KYST 36 – from Nexø Sydstrand to Balka Harbour, 07.09.18

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See here for an introduction to the KYST project

KYST 36 I arrived back at Nexø Sydstrand just before sunrise and was surprised to see how quiet it was; the hundreds of graylag geese from last week’s trip were nowhere to be seen – or heard. It was grey, overcast, and a little cold in the face of a stiff onshore breeze. I climbed the stairs to the bird watching tower, with great views of the coast in both directions, and unpacked my things. A small flock of hunched up lapwings were resting in the shallows, with the orange edge to the clouds from the rising sun reflected in the water at their feet (see above)…

As I was painting, silent and still, a buzzard suddenly swooped down and perched on the edge of the bird tower right in front of me. I froze, my heart in my mouth. I could have reached out and grabbed it. After a second or two the buzzard suddenly worked out my shape and flew off in surprise. Below me, a group of cormorants preened and dried their wings after their early morning swim.

I returned my gaze towards the lapwings, their form and colour blending into the sandstone shore. In the diffuse early morning light, a redshank’s vermilion leg seemed to radiate its own energy.

I was already exhausted and working at a feverish pace. I kept returning to the group of waders and cormorants just in front of me. The cold wind and constant movement of the birds and the light created a nervous energy in my brush strokes.

By now, the first groups of graylag geese had begun to return, honking noisily. Soon the air was filled with squadrons of them, landing in the water and then making their way towards the shore. I tried to capture the energy of their movement across the shallows.

Looking south towards Balka the geese were almost silhouetted in the early morning light. From time to time the sun managed to appear between the clouds and cast radiant droplets of light on to the water.

I was drained and need to get away from the birds and the bird tower. I packed my things and started walking south along the path skirting the bird reserve. Looking back I saw a flock of Barnacle geese in amongst the greylags and couldn’t resist one last assault, the shapes and lines of the geese blending and merging, creating a pattern that was difficult to read.

Soon I arrived at Balka Lyng, a large open heathland area bordered by pine trees on one side and a low coastal rampart facing the sea on the other. There were kestrels and at one point a hobby shot past, but otherwise there was little birdlife. The coastal rampart was thought to have been constructed in the 15th century, perhaps earlier, and was the site of a successful repulsion of a Swedish invading force in 1645. Today though, it was difficult to imagine how the low grass covered embankment could have provided much cover.

A twisted pine tree in the now sunny afternoon light caught my attention and I sat down to paint it. I struggled with the painting and experienced another of my regular crises of creative confidence, but felt that the only way forward was to continue painting and working.

I continued along the embankment and paused by some iron age burial mounds. I tried to imagine how the landscape had changed since these people were buried nearly 2,000 years ago. The sandstone shelf jutting almost horizontally out under the sea means the soil is too shallow for cultivation, so perhaps it hadn’t changed that much. By the shore, the bedrock was veined with alternate layers of grey-ochre and reddish-brown, where the Nexø sandstone meets the younger Balka sandstone. The delicate and organic delineations of the rock reminded me of tree rings or contours on a map, and I tried to imagine the Cambrium estuaries, where the sand had been laid over 500 million years ago.

I ambled on arriving at the day’s destination, the tiny harbour at Balka with around three hours of daylight remaining. Here I met Steffan from the local TV station, but I was so exhausted I’m not sure I made much sense. After spending so much time looking through a telescope at birds, or closely observing the sandstone, I felt the need to step back and loosen up. The threatening clouds building over the sea fitted the bill perfectly and I threw the water at the paper and enjoyed playing with the pigment as it dissolved and dissipated.

As a last effort before the light completely faded, I turned my attention towards the gulls hunkered by the shore. Another roller coaster day (roller KYSTer?) was in the bag and I packed my things and prepared for the jog back to the car.


Stops with the M60 = 2

Kilometers walked = 7.76 km

Day lasted = 13 hours, 25 minutes

Birds seen and heard = 42 species (1 new one = yellow wagtail (thunbergi) running total 120)

Other stuff = I read recently an article about someone on Bornholm writing his phd thesis on folk connections to the landscape on Bornholm. He mentioned how, at Balka skanse, one of the soldiers had heard voices (from the Bornholmian trolls) telling him to ‘load and fire’, during the Swedish invasion. The ‘Underjordsike’ trolls have always been an important part of Bornholm’s social and cultural history and, as the author noted, are a way of connecting and giving life to the landscape. Interesting, and another angle completely to where I’m coming from. Sometimes I do feel – for better or worse – a bit divorced from the people side of KYST.

People talked to = 4 (2 + 1 + 1)

In my head – Next week’s teaching at the Højskole. Weather worries. Smoking guilt.