commander of the British Empire, and then ultimately given the DBE – so she is now Dame Cressida Dick. Only in the UK can you fail upwards in quite such spectacular style.
This is the woman who said the Met didn't investigate crimes committed in the past, that there was no evidence of law-breaking in 10 Downing Street and, when confronted with unmissable suitcase-loads of that evidence, manoeuvered to make sure that evidence never emerges.
She is the symbol of all that's rotten in our country. To anyone who remembers the events of July 2005, it's sickening but no great surprise.”
Thank you to Chris Wood for this summary of events.
But at least Dick is now out of a job. Now we just need to get Johnson out along with all the corrupt and lying politicians who have been lining their pockets and those of their mates with our money whilst busily stripping away our hard-earned democracy.
Back in November Yosiel Alvarez made a trip to the east of the island around Moa and Baracoa. He has kindly sent me some butterfly photos that he took on that trip. The above is a female Apricot Sulphur Phoebis argante which is an uncommon species though found throughout the island. We have seen males on a handful of occasions on our visits - and never a female. Yosiel thinks that it is perhaps the first time that a female has been photographed in the wild in Cuba - I certainly don't know of any others. Well done Yosiel. He also managed to photograph a Tailed Orange Pyrisitia proterpia which is almost restricted to the eastern part of the island though it does also occur on the Isla de Juventud south of Zapata. It can be distinguished from the similar-shaped Eurema boisduvaliana by the thick black bar along the costa of the upper forewing. This one is a male as it lacks the orange marbling on the underside of the hindwing.
Welcome to our Blog
Here we will post interesting news about what we and others have seen in Cuba.