Before I joined the #30dayswild challenge with the Wildlife Trusts I thought my days were reasonably filled with wild forays. From bird watching, walking in the hills, jogging in the woods to the odd spot of gardening. But as the month of June has passed I have realised that I am a creature of habit. My wild time is fairly predictable and in a way repetitive, which isn’t altogether a bad thing, but it leaves many doors unopened. Most of my outdoor time is spent surveying or exercising, all be it in different settings.
The #30dayswild challenge has opened my eyes to the many other possibilities that the outdoors has to offer. I don’t have to be counting and documenting, or burning calories in nature, there is plenty more to do in the great outdoors. The twittering updates from people of all ages and background provides many great ideas and motivation. Wild can be much much more than I ever imagined.
For the rest of the month I have set myself a few goals, with the aim of opening a few more doors into the wild.
1. Engage all my sense, and focus less on the visual. My plan is more tasting (with caution), sniffing, touching and listening to all things wild.
2. Create more homes for nature, building, collecting, planting, what ever it takes. I’m usually an observer and not a creator, so this will definitely add something new. A bug hotel is on the cards and who knows what else!
3. Doing every day things outside. Although the Irish weather can be a deterrent, we have started eating more meals outdoors and taking cups of tea or coffee to the greenhouse. There is something very calming about sitting with our newly planted tomato plants, watching them grow. I want to find more ways to bring the outdoors into my everyday. Reading, relaxing, yoga, whatever.
4. Share and be proud. I’m crazy about all things wild, but sometimes I’m cautious in showing this passion to others and sharing this awe. Maybe I’m afraid it will come across too strong, or people will think i’m a “crazy bird lady” or worst off all, they may not be interested in the slightest, and this would break my heart. For the next few weeks I going to try and throw caution to the wind, share more with passing strangers, family and friends. This will be interesting!
I think this is enough to keep me busy and to broaden my own version of wild.
Wish me luck!
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After moving to Denmark last year, I joined the Danish Ornithological Society, commonly known as DOF. The society has a well produced webpage and there are local branches around the country. Each branch organize their own events, from bird tours/gatherings to social events. At the time I was delighted, that there was a community out there which I could join, that would help me develop my own bird knowledge and hopefully offer opportunities to get out and explore the danish countryside. I also got involved with a group of volunteers who do various practical management tasks on a bird reserve on an island called Langeland (find out more here in Danish). The group meets once a month and combine bird watching and coffee drinking with various practical tasks from tree pruning, grass cutting, building, and fence repair – depending on the season.
My involvement started on a high. I was really interested in getting involved and meeting new people. I was lucky to have found some really kind people who were able to help get me out, tell me about the opportunities and also provide transport so I could get out there and see these beautiful places. But as time went on I found it more and more difficult to keep in touch with what was happening. Every email, or notice on a website was written in a language I didn’t understand, and I didn’t always have my resident Dane on hand to translate, and as most people know, Google translate can only do so much!
After a few months I found it impossible to keep up. I found it difficult to follow what was happening in the world of birds here in Denmark. When I did go out I was surrounded by people who spoke about topics I couldn’t follow in a language I didn’t understand. I was swimming in deep water, and felt like I was barely floating. This really demotivated me and I felt so ignorant. I was also getting increasingly busy with work (trying to earn a living) and other commitments as my life here developed in other ways. So I made a decision to step back as I felt I could only participate on a limited level, which isn’t how I wanted things to be.
Thankfully I turned my feather related thoughts to a new interest – bird ringing. I was aware of what ringers do, through volunteering alongside a ringer in Somerset (England), but I had never thought it could be possible for me to train and become qualified. I heard about a ringing course from a local birder (networks are so important) and decided to attend it (although it would be all in Danish!). I spent weeks preparing for it, trying to learn bird names and important terminology and translating the many pages of rules and regulations (my resident Dane was roped in to help!) I survived the training course, met some very nice people and obtained a trainee ringers license. In Denmark as a trainee you learn to ring birds under the closer supervision of an experienced ringer, and I was lucky enough to meet a very friendly ringer, who spoke excellent English too – phew!
Since the course I have been juggling work and Danish classes in order to get out ringing as often as possible. Bird ringing is a practical skill, which doesn’t involve a huge amount of language, (English or Danish). This suits me perfectly! I get the chance to be out in some very beautiful places, often very early in the morning when the rest of the world is still sleeping. It’s an amazing opportunity to develop my birding knowledge through close brief encounters with beautiful wild animals and at the same time contribute to the worlds knowledge of birds. There are times when I still feel “out of the loop”. There are various blogs and websites written for ringers and by ringers here in Denmark. Although my Danish is improving, I still need to invest a lot of time into reading a single article and it is still hard work, and at times I think others don’t understand the challenge that I face when it comes to the language. I do my best to “dip” into what’s written, but I still rely on others to point out the important things.
Today was also a turning point for me. For the first time in a long time, I visited the website for the local branch of DOF (DOF-Fyn). To my surprise I understood what was happening, I could follow the posts about meetings and bird sightings. I even recognized a place where a group of birds had been reported, only yesterday. I decided I wanted to see them for myself. I dug out my map and headed down there on my bike. Wandering around a graveyard with binoculars I didn’t feel out of place, and after about an hour of aimless strolling between headstones two small flocks of birds arrived and made themselves comfortable in some tall trees – bingo! Today was the first time I observed haw finches (kernebider) and I was delighted. Even though I was standing there, alone, freezing on a Sunday morning in a graveyard, I had read and understood something (in Danish), then went out and found what I wanted to see. I felt empowered and elated through some form of bird related integration. Maybe soon I can become more involved in the local bird group, get out there, meet more people, practice my danish and have some more wonderful bird related experiences, here in my new home, in Denmark.
This week I started a new job, which involved a temporary relocation to an old hunting castle. I spent 3 days working in offices located at the edge of one of Denmark’s national parks – Mols Bjerge. The offices of the Department of Biosciences (Aarhus University) are located in a group of old farm buildings which have been renovated, and guests stay in the attached hunting castle.
During the day I was busy with an EU cormorant survey project which is being coordinated from Denmark. I am responsibly for collecting information on breeding numbers and communicating this through a central website. It’s an exciting project and I’m really glad to be involved. In the evening, it was easy to escape from the office. Literally on the door step lies the edge of the national park. There are two large forests directly south, linked by excellent trails. I made the most out of the evenings and went exploring until my appetite urged me to come back to make dinner.
On the first evening, I took a trip to the local village of Rønde to pick up some groceries. Afterwards I decided to take my newly purchased goods for a wander through the woods. I followed my nose south-west towards the coast and reached a point with a lovely view out over the bay. I had forgotten how much I love to be by the sea. With my stomach grumbling I followed a trail along the edge of a field towards the forest. As I walked along I managed to disturb two roe deer feeding. I hunched down and watched for a moment. One of the deer was very unstable on his feet. He stood for a moment and I realised he was missing one of his front legs. Amazing. If you look closely, you can see the “stub”. There are two deer in the picture on the right hand side, at the top of the grass. It’s the deer on the left that is missing a leg (front left leg in this picture).
On my way through the forest I met quite a selection of natures wild and wonderful creatures. Firstly I was astounded by the number and colour of these large orange slugs. They were everywhere and beautiful!
I was also lucky enough to come across a red squirrel chowing down on some recently dropped hazel nuts. I attempted a photo, but it’s not worth showing! Also on mammals, I had a memorable encounter with a red backed vole (rødmus). I had stopped to take a picture of an interesting black and yellow beetle (below) and the vole popped out of the long grass at the edge of the path, calmly came over to have a look at me and wandered off again. Very enjoyable indeed!
The forests are complete with small natural ponds with a few dragon flies still buzzing about at this time of year. I was amazed at how still the forest was. I expected all the locals to be out enjoying the fantastic natural surrounds, and the wonderful late summer sunshine. But thankfully I had the place to myself, a real treat!
On my second evening I took a wander through the forest to the coast to the ruins of another castle (Kaløslot). The castle is located on a small narrow peninsula which extends out into the bay. Here the locals and tourists with strange accents gathered to make the most of the sunny evening. I sat on the wall of the castle for a few moments to gather my thoughts (and watch a group of cormorants drying out on some old fishing poles) and felt very much at home. Both in Denmark and with my new job.
With the sun setting it was back through the forest to the castle to rest my tired body and exhausted brain for the night. Not a bad start to a new job and a new chapter in my life.