The Netherlands

Dates of the trip : from 18 to 22 December 2005.

For those who want to go directly to the list of species, please click here.

The party : François and Martine Thommès, François Léger and his son Clément, Robert Lécaille and Odile Mella, Dominique Landragin, Jean-Yves Moitrot, Yann Lebecel, Thierry Besançon and Natacha Steinkwich and me.

18 December 2005.

It was snowing a little when I left home, just before 6 a.m. . Then, the weather became worse insofar as the rain started pouring down which didn't help us travel as a group. We stopped over on the highway, south-east of Antwerpen where we saw a long-tailed bird, flying over us, rocking from side to side. We determined it as a Rose-ringed Parakeet. We hadn't come to see escapes but everybody took out their binoculars all the same.

Once in Goes, we had an inkling of what was lying in store for us: numerous Brent Geese and Eurasian Curlews were feeding in the flooded meadows, as well as Barnacle Geese.

Barnacle Geese (photo: Thierry Besançon)

We had decided the Brouwersdam was to be our meeting-point and this is where we took out our spotting scopes for the first time and saw about 300 Golden Plovers, one Great White Egret, a Bar-headed Goose, a few Egyptian Geese, a Ruff, a lot of Common Eider, an immature Black-legged Kittiwake, 2 Guillemots, 4 Purple Sandpipers and 5 Long-tailed Ducks, a Slavonian Grebe, 3 Red-throated Divers, 4 Common Snipe, an immature Little Gull, a lot of Red-breasted Merganser and hundreds of Common Goldeneye. We felt it was a good start.

A Harbour Seal

We then took some rest while eating and drove on through the outskirts of Rotterdam where the traffic was very heavy, as usual. What with the pouring rain and the highways which went in all directions, we lost part of the participants to this trip.

In spite of this unfortunate incident, everybody managed to reach Grou (also spelt Grouw) at about 7 p.m. where we were accommodated at the Youth Hostel.

19 December 2005.

It was still dark when we left for the pier to Ameland, in Holverd. There are very large mud banks there where you can see thousands of waders if you come when the tide is good. We indeed saw a lot of them and also about 150 Common Redpolls and 7 Snow Buntings. Unfortunately, I didn't come across the Twite I usually see there. Thierry was luckier because he managed to pick out one lone individual in the flock.

When we went to the Wierum area, François, who was trying to make room for the others, got his van stuck in the mud and I had to tow him out. Everybody was excited but we didn't lose too much time and went on towards Lauwersoog where, as usual, we found the thousands of Barnacle Geese but also a thousand Eurasian Golden Plovers and a few more Snow Buntings.

Barnacle Geese

A little further, east of the Lauwersmeer, about 40 Hooded Crows were feeding near a thousand Fieldfares having a feast of sea buckthorn.

Hooded Crow (photo: Thierry Besançon)

We scanned the reeds for Bearded Tit but to no avail. The sun went down around 4.15 p.m., just when a gaggle of Bewick's Swans landed in the meadows and so it was time to go home.

Lake Lauwersmeer

20 December 2005.

We went to the Gaast area on that day, to try and spot a few rare geese in the midst of the thousands of more common geese. You've got to check each bird, one by one, and the more birdwatchers, the higher the chances to find what you're looking for. We first found a few odd ones: about 40 Egyptian Geese and even a Ruddy Shelduck but that was not enough for us. Near Ferwoude, a Merlin swooshed past a dyke and a little further, Thierry and I spotted a Lesser White-fronted Goose, a bird I had been keen to find. Glued to our telescopes, we were making comments on what we were seeing and trying to give directions to the others. This is how we realized we were not talking about the same bird. There were actually three of them and the yellow eye-ring and the white blaze that went higher up the front were clearly visible. There was also a Greater White-fronted Goose that looked a lot like a Lesser.  Engrossed in our observation, we had not noticed at once that there was also a Snow Goose there, in the dark phase. Unfortunately, it was a kind of hybrid bird.

Barnacle Geese and hybrid Snow Goose in the dark phase

Greater White-fronted Goose looking like a Lesser among Barnacle Geese (photo Thierry Besançon)

We then drove northwards to the large separation dyke between Zurich and Den Oever but apparently, the weather was much too mild for us to find many birds along the dyke. We didn't see anything worthwhile, apart a Red-throated Diver which cleaned its plumage for a long time, quite close to us. The photographers were fuming because the bird kept moving.

Red-throated Diver

On the other hand, the mud banks and the harbour of Den Over produced many sightings. In the harbour itself, there were a Harbour Seal and a Black-throated Diver which we watched in our telescopes. On the strand, many waders were feeding, among them nearly 200 Pied Avocets. We went back to the Youth Hostel when the night fell.

Harbour Seal. Its pointed snout tells it from the Grey Seal

21 December 2005.

To see other birds than geese, we decided to go to Holverd once more but it was a bad idea because the tide was low. The birds were much too far and we couldn't observe them in good conditions. In spite of this, we saw 2 Peregrine Falcons and 22 Snow Buntings, which were fluttering between the car-park and the strand.

Snow Bunting (photo Thierry Besançon)

We then followed the road north of the Lauwersmeer to have a snack in the harbour of Lauwersoog. This is where we met 2 local birdwatchers who informed us about the presence of a Ross's Goose in the area of Nieuwland. We thought this was not doubt an escape but we still decided to try and see the bird, which we found very easily. It stuck out in the middle of the other geese because it was so white. We later on learnt that it had actually been accepted by the Dutch Rarities Committee. In the late afternoon, we were told there were Bohemian Waxwings in the Lauwersoog area but it was already too late to see them in good conditions. We were a bit frustrated and so went back to Grou. After dinner, we took a stroll in the streets, along houses which were beautifully decorated for Christmas.

Ross's Goose in the middle of Barnacle Geese

22 December 2005.

There is an end to everything, even to the most pleasant of trips and we had to go back home on that day. We made a detour by Oudega, south of Sneek, where Dutch birders had told us we could find large flocks of Pink-footed Geese. There were indeed a lot of them, which were visible in very good conditions.

Pink-footed Geese

Pink-footed Goose (photo Thierry Besançon)

A little further, in the village of Heeg, some of us were lucky enough to spot 12 Long-eared Owls in a roost. As I was leading, trying to find my way, I didn't see them.

We drove on in the direction of the Flevoland where a Rough-legged Buzzard was visible not far from the road. Apart from this raptor, which we were looking for, we also came across a Northern Goshawk, a Peregrine Falcon and a Hen-Harrier. Just before leaving, close to Lelystadt, we saw 9 Ruddy Ducks moving as a group on a small lake where I had already found this species in the past.

Rough-legged Buzzzard (photo: Thierry Besançon)

The trip was over after we had logged in 2,000 km in fairly mild weather conditions.

List of birds.

001 Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) Rare. A very tame bird at the separation dyke.
002 Black-throated Diver (Gavia artica) One in the harbour of Den Oever.
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) Pretty common.
004 Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) A few.
005 Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus) Not many this year.
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) Common.
007 Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) One individual at the Brouwersdam.
008 Great White Egret(Casmerodius albus) Some. Sightings are increasing.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

010 White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) A small group near Gysjerk.
011 Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus) Pretty rare.
Bewick's Swan (Cygnus colombianus)
Several groups.
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) Common.
014 Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) Large flocks near Oudega.
015 Bean Goose (Anser fabalis) Not many but we may have missed this species in the large flocks of more common geese.
016 Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) 3 individuals only.
017 Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) Very common.
018 Greylag Goose (Anser anser) Common.
Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens) One individual in the dark phase.
020 Ross's Goose (Anser rossii) One bird at Nieuwland.
021 Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) One only.
022 Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) and perhaps B. canadensis parvipes. Some.
Brent Goose (Branta bernicla) Common.
Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) Very common.
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) Very common.
Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) One bird only.
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptica)
An increasing species.
028 Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) One bird in flight south-east of Antwerpen.
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Very common.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
031 Gadwall (Anas strepera) Some.
032 Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) Rather common this year.
033 Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) Rather common.
034 Common Teal (Anas crecca) Rather common.
035 Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) 9 individuals near Lelystadt.
036 Common Pochard (Aythya ferina) Common.
037 Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) Common.
038 Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)
Very few this year.
039 Common Eider (Somateria mollissima) Common indeed.
040 Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) Seen several times this year, especially at the Brouwersdam.
041 Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra) A few.
042 Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) Large numbers near the Brouwersdam.
043 Smew (Mergus albellus) Few.
044 Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) Common.
045 Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
046 Hen Harrier (Circus cyaenus) A few birds.
047 Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Very few.
048 Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) Few.
059 Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) One bird only.
050 Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) Rather common indeed.
Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus) Few. Observed in the Flevoland.
Common Kesterel (Falco tinnunculus) Common.
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
A few, among which two together near Holverd.
Merlin (Falco columbarius) Few.
055 Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) Common.
Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) Not many but it is a very shy species.
057 Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) A few.
Common Coot (Fulica atra) Very common.
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) Very common.
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) A few hundred.
061 Great Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) A few individuals.
062 Eurasian Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) Common in the fields.
063 Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola) Rare.
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) Rather common.
Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) Rather common.
066 Sanderling (Calidris alba) Several.
067 Red Knot (Calidris canutus) Pretty rare.
068 Dunlin (Calidris alpina) Common.
069 Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima) A few near the Brouwersdam and Lauwersoog.
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) Few.
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) Very common.
072 Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) A few individuals at Den Oever.
Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) Rather common.
074 Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) Pretty rare.
075 Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) One bird near the Brouwersdam.
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) A few.
077 Little Gull (Larus minutus) An immature bird.
Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) Very common.
Common Gull (Larus canus) Common.
080 Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) An immature bird.
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) Very common.

Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)

Guillemot (Uria aalge) Rare.
Common Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) Common.
085 Stock Dove (Columba oenas) A few birds.
086 Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) A feral bird.
087 Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) Several.

Long-eared Owl (Asio otus)

12 birds roosting at Heeg.
089 Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) A few.
090 Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) Rare.
091 Sky Lark (Alauda arvensis) Some.
092 Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) One at Holverd and another near the Lauwersmeer.
093 Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) Some.
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) Pretty rare.
Winter Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) Not many.
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) One bird on a stony and grassy jetty at Den Oever.
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) Not many.

Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula)

099 Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) Common.
100 Redwing (Turdus iliacus) A few.
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) A few.
102 Great Tit (Parus major) Common.
103 Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) One bird only in the Flevoland.

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Very common.
105 Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
A few.

Common Magpie (Pica pica)

Very common.

Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)

Very common.

Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)

About 40 of them east of the Lauwersmeer.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)

Very common.
110 Rook (Corvus frugilegus) Several.
111 House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) Common but we still had to look for it.
112 Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) Common.
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) A few in the Flevoland.
European Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) A few birds.
European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) A few birds.
Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea ) A flock of about 150 birds near Holverd.
117 Twite (Carduelis flavirostris) One bird only spotted with the Common Redpolls.
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) A few.
119 Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) Seen several times this year, especially near Holverd.

Other animal species:

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus). Numerous in the Praambult area, Flevoland.

Tarpan (Equus gmelini). Some in the Praambult area, Flevoland.

Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus). A few.

Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes). Just one.

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. 

Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina).  A few of them here and there.

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