blog.frederique.harmsze.nl my world of work and user experiences

June 30, 2020

Adapting to change: life in an intertidal zone

Filed under: Adoption — Tags: , , — frederique @ 21:04

Our organizations face changing circumstances: disruption of our markets, new regulations, the Corona virus forcing us to keep our distance and work from home. So our organizations, and we as the employees, have to change to stay competitive, compliant and safe. In nature, plants, animals and people also have to deal with changing circumstances. Sometimes we try to change what we find, sometimes we all just go with the flow. But in any case, we all – including plants, animals and people – have to do something to adapt.

Wadden Sea: ever changing

Recently, we went for a short holiday trip to the Wadden Sea in the north of The Netherlands. Yes, we are now allowed to get out of our houses, as long as we are careful, though our trip abroad was canceled… In that region, change is very visible. The Waddenzee or Wadden Sea is called a sea, but it is a large, shallow intertidal zone. So now you see the sea, and now you don’t, because a few hours later you get mudflats as far as the eye can see. The ferry boat to the island of Ameland has to wind its way and find a channel that is deep enough. And that channel tends to shift and silt up. So the captain has to pay attention and adapt, to be able to sail to the island, and the dredging companies have to work hard to keep the harbour and a route clear.

Wadden sea at low tide

View from the island of Ameland to the mainland. A few hours ago, this was sea. Now it is mostly mud. And if you don’t mind getting dirty and a bit wet, you can walk to thg mainland.

The birds adapt to the tides

The birds are very much aware of the tides. They have their long-term genetic adaption of specific types of bills that allow for specific types of feeding. And that has to be combined with the short-term adaption of finding the right place and time to suit their needs.

Low water is great for the waders, who can stalk the mudflats and eat the juicy insects and shellfish that burrow in the mud.

Avocet in shallow water

The pied avocets catch crustaceans and insects by sweeping their bill through the shallow water or picking them from the mud.

Turnstones on a mudflat

Turnstones can’t probe deeply for their food, with those shorts bills. They turn stones to find it, as their name indicates. Or they just pick it from the sand at low tide.

Spoonbills need shallow water, to “spoon” for aquatic creatures. We have seen them appear in shallow pool when the tide was right at that place & time.

Spoonbill eating a mussel

Spoonbills usually “spoon” small fish and shrimps, but shellfish like mussels are appreciated too.

Fishing birds like Terns have to fly to the right place to catch their fish. When the water is gone from the Wadden Sea, the Sandwich terns on the island of Texel fly to the other side, to the deeper North Sea. At high tide, they can find water and fish closer to their colony.

Sandwich tern with fish

This Sandwich tern has caught a nice fish. He has to fly to water deep enough to harbour fish.

High water allows swimming birds like Eiders to dive for molluscs near the coast, where we could see them.

Eider female fighting a gull

A lot of female Eiders were lounging and feeding in the water of the Wadden Sea, though sometimes they had to defend their catch from Gulls who tried to steal it.

Waders however, who prefer shallow water and mud, tend to get out of the way of all that water and find a refuge at high tide.

Flock of waders landing on a small beach

A flock of thousands of waders – mostly Knots but also some Bar-tailed Godwits – land on a high-water refuge. Unfortunately, today the water was higher than yesterday, so the little beach disappeared at high water and the flock has to leave early.

The plants adapt to salt water

The border between land and sea is not very clear cut in this region. At low water, the sea looks like land, with those extensive mudflat that you can walk on.  At high water, the sea floods the land and plants end up with their feet in the water. The salt marshes have special plants, that have adapted to handle the salt water.

Salt marsh at high water

The glasswort and sea-lavendar in the salt marshes of De Volharding on Texel don’t mind the salt water that floods them at high tide.

The people adapt the landscape and seascape

The people living on the islands in the Wadden Sea appreciate their natural environment, but there are limits. If they let nature take its course entirely, not only the ferry channels will shift, but the islands themselves too: in some places the sea erodes the dunes and beaches, in other places the sea deposits the silt. So they need to dredge the harbours, to keep the sea where they need it. But they also have to take measures to keep the land where they need it. In gale force winds, the sea can break through and flood the land. Unless you protect the land with some serious dikes.

Dike protecting the low-lying land from the sea

The dike protects the east side of the island of Texel. Now that we have the dike, we can also use it to provide cycling lanes and put some sheep out to graze.

Last year a new hybrid dike was constructed in the south-east, because the old dike could not guarantee the safety of the inhabitants, given the changing circumstances: sea levels are rising, the soil is compacting and getting lower and our rules are stricter. But our other requirements have also changed. Putting in a new traditional dike would take up a lot of agricultural space and damage the biodiversity. So they adapted and came up with a new solution: a “sand dike”, artificial dunes outside the dike. These can safely soak up the waves and provide a new habitat of dunes and salt marshes for wildlife.

Now we need the plants, the birds and the other animals to adopt the new dunes. The people have planted Marram grass to keep the sand in place. And they have transplanted  a piece of salt marsh that would disappear under the new dunes to a new location: turf with some rare plants. At this time, the whole thing looks rather sandy, but we’ll have to wait and see if the plants and wildlife can adopt it, make it their own, or if they need some more help and change management.

New artificial dunes

A new “sand dike, the Prins Hendrikzanddijk, consists of artificial dunes, with marram grass to keep the sand in place and fences to catch more sand.

The birds and people adapt to each other

Birds who liked to nest in the salt marshes got in trouble when people put up a big dike on the east side of the island of Texel. Because people like birds, they dug some shallow pools right behind the dike, to provide some space for birds like waders, terns and geese. This works very nicely, though the birds and the people are still getting used to each other and adapting.

There used to be a colony of Sandwich terns in the north section, but the birds left. The experts think that they were disturbed, maybe by people walking their dogs. Terns nest on the ground, their nests in a ground scrape. So they don’t like dogs. Fortunately the terns re-established the colony a few miles south in the area. Apparently there are no dogs or other disturbances there, because the birds have seriously adopted that pool and its islands: there are over 6.000 pairs of Sandwich terns nesting there!  We also saw plenty of avocets with chicks and oystercatchers with chicks.

A small part of the colony of Sandwich terns

The colony of Sandwich terns is a very busy place: noise, smelly and a feast for the eyes. This is only a very small section of it.

Sandwich terns and chicks

The Sandwich terns have adopted the artificial pool and island, to nest and rear their chicks

So that change went very well- sometimes it just works!

June 30, 2019

Hovering along the cliff top – Sea birds taking advantage of the wind

Filed under: Adoption,Nature — Tags: , , — frederique @ 22:22

I can watch them for hours, the seabirds going about their business at their nesting sites. Though most of them are awkward on land and clumsy at landing, some are acrobats in the air and expert divers in the sea. It is great to see how they take advantage of the local features that nature offers them.

I have just been on holiday in Orkney, an archipelago in the north of Scotland. Not many people live there, but of hundreds of thousands of sea birds do. They nest on the cliffs, on the beaches and in the grassland on the coast. Orkney has some great habitats for them.

The cliff ledges are particularly attractive to some species. The guillemots lay their eggs directly on the rocky ledge and right next to their neighbours, so you see rows and rows of guillemot backs. The gannets nest on the same ledges, but they build a real nest first, making sure that they are not so close that they can peck each other while sitting on the nest. Puffins prefer old rabbit holes and crevasses near the cliff tops. Fulmars find nooks and crannies.

Guillemots standing on the ledges, interspersed with nesting gannets.

Guillemots standing on the ledges, interspersed with nesting gannets.

Usually, they seem busy foraging and yelling at trespassers – usually other birds. But the ground nesters, like the artic terns, also warned us not to get too close.

At Noup Head on the island of Westray, the wind was blowing hard. The intensity and direction must have been heavily influenced by the shape of the cliffs below our feet, because for us landlubbers at the cliff top it was quite unpredictable where the wind would be fiercest. But the sea birds seemed to love it. And they knew exactly how to take advantage of it.

Many were hovering along the cliff top, just hanging there and watching the scenery, as we were watching them. They did not look elegant, with their tails sticking up and their legs dangling. But apparently, that is the best way to hover in one place, because we saw many birds of different species do it.

Usually the gannets would glide by gracefully. On the cliff top at Noup Head, you can look them in the eye. This way, they go somewhere without hurrying.

Adult gannet gliding

Adult gannet gliding past at Noup Head, Westray

But they also hover on the spot, without going anywhere. At first, we only saw juvenile gannets doing it: immature gannets that still have a lot of black feathers on their wings and that need to grow up before they get the proper white & black wing tips look. Like a flight school? But then we noticed that in some popular spots, adults were hovering the same way.

Immature gannet hovering, sacrificing style for a nice steady hover.

Immature gannet hovering, sacrificing style for a nice steady hover.

Both adult and juvenile gannets hang out at this promontory.

Both adult and juvenile gannets hang out at this promontory.

And it’s not just the gannets. These razorbills hover as well. When they fly, razorbills tend to flap their wings like crazy – as do all auks. They seemed to enjoy this steady hover without moving their wings.

Razorbills hovering off Noup Head.

Razorbills hovering off Noup Head.

Hovering razorbill

Razorbill

We haven’t seen the puffins do a full blown hover, but the wind did enable them to stay in the air without flapping their wings frantically. And their landings seemed to be more controlled too.

Puffins were flying and landing relatively safely at Noup Head

Puffins were flying and landing relatively safely at Noup Head

The artic terns on the Holm of Papay on the other hand, had only low cliffs and a relatively even grassland to work with when they were flying around. So they had to do the work of flapping their wings. Not that it bothered them. They were very agile, fluttering about in all directions, using their wings and magnificent tail.

Arctic tern on the Holm of Papay.

Arctic tern on the Holm of Papay.

Yes, I have been watching the birds for hours during my holidays. In my everyday life, I am indoors, in an office, organizing Office 365 into a habitat suitable for my clients’ employees, and helping these people get comfortable in that habitat. So it was great to see the Orcadian users get the most out of their habitat. And I enjoyed getting some fresh air and sunshine for myself too :-)

June 25, 2017

Adopting new options? It works for the gannets

Filed under: Adoption — Tags: , — frederique @ 20:01

On holiday, I don’t think much about work or work-related issues. But sometimes I am reminded of, for example, user adoption. Not all Office 365 users are willing to adopt the latest and greatest options. But the gannets in Shetland do embrace and adopt new options.

Gannets build their nest on cliff ledges, from seaweed and plants.
But when an additional ingredient is available, they take advantage of it. Like fish nets. We have seen quite a few gannet nets that incorporate fish nets.

Gannet nest using fish net

Natural nests and nests with fish nets, in the colony on Noss (Shetland)

Gannet nest on Hermaness

This gannet at Hermaness on Unst (Shetland) also uses green fish nets.

Gannets feed on fish, which they catch by plunging from great height and at great speed.
But when they get the option to grab a free fish offered by the skipper of a tour boat, they don’t turn it down. Then they hover quite close to the surface and to that boat. The only disadvantage is that there are many competitors for the free fish…

Gannets fighting over a fish

Two gannets grabbed the same free fish, tossed overboard by the skipper of the tour boat at Noss.

And I agree with the gannets: if a new option arises and it works for you, why not take advantage and adopt it?

June 30, 2014

Take advantage of what you have and work around the limitations

Filed under: Office365 — Tags: — frederique @ 23:47

I’ve just returned from a holiday in France. We went traveled the coast of Normandy and Brittany. Nature plays a star part there. And the people have learned to take advantage of nature’s bounty, while working around its tricky aspects. Hm, that reminds me of working in a SharePoint and especially in an Office 365 environment.

No, I did not think of SharePoint or digital workplaces while I was there. I enjoyed the beautiful cliffs and beaches, capes and bays, shallows and currents, the fields and orchards. And of course the resulting sea food, crêpes and cider.

But now that I am getting back in Office 365 gear, I am looking at my photos from a different angle…

Erquy harbour at low tide

Erquy harbour at low tide

The low tides enable people to gather shellfish that are no longer under water. And the mussels that spend part of their time above water get a better flavour. But your boat is above water too.

In SharePoint Online, we also have to wait until things float again: search indexing, profile synchronisation. But that does make the experience richer, because the performance is not bogged down by batch jobs too often.

House integrated in the rock formations of Plougrescant

House integrated in the rock formations of Plougrescant

Many houses on the coast of the Plougrescant peninsula are built behind big granite rocks, or even squeezed between rocks, that shelter them from the sweeping winds. The sea was as calm as a mill pond while we were there, but it must be very different in wintertime…

These rocks offer protection, but they also limit your expansion. Like the SharePoint Online sites that work very well, unless you want functionality that is not included in the environment and then you’ll have to bring out the heavy machinery to break through.

Guillemots at Cap Frehel

Guillemots at Cap Frehel

Ok, so some of the people taking advantage of the rocky formations are birds: they lay their eggs and raise their chicks on cliff ledges, safe from non-flying predators. However, they have to take the ledges as they come. If there are no horizontal ledges, they can’t do anything about it and have to find a nesting site somewhere else. Luckily, we are more advanced than these birds and we can do some customization on our sites, even in SharePoint Online.

Little egret in the Golfe du Morbihan

Little egret in the Golfe du Morbihan

But you don’t have to accept passively what you are given, not even when you are a bird. You can shake things up to  make the good stuff available, like this little egret does when he shuffles his feet to stir up the fish. We ‘have content search web parts, for example, to shuffle up the most relevant information for us.

I will still have a lot of holiday fun, viewing and organising my photos. But it looks like I haven’t forgotten the mindset of a SharePoint consultant who creates no-code solutions, taking advantage of the available options, and working around the limitations of the standard environment.

 

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