10 June 2015 : Arrival on Terschelling
In the afternoon of June 10 we arrived on the island. The bulk of the construction material was pre-shipped and was already dropped on our project location. Passers-by were immediatly intrigued by the mysterious pile of wood on the cycling path. "Hey, can I ask you something? What are you going to do with all this wood?" After explaining that we were going to build a project for the Oerol festival, we were happy to be able to put the first future visitors on our guest list. It was also nice to see that our location is so dear to the people on the island; it made us excited to use our project to show them another perspective on the Terschellinger polder.
11 June 2015 : Start of on-site preparations
"More than 600 saw cuts... Ah, that's the last one! I don't think I can do any more, my palms are sore!" Most planks had to be re-cut to size at the project location. It was just one of the many tasks that had to be done before a test-run could be done. A more stressing issue was the sudden skepticism of local farmers and the bird-protection agency about the exact location of the construction we were about to build. The incidental equestrian, cyclist and stroller were more easily convinced to stay of our path. Some mother gruttos had to be swayed to move their offspring a bit further into the meadow, as not to be disturbed during our construction process. Luckily, there were no nestling birds left in the adjacent meadows, and the bird protection agency could finaly agree to us doing the project in the middle of the Terschelling polder.
12 June 2015 : Black-tailed godwit (Grutto) day
"It doesn't fit! 800 more saw cuts? No problem!" Since the project wasn't opened to the public yet, we made some test runs to optimize the experience for the visitors. To allow them to build more creatively, each plank had to be shortened 1-2 centimetres. After an effective round of sawing we were ready to start constructing our installation. This was also the moment of truth for all of our preparations: Would everything work? Would the project be clear for our visitors? And, more importantly: would our visitors like the project? After some fine-tuning we gained confidence in the possibilities of our project. This feeling was supported by achieving the first of our daily goals; making space for the grutto in our installation.
13 June 2015 : Eurasian oystercatcher (Scholekster) day
"They are back!" When we arrived early in the morning we found out the gruttos had returned to the meadows next to our project location. Apparently they move further afield during the day, but are not disturbed in such a way that they feel the need to resettle. At night, they move back to their 'homes' close to the cycle path in the middle of the polder, where we are constructing our installation. The gruttos appreciated our structure so much, that they use it as their new favourite watch tower! However, our visitors were less enthusiastic about joining our construction team. We were confronted by strong winds and heavy downpour in our polder. This made it quite difficult to reach our goal of the day; saving the scholekster. The sad reality is that we weren't able to do so. However, this gave us the determination to work even harder the next day, in order to make sure that the next birds would be able to make their nest in our construction.
14 June 2015 : Pied avocet (Kluut) day
"Can you give me a marker?" Even though Terschelling is the only (Dutch) wadden island where Frisian is not one of the main languages, the elderly visitor avidly wrote the Frisian names of the birds on the bilingual (Dutch & English) boards we had put up along the cycling path. Lesson of the day: The kluut is called a klút in Frisian, the scholekster strânljip, and the grutto the skries. This helped us to understand many personal messages left by visitors on their planks; "Skries op'e hikke, hoe lang nog?"
For a day with 600 visitors we still had trouble reaching our goal, perhaps due to the extremely bad weather; it dribbled all day long. It was really nice to see that people were willing to work hard and with dedication, especially the last hours, in order to make place for the nest of the kluut. And in the end we did it!
15 June 2015 : Northern lapwing (Kievit) day
Secretly, the Kievits in the fields next to our site were keeping an eye on our progress, as the outcome of the day would determine if they would get an extra nest by nightfall. The good weather and large ammount of visitors were very helpfull in achieving our goal. At the end of the day we were happy to welcome the Kievits nest in our construction.
Lesson of the day: accidents are waiting to happen, even in good weather. A good reminder of the importance of wearing a helmet!
16 June 2015 : Common snipe (Watersnip) day
“I have a cow on my contract, but I really like the grutto. Why did I get a cow?” A reaction we hear often at our construction site. Whether you receive a cow or a grutto stamp on your contract depends on how you fill in your questionnaire outside of our gate. The questions connect to your daily life choices, but also to the meadow birds on Terschelling. Your choices have an effect on these birds, and on the climate around us. The type of milk you drink and how far you travel each year is of course a small selection of your behaviour, but these questions already illustrate how much effect a single person can have on the landscape.
“Cool, I really contributed something to saving the meadow bird of today, the watersnip!” By adding a plank at front of the construction this visitor brought us closer to our daily goal: to save the watersnip that lives in the Terschellinger polder. Sadly we did not manage to save the scholekster on Saturday, an altogether sad reality. Therefore we ask you to come tomorrow too,to make sure that the veldleeuwerik does get a new home in our landscape installation!
“206, 5, West, 32, 6!” “What do these numbers mean?” We were shouting our data to administrate every plank. The mysterious data-lists that we use while building will give us the possibility to create a 3D-model of the whole structure. This allows us to document the progress of the model each day, and, in the end, see how the complete image changed during the ten days of Oerol. So make sure to check our website again after Oerol has ended, to see where your plank ended up!
17 June 2015 : Eurasian skylark (Veldleeuwerik) day
Western wind from the head of the island brought sea air to our location today. In our effort to save the bird of the day, the veldleeuwerik, we had to, again, move planks to the front of our installation. Not an easy task with the wind under your wings! Even adding stamp to our visitors’ contracts was difficult today, as one attentive visitor remarked: “The birds flew away because of the wind!”
“Wow, you’re all very enthousiastic!” That’s something we hear often. And it’s true. We are working with passion on our project, because we really like to share our message with the visitors. And, of course, we want to save a meadow bird each day. That we didn’t make it to our goal on Saturday (scholekster day) made us even more determined to save the other birds. Today it looked almost impossible, with the weather and the high amount of ‘cow’ results. But, despite all setbacks, we made it! The veldleeuwerik can now also build his nest in our polder installation. Will you help us tomorrow too?
18 June 2015 : Northern shoveler (Slobeend) day
"What are those dogs doing there?" This morning we had quite a scare when a few farmers unleashed their dogs in the meadows around our location. Later we learned that they did this to chase away the birds from the field, before they started mowing. Bird Life Netherlands, who dropped by on our location, assured us that the birds were doing fine. When they saw a tureluur flying by with its chick they were relieved that they got away safely.
Inspite of our morning scare we worked hard again to reach our goal. As people noticed (and us too), the construction had moved quite a distance already. It is truly gratifying to see that everyone, even by just moving a single plank, contributes to the moving of the over-all structure. Every day we are amazed to see what our visitors manage to achieve and learn, and in return, how much we learn from our visitors. With good faith we look forward to achieving our final goal on the last day of the Oerol festival.
19 June 2015 : Western yellow wagtail (Gele kwikstaart) day
"No, not that cheese! I want to become a bird!" By accident we overheard this conversation in the supermarket. It was realy nice to hear how our project affects peoples mindsets, especially since we were primarily aiming to 'just' address some issues. This lady took our message to another level by really adjusting her own behaviour.
We also notice a change in out own attitude towards our project. Before we came to Oerol we conducted a thorough landscape analysis and we found many problems that can or will occur in the landscape of the Terschellinger polder. Naturally this made us a bit weary of the future; will the polder survive? Every day our visitors have so many good ideas and willingness to help build our construction or even change their own daily routines. The messages on our planks are positive and insightfull. The emotional data from the 'Feels Like' project tell us that most visitors are 'hopefull' after visiting our installation. And saving a bird (almost) every day only adds to this hope inspiring experience.
The gele kwikstaart can now also build a nest in our construction. Just two more days, to make space for the tureluur and complete our mission of reaching the next crossing in our location. We are hopefull that we'll make it!
20 June 2015 : Common redshank (Tureluur) day
As we enter our site early in the morning, a common redshank is sitting on a pole next to the path watching our moves carefully. As like he knows his faith depends on us. Because today is 'common redshank day', we want to save the common redshank. Either as a result of the weather, or because the Oerol festival is reaching it’s end, today it feels like the meadow birds have taken back their territory. We hear their songs singing over the polder, and see them gathering together in the meadow filled with buttercups.
Will we reach the goal we set for today? As time passes by more visitors enter the construction site, and as it seems, regarding the questionnaire today, that today’s visitors are not afraid to show their preference for non-biological milk and cheese. Since our visitors receive cow stamp after cow stamp, the construction is reaching higher and higher but does not make any meters. Time for a change; in the hour before 4 o’clock some bird-friendly visitors pass by and we can finally make some progress. In the last hour a push towards our goal of the day is made, and just before calling it a day we reach the common redshank: saved by the visitors!
21 June 2015: All meadow birds day
Finally, the last day of the Oerol festival has come. Today, on the longest day of the year, we will see if we reach our goal for the project and whether Oerol visitors will still pass by the expedition. In the first hour only eight planks are moved through visitors passing by our site. We are afraid; if this is going to last, we will never reach the goal of saving all the meadow birds and our Oerol project could fail! But suddenly around noon our project welcomes visitor after visitor whom all seem to be well disposed towards the meadow birds.
After completing our whole installation visitors received a stamp from Bird-I-View in their Polderpracht booklet. With this stamp visitors gained a discount on the organic cheese of Engbert Zorgdrager, owner of part of the meadows surrounding our project. The owner of Lokaal, a shop in West-Terschelling told us that 174,5 kilogram of the organic cheese has been sold that day. So our project raises awareness amongst the visitors of Oerol, or at least lets them taste the difference that organic farming makes.
At the end of the day, when the sunbeams are long and the air is warm we add the final plank, plank #167 to the structure. As a result we reach our goals of today and save all meadow birds. Finally we reached our goals set for the Oerol festival and took revenge for the Scholekster.
22 June 2015: Cleaning up day
Lured by a crazy idea at 2 o'clock a.m., we were cycling in the dark with a group of 10. Our destination: the northern coast of East Terschelling. The curves in the path indicated that we were climping slowly towards the peak of the dunes. We brought a birds nest and a handfull of broken planks with us. Thus we moved our project to the other side of the island!
Hearing the roar of the roling sea waves, smelling the salty air around us.... We knew we reached the beach. In the darkness, however, you cannot easily distinguish the sand from the water. Slowly, carefully stepping close to the sea, we saw an indistinct skyline between the starry sky and the dark sea. The offshore gas platforms in the North Sea illuminated a background, drawing our attention. At this end of Terschelling, we celebrated the succesfull end of our project by jumping into the freezing sea water. A refreshing memory on what our project was all about. If we do not start transforming the landscape, stepping into freezing sea water will no longer be a choice in the future but a given.
A few hours later, it was time to leave the island and go back home. We cleaned up the camp site, where we spent 12 night in our cold and windy tents. For 13 days, this had been our home, where we got together, shared our feelings after days of hard work, and where we got to meet new friends. While saying goodbye to our temporarl landlady and family, we saw a small bird coming into the room. He found some crumbs on the floor, left by us. A beautiful illustration of Terschelling: a moving island in the north of the Netherlands, where man and birds live peacefully together, sharing a beautiful living environment. We will miss you!