When winter snow periodicly is cowering the scenery, it can be an exciting experience for the family to go tracing animal trail. Try a winters day with newfallen snow in one of Aalborg Councils nature areas and follow some of the traces left by the many animals.
The best snow to find animal traces in is a few centimetres of sleet.
The tracks provide interesting information about the animals' lives and activities. When the animals move around in nature, they leave several different track types - and besides footprints are also loose hair from their winter fur, feathers, and impressions of wing beats in the snow, scent markings and droppings often visible.
Traces of squirrels are easy to recognize. The squirrel is always moving in leaps when it is down on earth. At the back of the track is clearly seen the little front foot usually side by side and fairly close to each other. A distinctive feature of a squirrel track is that it almost always begins and ends at a tree.
Indications of foxes are especially present during rutting time. Fox urine contains hormones that makes other foxes able to distinguish the marking fox sex, age and possible the phase of the reproductive cycle. Fox footprints are easiest to recognize when the fox has gone slowly. Here is the track often as almost on a straight line with about 25-30 cm between each imprint.
In deep snow you can often see trailing traces of the fox's long tail. If the fox is in running trot, the trail stands clearly in the snow as pair wise imprint of paws. In trot and canter foxes tracks can quite easily be mistaken for a dog track.
The deer moves mostly in the woods, leaving often eat traces as small scratched areas of the forest floor, where the animals have eaten anemone roots and other green sprouts. A deer track is very easy to recognize on the small hoof imprints. The trail is about 4.5 cm. long and about 3 cm. wide, with no apparent difference between the buck and deer track. In older animals, the imprint of the cloven hoofs is often somewhat rounded shape. Deer track - when the animal moves in trot - almost invariably comes to stand in a line with each hoof imprint placed forward. If a deer jumps or runs gallop devoted often traces of the animal's small so-called dewclaws, like jumping the track often show the imprint of scattered v-shaped front hoofs.
Pheasants has been in Denmark since the 16th century – and there are around 100.000-200.000 of them in Denmark.
When the pheasant hops the imprint are placed pair wise - while trails of the pheasant walking and running are almost standing in the line. The pheasant track is usually quite strongly about 6-8 cm. long and with obvious marking of the claw on its back tow.
Pheasants often follow the same routes and forms small pheasant paths. Also note how these small paths often visible imprint in the snow of pheasant their long tails. In the snow, there will often be the imprint of wing feathers in the places where the bird has flown up while there is usually only the imprint of the body where the pheasant landed.
In Copenhagen, there is a street called Pheasant Street (Fasanvej) – and it actually has its name after a Pheasant Centre in the Copenhagen area. But while Copenhagen has a Pheasant Street – North Jutland has the real thing.
Track position is always the same, whether the hare moves in jumps or gallop. The hare is known on the regular track groups, each with four distinct footprints – at the back the two short front foot imprints and further to the front you’ll find the somewhat longer back foot trail which are imprinted more side by side.
When following a hare track it is quite exciting to discover how often the hare turns and follows its own track a while back, to then make a big leap to the side and then subsequently continued in a completely different direction. This action is probably a form of diversion to confuse and distract a predator that might be following it.
In January and February there are great possibilities of experiencing herds of light-bellied brant goose. In the shallow water between the dam at Sebbersund and Klitgårds Fiskerlejeup to about 100 of the very beautiful gees rest in January and February.
A brant goose is a small bird and there are three subspecies of its species, whereof two of them regurlarly occurs in Denmark:A light and a dark-bellied race, which actually belong to two distinct populations. Just now and currently in Nibe Broad we can experience the light-bellied race that breed on Svalbard in the Barents Sea in northern Russia and in Northeast Greenland. The population in Denmark has increased from just over 2,000 birds in 1960s to approximately 6,000 in the 1990s. Denmark has primary responsibility for the world's relatively small population of light-bellied brant geese, and we can be pleased about the fact that geese prefer the fiord. One explanation may be the available food in the area.
The geese feed on sea grass and other aquatic plants, but are increasingly seeking food on land, especially in fields and marshes.
The brant goose is the smallest of our geese with approximately the size of a common shelduck or large mallards. It is black on the head, neck and chest and has a short neck. The back is dun brown. The light-bellied race shows a clear boundary between the dark chest and the bright bug. This transition is less pronounced in the dark-bellied which, as the name indicates, has darker underbelly. The brant geese have a white feather drawing on the side of the neck. From a distance it is easy to recognise with the large white tail. Other exciting migratory birds which it is possible to see during the winter in Denmark are species goosanders, goldeneye and whooper swans.
The whooper swan by Sebbersund
In the beginning of February, you can experience beautiful whooper swans and perhaps hear their sonorous trumpets voices, provided you visit the dam at Sebbersund.
Swan Song as a term
The powerful song by the whooper swan was previously mistaken for a dying bird's last song. And that is precisely why whooper swans phenomenal song caused the formation of a well-known term “swan song”: In a figurative sense, the term is understood and used about a person, usually a writer or a poet, last major achievement. Or, it can also be used about the lasts words said by a deceased. The most well known example is Brorsons (Danish Bishop, 1694-1764) last sermon and hymns published the year after his death in 1765, his swan song with the fitting title "Swan Song".
In January and February a winter fishing trip in Halkær Stream offers great outdoors adventures. Parts of Halkær Strea, is one of Aalborg's free fishing grounds. And right now there's a good chance to get a "Greenlander" on the hook. The angler language is the name of a young silvery sea trout.
"A Greenlander" - a true Aalborg - story
Sometime in the 1920s the expression "Greenlander" was said the first time when describing a silvery, not sexually mature, less Danish sea trout. Manufacturer Elimar Schmidt had then cannery and smokehouse on the road New Kastetvej in Aalborg’s west part of town. He imported large quantities of Greenland char that are confusingly similar to our native Danish sea trout. When the imported trout subsequently was for sale in the town's fish lined entries as "Greenlanders" gave the local anglers new name inspiration for their own catches of cub trout from the North Jutland streams. Without visible difference between the two species, the name gradually developed came to describe both species.
Today, the name is used by anglers everywhere in Denmark and the rest of Northern Europe, and it has also spread to magazines and literature about sea trout. Therefore we unhesitatingly use the word on smaller specimens of our young trout.
A little bit of Greenlander-biology
With decreasing water temperatures, the glossy Greenlanders in the Limfjord move to Halkær freshwater stream, to overwinter. The combination of the fjord salt water, low temperatures and lack of food affects the trout's metabolism and inhibits the fish's natural ability of its vital salt excretion. Greenlander fish also swims up the river to hunt actively for small fish. Often the Greenlanders move in small flocks between the fjord and the river, depending on water temperature and food supply. Therefore Eskimo fishing is often better in the Limfjord than in the actual stream, in mild periods in February and March.
Fish - deep and slow
Food Offering in the stream is somewhat limited in the winter months, and Greenlanders are rarely very discerning and can be caught on a variety of bait. The main part of fishing is to present baits tempting; fish slowly and preferably with fluctuations in the flow a few centimeters above the bottom. A sovereign bait Eskimo fishing are small shrimp-like jigs, fishing and small crustaceans bouncing across the bottom. Also slow-speed sinking wobblers in orange, green and yellow colors can often entice a Greenlander to chop. Some days simple leaf spinners in red, orange and silvery colors can be quite effective, fished with the rotating blade moving slowly across the bottom. To be sure that you are fishing deep enough, you need to have bundhug periodically. Greenlanders hunt all the way down at the bottom, often in parts of the river where the current is slow or on the edge of the river's main stream.
...the mandatory fishing license, which can be purchase din a postoffice (and you find a postoffice in a local shop). Applies to all between 18 and 65 years. You can buy a license for between DKK 20,- to DKK 80,- (The fine for fishing without a license is around DKK 500,-)
Coloured fallout fish:
...must be put back in the water.
And last but not least, remember:
...warm, windproof clothing and slightly warm to drink; heat profitability for more fishing!
...Greenlanders are generally smaller fish around seatrout minimum of 40 cm, which has not yet been mature. Winter fishing often provide a large proportion of undersized to be discarded, and therefore not recommended fishing with worms, shrimp and roe. Minimum size for brown trout: 40 cm
A sea trout is cooked at its best when still quite fresh - preferably the same day as it is caught. Of course, a purified fish frozen for later use, but nothing tops the fresh taste of a newly caught fish.
The fish is cleaned, scraped and rinsed thoroughly. Rub with salt inside and out and put in an ovenproof dish with 1 cm of water at the bottom and placed in the oven at 200 degrees. After 45 min. the smoking hot fish is ready to eat.
Denmark is famous for its potatoes, preferably Samsø or Vildmose portatoes, and boiled potatoes with light parsley- or hollandaise sauce, is probably one of the best Danish garnish for this dish.
Bon appetit! - and enjoy the winter in Denmark!