Sunday, 15 May 2016

Spring on Texel - Dutch Birding at its Best!

After several autumn trips to the Dutch island of Texel, I thought it was time for a spring visit, boosting my Dutch list and maybe bagging some good birds.  I had gathered some prime species over the last few Octobers, but I had many gaps, some of these fairly stock species and I was hopeful to get around 10 ticks.

7th May, 2016
I arrived by ferry at Hoek van Holland at half 8 in the morning and was met by my friend Wietze Janse.  The weather was fine and sunny and looked set fair for the foreseeable and with easterly winds developing over the next few days, things looked promising.

Our plan was to do some birding locally before heading to Den Helder for the ferry to Texel by early afternoon.  We drove a short way to Aalkeetbuitenpolder, a nature reserve with trails, lakes and hides just west of Vlaadingen. Nightingale were in evidence, along with all the common warblers, Cuckoo, Golden Oriole and Cetti's Warbler, one of which was seen well and is a speciality of the area. Also here was our only Wigeon of the trip.

After dipping on a Little Owl, obviously sheltering from the increasing heat, we negotiated the outskirts of Rotterdam, adding White Stork and Peregrine to the list, before Wietze's bird alert beeped, indicating that a Lesser Yellowlegs had been found at Katwijk near Leiden. This was hardly a detour from our route, some 20 miles to the north.

The site was an oasis in a semi industrial/commercial area with a large wet meadow, which was alive with Lapwings and their chicks. Setting up the scope, we were on to the Lesser Yellowlegs straight away, along with three Wood Sandpipers, Ruff, Little Ringed Plover, Avocet, the only Green Sandpiper of the trip and several other common wader species.

Lesser Yellowlegs (Wietze Janse)

The bird was never closer than about 100 metres away, superb in my scope but beyond my 400mm lens. Wietze managed a distant record shot.

We continued north until arriving at Den Helder at about 1pm, where the queue for the ferry was growing. and we waited outside the car in the blazing sun watching the tourists feed the sea gulls.

Black-headed Gull, Homo sapiens and French fries (Andy Hall)

After a steady crossing, we headed gradually north, checking out some yellow wagtails, but only seeing flava.  We headed for the east coast to check for waders on the various pools between Oost and De Cocksdorp.  At Wagenjot there were still plenty of Brent Geese, stacks of Sandwich Terns and a few Common Terns, plus lots of common waders. A Spoonbill afforded particularly close views. Scanning the back of the pools, I found two Mediterranean Gulls, an adult and a second summer. Both birds were fairly distant but the younger bird flew round for long enough to allow me a record shot.

Mediterranean Gull (Andy Hall)

Spoonbill (Andy Hall)

Sandwich Tern (Andy Hall)

As I was photographing the Spoonbill, Wietze drew my attention to a sterna Tern, which was sitting on an island, away from the main tern colony.  It had a very dark bill with a hint of dark red at the base and dark legs.  My initial thoughts were that it was a Roseate Tern, but a check of the tail length and the jizz of the bird militated away from this id.  It was an odd one.  The bird then flew round before disappearing to the east.  We concluded that it was a dark-billed Common Tern.  Wietze's photos show an interesting bird.  To my eyes, the bill looked marginally heavier than Common Tern, but that might have been a function of the colour.  It was somewhat darker than Common Tern, with particularly thick black trailing edge to the primaries.  Since coming back, we have considered the possibility of Eastern Common Tern Sterna hirundo Longipennis.  Opinions are welcome.

Common Tern (Wietze Janse)

Common Tern (Wietze Janse)

After checking Utopia briefly we headed for the hide at Dijkmanshuizen, though the earlier reported Black-winged Stilts weren't showing, but I had a single Ruff and Knot and nice views of a Oystercatcher chasing a Marsh Harrier.  Hastily adding sun block, we headed north, pausing just south of De Cocksdorp, where Jos van den Berg had a Dotterel, though the bird was hard to see through the shimmering heat haze.

After dropping off my rucksack we opted for an early dinner, which was interrupted by a shout on the vogelweekend Whatsapp for an Osprey over De Tuintjes, and I abandoned my starter briefly to watch the bird flying steadily round, if quite distantly causing havoc among the gulls.

After dinner we were entertained by an Oystercatcher, which remained steadfastly on its shed roof and then we checked the marsh to the north of De Robbenjagger, where we had four Temminck's Stints and various Yellow Wagtails, including some nice male thunbergi, as well as flavissima, which according to the rules were both Dutch ticks! 

Oystercatcher (Andy Hall)

A pleasant walk around De Tuintjes produced a female Whinchat and some nice views of Willow Warbler, Common Whitethroat and a Whimbrel over.  We finished at De Cocksdorp, where for several nights a Spotted Crake had been singing from the reedbed opposite the cemetery.  Right on cue, at 9.40pm the bird blasted into song at close quarters, though inevitably remained out of sight.

8th May, 2016
Wietze picked me up at 05.45 and we made for De Tuintjes.  The various bushes and trees in the area are a magnet for migrants and this morning proved to be a good one.  After seeing a Whinchat, we spent some time tracking down a Grasshopper Warbler, which was doing its usual voice-throwing trick.  After a little time and some field craft we cornered the bird, at the end of a hedgrow, where it perched up on a post and proceeded to sing in the open.  It was easily my best view of this species and revealed all the subtle plumage details.

Grasshopper Warbler (Andy Hall)

We turned back and added Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher to the list, when a message came through on Whatsapp that a Red-breasted Flycatcher had been found, just 20 metres from where we stood.  We hurried to the spot and got brief views of a nice female.  An adult male would have been nice, but it was still a stonking record and a rare species on Texel in the spring! The bird eventually showed well on a bush and on the ground, though the light conditions were playing havoc with my camera, so I've shared Wietze's image.

Red-breasted Flycatcher (Wietze Janse)

No sooner had we enjoyed this, news of an Iberian Chiffchaff broke, about 200 metres away.  The bird was singing its head off, but from a dense clump away from the path and the chance of seeing it were nil.  We gave it a few minutes but it didn't budge and we retired for breakfast satisfied with the wholly distinctive song.

After breakfast I joined a small group led by Jos van den Berg, as his minibus was full and Wietze stepped into help.  Our walk around De Tuintjes produced good views of Hen Harrier, the RB Fly again, as well as a nice Pied Flycatcher.

Hen Harrier (Andy Hall)

Pied Flycatcher (Andy Hall)

I took a walk through the dunes and then up to one of the higher points where some birders were doing a vismig.  Among these was Norbert van de Grint who had just discovered a Black Kite sitting on a fence.  I saw the bird through his scope and shortly afterwards it took to the air before being joined by a second bird!  The birds remained quite far away and though decent enough through the scope I only managed a distant record shot.

Black Kite (Andy Hall)

Checking the Dotterel fields, we had three birds, this time somewhat closer and crucially, with the sun in the right place.  Always too far for a photo, there was one female among the trio.  This is one of those species one never tires of seeing.

We left Jos's party at the Vogelinformationcentrum run by Marc Plomp and Wietze and I had a late morning snack of Dutch apple pie at De Robbenjagger before setting off for the afternoon session. 

With news that the Stilts had been relocated, we headed to the east coast and the view point at Dijkmanshuizen.  The Black-winged Stilts were the first birds I saw, giving amazing views in the scope from the hide.  I managed one record shot before they flew into the marsh.

Black-winged Stilt (Andy Hall)

From here we stopped at the wet meadow at Waal en Burg, where we had Ringed and Little Ringed Plover and a very nice Black-tailed Godwit at close quarters.  These lovely birds can be found throughout the island, breeding in the wet grasslands.

Black-tailed Godwit (Andy Hall)

We drove south from there, parking at the car park by De Muy, which is adjacent to the extensive dunes, lakes and marshland at the Horsmeertjes.  It was now really hot and I had taken my cap for extra protection, in addition to blagging more of Wietze's sunblock.

We were in the best part of the island for Bluethroat, but it was the hottest part of the day at the worst time of the year.  All birds were on eggs or raising young and the males had stopped singing.  Never the less we birded the area in the Mediterranean conditions, and Wietze got on to a distant raptor, which flew north, getting just close enough for us to id a Red Kite - a good bird for Texel.

Red Kite (Andy Hall)

Shortly after this, we had a cracking male Northern Wheatear, slightly bleached in the blazing sun, but still great views.  

By 4.30pm more birds were beginning to sing, including Reed Bunting, Nightingale and Willow Warbler, and a male Marsh Harrier swept by, showing brilliantly, before the distinctive song of Bluethroat could be heard ahead and to our right.  As luck would have it, the bird was hopelessly in the wrong position for the light, but I managed one very mediocre record shot.  I need to come back in April to get proper photos of these, the birds here being the white-spotted form L. svecica cyanecula.

Marsh Harrier (Andy Hall)

Bluethroat (Andy Hall)

Returning to the car, we had corking views of Spoonbill in flight. These birds are such good value!

Spoonbill (Andy Hall)

We headed north for dinner, where we were joined by Debby Doodeman and Jasmijn Hulleman.  

I was persuaded to try something Dutch and opted for the whole sole, which de-boned easily and was washed down nicely with the local Skuumkoppe and a nice stack of French fries.  Much hilarity was had of the British love of the chip butty, which is apparently bonkers to the Dutch!  

Well-earned relaxation after a hard day's birding

Yours truly

After dinner we drove a little way south of De Cocksdorp where the early evening light was perfect for photography and we had nice views of Whinchat and Meadow Pipit.

Whinchat (Andy Hall)

Meadow Pipit (Andy Hall)

Our leisurely post-prandial joint was rudely interrupted by an alert of a feldegg Yellow Wagtail, and this being a Dutch tick for Wietze, we raced to the car park at De Muy and then yomped half a mile to a field with cows and numerous Yellow Wagtails.  However, we had missed the bird by 15 minutes, as it had been lost after the original flock had dispersed.  I had a consolation of another Temminck's Stint and a drake Garganey, but Wietze couldn't hide his disappointment.  Dipping isn't fun!

Wietze dropped me off at my digs and I had a male Goshawk fly by, before writing up my notes over a bottle of Grolsch.

May 9th, 2016
Some days you can do nothing wrong in the field and this was just such a day.  Our crack of dawn start was in the Krimbos camp site, where we had nice views of two Turtle Doves,  a Golden Oriole and the usual common migrants.  Just before we returned to the car a Hobby flew by, giving incredible views, clutching a tasty Common Redstart in its talons.

Turtle Dove (Andy Hall)

Hobby (Andy Hall)

During my breakfast the Whatsapp bleeped with a message that an Osprey was flying over the sea by Lifeboat Station.  I abandoned my croissants briefly, and had the bird in the bins as it moved along the sea wall!  After breakfast, we ventured out again, this time to De Muy, in the hope of relocating the Black-headed Wagtail.  We had stunning views of a cream-crown Marsh Harrier, and I got on to a distant Red-footed Falcon as it moved north.  There were a few Yellow Wagtails around, but alas not the one we were after.

Marsh Harrier (Andy Hall)

We relocated to De Tuintjes amid news that a Hoopoe had been seen and then lost.  After some time, Wietze and I relocated the bird as it fed in the bottom of a dip just south of the lighthouse.  We beckoned others to join us, as the bird flew from its spot.  Fortunately it didn't move far and the assembled birders were able to see it.  In my excitement I didn't get a decent photo, but Wietze fared better.

Hoopoe (Wietze Janse)

After the obligatory coffee and cakes, we paused to check the wooded area just south of De Cocksdorp called Dorpzicht.  Among the scrubby area along the footpath we located an Icterine Warbler, which showed reasonably well eventually.  As we birded the area, a falcon suddenly appeared overhead, and we watched the bird - a female Red-footed Falcon!  The bird showed stupendously well as it hawked around our heads before heading off south.  

Red-footed Falcon (Andy Hall)

After failing to find a Glaucous Gull in De Koog, we drove to the large forested area of Staatsbossen, exploring the area around Turulurweg.  He we had some nice trip ticks with Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Lesser Redpoll and a single Siskin.  A short drive to a nearby area of mixed woodland produced two singing Wood Warblers, one of which showed reasonably well.

After dinner, we checked out the area between De Robbenjagger and the lighthouse, seeing a Wood Sandpiper, one Temminck's Stint and various common species.

10th May, 2016
My final day and we started early again, around De Tuintjes, seeing Bluethroat and the usual suspects.  We also relocated a ringtail harrier, seen in poor light the previous evening and thought to be a possible Pallid.  However, the bird didn't seem to fit this species really, but it wasn't a Hen Harrier.  The bird showed quite well in the less than perfect well and did several passes over the dunes.  Quite a discussion ensued and the bird was eventually identified as a 2nd CY female Montagu's Harrier.  A very instructive bird.  I have to admit ringtail harriers aren't my speciality, but I intend to pay them more attention.

Montagu's Harrier (Jos van den Berg)

After breakfast we checked the beach and mudflats at De Cocksdorp, seeing Little Tern offshore, 1 Little Stint, 3 Curlew Sandpipers, 1 Sanderling, 1 Whimbrel and plenty of commoner waders.  Being high tide, Turnstone were roosting on the groyne at the outflow.  I was photographing these birds when Wietz appeared over the bank, imploring me to run to the car, as 14 Beeeaters had been found in bushes south of Cap Noord.  Although Wieze got onto the birds just in time, I only saw a few dots as the birds flew away and won't count them on my Dutch list.  You win some...

Turnstone (Andy Hall)

I said goodbye to Wietze and had an hour or so to myself, which I spent productively, photographing Linnet and House Martin, before my host Ger Monterey drove me to the ferry. 

House Martin (Andy Hall)

Linnet (Andy Hall)

I had hoped for a good short break, but this surpassed my expectations.  A species list of 129 in four days in western Europe ain't bad!  Yes, I missed the Great Knot by three days, but I'm not complaining.

Many Thanks to Wietze Janse for the companionship, sunblock and for putting up with me generally.
Thanks to Marc Plomp and Josie Plomp for the hospitality, help and coffee and cake.
Thanks to Jos van den Berg for his assistance
Thanks to Ger Monterey at Texeloniki for the hospitality, huge breakfast and beer.

                                          Texel Trip List

Scientific name
Mute Swan
Cygnus olor
Greylag Goose
Anser anser
Canada Goose
Branta canadensis
Barnacle Goose
Branta leucopsis
Dark-bellied Brent Goose
Branta bernicla
Common Shelduck
Tadorna tadorna
Tufted Duck
Aythya fuligula
Common Eider
Somateria mollissima
Anas strepera
Anas clypeata
Anas platyrhynchos
Anas querquedula
Common Teal
Anas crecca
Great Cormorant
Phalacrocorax carbo
Little Egret
Egretta garzetta
Grey Heron
Ardea cinerea
Eurasian Spoonbill
Platalea leucorodia
Little Grebe
Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe
Podiceps cristatus
Black Kite
Milvus migrans
Red Kite
Milvus milvus
Marsh Harrier
Circus aeruginosus
Northern Harrier
Circus cyaneus
Montagu's Harrier
Circus pygargus
Northern Goshawk
Accipiter gentilis
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard
Buteo buteo
Pandion haliaetus
Common Kestrel
Falco tinnunculus
Red-footed Falcon
Falco vespertinus
Eurasian Hobby
Falco subbuteo
Spotted Crake
Porzana porzana
Common Moorhen
Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot
Fulica atra
Eurasian Oystercatcher
Haematopus ostralegus
Black-winged Stilt
Himantopus himantopus
Pied Avocet
Recurvirostra avosetta
Little Ringed Plover
Charadrius dubius
Common Ringed Plover
Charadrius hiaticula
Eurasian Dotterel
Charadrius morinellus
European Golden Plover
Pluvialis apricaria
Grey Plover
Pluvialis squatarola
Northern Lapwing
Vanellus vanellus
Red Knot
Calidris canutus
Calidris alba
Little Stint
Calidris minuta
Temminck's Stint
Calidris temminckii
Curlew Sandpiper
Calidris ferruginea
Calidris alpina
Philomachus pugnax
Black-tailed Godwit
Limosa limosa
Bar-tailed Godwit
Limosa lapponica
Eurasian Whimbrel
Numenius phaeopus
Eurasian Curlew
Numenius arquata
Common Sandpiper
Actitis hypoleucos
Common Greenshank
Tringa nebularia
Wood Sandpiper
Tringa glareola
Common Redshank
Tringa totanus
Arenaria interpres
Black-headed Gull
Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Mediterranean Gull
Larus melanocephalus
Common Gull
Larus canus
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Larus fuscus
Herring Gull
Larus argentatus
Little Tern
Sternula albifrons
Sandwich Tern
Sterna sandvicensis
Common Tern
Sterna hirundo
Arctic Tern
Sterna paradisaea
Stock Dove
Columba oenas
Wood Pigeon
Columba palumbus
Collared Dove
Streptopelia decaocto
European Turtle Dove
Streptopelia turtur
Common Cuckoo
Cuculus canorus
Common Swift
Apus apus
Upupa epops
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Dendrocopos major
Golden Oriole
Oriolus oriolus
Eurasian Jay
Garrulus glandarius
Pica pica
Corvus monedula
Carrion Crow
Corvus corone
Regulus regulus
Blue Tit
Cyanistes caeruleus
Great Tit
Parus major
Alauda arvensis
Sand Martin
Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow
Hirundo rustica
House Martin
Delichon urbicum
Long-tailed Tit
Aegithalos caudatus
Wood Warbler
Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Common Chiffchaff
Phylloscopus collybita
Iberian Chiffchaff
Phylloscopus ibericus
Willow Warbler
Phylloscopus trochilus
Lesser Whitethroat
Sylvia curruca
Common Whitethroat
Sylvia communis
Garden Warbler
Sylvia borin
Sylvia atricapilla
Grasshopper Warbler
Locustella naevia
Icterine Warbler
Hippolais icterina
Reed Warbler
Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Sedge Warbler
Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Troglodytes troglodytes
Common Starling
Sturnus vulgaris
Turdus merula
Song Thrush
Turdus philomelos
Spotted Flycatcher
Muscicapa striata
European Robin
Erithacus rubecula
Common Nightingale
Luscinia megarhynchos
Luscinia svecica
Common Redstart
Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Saxicola rubetra
European Stonechat
Saxicola rubicola
Northern Wheatear
Oenanthe oenanthe
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Ficedula parva
Pied Flycatcher
Ficedula hypoleuca
Prunella modularis
House Sparrow
Passer domesticus
Yellow Wagtail
Motacilla flavissima
Blue-headed Wagtail
Motacilla flava
Grey-headed Wagtail
Motacilla thunbergi
White Wagtail
Motacilla alba
Meadow Pipit
Anthus pratensis
Fringilla coelebs
Chloris chloris
Carduelis carduelis
Carduelis spinus
Carduelis cannabina
Lesser Redpoll
Carduelis cabaret
Reed Bunting
Emberiza schoeniclus

Note: Egyptian Goose and Common Pheasant also seen, but these are not included by Dutch Authorities.

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