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Saturday, July 28, 2007
In former times the house sparrow could be found every where you looked: in cities, in suburban areas, in the countryside. Nowadays the house sparrow numbers are declining rapidly and this is happening over much of Western Europe.

Studies show that there are several reasons for this decline. For instance the use of pesticides in gardens but also the disappearance of so-called “wild gardens”.
The trend for low maintenance and smaller gardens with more concrete, gravel, paving and evergreen shrubs see to it that less and less insects are available in the breeding season for the house sparrow.

Our garden is full with shrubs and hedges, it has several birdfeeders and thus the reason why we can still enjoy these cute creatures. There is a whole bunch of them living in our relatively small suburban garden. Here are just two pictures we shot recently. The first picture shows a juvenile house sparrow looking for food on the ground


And in this picture a male house sparrow is eating from an elderberry.


Do you want the house sparrow back in your garden? Well, here are some tips:
- provide for food (a.o. bird seeds) and water in your garden
- plant trees, shrubs and climbers to provide shelter to the house sparrow.
- don’t cut your lawn every week but let the grass grow a little bit.

And there are many more things you can do. Just search for it on the internet.

Elgar the Moose • 03:15 AM • Filed under: Birds • (3) CommentsPermalink

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Just today an article appeared in the newspaper that the hoverfly (= "zweefvlieg" in Dutch) is becoming an endangered species in The Netherlands. Due to intensified farming and dehydration (would you believe that with all the rain which momentarily causes all kinds of floods?) their numbers are going down quickly.

The hoverfly is not that familiar with people. The hoverfly looks a bit like a wasp, but there are some differences. For instance the hoverfly does not sting and their body is not curved. It looks as if they hover but that is not correct. They just move their wings very fast, about 300 times per second.

Here is a nice picture of the Hoverfly which we just received last week from Clan MacMoose. What a coincidence, don’t you think?

Clan MacMoose • 03:47 AM • Filed under: Insects,Clan MacMoose • (0) CommentsPermalink

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Saturday, July 21, 2007
The Aachen Cathedral, frequently referred to as the "Imperial Cathedral" (in German: Kaiserdom) is located in Aachen (Western Germany), just about 20 km’s from our hometown.
It is the oldest Cathedral in Northern Europe. If you are in the vicinity it is well worth a visit. Besides Aachen is a beautiful city with lots of old buildings and fountains.

Charlemagne (in Dutch “Karel de Grote”, in English “Charles the Great”) began the construction of the Palatine Chapel in 786. He was the first Holy Roman Emperor, crowned in 800 on Christmas Day. When he died in 814 he was buried in a tomb in this cathedral.
The main entrance to the cathedral still has the nice original door in bronze with heads of lions, melted at the time of Charlemagne. This door is often referred to as “Wolf’s Door”. In the right bottom corner you will notice a crack. And this has got to do with a legend about a Wolf and the devil. Do some 'googling' yourself to read about that legend.


The cathedral obtained its present shape in the course of more than a millennium. The core of the Aachen cathedral is this Palatine Chapel, rather small compared to the later additions, but at the time of its construction it was the largest dome north of the Alps. There is a sixteen-sided aisle with a gallery overhead encircling its central octagonal dome.



The sidewalks are decorated beautifully

Underneath the dome, according to tradition, was the tomb of Charlemagne. In the year 1000 Otto III opened the imperial tomb and found (it is said) the great emperor as he had been buried, sitting on a marble throne, robed and crowned as in life, the book of the Gospels open on his knees. The remains of Charlemagne were placed in a shrine, which can be found in the Capella Vitrea (a choir hall extension to the Dome).

The chair (“Throne of Charlemagne”), now placed in the gallery overhead, is formed of four pieces of white marble, without ornaments or sculpture. There are six steps up to it, two of which are of granite, the others of marble.


A colossal brass chandelier (1160 – 1170), donated by Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, crowned in Aachen in March 1152, swings down from the dome.
The huge chandelier was hanging over Charlemagne’s shrine. It is 4,5 meters in diameter and weighs more than 650 kg (including the cable).


For 600 years, from 936 to 1531, the Aachen cathedral was the church of coronation for 30 German kings and emperors. The “Throne of Charlemagne” was used in these coronation ceremonies.

In order to bear the enormous flow of pilgrims in the Gothic period a choir hall was built: a two-part Capella vitrea (glass chapel).
It was consecrated in 1414, the 600th anniversary of Charlemagne's death. The 13 windows are each 100 feet high. During world war II the windows were however more or less destroyed and have been replaced by rather modern designed glass windows.


Charlemagne collected a variety of relics during his lifetime, which are still kept in the Cathedral (in a shrine) in this Capella vitrea area:

- the cloak of the Blessed Virgin;
- the swaddling-clothes of the Infant Jesus;
- the loin-cloth worn by Christ on the Cross; and
- the cloth on which lay the head of St. John the Baptist after his beheading.

In the Middle Ages, these relics attracted swarms of pilgrims from Germany, Austria, Hungary, England, Sweden, and other countries. In the mid-14th century, it became customary to show the four "Great Relics" only once every seven years, a custom which continues today (in June 2007 the relics where shown again).

A last view of this impressive building. In the middle you see the Dome (the Palatine Chapel), on the right the Glass Chapel.

Elgar the Moose • 01:56 AM • Filed under: Miscellaneous • (1) CommentsPermalink

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
This is the first contribution of our co-author, Clan MacMoose, who is located in Scotland and runs a terrific B&B (Homefarm, Muir of Ord).

This photo shows you "Loch Na Crann" and its tranquility. The Loch is well clothed with waterlilies.

Clan MacMoose • 04:47 AM • Filed under: Landscapes,Clan MacMoose • (0) CommentsPermalink

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