Spillepengen is what geographers Matthew Gandy and Sandra Jasper (2020) would call a “remnant ecology.” As the last remaining slice of a once dominant coastal landscape feature, it evokes the uneven histories shaping the social and ecological development of southern Skane. For thousands of years, beach meadows like these have been crucial landing spots for migratory birds passing through the region. Because these meadows periodically flooded with sea salt water, they were never used for intensive agriculture, and came to function instead as common pasture areas that were relatively undeveloped. With the urbanization of nearby Malmo towards the end of the 19th century, most of the areas adjacent to Spillpengen were converted to light industry. In the 1970s and 1980s, part of Spillepengen was subjected to active landfilling, and the resulting peninsula-like tract now houses a waste facility and shooting range. Since then, the roads bordering to the east have steadily taken on more activity with the suburbanization of regional villages. The unlikely decision to establish a nature reserve here in 1991 – one which includes a secluded animal memorial site where deceased pets can be cremated – has proven to be fortuitous. Over the years, over 250 bird species in total have been seen on the site – making it one of the most dynamic urban birding areas in the country.  

Site locations: Max Ritts and Gunnar Cerwen, 2021. Revised deployment proposal (version 5).

Inspired by recent academic efforts to attend to mostly forgotten urban natures – as are captured in Gandy and Jasper’s wonderful The Botanical City (2020) – Gunnar Cerwen (SLU) and I are seeking to understand the acoustic ecological composition of Spillepengen. For most residents, the site remains a largely forgotten one, but we suspect that changes in the acoustical composition of bird activity portends a great deal of rich and insightful ecological activity. Among local ornithologists, for example, the site continues to play host to a number of well-known local birds, including the tofsvipa (lapwing); rödbena (redshank); and skärfläcka (cutting spot), the latter in particular being a beloved species. Meanwhile, a number of species have more or less disappeared during the last 10 years: gulärla, ängspiplärka, sävsparv. Considerable changes in observed greyling geese activity, whose population has surged since the 1980s, are perhaps the best indicator of local ecological change from an avian standpoint. It is suspected that more geese than before are staying around the area as a result of milder winters.   

Using AudioMoth recording technologies, we are constructing a series of transects along the waterfront area of the site, which we hope to monitor continuously during the spring returns (e.g., Spring 2021). Our primary aim in this research is to establish bird occupancy data in Spillepengen via acoustical methods, an effort we will (eventually) seek to publicize as the basis of renewed nature education efforts for local Malmo youth. Occupancy modeling is based on repeat observations at sites to estimate detectability and account for imperfect detection when estimating the probability of a species occupying a site or patch. This will allow us to further understand and specify reported changes in regional avian community composition: including the decline in wading birds and the concomitant rise of greyling geese over the last twenty years; the co-incidence of local noise with avian activities; and changing calling patterns in light of other land use changes.  

Spillpeng in 1955: Photo courtesy Malmo City Archives

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