Dates of the trip: from 26 to 29 December 1999 included.
This trip was once more organized by Francois Thommes and besides his wife Martine, there were several other people who had already come before, among whom Fernand Kubina, Robert Lecaille and Odile Mella. We were also accompanied by Claude, Anne-Marie and Guillaume Hubert, Etienne Landragin, Thierry Besancon, Alexandre Knochel, Arnaud Lestage, Guillaume Schmitt, Eric Roualet, Anne-Marie Gelmetti, Thomas Tessier, Frederique Staub, Vincent Palomares, Joël Lefumeux, Bertrand Kernel, Stephane Bourovali-Zade, Marcel Schirrmann, Valerie Gueydan and Thierry Hirtzmann.
For those who would like to go directly to the list of birds we observed, click here.
26 December 1999. We left home early in the morning and met the rest of the group in Metz. It had been raining a lot during the previous night and it never stopped all along the trip to Zeeland. The motorway in Belgium was flooded, however, as soon as we reached the Brouwersdam, the weather brightened up. There was a lot of wind on the shore but the sun was shining. We then saw our first common sea birds and 800 Barnacle Geese, a few Eurasian Curlews, Common Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, 50 Greater Scaup, a Common Redshank, 30 Ruddy Turnstones, a Black-throated Diver, a Guillemot, Black-necked Grebes, 2 "comic" Terns, a Slavonian Grebe, a Little Gull and a Red-necked Grebe.
In the vicinity of Stellendam, near Haringvliedtdam and the Delta Dam, there were 10 Greylag Geese, 100 Barnacle Geese, 80 Eurasian Golden Plovers, Greater White-fronted Geese, 2 Common Shelducks and 3 Western Marsh Harriers. A little farther down south, in Den Bommel, we saw 200 Eurasian Wigeons. As we had spent some time in Zeeland, we decided not to drive across Flevoland as usual and went straight to the Grouw Youth Hostel where people know us now.
In the evening, Marcel, Fernand and I decided to phone our families in France to get some news. I was flabbergasted when I heard my wife telling me she was worrying to death because of the storm that had hit Europe and France in particular on that day. When I heard about the number of casualties and the enormous damage caused by the wind I realized how lucky we had been. Actually, we had left just early enough to be ahead of the furious elements.
Our bachelors' room in Grouw
27 December 1999. We were in Friesland now and decided to go to the seaside, to Holverd, just opposite the island of Ameland. There is a long pier there and we have never been disappointed because you can see thousands of waders and many other birds on both sides of the road. There were roughly 200 Common Redshanks, a Black-legged Kittiwake whose belly was tainted with oil and 150 Twites). We were pretty sure to find them there, but never before had we seen so many of them. The Snow Buntings too were more numerous than the previous years and we counted about 30 of them. About 80 Little Stints, 7 Pied Avocets, 2 Northern Pintails and at least 1000 Eurasian Oystercatchers were running about on the muddy banks. I knew exactly where the latter would be visible, but contrary to the previous years, they were not covered with frost. I almost felt it was a pity.
We then drove north of the Lauwersmeer to have a bite in the small harbour of Lauwersoog. We always go there and take out our portable gas stoves to do some cooking near the boats. At the sluice, there was a Purple Sandpiper and while some of us were looking at a Harbour Seal, others were aiming their spotting scopes at a group of about 10 Snow Buntings picking at some invisible food on the ground. After lunch, we went south of the Lauwersmeer where 13 Bewick's Swans and 6 Smews were feeding. 10,000 Eurasian Golden Plovers were doing the same near Ee. This is the greatest number of birds of this species we have ever seen in the Netherlands. The temperature was 3°C and the sky was overcast. This pretty mild weather for the season may explain all our unusual observations. In the evening, we returned to the Youth Hostel for dinner and those of us who had come for the first time were surprised by the minute of silence which is required by our hosts to say a silent prayer before gorging ourselves. The others were not surprised.
28 December 1999. The new ones in the group discovered the peanut butter and the chocolate or multicoloured sugar flakes that you can find on the tables for breakfast. My toasts were very artistic but most of the others didn't take as many risks. We roamed across the same area as that of the day before and, not far from Ee, an aberrant Barnacle Goose was the cause of some surprise. By the way, we noticed more and more hybrid ducks in the country. A small Canada Goose and 7 Roe Deer were also present. We drove as far as Lauwersoog where we discovered an Egyptian Goose. Still farther east, close to the German border, in the harbour of Emmshaven, we observed 2 Black-throated Divers, one Crested Lark, 3 Harbour Seals and another Slavonian Grebe. In Noordpolderzijl, we spotted 3 Rock Pipits, a Brent Goose of the race hrota and two local birdwatchers picked out one or two Black Brent. I don't want to assume any responsibility as to this observation because I wasn't really convinced, the birds being too far away for me to make a personal opinion. There were also 40 Bewick's Swans, 3 Snow Geese) in the white phase, 30 Twites, a Snow Bunting, a Horned Lark, a Peregrine Falcon and even a Black Redstart. We returned to the Hostel when the night fell, that is to say pretty early.
29 December 1999. We left before dawn and drove a long time looking for Geese. We found some in the usual place around Workum. There were several thousand of them, above all Greater White-fronted Geese and Barnacle Geese. I can't get enough of the extraordinary sight of all these geese which fly in undulating festoons in the red sky in the morning and which take up or land in the fields, uttering their characteristic calls. There was also a Common Snipe, 4 Canada Geese among which a possible parvipes, Eurasian Curlews and more Eurasian Golden Plovers. In Gaast, a Red-breasted Goose stirred some commotion because nobody wanted to miss it in the large gaggle. Close to Reezandijk, we spotted a Black-throated Diver and 2 Long-tailed Ducks, 20 Snow Buntings, 6 Black Scoters. As time was flying, we decided we couldn't miss going to Den Oever. There's a very worthwhile place there where we had always made good observations. We did not regret our decision because we found an immature Great Northern Diver, a Peregrine Falcon, 190 Pied Avocets, 500 Eurasian Curlews, 10 Northern Pintails, 2 Egyptian Geese, several hundred Common Redshanks, 6 Little Gulls, 10 Hooded Crows, a Slavonian Grebe, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, a Guillemot right on the beach, where the waves were dying, an immature Black-legged Kittiwake and about a hundred Eurasian Golden Plovers.
We spent the evening in a smoky bar probably because some of us were not accustomed to inhaling so much fresh air in a single day.
30 December 1999. We had to return home and we decided to drive through Flevoland which had not been possible at the beginning of the journey. From the Nordmeerweg in Urk, we saw several hundred Greater Scaup and a Little Gull. The weather was beautiful but very windy. We didn't see much from the site of the wind farm between Urk and Lelystadt on the Ketelmeerweg except 2 Slavonian Grebes. We looked for geese and swans for quite a long time in the desolate fields of Flevoland and eventually came back to the Praamweg Oostwardersplassen area. The mammals you can always see there were present (see end of list), together with thousands of Greater White-fronted Geese and Barnacle Geese, a Brambling, 2 Red Foxes, 2 Rough-legged Buzzards and a Common Stonechat. From the Knardjik, we observed 2 Whooper Swans for some time and we left Almere Haven just after having seen our last Bewick's Swan for this journey. The trip back home was made under the rain again but, contrary to the outward journey, the storm was behind us. For those who like figures, our trip was 2200 km long.
My comments do not attempt to be scientific and are only the result of personal impressions. There are probably a certain number of very common species which are missing because I forgot to note them down. I did not see the birds marked * myself.
|01||Black-throated Diver||Gavia arctica||Rare but more numerous than the previous years.|
|02||Great Northern Diver||Gavia immer||Very rare.|
|03||Slavonian Grebe||Podiceps auritus||More numerous than the previous years.|
|04||Black-necked Grebe||Podiceps nigricollis||More numerous than the previous years.|
|05||Little Grebe*||Tachybaptus ruficollis||Rather uncommon?|
|06||Great Crested Grebe||Podiceps cristatus||Common.|
|07||Red-necked Grebe*||Podiceps grisegena||One bird.|
|08||Great Cormorant||Phalacrocorax carbo||Rather common.|
|09||Grey Heron||Ardea cinerea||Common.|
|10||Mute Swan||Cygnus olor||Common.|
|11||Whooper Swan||Cygnus cygnus||Pretty rare.|
|12||Bewick's Swan||Cygnus columbianus||Some.|
|13||Snow Goose||Anser caerulescens||Very rare of course. Such birds may be escaped animals.|
|14||Greater White-fronted Goose||Anser albifrons||Very common.|
|15||Greylag Goose||Anser anser||Some.|
Branta canadensis and perhaps B. c. parvipes
|More and more common.|
|17||Barnacle goose||Branta leucopsis||Very common.|
Branta bernicla bernicla and B.b.hrota
|Some, including possible Black Brent (Bernicla nigricans).|
|19||Red-breasted Goose||Branta ruficollis||One individual.|
|20||Common Sheldduck||Tadorna tadorna||Rare.|
|21||Egyptian Goose||Alopochen aegyptica||Some. Feral birds.|
|23||Gadwall||Anas strepera||Rather uncommon?|
|24||Northern Pintail||Anas acuta||Some.|
|25||Northern Shoveler||Anas clypeata||Some.|
|26||Eurasian Wigeon||Anas penelope||Numerous.|
|27||Common Teal||Anas crecca||Rather common?|
|28||Greater Scaup||Aythya marila||Numerous in some places.|
|29||Tufted Duck||Aythya fuligula||Very common.|
|30||Common Eider||Somateria mollissima||Numerous.|
|31||Black Scoter||Melanitta nigra||Some.|
|32||Velvet Scoter||Melanitta fusca||Rare.|
|33||Long-tailed Duck||Clangula hyemalis||Rare but more numerous than the previous years.|
|34||Common Goldeneye||Bucephala clangula||Common.|
|36||Red-breasted Merganser||Mergus serrator||Pretty common.|
|37||Western Marsh Harrier||Circus aeruginosus||Rare.|
|38||Hen Harrier||Circus cyaneus||Some.|
|39||Rough-legged Buzzard||Buteo lagopus||More numerous than the previous years but still rather uncommon.|
|40||Common Buzzard||Buteo buteo||Rather common.|
|41||Common Kestrel||Falco tinnunculus||Common.|
|42||Peregrine Falcon||Falco peregrinus||Two individuals.|
|43||Common Pheasant||Phasianus colchicus||Rather uncommon?|
|44||Common Moorhen||Gallinula chloropus||Rather common?|
|45||Common Coot||Fulica atra||Common.|
|46||Eurasian Oystercatcher||Haematopus ostralegus||Very common in some places.|
|47||Pied Avocet||Recurvirostra avosetta||More numerous than in the previous years.|
|48||Eurasian Golden Plover||Pluvialis apricaria||Very numerous that year.|
|49||Purple Sandpiper||Calidris maritima||A few in the area of Lauwersoog.|
|50||Ruddy Turnstone||Arenaria interpres||Rather common.|
|51||Little Stint||Calidris minuta||Rare.|
|52||Common Redshank||Tringa totanus||Numerous in certain places.|
|53||Black-tailed Godwit||Limosa limosa||Pretty rare.|
|54||Bar-tailed Godwit||Limosa lapponica||Pretty rare.|
|55||Eurasian Curlew||Numenius arquata||Numerous in certain places.|
|56||Common Snipe||Gallinago gallinago||Rare.|
|57||Black-headed Gull||Larus ridibundus||Common.|
|58||Common Gull||Larus canus||Rather common.|
|59||Herring Gull||Larus argentatus argentatus||Very common.|
|60||Great Black-backed Gull||Larus marinus||Very common.|
|61||Little Gull||Larus minutus||Commoner than in the previous years.|
|62||Black-legged Kittiwake||Rissa tridactyla||Rare.|
|63||Guillemot||Uria aalge||Very rare.|
|64||Sky Lark||Alauda arvensis||Some. This species is becoming less common in the Netherlands.|
|65||Crested Lark*||Galerida cristata||One individual.|
|66||Horned Lark||Eremophila alpestris||Very rare.|
|67||Rock Pipit||Anthus petrosus||3 birds only.|
|68||Black Redstart||Phoenicurus ochruros||One individual.|
|69||Common Stonechat||Saxicola torquatus||One individual.|
|70||Blue Tit||Cyanistes caeruleus||Not many, but we didn't look for it.|
|71||Common Magpie||Pica pica||Common.|
|72||Carrion Crow||Corvus corone||Common.|
|73||Hooded Crow||Corvus cornix||More than in the previous years.|
|74||Common Starling||Sturnus vulgaris||Common|
|75||Brambling||Fringilla montifringilla||One bird.|
|76||Twite||Carduelis flavirostris||Commoner than in the previous years.|
|Commoner than in the previous years.|
Other animal species observed:
Hare (Lepus europaeus)
Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)
Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Bulls: From what I learnt, these animals have been "reconstituted" genetically. If anyone knows anything about these animals, I would appreciate to have further information.
Tarpans (Equus gmelini)
Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina)