From screaming sharply over rumbling dully, smacking noises or a hushed whisper – cells can be very musically and hold a whole repertoire of noises. With the help of nanotechnology the scientists for example discovered that healthy yeast cells are capable of performing what opera singers fail to do regularly: With about 1000 vibrations a minute, they easily produce a high C or D. Getting into contact with alcohol, they make a harsh noise in C-sharp and in D. Even genetically modified yeast cells change their timbre, cells which are dying off only grumble along dully. The scientists use an atomic force microscope, with which they only generated pictures of the cells so far, like the tone arm of a record player. The tip of the microscope touches, similar to the needle of a record player, the cell slightly, so it can measure the vibrations. The noises which are generated by the vibrations are amplified by a computer, so they are audible for a human‘s ear.
After the experiment with the yeast cells the biochemists experimented also with cancer cells. Because these cells differ in their activity from healthy cells, they produce different tones: Noises which sound like a badly tuned radio. Medical scientists hope now to be able to distinguish between ill and healthy cells and diagnose diseases or even predict them with the help of the sounds on the base of this new measuring method. Especially concerning the cancer research this would be a revolutionary step, because one would be able to detect cancer cells before the disease breaks out. A name for this new branch of science is already given: “Sonocytology” – research of the cells noises. This new discovery is also used culturally: Ín collaboration with chemists, the German media artist Anne Niemetz lets cells sing in a multimedia-Concert. Titel of this: “The Dark Side of the Cell” according to Pink Floyds “The Darkness of the Moon”.]]>
I am a great friend of the virtuosic singing of the elite of our domestic songbirds as wood larks, nightingales or song thrushes. I love listening to the diverse and beautiful melancholically whistling of these masterful singers for hours – getting inspired by them, just as they instruct humans to make music and write poetry since primeval times. But there are also some guys among the feathered friends whose singing just can be declared as an annoying noise. Who, for example enjoys the crow‘s croaking? There is one bird who really has lost my favour: The great titmouse. Its sharp and loud „zi-zi däh, zi-zi däh“ has robbed me of my nerves and sleep many times at the crack of dawn. Not only its horrible penetrant „singing“ turns the cute and gracious birdie into a real villain. They are also false and tainted – chasing their fellows away by simulating warning cries, so they have all the food for themselves. Or they sing with changed voices to claim several districts for themselves, so newcomers think that these districts are already occupied and that there is such a great rivalry so settling down in that area is not worth the trouble. The smart thieves possess a repertoire of eight different ways of singing. In Germany one uses the term „to have a tit“ for people who you think are crazy or nuts. This expression can be lead back to a widely spread popular belief according which a mental disease is caused by animals nestling in one‘s head. Another German expression for insane people is „It‘s peeping in your head“, which can also be lead back to nestling birds.]]>
For many decades the Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) was rarely present in Germany – the result of intensive pursuit by fishermen. Only due to the consequent protection by the Council Directive 97/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds – this very day approximately 24.000 breeder couples live in Germany. Nevertheless, professional fisher tried to convince politicians and representatives of the administration of allegedly massive economic losses and that the cormorant poses a real threat to single fish. But cormorants do not kill off natural fish population and do not endanger fish species in a long term. It is rather necessary to fight for an ecological improvement of our waters, so that all fish and water birds have sufficient space for living.
The birds which reach a size of 80 to 100cm and weights two to three kg prefer catching fish which they can capture without any great effort – they are nutrition opportunists. For this, particularly common and economically unimportant “whitings”, so as roaches, breams and other small fish are on the menu. Some regional problems can occur at fish farms because of the cormorant. In this case solutions of how to avoid economic losses without endangering the natural population of the bird again, must be found all together on-site. For example fishponds can be protected efficiently by spanning wide-meshed and well visible wire gauzes over them and by chasing the birds away by using optical and acoustical tools.
The cormorant, whose green eyes remind one of jewels, is a master in diving. He is capable of diving up to 90 seconds and up to a depth of 30 meters, thus it gains 300 to 500 gram of fish every day. Compared to other water birds, whose feathers are greased, cormorants need to dry their soaked feathers by the sun and the wind after every dive to be able to fly again – a unique behaviour in the birds world. For this process tue cormorant spreads its wings in a characteristically posture at a place of rest.
In tue past in China and in Japan cormorants have been tamed to catch fish. Even this very day the cormorant fishery is practised locally. A ring around their neck hinders them of swallowing the fish, so they disgorge them on the boat after catching them. The fisherman splits single fish for the birds which are held as pets or as farm animals.
Commonly cormorants nestle in great rookeries on trees. Their acid excrement leads to a quick extinction of these trees and so it marks the characteristical picture of a colony. Their excrement, called guano, is locally used as an artificial manure. Large rookeries produce oodles of guano over the years. Consisting of the rests of the fish meal, the guano is enriched in Nitrogen and in Phosphorous which are very important elements for the vegetation. Yet the Inca and other South American peoples used the guano in purpose of increasing the harvest. In the middle of the 19th century some million tons of guano were transported to Europe, especially from the South American west coast. Since not only guano has been recovered but also eggs and birds were served as food for the workers, the population has almost become extinct.]]>
Before settlement, huge copper beeches were pervasive in Germany. So the name of my homeland “Westerwald” is derived from the Germanic and means beech forest. The copper beech (Fagus sylvatica) is in our realm the most highly competitive tree and presents in the local climate the final stage of natural succession. It´s “weapon” against other tree species is the extremely high density of the leaves in the crown. This is the reason, why only a small percentage of the sunlight, the tree needs for photosynthesis, reaches the forest floor. Hence other trees have got no chance to germinate. The copper beech itself is very tolerant towards shadow during its youth. In very dense forests, the lowermost tree limbs die back due to lack of light. Often, the base of the crown begins at the uppermost third of the tree, at about 10 or 20 meters in height. Many naves – e.g. the “Kölner Dom’s” – are based on the structure of the forests which are formed by these copper beeches with it’s enormous density of the leaves forming the crown.
Once the Teutons lived in one of these dense forests. They used to carve logs of beechwood and score their characters – the runes – into it. They let these rods with the runes on it fall on the floor, picked them up again and used them as an oracle to make decisions. The word “letter = Buchstabe” is to be derived from these culturally very important rods with the runes carved in them. The word book (German: “Buch”) is to be derived from the Old High German word “buoh”, a beechwooden writing tablet.]]>
But what is the clue about this brightness of colour? In spring and summer, these leafs are green. This green colour is due to the presence of so called chlorophyll, which is the most important biological pigment for plants, because it absorbs the sunlight and makes it available for Photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the biochemical process which allows the plants to obtain energy from sunlight. In summer, the yellow to reddish pigments like Carotene, Xanthophyll and Anthocyanin are superimposed by the green pigments of the chlorophyll. Leafs contain many important nutrients, the plant needs for its growth in the next spring. This is the reason why in autumn the chlorophyll in the leafs is being broken down into its constituent parts. Particularly the “staple foods” – Nitrogen and Phosphate – go into the branches and the trunk where they are stored.
The yellow to reddish colours remain and give the leafs the bright colours. But this isn’t the whole clue yet: Chemical metabolism processes increase the formation of Anthocyanes in the dying leafs. These can even turn the cells colour into a deep red.
Why trees perform this last act of power, isn’t yet clarified totally.
There is one hypothesis which says that the healthier and stronger trees are, the more coloured they become in autumn. This is an unambiguous message for the insects: to look for another, “weaker” tree.
The cause of the yellow and red colour of the autumn leafs can also be of another nature. Another hypothesis says, that the red colour pigments functionate as a kind of UV-filter. The coloured autumn leafs protect the leafs of too much sunlight, because the red colour pigments functionate as a protection shield. It also protects the leafs of free radicals. The plant tissue remains preserved longer. The trees can obtain energy longer and so they can recycle more nutrients.
However, the magical play of autumn colours make my eyes sparkle every autumn anew. A glorious good-bye of life with timbales and trumpets!]]>
Nobody could know even scarcely that “Bambi” would trigger a culturally revolution when, after seven years of work, the animated cartoon got into cinema. Flopping initially totally, the producer was left with the costs. It took a few years, until it turned out that, with Bambi, he has created his “magnum opus”.
The story wasn’t even Disney’s own fiction but he bought the rights from the Austrian writer and passionate hunter Felix Salten, who, in 1923, published a novel in which a small fawn called Bambi, was the central character. This novel was so successful, that a few years later, it was translated into English for the American book market. Since there are no more roes in the New World, this young roebuck became a white-tailed-deer. In the German dubbed version of the full-length cartoon feature which was kind of re-imported in the 1950s, the young stag Bambi changed into a fawn again; nevertheless his father stayed a white-tailed-deer. Ever after, confusion is perfect and many Germans believe that a roe is the stag’s wife. Well, let me straighten this out once and for all: The wife of a stag – who can reach the height of a horse – is called a hind. Female roes – which only reach the height of a dog – are called doe!
Hier sei nun noch einmal ein für alle Mal klargestellt: Bei den fast pferdegroßen Hirschen heißt das Weibchen Hirschkuh! Bei den nur etwa hundegroßen Rehen heißt das Weibchen Ricke!]]>
Every year, these gracious birds move from their breeding ground in Scandinavia, Sibiria or even Northern or Eastern Germany in very neat passages towards the south to overwinter in the woods of common oaks of the spanish Extramadura Region. In the course of the climate warming they partly only migrate as far as Southern France.
With their subtle meteorological sense they can feel upcoming cold spells very precisely.
Since the very big birds (wing spread of 2.20 m) do not reach a flight altitude of more than 100 meters over the ground and their journey is accompanied by loud melancholic blaring, the crane migration is one of the most touching nature experience of the local realm.
Persons who listen closely will be able to recognise squeaky voices in between the jumble of the trompet sounds, which sound like belonging to songbirds. Actually these voices belong to squabs, whose voice hasn´t broken yet.
Cranes are very social animals, which stay with the same partner their whole life and stay in the family connection at all times. Next spring-time they will greet me at my study again, carrying spring in their luggage.]]>
Bird of the year is a campaign originated by the “Naturschutzbund Deutschland e. V.” and the “Landesbund für Vogelschutz in Bayern” in 1971.
Because of its iridescent blaze of colour, the kingfisher is often called “flying jewel”. Nobody having ever seen a kingfisher fish in the great outdoors can evade the fascination of the most dazzling of all our domestic birds. The kingfishers name (German: “Eisvogel” which litteraly means “Ice-bird”) can be derived from the Old High German word “eisan”, which means “iridesence” or “glazing”.
The term “iridescence bird” suits to the glittering play of colours which the bird presents sitting and flying. Its name is not derived from the word “Ice” because of his ice-blue feathers. As many kingfishers starve in winter because of frozen brooks, ice – against all consumptions – is an inveterate foe of his. His natural habitats are brooks and rivers near to nature, inviting to prey with its clean and clear waters. Being a cavity nester, the kingfisher digs holes into the earth for nesting, up to one meter in depth. For that reason it usually chooses unspoilt banks of waters. The speedy fisher is adjusted optimally to its habitat. His hunting techniques are elaborate: Nosediving into water depths of up to 60cm, it emerges with its surprised prey animal within seconds. The kingfisher can only espy its prey animal in calm and clean, maybe slightly turbid waters. In calm inlets of brooks, it achieves hit ratios of almost 100%. To learn more about the kingfisher I recommend the film “Die Die Jagd nach dem fliegenden Diamanten” by Hans-Jürgen Zimmermann. More about the film: www.naturundtierfilm.de]]>