The Netherlands

Dates of the trip: from 26 to 29 December 2003. For those who would like to go directly to the list of species we observed, click here.

25 October 2003:

We left home early in the morning and took a short break in the Belgian Ardennes to have breakfast after an uneventful trip. We soon reached S'Hertoogenbosch where we saw a lot of Northern Lapwings and about 400 Eurasian Golden Plovers in the fields.

When we arrived near the coast, in the Flevoland, I spotted a Black Scoter, but it was to be the only one for the trip. Leaving Lelystadt Haven, we took the road on the dyke to Enkhuisen, a small and pleasant village with houses of red bricks dating back to the 17th century, whose fronts are adorned with beautiful sculptures. We also saw a scene that I would like to see in France. A fisherman was sitting on the bank of a canal, 4 or 5 yards away from a Grey Heron, neither of them paying attention to the other.

Not far from there, charming little houses looking like barges had been built on the water as if to prove that here, the water and the ground are blended. I was surprised at the number of wind mills which can be seen in the Flevoland. Apparently, hundreds of them have cropped up all over the Netherlands recently. After having seen our first Canada and Greylag Geese, we took the highway on the large separation dyke, making a stop at each car-park and understood what a technical miracle it had been to build this 30-km road in the middle of the sea.

We arrived in Harlingen under the rain and found the hotel Heerenlogementt. The bedroom had not been heated and the stairs were really steep, as is often the case in old Dutch houses. The restaurant was closed on that Sunday because a music band was rehearsing in the dining room, so we decided to have dinner in the best hotel of the village, the Zeezicht Hotel where we ordered a lamb shoulder, not being aware that we would each be served a whole shoulder!

A small fishing harbour

26 October 2003:

Harlingen is a typical little Dutch town. Of course, the streets are paved with pink stones, there is a canal with its Van Gogh-like bridge, many shops and several exotic restaurants if you are hungry. We decided to drive northwards along the coast following the dykes as far as west of Zwarte Haan. There is a fantastic mud bank there where I saw thousands of Eurasian Curlews, Common Shelducks and all sorts of ducks.

When I reached the dyke, I disturbed a Northern Goshawk which was eating a Eurasian Curlew. There were about 15 Grey Plovers and 50 Pied Avocets hardly disturbed by the fast flight of a female Merlin looking for small passerines just above the reeds. As for gulls, there were approximately 200 Common, Herring and Great Black-Backed Gulls.

The dykes are kept clean by grazing sheep in the Netherlands and you will see them everywhere. On the other hand I'm sure not everyone has seen a Carrion Crow cleaning the ears of one of these sheep. Quite frankly, I didn't like this too much, just before lunch.

Common Shelducks

We then drove eastwards around this small bird sanctuary to see several thousand more Common Shelducks and numerous waders, among which 1,000 Dunlins, 300 Pied Avocets, 200 Sanderlings, 100 Ruff and 2 Lesser Flamingoes, whose presence there was really weird

Still going northwards, we arrived in Holverd which is a great birding spot in winter. In autumn, however, it is only one of those thousands of mud banks you can find everywhere in the Netherlands. We didn't stay there for long and went on to Metlawier where we were thrilled by the large concentrations of Greater White-Fronted Geese, Barnacle Geese and Eurasian Golden Plovers.

I am quite fond of the little harbour of Lauwersoog but yet again I was disappointed because I always see so many more birds in winter. Still, there were numerous waders, 1000 Barnacle Geese, as many Greylag Geese, 8 Bewick's Swans and 2 Brent Geese. When night started to fall, we drove back, this time by inland roads. In the evening, we had a mussaka with French Fries in a Greek restaurant called De Byzantijn. I found this association of food strange but it wasn't bad.

27 October 2003:

It froze that night but the weather was not so bad and we decided to drive along the separation dyke of the Ijsselmeer. Oddly enough, there were hardly any birds on the sea, compared to what I usually see in winter and as a consequence, we made very few stops on the car parks. There were so few people in that place that our presence was somehow suspect and the police came to pay us a visit. We took advantage of this to have a nice talk about the Frisian Islands with them. Fortunately the tide was low in Den Over and we discovered a huge mud flat where I spotted flocks of about 800 Eurasian Curlews, Eurasian Oystercatchers, 500 Common Redshanks, 700 Dunlins, 60 Bar-Tailed-Godwits, some Great Ringed Plovers, Grey Plovers, Sanderlings and one Little Stint. I was lucky enough to note the presence of an early Hooded Crow and then we had lunch in the harbour, in front of the boats leaving to catch fish.

Eurasian Oystercatchers

As we had come to visit the country too, we went for a walk on the beautiful sand hills of Huisduinen. For all those who enjoy cycling, this is really the place to go especially when the weather is nice as it was on that day. In the evening, we drove slowly around the Amstelmeer where we had been attracted by 800 Greylag Geese which made a terrible noise on the water.

28 October 2003:

The weather was beautiful on that day and this is why we went to Den Helder where we were to take the boat for Texel. The round-trip cost us 26 € 50 on the Schulpenpat and this included our car.. The crossing takes 60 minutes only and there is a boat every hour. Just as we sailed out, we were lucky to see a Peregrine Falcon and during the crossing, a Guillemot. We also met Mark Kuiper, a local guide at the head of Natuur Beleven, a travel agency specialised in ecotourism. The two Californian women accompanying him were shivering with cold but still enjoyed the sight.

Once on the island we decided to go westwards toward the sea, whenever it was possible. This is how we began with the bird sanctuary of Den Hoorn. There were beautiful sand dunes covered with Marram Grass and Common Sea Buckthorn which attracted a lot of Fieldfares and Redwings.

The lakes hosted thousands of birds, among them 500 Bar-Tailed Godwits and a lot of other waders and ducks. I attempted to do some sea-watching but except for some alcids which were flying too far off to be identified for sure, a Diver sp. and 6 Black Scoters, I saw nothing. Inland, a flock of 27 Egyptian Geese and 200 Eurasian Golden Plovers were feeding in the fields.

We drove through the seaside resort of De Koog, then to the northern side of the isle and came back by the main road. The ploughed fields reminded us of the mainland topography and we were not surprised to see about 80 Bewick's Swans, 200 Greater White-Fronted Geese, as many Bean Geese and about 2000 Greylag Geese

Back in Den Hoorn where the tidal reservoir was now larger because of the ebb tide, there were more waders and ducks than in the morning yet, the Eurasian Wigeon being the most common among them.

At the harbour, while we were waiting for the boat, we watched with amusement the boisterous sight of about 150 Eurasian Jackdaws which were perched on a ferry-boat.

29 October 2003:

The sky was overcast but we decided to go and find the vast flocks of geese of the Gaast - Workum area and we saw more of them than we had expected in our craziest dreams. We saw thousands of Greylag, Greater White-Fronted and Barnacle Geese taking off or landing in a dreadful noise.

 

I didn't know where to look and I wished I had been with my fellow birdwatchers. One of them would surely have found the Lesser White-Fronted Goose which was probably in the middle of one of those flocks. By the way, a local ornithologist told me in the evening he had seen a few individuals. I was furious but found some comfort in seeing my first Pink-Footed Goose, 4 Bar-headed Geese also a hybrid Barnacle Goose.

 It was taller than a Barnacle Goose, with a black neck, blackish-brown flanks and back, orange feet, white around the eyes and the beak, white abdomen and vent.

There were thousands of Eurasian Wigeons and Northern Shovelers on the Ijsselmeer but the cold and windy weather drove us away.

In the region of Workum, I was astounded to see around 2000 Pink-Footed Geese, some of which were wearing a ring (N92 and N67).  This species is much less frequent in winter. About 50 Egyptian Geese were grazing not far from us. I saw very few Bean Geese, but I must have missed some of them. Even Danielle, my wife, who is not so keen about ornithology as I am, was thrilled by the number of birds which were feeding in the fields and which are hardly shot at in this country. Apparently, Dutch farmers have accepted them and admit they may cause some damage to the fields.

30 October 2003:

We set off toward the north once more, in spite of the cloudy sky and stopped in the picturesque little village of Dokkum where we listened to the town hall chimes, drove through Anjum where there were a lot of different geese as usual and then we reached Lauwersoog. It was a bit misty on the lake but I still could see as many as 120 Bewick's Swans and some Common Goldeneye.

In the region of Ezumazijl we went to Bochtjesplatt, a beautiful marshy area where I had never been disappointed. A Peregrine Falcon, with its feet in the mud, was visible, just like a hundred Bewick's Swans.

31 October 2003:

As the weather's was getting worse and that more rain was forecast for the next day, we changed our holiday plans and turned back southwards in order to scan the Flevoland much better than we had done on the outward journey. The Tufted Ducks and Common Pochards are much more numerous there than in the North.

As usual we stopped at a hide at the Oostvaarderplassen where a Great White Egret was located. This bird was still a rarity here compared to the growing number of its fellow birds in Lorraine. On the way, I had a close view of a male Rough-Legged Buzzard which flew about 10 meters above my car.

Oostvaarderplassen

The Praambult offered us the unbelievable sight of a hundred Red Deer, many bulls, Konik Horses and many distant geese.

We had seen enough birds and set off to drive back home. We thought we would be at home in the evening, but traffic jams on the highway and a problem with my rear lights forced us to stay one more night at Weert in the south of the Netherlands, between Maastricht and Eindhoven. The Golden Tulip hotel is not very cheap, but the beautiful carpet, the superb bedroom and the excellent breakfast account for this.

We returned home on 1 November after we had logged 3223 km.

List of birds

The following comments are only based on impressions. Some very common species are missing, probably because I did not look for them.

01
Diver sp  

Probably a Black-Throated Diver (Gavia artica), seen from one of the beaches on Texel.

02
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

Common.

03 Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

Some, in particular in the harbour of Den Oever.

04
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Common.

05 Great White Egret Casmerodius albus

One bird at the Oostvaarderplassen, close to Lelystadt Haven.

06
Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea

Common.

07 Lesser Flamingo Phoenicopterus minor

Two escapes at Zwarte Haan.

08
Mute Swan Cygnus olor Common.
09 Bewick's Swan Cygnus colombianus Several flocks.
10 Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus

I was surprised at the significant number of these birds in the area of Workum. A few ringed birds (N92 et N67).

11 Bean Gose Anser fabalis

Relatively few but I may have missed them in the middle of the large flocks.

12 Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons

Very common.

13 Greylag Goose Anser anser Many.
14
Hybrid Goose Anser sp. Several hybrid birds.
15 Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus 4 at Gaast.
16 Canada Goose Branta canadensis Some and a hybrid bird in Gaast. Black, bigger than a Barnacle Goose. Black flanks and back, brownish black, orange legs. White around eye and bill, white belly and vent.
17 Cackling Goose Branta hutchinsii Some.
18
Brent Goose Branta bernicla Few.
19
Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis Very common.
20
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna Very common.
21
Egyptian Goose
Alopochen aegyptica
An increasingly common species.
22
Eurasian Wigeon
Anas penelope
Very common.
23
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Common.
24 Gadwall Anas strepera Some.
25 Northern Pintail Anas acuta Some.
26 Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata Common.
27 Common Teal Anas crecca Rather common.
28 Common Pochard Aythya ferina Many in the south.
29 Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula Many in the south.
30 Greater Scaup Aythya marila
Not very common yet.
31 Common Eider Somateria mollissima Not very common yet.
32 Black Scoter Melanitta nigra 6 birds seen from the beaches in Texel.
33 Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca One bird in the Flevoland.
34 Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula Still pretty rare at that time of the year.
35 Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator Still rare at that time of the year.
36 Common Merganser Mergus merganser
Still pretty rare at that time of the year.
37 Hen Harrier Circus cyaenus One bird only.
38 Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
2 birds.
39 Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 1 bird.
40 Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis 1 bird.
41 Common Buzzard Buteo buteo Rather common.
42
Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus 1 male in the Flevoland.
43
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus Common.
44
Merlin Falco columbarius One bird.
45
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
One in Den Helder and another in Ezumazijl.
46
Grey Partridge

Perdix perdix

A flock of 10 in Den Oever.
47 Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2 birds in Den Helder.
48
Common Coot Fulica atra Very common.
49
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus Very common.
50
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta A few hundred birds.
51 Great Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula Some.
52 Eurasian Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria Common in many fields.
53 Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola A few dozen birds.
54
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus Rather common.
55
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Rather common.
56 Sanderling Calidris alba Several.
57 Dunlin Calidris alpina Very common.
58
Little Stint Calidris minuta One bird only.
59
Ruff Philomachus pugnax About a hundred at Zwarte Haan.
60
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata Very common.
61
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa laponica A few hundred.
62
Common Redshank Tringa totanus Rather common.
63
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago A few.
64
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus Very common.
65
Common Gull Larus canus Common indeed.
66
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus Very common.
67
Great Black-backed Gull

Larus marinus

Very common.
68 Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus Some.
69
Guillemot Uria aalge 2 birds.
70
Common Wood Pigeon olumba palumbus Common.
71 Rock Dove Columba livia A feral bird, of course.
72 Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto Several.
73 Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major One bird near Lauwersmeer lake.
74 Sky Lark Alauda arvensis A few.
75 Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis A few.
76 White Wagtail Motacilla alba Some.
77
European Robin Erithacus rubecula One bird only but this is not a rare bird.
78
Eurasian Blackbird

Turdus merula

Common.
79 Fieldfare Turdus pilaris Common.
80 Redwing Turdus iliacus Rather common.
81
Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus Common.
82 Great Tit Parus major Common.
83 Common Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Very common.
84
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius A few.
85
Common Magpie

Pica pica

Very common.
86
Eurasian Jackdaw

Corvus monedula

Very common.
87 Carrion Crow

Corvus corone

Very common.
88 Hooded Crow

Corvus cornix

One early bird in Den Oever.
89
Rook Corvus frugilegus Rather common.
90 Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus A flock in Den Oever.
91 House Sparrow Passer domesticus Common.
92 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs Common.
93
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla A few migrants.
94
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris Several.
95
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Some.

96
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus Few.

Other animal species:

Brown Hare (Lepus capensis)

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) Many at the Praambult in the Flevoland.

Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Tarpan (Equus gmelin) at the Praambult in the Flevoland.

Heck Cattle  This is an genetically recreated aurochs.  It is called Heckrund in the Netherlands and you will see many of them at the Praambult area in Flevoland. 





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