Learning to share at Skovsgård

Skovsgård Gods - Langeland

Last weekend I took part in a nature guide course run by the Danish Society for Nature Conservation (Danmarks Naturfredningsforening – DN for short!). The course took place at Skovsgård Gods, DN’s largest property located on Langeland (an island south of Fyn). This one day course is the first in a four-part series offered to DN volunteers/members interested in organising nature related events. DN offers a number of training courses to interested people – see here.

The course started in a stunning location with morgenbrod (morning bread) and coffee (everything starts with coffee in Denmark) where participants got to meet each other and the course organisers. Participants of all ages and backgrounds came from across Denmark to attend the course. The course was a mixture of indoor and outdoor activities designed to equip and inspire nature loves to run events in their locality. Indoors we were introduced to the organisational side of running events. For example how and where to advertise your event and what resources are available centrally through DN to help you out.

Marianne -environmental educator (naturvejleder) at Skovsgård introduces us to some equipment

When we moved outdoors we began by learning how NOT to be a nature guide! The leaders demonstrated some less than ideal guiding techniques before introducing us to some tricks of the trade. Most of it was common sense, but it was very useful to see it put into practice. We talked about group management, assessing the needs and wants of your group and how to deal with differences among individuals.

Mette and Jens pond dipping at Skvosgård

In the afternoon we were handed over to Marianne who works as an environmental educator (naturvejlede) at Skovsgård. The theme for the day was water – as Denmark is covered in small lakes, rivers and surrounded by the sea. Throughout the afternoon we were introduced to some simple tools used to help people to explore watery environments. We loaded up some wagons and wrestled with long green waders and headed towards 3 small but nature rich ponds nearby.

Armed and dangerous - Marianne inspires us to get into the water and catch some critters!

Once introduced to the equipment it was our turn to explore. The nets were out and we began dipping and swishing about trying to find some living creatures in the water. I personally was astounded at the number and variety of life that we were able to capture in such a short time! Unfortunately the identification guides and books were in Danish, so my recollection of the names isn’t very good.

White plastic is very useful to assist in the ID of fresh water invertebrates!

Once we had captured some living creatures in the nets we placed them into white plastic trays which were filled with water. In no time at all the contents of the nets was wiggling around in front of us. On our knees in the grass we examined the trays and tried to capture and classify individual critters with plastic spoons. We were presented with various fly nymphs, larvae, snails, beetles, leeches, the works! Some of the more interesting finds were isolated into small plastic see-through containers so we could get a closer look. We had one particularly ingenious tray (colored one above) which allowed you to sort your finds based on illustrations along the top. After this you could determine the water quality as certain invertebrates are more sensitive to pollution (left hand side) and other are more tolerant (right hand side).

Male common newt (lille vandsalamander)

We also managed to get a closer look at some smooth/common newts (lille vandsalamander). Standing with a net at the side of a pond trying to capture newts reminded me of some work I did for an ecology company in south-west England last year. Newts can be easy to spot in clear water, but difficult to catch! We took turns, but made sure to return the unlucky ones back to the water shortly after we had a good look at them!

Getting a closer look at a juvenile frog

Towards the end of the day we relaxed in the sun in the open meadows with coffee, cake and a juvenile frog. We gathered in small groups based on your locality and discussed our ideas for possible events. Despite my somewhat limited understanding of the exact details of the course I feel I got a lot from the day. The practical side, outdoors, getting wet and dirty really motivated me. I want to get out there, meet people, show them the wonders of nature and DN are working towards helping people to do this. Hopefully with more people aware of what’s around them and how sensitive it is, a better future can be insured for native wildlife.

The chocolate cake was far too tempting to say no!

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