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The presentation of my recent book 'Moeders vader' was at November 20th, 2017. At this occasion the first specimen was offered to the mayor of the city of Deventer.

I lived in that city up to the summer of 1961. My sleeping room was at the second floor, and gave a splendid street view. I had to make my homework for school in this room, but preferred to watch the scene at the street. My grandmother's house was straight at the overside. Above her house I could see the huge poplar from her garden. It was the highest tree in our neighbourhood. Poplars are fast growing trees. Most probably this one was only thirty years old. Quite often in spring a male blackbird was singing in that tree. Sometimes I tried to answer him and then the bird got totally excited. Maybe that was one of the motives for my biology study.

I now realize that this tree was probably planted by the grandfather I never knew, the steward of the properties of the city. At that time, Deventer owned quite an area of land with many farms. A few decades ago these properties have been transferred to the Stichting IJssellandschap.

My grandfather, Johan Hendrik Heuvel (1892-1928), died suddenly when he was thirty-five years old, during his work. His widdow and young children were very sad and tried to conceal their sadness about this loss. Thus, the grandchildren heard almost nothing about their grandfather. We only knew that he was the eldest son of a school teacher from Borculo,  Hendrik Willem Heuvel (1864-1926). That teacher was also a writer, and famous in a region in the east of the Netherlands. We knew a lot about this person. He was my grand-grandfather.

About two years ago, I found a couple of letters that were written by my unknown grandfather Johan Heuvel. These letters were fascinating. I therefore wanted to dicover more about this person, but everyone who had known him during his life was dead. I succeeded to compose a fairly complete story about him, especially from his father's diary that was preserved and from the archives in Arnhem, Kampen and Deventer.

The Heuvel family portrayed in 1905: furthest right is my grandfather Johan Hendrik (1892-1928), besides him his father Hendrik Willem (1864-1926), then his brother Hendrik Antonij (1903-1955), his mother Derkje Wesseldijk (1869-1955), and finally his sister Lammerdina Johanna Gerharda (1898-1972).

The story begins in the small village of Gelselaar where he was born. It proceeds in Borculo whereto his father was transferred as a headmaster. In the mean time the family made quite a number of trips to relatives in Laren (Gelderland), in Tongeren (Veluwe) and at the property the Essenburg near the Zuiderzee. Johan was educated at the HBS in Winterswijk, the 'Landbouwwinterschool' in Zutphen and by the ‘Nederlandsche Heidemaatschappij’ (a forerunner of the present company Arcadis) at quite a number of sites in the Netherlands, but especially in Polder 'de Koekoek' near Grafhorst and the headquarters in Arnhem. Johan worked for the 'Heidemaatschappij' and was the second Dutchman that received an official 'steward' licence. The final part of the story took place in Deventer, also in the town hall of the city, with a lot of drama, such as two flood disasters in Deventer, a hurricane in Borculo and two funerals.

The book is written in Dutch and costs € 19,45. It can be ordered at uitgeverij Fagus

Mayor Andries Heidema (in the middle) just received the first specimen of the book in the 'Oude Raadszaal' of the town hall in Deventer. The publisher Hans de Beukelaer is standing right in the picture and I am (unusually dressed) the left man.

The Saturday thereafter (November 25th) the bundle 'In het voetspoor van Heuvel' was presented in the old farm 't Levenkamp where Hendrik Willem Heuvel's grand-grandmother was born. I contributed to this bundle and had written down that story about one and a half year ago. That activity inspired me to unravel my grandfather's life in more detail. When I started, I did not know yet that this could lead to the book 'Moeders vader'. I certainly did not suspect that this book would appear before the bundle..

Artificial nest with a colony of ants

photo: De Jonge Onderzoekers

Since september 2014 I am working as a volunteer at De Jonge Onderzoekers (the Young Investigators) in Groningen, mainly by giving workshops. It is quite a challenge to find the best way to talk to children from 8 to about 14 years old, to demonstrate things and to instruct them to explore biology and science. They dissect owl pellets, prepare ink from galls, cook quince jam, make yoghurt, look through a microscope, watch tadpoles and ants, and play our Ostrich Game. 

Puzzle picture: nest with four young ringed plovers, just hatched

I am also working on camouflage of ringed plover nests on Iceland. Data (standard pictures from nests and their environments) were collected in 2013 and 2014 by Joop Jukema and co-workers. Nests on the rare white beaches were equally difficult to find as those on blackish grey volcanic soils. Yet, we were unable to find any relationship between the properties of clutches and those of their surroundings. Nests were lined by the birds with little stones, shell fragments or plant materials. Lining properties matched surroundings properties much better than clutch properties. These results were somewhat meagre to publish. By using manipulated photos of clutches and nests, we now try to find out why the real ringed plover nests are so well hidden.

Cooperation with Joop (and Theunis Piersma) was very fruiful. Joop provided the data, Johan prepared the analysis and the story, and Theunis was available to polish the story. Other investigators who supplied useful complementary data acted as co-authors. Joop's greatest success was undoubtedly:

'Geographic variation in morphometrics, molt, and migration suggests ongoing subspeciation in Pacific Golden-Plovers (Pluvialis fulva)' by Joop Jukema, Johan van Rhijn and Theunis Piersma (2015) in Auk

Male Pacific golden plover in Taymyr

photo: Bas van den Boogaard

It is the result of Joop's abilities as a catcher and measurement-taker of birds. This latter ability refers not only to live birds, but also to museum skins: for this study no less than 557 skins from many musea all over the world.

My greatest success was:

'Diversity of nuptial plumages in male Ruffs Philomachus pugnax' by Johan van Rhijn, Joop Jukema and Theunis Piersma (2014) in Ardea.

It is based on almost 2000 descriptions, plus photos, plus feather samples of ruffs captured by Joop and other 'wilsterflappers' during spring migration in Friesland. This study provides more understanding of the extreme diversity of the ruff, head tufts and bill wattles of these birds.

Prior to these successes, we already published:

'In tundra plovers the frequency of inner flight feather replacement varies with length of long-distance flights' by Joop Jukema, Johan van Rhijn, Peter Olsson and Theunis Piersma (2013), in Ardea.

'Incomplete and irregular annual replacement of secondaries in Eurasian Golden Plovers, Pluvialis apricaria' by Joop Jukema, Erik Bunskoeke, Theunis Piersma, Ton Pieters, Anita Koolhaas and Johan van Rhijn (2013), in Wader Study Group Bulletin


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