Saturday, 10 June 2017

Netherlands - Spring 2017

Having spent a successful long weekend on Texel, in May 2016, I was eager to explore other possibilities in the Netherlands in the spring.  Looking at the gaps in my very low Dutch list (232 when starting the trip) a visit to 'The Top of Holland' was very appealing.  The wetlands of north Groningen hold a number of good birds, but as a non-driver somewhat out of my reach without vehicular assistance.

I was put in touch with Martijn Bot, the proprietor of Birding Holland, and a tailor-made weekend focusing on the best areas was too good a chance to miss, so I enrolled on the trip. Travelling this far, it made sense to make a week of it and I added three days on Texel.

I departed from Harwich as usual, on the night time crossing on June 1st.  My good friend Jonathan Janse had offered to show me some species in Drenthe, which would give me some new Dutch ticks that wouldn't be likely in Groningen.  So, on the Friday morning I took the train north from Rotterdam, which cut a rather scenic route through the forests of Utrecht and I was met by Jonathan at Zwolle in the north east of the province.

After a short drive we parked in an area of mixed woodland and heathland at Doldersum and was reminiscent of some of the New Forest.  The usual species of the habitat, including Tree Pipit, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Cuckoo and Yellowhammer were all in the immediate vicinity in varying numbers.  On our walk we added Short-toed Treecreeper, Marsh Tit, at least two Firecrests and Crested Tits. After scanning an open area with scattered hawthorns, Jonathan picked up a male Red-backed Shrike and we had good views in the scope, and before we knew where we were we were watching two pairs catching beetles and flying from tree to tree!

After driving a few hundred metres we checked out another area with grassland and bushes where we had a distant Raven, Stonechat and plenty of insect life, including a freshly emerged male Black-tailed Skimmer.

Black-tailed Skimmer

Returning to the car we continued to a series of pools in an agricultural area at the reserve of Diependal. After walking though a 100 metre long eerily cold tunnel, cut through the bank, we ascended the spiral staircase of the view point. Here we were greeted by a pair of Barn Swallows that had took up residence in the hide and were entirely unphased by our presence.  

Barn Swallow

From the hide, we added Little Grebe, Gadwall, GarganeySpoonbill, Marsh Harrier, Common Whitethroat as well as a Red-necked Grebe at the rear of the far pool. This is the only breeding location for the species in the Netherlands.  Jonathan said that they sometimes come quite close.  This one didn't but was a good Dutch tick for me never the less.

Typical habitat around north west Drenthe

A pool at Diependal

After being entertained by a male Yellowhammer, we continued to the border with Friesland and the reserve of FochteloĆ«rveen.  Here we had a male Bluethroat singing from a reed bed by the roadside.  A scan of the fields on the far side of the reserve quickly revealed our main target bird and we had scope views of eight Cranes.  These were a group of non-breeding birds that have lingered on the reserve and was a nice way to wind up the afternoon.  After a food stop at Roden, Jonathan kindly dropped me off at my hotel in the semi rural village of Aduard on the edge of Groningen.


On the Saturday morning, I located the one other participant of the trip, another Martijn from Rotterdam and we were picked up after breakfast by Martijn Bot.  It was a fairly short drive to a complex of pools and lakes at Oostpolder.  One of the first birds we saw was a White-tailed Sea Eagle sitting in a tree on the far side of a field.  There was no way of getting closer views, but Martijn felt sure we would get further opportunities.  We drove slowly along the access track and had good views of several stock species, including a spiffing flava Wagtail.

Common Redshank

Blue-headed Wagtail

Sedge Warbler

From the car, we walked along the track that had pools to the left and a reed bed to the right.  The area was teeming with birds.  There were Avocets and Black-necked Grebes everywhere, along with several Whiskered Terns, Black-headed Gulls, Gadwall, Shoveler, GarganeyCommon Terns, Marsh Warbler and Reed Warblers.  It was spectacularly good.  

Whiskered Terns

Black-necked Grebe

As we returned to the car and Martijn supplied coffee, the Sea Eagle did a fly by.  Unfortunately it seemed determined to keep its distance, but it was a better view than the haystack in a tree.  I enjoyed the bird in the bins for a while before getting a record shot.  The drumming of a Common Snipe, evocative of the olden days in my home county provided a beguiling display as we sipped coffee and munched on stroop waffles.

White-tailed Sea Eagle

In the grip of a quite nasty bout of hay fever, Martijn made a small detour to a pharmacy in the local village and drugged to the eye balls with some nose drops and tablets we continued to Onnerpolder with the sun now blazing down.  

We were greeted by up to 20 pairs of Black Terns dipping into the pools at close quarters, although the light was a little too strong for perfect photography. None the less, I managed one or two acceptable record shots.  These efforts were punctuated by a flyby Cuckoo, which offered itself as a nice image for the album.

Black Tern


Watchpoint at Onnerpolder

As well as the rich bird life, the area wasn't short on interesting invertebrates and it would have been churlish to have not taken a few photos.

Eristalis similis

 Red-eyed Damselfly

Variable Damselfly

We moved to the German border in the afternoon, where we connected with an interesting 2nd cy Montagu's Harrier, a Hen Harrier and numerous Marsh Harriers.  While we had lunch (a generous picnic provided by Martijn), we had Bluethroat, Yellow Wagtail and 'quipping' Quail for company.

Failing to obtain the expected close views of any Monty's we headed back to Onnerpolder in the late afternoon, where an adult White-winged Black Tern put in a brief appearance. It was initially relatively close, but quickly gained height and was lost to view over the woods.  We also had a Whiskered Tern here.

A further stop on the opposite side of Oostpolder from the morning, we added three Spoonbill, two Black-winged Stilts and a very obliging White Stork before returning to the hotel.

White Stork

After a shower, a quick nap, dinner and a very cold bottle of Heineken, we were out again at 9pm, for a short drive to the local reserve of Ederwolder within a stone's throw of the city.  Within five minutes of leaving the car we had had Grasshopper Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Savi's Warbler and a booming Bittern!  A pleasant evening walk added at least another four Savi's, Water Rail, a Goshawk and a rather early gathering of around 5,000 Common Starlings murmurating in the gloom.  All splendid stuff.

The Sunday began with the short drive north to the famous reserve of Lauwersmeer.  The first stop was by a lake and extensive reed bed, where Bearded Tits were numerous, though typically hard to photograph.  Sometimes and this was one time, where it was nice just to enjoy the 'ping-ping' of birds as they 'hopped' around the vegetation.  The lake hosted good numbers of Shoveler, Gadwall, a few Eurasian Wigeon, Greylag Geese and three Greater White-fronted Geese.  On the walk back to the car, one or two Bluethroats popped up, and sang occasionally but alas, not for the camera.  An April trip required methinks.

A typical wetland habitat in the Lauwersmeer

A drive around the area produced four late Goldeneye on a smaller lake, and in some woodland and Scrub we had Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Short-toed Treecreeper.

We made another stop by an area of open grassland and forest with broad rides.  Here we had common woodland species, including Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpecker and a very vocal Icterine Warbler, which showed well eventually from the upper branches of its tree. On the walk back, we had particularly good views of a male Marsh Harrier.  We paused for another hearty lunch where both Marsh Warbler and Nightingale sang from the nearby scrub.

Marsh Harrier

The Botmobile

After lunch we drove to a nearby area of cereal fields and scattered copse.  A male Montagu's Harrier appeared close to the car, but chose to do so just as another vehicle was behind us, which meant we weren't able to get a photo, as Martijn parked safely.  Fortunately the female showed very well and we watched her for half an hour as it took a few sticks to the nest and hunted overhead.

Montagu's Harrier

Moving to the north coast, we crossed the border into Friesland.  Here we had Common Tern, Cormorant and Little Egret.  Another area close by consisted of a series of flashes and flood pools, where we had Great White Egret, at least 1000 Black-tailed Godwits and a scattering of Avocet, Ruff in their arrestingly beautiful breeding plumage. An added bonus was a male Red-necked Phalarope that was pirouetting in the shallows, plus Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank, Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover.  


Black-tailed Godwits

Thumbs up to a great weekend with Birding Holland

We returned to the hotel in the early evening and had a beer over the bird log.  I had added 10 Dutch ticks on the trip so far and after saying farewell to Martijn Bot, had dinner and another beer; watched a bit of the One Love Manchester concert and then an early night.

I was up at 5am on the Monday morning and caught a six o'cock train to Utrecht where I changed for Den Helder.  It was still wall to wall sunshine, as it had been since the Friday and I made my way to the sun deck once on the 15 minute ferry to Texel.  Both Sandwich Terns and Common Terns were fishing just off shore as we approached 'T Horntje.

Common Tern

My host Ger Monterney met me off the ship and after the briefest stop at my digs, I was in the field again.  A walk along the sea wall that leads to the north of the island proved to be an excellent way of getting good photographs of Sandwich Terns as they returned to their nests following marine feeding sorties.  Oystercatchers were equally obliging to the camera.


Sandwich Tern

I had a late afternoon lunch at the excellent Robbenjager restaurant and then spent the afternoon walking around the fields and pasture to the east of De Cocksdorp but saw nothing beyond the inevitable Marsh Harriers and common breeding species.

After a nap, I met Jos van den Berg in the village at 8.30pm and we drove the few miles south to the Staartbossen.  This is the only area of forest on Texel and also holds the typical species on the various swathes of heathland.

We began hitting the good birds straight away with Cuckoo, Tree Pipit and Wood Lark soon in the bag.  A stonking male Common Redstart showed very well, with just about enough light for me to obtain a record shot of this beautiful bird.

Common Redstart

There was a pause in proceedings as the light fell and we waited on a bench for part two of the evening to kick in.  After about 15 minutes, the first Nightjar began to chur followed by two more and as we tried to pin one down, Woodcock were virtually flying around our heads.  

We managed to get remarkably close to a Nightjar and had a male perched on a branch pine as it sang.

Video (audio) of Churring Nightjar

A search for owls proved unsuccessful but to be fair, it wasn't the best time of the year for finding them and I returned to my room just before midnight and a welcome can of Amstel.

Tuesday saw a break in the weather. I had a pre-breakfast walk around 6.30am in the direction of De Krimbos holiday park.  I was rewarded with very close views of a purring Turtle Dove, but I had stupidly left my camera in my room. I consoled myself with excellent views of this beautiful and threatened species. 

After breakfast, I asked Ger to drop me off at the lighthouse and I headed to the beach and set up the scope under the shelter of the 'pier' that supports the cafe there.  I soon located half a dozen Little Terns fishing just off shore and I had a single adult Gannet move south.

A stroll around the lighthouse produced all three hirrundines and Common Swifts swooping over the headland and a very smart Meadow Pipit at close quarters.

Meadow Pipit

After dodging a shower in the lee of a Hawthorn, I explored the bushes around De Tuintjes.  Here I had nice views of a male Northern Wheatear, a pair of Stonechats, several Linnets, Common Whitethroat and a rather confiding Willow Warbler.


Willow Warbler

After a coffee and Apple pie at Cap Noord (Not a touch on the De Robbenjagger but they were closed) I scoped the sea and had two drake Common Scoters heading south.  The weather had improved, so I took the opportunity to photograph the old groyne at De Cocksdorp and an approachable Turnstone.  

De Cocksdorp looking north east


The improvement in the weather was short-lived and though sunny, the wind whipped up and made standing up on the little jetty at De Cocksdorp almost impossible, so I returned to the safety of the village.  The wind was a precursor to the rain and the afternoon became a challenge with a force 9 gale blowing with intermittent showers.  

I had another walk in De Krimbos in the late afternoon in hope of relocating the Turtle Dove, but the noise of the wind through the trees and the weather generally made birding almost impossible.  I gave up around tea time and after walking many miles, had a slap up meal at 'T Bikkelement.  

It was a wild evening with the gale blowing a rose bush against my window all night.  

My final day began with an early walk to the sea wall, where around 20 Knot were flying around looking for somewhere to settle at high tide and two female Eider were huddled with a little creche by the shoreline.

After breakfast, I asked Ger to take me to the centre of the island to look for Black-tailed Godwits in their breeding area.  We went via the east coast where I had a single Arctic Tern and got a nice photo of an Avocet at Utopia.  Moving to De Staart, we drove along a grassy track, where I connected with a pair of godwits with a few days old chick and an exceptionally confiding Little Egret in the adjacent creek.


Black-tailed Godwits

Little Egret

We drove back via Oudeschilde and its picturesque little harbour, before heading back to De Cocksdorp.  I had a coffee and cake in the new bakery before getting the Texelhopper back to the ferry and my journey home.  I ended the trip on 140 species, which I think is good, as I didn't 'chase' species for a huge list and 11 new ones for my Dutch list.

Oudeschilde harbour

I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to: 
Jonathan Janse
Martijn Bot Click here for his website
Jos van den Berg
Ger Monterney

Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Greylag Goose Anser anser
Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Common Eider Somateria mollissima
Common Goldeneye Bucephala clangula
Gadwall Anas strepera
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Garganey Anas querquedula
Common Teal Anas crecca
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Great Egret Casmerodius albus
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus
Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentilis
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
Common Crane Grus grus
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Red Knot Calidris canutus
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Eurasian Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus
Common Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus
Mew Gull Larus canus
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
European Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
Little Tern Sternula albifrons
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida
Black Tern Chlidonias niger
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea
Stock Dove Columba oenas
Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus
Common Swift Apus apus
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Rook Corvus frugilegus
Carrion Crow Corvus corone
Northern Raven Corvus corax
Goldcrest Regulus regulus
Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Great Tit Parus major
European Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris
Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus
Woodlark Lullula arborea
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Common House Martin Delichon urbicum
Long-tailed Bushtit Aegithalos caudatus
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin
Eurasian Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Common Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia
Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides
Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina
Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris
Eurasian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Common Blackbird Turdus merula
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
European Robin Erithacus rubecula
Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Dunnock Prunella modularis
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Blue-headed Wagtail Motacilla flava
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
European Greenfinch Chloris chloris
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
Common Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a good trip with 140 secies! Could even have been better with a little more cooperation from the weather.