Monday, February 28, 2011

Vokslev Kalkgrav/ Chalk Pit at Limfjorden in North Jutland and the neighbourhood.......

Binderup Å river
Vokslev kalkgrav ( chalk pit) is situated in North Jutland close to Limfjorden and 3 km from the small town Nibe. It is like most other North Jutland chalk pits digged out and made accessible. It is a very exciting and beautiful place with an ancient geological history - and when you stand looking down the slope to the Binderup å-river which runs through a narrow valley down there, then it is difficult to imagine that this little water stream has been running there ever since Ice Age.

Here at Vokslev was once a lively industry, here was digged chalk for more than 100 years. Todays visitors often come to see profiles in the chalk,  if they are interested in the geology or in the chalk-industry. The profiles in the chalk show both the soft, white chalk from the Cretaceous period, which was used for building-material and the hard chalk from the tertiary period, which could be sawed out for building-stone. The chalk pit gives good opportunities for fossile-hunting (mostly sea urchin and bryozo).
At the mill

The chalk pit in Vokslev is unique caused by the demarcation-line between the deposits, which places it  among geological localitites of international importance. The stratum was deposited in the sea about 65 milllion years ago, the demarcation-line is marked by a thin layer of clay. In the Cretaceous period was the land dominated by dinosaurs, and there were only few rat-like mammals. The fossils show that on the line between the Cretaceous period and tertiary period disappeared 2/3 of all animal- and plant-species during a very short time. The dinosaurs died out.

It has not yet been finally clarified what happened in this largest event in life's existence on earth, but maybe the guess of  the riddle is found in the thin layer of clay. Where this layer of clay is found in various places on earth it shows that it contains rare elements and minerals, which normally are not found on the surface of the earth, but is known from meteors. Maybe the earth was hit 65 million years ago by a colossal meteor, which whirled up dust and earth into the atmosphere. The sun was eclipsed, maybe for decades, and most animal and plants became extinct. An effect like this can also happen in a large volcanic eruption, but the discovery of a 300 km large, assumed impact-crater in Mexico - age 65 million years - seems to reinforce the meteor-theory.


But today the reptiles live a good life in Vokslev chalk pit. Both sand lizard,common lizard and slow-worms are seen in the sunny chalk pit  -  also viper and grass snake. The chalk pit has a rich flora, and several various trees and bushes attract many butterflies and other insects. Here is also a rich bird life.

Ancient privy

Blå mosaikguldsmed(Aeshna cyanea)

Parsnip sent out its summer-scent


Common Ragwort, poisonous

The idyllic Binderup å-river has avoided destructive regulations. The river has a good fall and a bottom of stone and gravel. In the water is a rich life of small animals and a large population of trout. At Hule Mølle (mill) are fish-steps for the sea-trout.

The exhibition at Vokslev kalkgrube describes the history of the chalk pit and the cultural environment around the river and the mill. There is a parking-place and a resting place with tables and benches.
Vokslev kalkgrube is a part of a biking-route called "Geologisk set" ( Geologically seen) = "Vokslevruten".
Fishing license at Møllegården for a 500 m long stretch af Binderup river south of the mill.
The chalk pit is owned by the Danish state, while the river valley and the slope at the river are private.

Along the Vokslev-nature path on a windy day in the sunny flower-field.


The small town Nibe (ab. 4.500 inhabitants)  has a beautiful place by Limfjorden. It started as a fishing village in the Middle ages, especially had it a rich herring-fishing and trade with the Hanseatics, which  brought wealth to the town. The old part of town has kept some of its medieval mark in the cosy streets with the low houses.


Upon a hill with a fantastic view to the waters of Limfjorden lies one of the finest long dolmens in Denmark. It is about 60 m long, 12 m broad and surrounded by 47 large stones, of which the gable stones are several meters tall. The dolmen is called Troldkirken (the Troll-church), because a troll on the other side of Limfjorden once got mad at Sønderholm church. The troll hated the bell-ringing and threw a giant stone across the fjord in order to crush the tower. The stone ended at the place Troldkirke. It is the cover stone, which weighs supposedly 6-8 tons.

Klitgård Fishing-place
Klitgård fiskerleje (fishing-place). The decision here is to create settings for leisure-time in connection to Limfjorden and to secure the special nature- and culture values of the area, which can be used for spare-time fishing and as a storage yard for little boats etc. - and a recreation-place - fx for bird-watchers.Technical plans are not allowed, only as a parking place. The area has to be kept clear of technical plans, considering the fine situation close to the coast.

Source: Kulturhistorie,.dk, Politikens store Danmarksbog, Se dit Danmark.

photo Vokslev 2007; Nibe,Troldkirke, Klitgård 2006: grethe bachmann.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Vikings/ Viking Art

The Urnes style (ab. 1050-1150)

The last  phase of Viking art is the Urnes style from ab. 1050-1150. It consists of a direct development from its predecessor Ringerike - and it is a refinement of the Ringerike style. The Urnes style has gracefully curved lines of different width - swelling, tapering - but always in a curve. The tendril clusters from Ringerike are abandoned. The Urnes style developed shortly before the middle of the eleventh century.

A silver bowl from Gotland, buried in ab. 1050, displays the principal characteristics. The bowl is a fine masterpiece of the silversmith. It is more restrained than usual in Viking art and might appeal more to modern eyes. It was hammered into shape from a flat sheet of silver, and the grooves of its body were beaten out. The interior is ornamented with an interlaced animal. The other ornament is a band below the rim with eight animals linked togeter in a row by palmettes, representing the sole survivals of the Ringerike foliage pattern. The ornamented areas were lightly gilded.

From Urnes church

The Urnes style takes its name from the woodcarving at a little church of Urnes in western Norway, a stavechurch dating from the twelfth century. The artist has created a new design based on the old combat motif, the animals and snakes are all biting their neighbours. The Ringerike great beast has become an effete and disdainful creature, where every detail has been attenuated. The beast has a certain elegance, like at the openwork brooch from Lindholm Høje ( North Jutland). The Urnes carvings are a unique survival, but this style would have been the style for many of the first churches in Scandinavia. The wooden fragment from the church at Hørning in Denmark (Mid-Jutland) indicates that the style was widespread during the century.
In Sweden it is common in rune-stones and on Gotland it is seen in a lively variant.

brooch, Lindholm Høje, DK


from Hørning church, DK

from Trondheim (furniture)

Excavations at Trondheim in Norway show how the fully developed Urnes style was in use to ornament major pieces of household furnishing, but also that is popularity was adapted at an every day level on objects like pins and spoons.

At the late Viking town of Lund (Skåne) was excavated a jeweller's workshop. He was casting bronze versions of the Lindholm Høje brooch during the early part of the twelfth century.

Source: Moesgård Archaeological Museum Århus. 

The Viking Art styles were:
1) Broa-Oseberg (ab. 800-850)
2) Borre (ab. 850-950)
3) Jelling (ab. 900-1000)
4) Mammen (ab. 950-1000)
5) Ringerike ( ab. 980-1080)
6) Urnes (ab. 1050-1150)

This is only a general idea of their respective durations, it is impossible to give them absolute dates.

Museum's-copy of dragon brooch, Sterling silver.
original brooch found in Roskilde, DK

Thursday, February 24, 2011


The controversial cormorant is a very characteristic bird, which is seen in many places along the Danish coast and at big lakes. There are two subspecies in Denmark. There are two subspecies in Denmark, the Southern cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis) and the Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). The Southern cormorant breeds in Denmark , and the Great cormorant is a common guest in the Danish waters in the winter season.  the two subspecies are much alike , but the Great cormorant is - as its name indicates - larger and more robust.

Skarv, Helgenæs
Also out in heavy rain

                                                                          The cormorant lives in Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania , Greenland and the eastern part of North America. In Denmark it breed along the fjords,  at low-watered coasts and at big lakes. The biggest colonies are at Tofte Sø in Lille Vildmose,  at the small island Vorsø in Horsens fjord and at Brændegårds sø on South Funen. In the colonies, where the bird has its nest in the trees can the size of guano be so large that the trees are killed.

It's an excellent flyer

The cormorant  has various names. The Danish name Skarv is Germanic, Old Norse is Skafr, which belongs to the Germanic word skarb, which imitates the bird's hoarse voice.  An old Danish name is Ålekragen = the Eelcrow, because it was seen swallowing rather large eels. It was also called the Water raven or the Sea raven. The English name cormorant is from German Kormoran,which comes from Latin corvus marinus
( =Sea Crow )
Hoping for fish in the park-lake

A few generations ago the cormorant was extinct as a Danish breeding bird, the fishermen regarded it as a rival, and the bird destroys the trees with its guano.In 1904 paid the Danish state shooting-prizes for cormorants, one crown for each right foot, and during 23 years were paid for 7.000 birds, mostly killed in Kattegat and the Belts. But in 1938 the cormorant began to breed in a colony at the island Langeland near the manor Tranekær, but it disappeared again in 1946. From 1949- 1956 were about 300 couple at Langeland, and upon the small island Vorsø in Horsens fjord has been a colony of ab. 500 couple since 1944. Since 1978 it has been protected and the cormorant is now common all over the country.

A killed tree!

The cormorant builds a large nest of big branches and twigs high up in hardwood-trees, there are often many nests in one tree.It lays about 3-5 eggs in May. Its food is mostly eel, herring and viviparous blenny. The cormorant is also found along the Wattensea because these three fish come in at at high tide. The cormorant swim-dives while hunting.

There were found bones of cormorant in the Stone Age kitchen middens after 5000 B.C and from Iron Age and Viking period. 

The Faroes: When the cormorant is sitting with outspread wings it is said that " it is burning salt" .

It is considered one of the best local birds for food.

Greenland. They also oinclude the cormorant in the food. the neck feathers of the breeding dress are used to decorate wall-carpets.

Greenland: If you sweep the flower with the cormorant's wings all capture disappear and there will be a great hunger.

How long a wait will there be before the fish comes?

Both at the Faroe islands and in Greenland the cormorant is called "den tungeløse" ( bird without a tongue) . This refers to a Faroe-fable about the reason why the bird has such a small tongue: The cormorant and the eider competed about having the eider-down and made a bet. The one, who could be silent all night and the next day be the first to wake up and cry  "the sun rises", it should have the eider-down.  The eider soon fell asleep, while the cormorant who knew that it was sleeping very heavily, tried to keep awake. At dawn it became so happy that it cried "now comes the sun "!  This woke the eider, who was very rested, while the cormorant fell asleep, before the sun got up. Its tongue was cut, because it could not keep its mouth shut.

According to another Faroe-fable the cormorant lost its tongue, because it told the raven, where the eider had its nest. This story was used to frighten a gossiping child.

I'll go home to the nest now.....

Flora og Fauna, bd. 2 V.J.Brøndegaard ; Skov og Naturstyrelsen ; Dansk Ornitologisk Forening. 

photo 2006-2009: grethe bachmann

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The European Starling - Immigrant in North America

Starling at Klostermølle
Wanda gives us such great posts from the place where she lives on her blog  ~ Moments of Mine ~, and there are many excellent photos of the beautiful birds of North America and much, much more. But then there was a photo of an European starling, and I wondered how it had ended there? There was a reason why. Wanda sent me information about, how the sweet little European starling was now an invasive species in the United States. So here is the story about the little starling-immigrant.

There have gradually arrived many invasive species of animals and plants in Denmark during the last ten years, like various birds and plants. The racoon and wild boar is seen in the southern part of Jutland, especially the wild boar who walks across the border without allowance from the customs officer! They are not welcome, since the farmers are afraid if they might spread some disease among their pigs. Cause for discussion!

Starling at Klostermølle
It's of course worse if someone place a foreign animal in nature like some people did, when they got tired of nursing their  little pond tortoises. Suddenly there were pond tortoises in a lake in Mid Jutland. Or if they get tired of their snake! Fortunately the tropical snake cannot survive in Denmark's winter, but if our climate gets warmer, then what? Some scientists talk about indroducing wolves, because they lived in Denmark once. I would not like that. Denmark is such a small country, and I don't imagine there is place for both wolves and me!  Bisons have been introduced now in some nature areas, (like in the Gudenå-project near Randers), but this is much controlled. There are wild horses and aur-ochses in the National park in Lille Vildmose etc. , but also this is much controlled. 

Well,back to the little starling-immigrant in North America:
Wikipedia: Eugene Schieffelin (1827-1906, belonged to the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society and the New York Zoological Society. He was responsible for introducing the starling (Sturnus vulgaris) to North America - so now the European starling has become a serious pest there. Mr. Schieffelin released in 1890 60 starlings into New York City’s Central Park - and  did the same with another 60 birds in 1891. It is said (though there is no evidence to support this) that his motivation was to allow New Yorkers to see all the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare, more likely he was merely trying to control the same pests that had been annoying him thirty years earlier, when he sponsored the introduction of the House Sparrow to North America.

In 1890 were starlings not native to North America. Schieffelin imported the starlings from England. Scientists estimate that descendants from those two original released flocks now number at more than 200 million residing in the United States. The starling's wildly successful spread is believed to have come at the expense of many native birds that compete with the starling for nest holes in trees.

Compared to contemporary scientific thought, Schieffelin’s 19th century actions may now seem naïve and even foolish. In the politically charged arena of genetically modified organism , Schieffelin’s actions are cited by opponents of GMO’s as an example of what can go wrong if an experimental organism escapes from a laboratory and radiates throughout the environment. (Finish Wikipedia).

Well, this can go really wrong to do a thing like that, and there are many stories about, how various invasive species have arrived to a country, caused by human interference. But if Mother Nature herself is interfering then it is something else. Considering the climate changes invasive species will arrive in our countries, and the flora and fauna will change, gradually, but radically.

Starling in Sønderjylland
Animals will have to adjust, and this is not always a pretty sight for us to see. We have seen the photos of the polar bear standing upon an ice floe, floating for days and days, unable to reach land or find food. And this is not just one rare example.

When I'm out in the Danish nature, there are signs of change, but what I have noticed recently has something to do with farming. Most of the fallow- fields have been removed - ( since the farmers were allowed to cultivate them) - and this meant that butterflies and bees and other insects miss the flower-fields which were among their needed habitats. Especially the butterflies are in danger. If there is too long distance from one flower-field to another, they simply cannot find the fields, and a butterfly species or several butterfly species die out. And they do not come back. I feel very sad about this.

But the little starling cannot help all this. It is singing and whistling both in Europe and North America, and it really does not worry about, if it's welcome or not. And it such a sweet little bird, after all, isn't it? 
Source: Wikipedia and myself:

                                               Please read corrections below:
Starling in the park, Århus.

I've got some information about invasive arts  from a nature scientist:

Fx: The wild boar is not an invasive art in Denmark, since it immigrates itself. 

Plants and animals, which have been moved to the area by humans, are invasive arts and have a negative effect on the environment.

The plants and animals which come to the country because of the climate are just new species, although the climate has changed because of humans. These new species might be a problem to us or to our plants and animals, but this is something else. 

We can remove the invasive species with coolness, but if the plants and animals come to the country by themselves then it is difficult, and we'll have to secure that we are not in conflict with international nature- protection. 

If the wolf comes to Denmark by itself then it is protected by international law.

The ochsen in Lille Vildmose are not aur-ochsen. They are much alike the aur-ochs, but not genetically. Aur-ochsen exist no more, but they might be created genetically. 

photo: grethe bachmann

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kielstrup Sø and Mariager Fjord, Himmerland, North Jutland



Let's have some photos from a warm September's day. I have been wallowing in winter-weather for I don't know how long, Now it's time for fetching a little sun and warmth. The first place we came to after having been in the forest of Rold in the morning was a small cosy fishing village, "Stinesminde" by Mariager fjord. We have been there before, and it is the nicest place to take a coffee- break! And the weather was perfect.

Mariager fjord

The place around Kielstrup sø and along Mariager fjord is a wonderful place to see on such a day. The view from the hills is wonderful both to Mariager fjord and to the lake. And along the fjord are little cosy marinas with a few boats.  It is really a place worth to keep for the public. It's good that something positive is done. Everything cannot be done at once, but it's good to know that this beautiful landscape is taken care of now.

I usually do not write so much about the nutrients, draining etc. of the farmland, but the following material was available, so I wanted to tell just a little about how much it means for the rare plant-species - as well for the insects that arrive and all the other animals - that a place is listed and protected. EU-habitat and Natura 2000 see to that the politicians just do not tramp all over the land, building holiday houses and hotels along the coast -  and not at least is it necessary to keep a watchful eye on the negative effects from the farmland. 

Mariager fjord

Kielstrup Sø

Kielstrup Sø is a diked laguna on the north side of Mariager fjord in North Jutland. The lake has brackish water and is influenced by nutrients, but it is run through with a clear-watered brook, Karls Møllebæk (mill brook). The lake is surrounded by steep heath hillsides,(up to 63 m above the fjord), moors, pastures, beach meadows, thicket and forest. An area of  509 hectare around Kielstrup Sø is selected as EU-habitat and a part of this are protected nature types. The main part is listed for its  landscape and view-value.

Painted Lady by the lake.
Although the area is overgrowth and nutrient- enriched are here still several rare plants and animals. The surroundings are dominated by heaths and chalky pastures and juniper-thicket, which is often is in a bad state because of overgrowth. The biggest values of the area are rigkær (rich marsh) and springs by the lake. In spite of a negative development are still some fine spots with fx. Marsh Helleborine, Tufted Fen-moss, Blunt-Flowered Rush and Butterwort. (see Latin names after article.) In one of the marsh-springs are still a few plants of the red-listed Gul stenbræk (Saxifraga hirculus).

View to the lake from the hill

view to Mariager fjord from the hill
grave hill

There is some nutrient-impact from the air and from the nearby fertilized farmland. This is a threat to all nature types except beach meadows. In the nutrient-poor areas like heath, sour pastures and hængesæk (water is just under the moss) the tolerated limit is exceeded almost all over the area, and this means that large common plant-species can overgrow and force away small, rare and hardy plants. The lake also gets some surplus nutrients from the slopes around the lake, from drains and ditches and from Karls mill  brook.

My son in the thicket-overgrowth
A little marina along the fjord

The overgrowth of trees, bushes and tall herbs in the whole area is an acute threat agsint most of the nature types in the area, worst in the rich marshes, in moist meadows and upon dry heaths. The overgrowth of fx some rush, spikes, reeds and some willow-species is the cause, why the plant Gul stenbræk (Saxifraga hirculus) has almost disappeared from its earlier suitable habitat. Drains and ditches are a threat to more than 75 % of the area. The drying also contributes to more overgrowth.
grazing of sheep
One of the calves in the cattle herd

Some plant-species are not native to the area, like Rosa rugosa, Broom and various species of fir and spruce, especially mountain pine is a problem on pastures and heaths.  The Eagle fern - which is of Danish origin - has also a negative effect on the low vegetation. This is partly due to that it gives shadow, partly that it sets free chemical substances, which works as a poison on other plants. ( allelopati )

The district of North Jutland has carried out nature-care in the listed areas. In 2006 was given public means for the care of the Saxifraga hirculus-localities in 10 habitats in Denmark, thus also Kielstrup sø,  which meant a much needed clearing and grazing in  parts of the area. Besides have there since 1997 been agreements in the Natura-2000 territory.

Danmarks Fugle og Natur, Mariager Fjord Kommune, Nordjylland /Naturhistorisk Museum, Århus.

Plant Names:
Marsh Helleborine/ Epipactis palustris/Danish: Sump-Hullæbe
Tufted Fenn-moss/Paludella squarrosa/ Danish: Piberensermos
Blunt-flowered Rush/Juncus subnodulosus/Danish: Butblomstret Siv.
Butterwort/Pinguicula vulgaris/ Danish: Vibefedt
Saxifraga/ Saxifraga hirculus/ Danish: Gul Stenbræk

Kielstrup sø

.photo September 2009: grethe bachmann