The Netherlands, 9th - 16th February 2008,

Published by Taco en Rik (birdsounds AT gmail.com)

Participants: Anthea, Irene, Stephen and Rik

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We caught the 8.25 ferry from Dover on a clear, sunny day; and with the sea flat-calm the seawatching proved superb, with good numbers of Northern Gannets both flying and sitting on the water, plus Red-throated Divers, several Guillemots, Great Crested Grebes and Kittiwakes. Departing Calais ferry port at 11.10am, (and keeping an eye on the timings for future reference!) we reached the Belgian border at 11.40 and the turning off for Bruges at 12.10, arriving at the Dutch border at 12.45. Our first Dutch bird was a Little Grebe, on our first Dutch canal – the first of many in both cases. En route to our first overnight stop, we called in to take a look at Goesmeer, a small but neatly-manicured lake with some very posh-looking lakeside homes. Here we found good numbers of Little Grebes, plus Red-breasted Mergansers, Tufted Ducks, Oystercatchers, Turnstones and Redshanks (the latter not proving easy to find, on the trip as a whole).

With the aid of our new friend, the wonderful Tom-Tom which Irene named “Susan”, we effortlessly located our hotel, a little pub called Hotel Restaurant De Kroon in the village of Wissenkirke. After a stroll to check out the village (particularly interesting were the espaliered trees, which the Dutch seem to love) we took advantage of the hotel’s kind offer of free cup of tea and slice of apple cake, before heading off for our first birding around Noord Beveland. We began at Neeltje Jans, an estuary where we had great looks at Eider (six male and six female), several Red-breasted Mergansers, a flock of Goldeneye (the males performing their head-throwing display), very good numbers of Little Grebes, and what turned out to be the only lark of the trip – though Skylark, not Crested, sadly. Driving on, we had Peregrine and 5 Egyptian Geese, plus a flock of Golden Plovers. At our next stop, Koudekerke, we enjoyed the sight of a flock of about 350 Barnacle Geese and probably the same number of Greylags coming in to roost on the fields, a perched Common Buzzard (these birds were to prove ubiquitous), and a huge flock of Lapwings; and on the drive back via the area around Zierekzee we added a Little Egret (not easy to find in Holland in February) and Common Teal. Back to the hotel, where dinner was steak and chips – delicious. Bird list, then bed, where I found my night’s sleep only a little disturbed by the half-hour chiming of the local clock tower.

Sunday 10 February

Up for breakfast at 7.45. The waitress was a Julie Walters clone, and being served by Mrs Overall added immensely to the enjoyment of the meal. Then we headed off to explore the Delta region, starting at Brauwersdam where we added Robin and Dunnock (we had already realised that Holland in wintertime is not great for passerines – the absence of “dicky-birds” was probably explained not just by the extreme cold weather but also by the lack of trees and hedgerows generally). Again, we found large flocks of Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneyes, and at least 500 Great Crested Grebes – Steve’s comment was “It’s like an ornithological Serengeti”. As we drove across the region of Overflakkee we found our first Marsh Harrier; we soon noted that these birds seem to be only in reedbeds, and haven’t colonised farmland, as they have in England. At Greveningendam we had Grey Plover, Oystercatcher and Curlew, and then we visited Krammersluisen, a series of locks, where you can climb up several flights of steps to a viewing platform and watch the canal barges as they pass through the lock between the fresh water and the seawater. Great care is taken here that the two don’t mix, so two barges at a time are shut in the lock and the water is changed over before the barges are let out again – a very long, slow process. The barges we saw all seemed to have orchids in their cabin windows, and cars parked on board. Here we added the very first Mute Swans of the trip, and a walk to a very weirdly-constructed two-level hide gave us Canada Geese for the list as well.

We drove on past Zierekzee and stopped for lunch at a little woodland – no birds to add to the list, but we walked to the estuary and found a Black-necked Grebe. Then we scoped out a wetland area, Schelphoek, where there were literally thousands of Barnacles, more than 500 Avocets, Ruff, Pintail, and Ringed Plover. Standing behind a blind, we found another 500 or so Avocets, plus a Little Egret, hundreds of Curlew, Brent Geese, and three drake and two redhead Smew. Suddenly several hundred Barnacle Geese flew in over our heads, calling – an incredible sight. Back on Noord Beveland, we stopped for coffee and shared a slice of apfelstrudel. Then we walked a short way up a path fringed by trees, but still no sign of small birds, so we gave up and returned to the hotel.

Monday 11 February

Yet another bright, cloudless day – quite incredible for February. Breakfast at 8.30, then we settled up and left the hotel. After a quick supermarket shop, we set off on a leisurely journey towards Enkhuizen, firstly pausing to check out the area around Europoort and Oostvorne. Birds en route included Common Buzzard, Egyptian Goose, Kestrel, flocks of Greylags and a pair of Mute Swan. At Oostvorne, Blue Tit and Gadwall were both new for the trip list, and we found a harbour where there was an enormous flock of probably well over a thousand Pochard, plus Tufted Ducks, Great Crested Grebes and Mergansers. The beach on the other side of the road held a Yellow-legged Gull. As we drove through the beginnings of the port area surrounding Rotterdam (the largest port in the world) we saw an almost-white Buzzard sitting on a post. We stopped to scope it out, and decided that it was a very pale first-winter Common Buzzard.

Negotiating the incredibly busy multi-laned motorway system around Rotterdam, we were grateful for the wise and gentle guidance of Susan. It seemed to take a very long time to get past this area – but as soon as we did, birds began to appear in the fields again, and we were soon seeing Egyptian and our first Pink-footed Geese. A real bonus came in the area of Leiden, when two White Storks flapped lazily past; and passing Schipol Airport we began to see good numbers of Buzzards again.

We stopped off for a picnic at a garage (our third open-air picnic for the trip!) and then drove on to Oosterleek, where we drove along the top of a dyke bordering the Ijsselmeer. We estimated the number of Wigeon at probably somewhere around ten thousand. Pink-foots and Greylags were in the fields together, which afforded a nice comparison. Then on to the Hotel Driebanen in Enkhuizen to try and book in. This was an experience akin to boarding the Marie Celeste. A kindly elderly local saw Irene and me trying the front door and getting no response, so he led us around to the back door. This was open – but although we ventured inside, not a soul was to be found. We decided to invest some more time in birding and come back to try again later. So we headed north, located a body of water (never difficult in Holland) and added 2 Scaup to our list, plus many thousands of Tufted Ducks. A mistaken ID of a Cormorant as a G. N. Diver left us with red faces, although we were honest enough to admit that what looked like a Snow Goose was purely a leucistic Greylag. Back to the hotel, where luckily someone had materialised to check us in, and then Irene and I went for a wander to explore the pretty little town of Enkhuizen and to look for restaurants. At first everything seemed to be “Maandag gesloten” – but then we located a likely-looking Italian place, Bella Vita, where indeed, a little later on, the three of us dined very happily – the salmon tagliatelle probably contained about 2000 calories but it was extremely delicious. So far, no complaints at all about the food in Holland!

Tuesday 12 February

Up for 7am breakfast then left at 7.20 to do the road-bridge crossing to Flevoland. At the far end of the bridge we met our guide for the day, Rik Feije of Flevo Birdwatching (www.birdsnetherlands.nl). Rike proved to be good company, friendly and knowledgeable. We transferred to his car and set off to explore Oostvaardesplassen. From the start, the birding proved very rewarding. Our first stop gave us Great Grey Shrike, Rough-legged Buzzard and Northern Goshawk, plus White-fronted Geese. At the next stop, we climbed a frosty slope to join two German birders at a superb viewpoint overlooking the reserve. Herds of Konick horses, Heck cattle and red deer grazed the grasslands; Common Buzzards were dotted about, sitting patiently on the ground, and a beautiful male Hen Harrier gave us a close fly-past. With the many thousands of Greylags and Whitefronts around, we weren’t surprised to see quite a few foxes! Great White Egrets were also present in good numbers – Rik told us that 80 pairs breed there – and ducks included Pintail and Smew. Willow Tits wheezed in the trees behind us, and Goldcrests flicked amongst the branches.

Leaving here, we moved to another elevated viewpoint, overlooking the marsh and the very busy railway line, with yellow double-decker commuter trains to Amsterdam passing every ten minutes or so. Here, we added Whooper Swan and Mistle Thrush to our ever-growing tally, and a Peregrine flew over our heads and obligingly perched on a nearby pylon, affording nice views.

We moved on to a fourth site, where Rik got us straight on to the White-tailed Eagle nest, and sure enough, in the vicinity of the nest, the two pale-headed adult birds were perched, with a juvenile a little further away. Interestingly, without Rik we would have struggled to find the nest site, as it wasn’t visible from the most obvious viewpoint at the top of a small rise – you had to stand at the bottom of this rise to see it! Here we found Reed Bunting and our only White Wagtail of the trip, plus Goosanders, while Water Rail squealed from the reeds and Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed from the trees behind us. We walked back to the car through these woodlands, getting excellent views of a Willow Tit, plus a Short-toed Treecreeper, Chaffinch and Greenfinch (the latter two being rare birds, on this trip).

We moved on to Lepelaarsplassen and ate our picnic outside the Trekvogel information centre (though this was “gesloten” also). Then we walked along the river to the hide, noting signs of beaver activity – alas, even Rik had never yet seen a beaver! The wetland area at the beginning of the walk held Meadow Pipit and Common Snipe, and as we neared the hide, Steve located a Hawfinch at the very top of a tree. We called Rik and Irene who had wandered on ahead, and they came back to get very good looks at it through the scopes, as did a rather interested (and interesting) local birder. Just outside the hide, we heard what sounded incredibly like a Reed or a Marsh Warbler, but given that this was February, we decided it was probably no more than a Starling doing imitations. It would have been good to know for sure, though! From the hide, we scored our only Kingfisher of the trip, which obligingly perched nearby, affording nice views. Ducks visible from the hide included Pochard, Tufted, Smew, Pintail and Goldeneye.

Finally, we stopped off along the coastal road to have another look at the two adult White-tailed Eagles, from a different angle; they were rather closer this time. Behind us were around a hundred Common Snipe - I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a number. It was an excellent day, and we thanked Rik as he dropped us off back at our vehicle. He had given us a most enjoyable day, and, as we’d never have found those sites without him, we decided he had been well worth his 120 euros!

Back to the hotel, and after another gentle exploration of the town, we dined at La Salsa, an Argentinian restaurant, which served the best steak I’ve ever eaten. When we did the bird list that evening, we discovered we were on 99 species, which, given the difficulty of finding small stuff, wasn’t bad at all.

Wednesday 13 February

A leisurely late breakfast, and then we headed off towards Dokkum. The sun had disappeared now, and there was thick fog, which lifted a little as we crossed the road-bridge. We stopped for coffee at a café halfway across, where there were hundreds of Tufted Ducks and a few Gadwall on the sea, and in a tiny souvenir shop I managed to locate fridge magnets – mission accomplished! We arrived in the Dokkum area just after mid-day, passing some incredibly bored-looking sheep which were slumped flat out in a field “overcome with ennui”, as one member of our party commented.

It was difficult to find the hotel in the maze of small roads, canals and one-way systems, but when we reached the Abdij van Dokkum, in the market square, it proved to be superb. Our “superior rooms” were just that – luxury apartments on the ground floor, each with a kitchenette, dining table, sofa, armchair and coffee table! We visited the market, for bread rolls and apple cake, then went to take our first look at Lauwersmeer, following a very helpful article in Birdwatch magazine, which directed us on a round-tour route starting at Zoutkamp, and which told us useful things like which bush wintering thrushes could be found in (cue a flock of Fieldfare in exactly that bush) and where Hooded Crow should be (and they were!). Back to the hotel very early, so I went for a ramble around Dokkum, which I have to say isn’t as pretty as Enkhuizen, nor are its shops as interesting. Dinner in the hotel proved excellent – we went for the full three courses as we were on half board that night, so Caesar salad, beef roulade and selection of desserts to share. There was also an interesting discussion as to what the statues in the Market Square might represent – St Boniface, but not behaving in a very saintly manner, to all appearances. We ended the day on 101 species.

Thursday 14 February

The worst weather so far, grey and overcast, with drizzle by the afternoon, but this didn’t spoil things too much. We started out at Holwerd, where the ferry crosses to Amesland, and found a flock of 20 small and very flighty birds which, when we could get close to them, we eventually identified as Twite; and then on to the village of Wierum where we wandered around the cemetery of the 12th century church, which held three Commonwealth war graves – two Canadians and “a pilot of the Royal Air Force – known unto God”. Following our Birdwatch article again, we found the fields just south of Anjum to be absolutely heaving with Barnacles – the biggest flock we’d seen yet – plus quite a few Whitefronts. Buzzards were everywhere, and we saw the only Rooks of the trip – possibly the only Rooks in Holland, certainly the only rookery we’d seen – in fact when Irene first spotted it, we had assumed it to be a heronry, given that Grey Herons are widespread and plentiful in all the regions! Driving the same route as the previous day, we stopped for lunch by the roadside (in the vehicle today – it was too cold and damp for outdoor picnicking now) and saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Steve climbed to the top of a viewpoint and found a White-tailed Eagle, juvenile. The Hooded Crows and Fieldfares from yesterday obliged again. We walked along a trail through woodland, but absolutely no small birds at all apart from two Long-tailed Tits. We finished at the harbour, Lauweershaven, getting a small flock of Eiders (the first since Neeltje Jans on the first afternoon) plus Goosanders and Mergansers together. A flock of Snow Buntings, around 20 birds, brought the tally to 101. Dinner at the hotel – the suckling pig was delicious!

Friday 15 February

After a sinful breakfast which included sticky strawberry-and-chocolate-covered custard-filled Danish, we left the Abdij van Dokkum, definitely our favourite hotel of the trip, at 9.50, and after a supermarket shop we began the long trek to Bruges. Susan had cleverly worked out a route to take us via Oostvaardesplassen, and we arrived there about 12.30. The Great Grey Shrike was obliging once more, and Steve got some photos, plus we were able to get nice looks at Whitefronts (orange legs, black stripes on belly) and Greylags (larger, pink legs) for comparison. Lunch was sandwiches bought at a garage, which we ate in the car, and then we climbed the first viewpoint we’d visited with Rik. It was quiet at that viewpoint, so we moved on to the second viewpoint, where we found our second Rough-legged Buzzard of the trip, plus Whooper Swans and our last looks at Great White Egrets. We left Oostvaardesplassen at 2.20 to head for Bruges. It was a slow nightmare of a drive, particularly around the Antwerpen ring road, where there had been a couple of accidents and traffic was crawling nose-to-tail, and our original estimated time of arrival (5pm) had changed to 7.30 by the time we pulled up outside the Hotel Azalea. The rooms here were nothing to write home about, but the hotel was central, and it was a five minute walk to Zand Square, where we dined in a very pleasant restaurant, before sauntering back to the room for a final genever and tally of the bird list – on 106 sp.

Saturday 16 February

After breakfast in a very crowded dining room, we wandered quickly around Bruges, purchased the compulsory chocolate and beer, and then left to follow the coast road to Calais. The route took us through Nieuwpoort (where we bought bread) and to Dunkerque, but we failed to find the harbour, so we explored an area of scrub, adding a Redwing and a Green Woodpecker to the list. Then we headed for Oye Plage for a quick half an hour in the hides there, though there was nothing of particular note. Back to the ferry port, where we boarded an early ferry, and although the sea was slightly less smooth than on the outward journey, we still found Guillemot, Red-throated Diver, Gannet and Kittiwake. We ended the trip on 108 definite species, plus my quick view of a Goldfinch at Dunkerque (and one heard by Rik at Oostvaardesplassen), and an unidentified partridge (probably red-legged) as we drove through France on the first day, neither of which was on the final official list – as I suspected the Rarities Commission would not pass these records.

This had proved an excellent holiday; the hotels had all been comfortable (to be fair, the Abdij van Dokkum rather surpassed mere comfort!) and the food had been uniformly good. The weather had almost without exception been extremely kind to us, with sunny days and blue skies on 6 of the 8 days, and only a little drizzle on one afternoon. As for the birding, we were impressed with the sheer numbers of wildfowl; the flocks of thousands of Barnacle Geese, in particular, will be an outstanding memory of this trip. It was great to have really good looks at Eiders, Mergansers and Goosanders, which are hard to find in our area. We were surprised by the lack of small birds, and I found the low numbers of wild swans (and total lack of Bewick’s) to be not what I was expecting – and with all that water, we only saw one Kingfisher the whole week! Bird of the trip was undoubtedly the White-tailed Eagle, although I much enjoyed the Goshawk, Great Grey Shrike, Hawfinch and Willow Tit as well, and the flocks of Snow Bunting and Twite were nice to see. We voted our favourite site to be Oostvaardesplassen, though Lauwersmeer and the Delta Region were pretty productive too. In short, we enjoyed the holiday very much, and by the end of it, were already considering a return trip in 2009 – to Texel, maybe?

Contact information FlevoBirdwatching: www.birdsnetherlands.nl email: flevobirdwatching@gmail.com

Species Lists

Red throated Diver Gavia stellata
On crossing Dover-Calais

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Widespread, but particularly abundant in Zeeland

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Widespread; largest flock 500 at Brauwersdam

Black-necked Grebe Tachybaptus nigricollis
1 in Zeeland

Northern gannet Morus bassanus
On Channel crossing, good numbers flying and on sea

Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Widespread in good numbers

Little egret Egretta garzetta
1 in Zeeland, and also seen in Belgium

Great White egret Egretta alba
About 20 seen at Oostvaardesplassen (where there are 80 breeding pairs)

Grey heron Ardea cinerea
Widespread, good numbers

White stork Ciconia ciconia
2 seen from A4 motorway at Leiden. Perhaps remnants of a reintroduction which have lost the migratory urge.

Spoonbill Platelea leucorodia
3 at Schelphoek and surrounding area, Zeeland

Mute swan Cygnus olor
2 at Krammersluisen, Zeeland. A few at Oostvaardesplassen. Small flocks in Friesland. Generally much scarcer than in Britain.

Whooper swan Cygnus cygnus
About 10 at Oostvaardesplassen. (No Bewick’s Swans were seen on this trip)

Pink-footed goose Anser brachyrynchus
Schipol area, at Oosterleek (en route to Enkhuizen), and at Oostvaardesplassen. In small groups of up to ten birds.

White-fronted goose Anser albifrons
Oostvaardesplassen. Fields south of Anjum (Lauwersmeer). Often in mixed flocks with Greylags, although in lower numbers.

Greylag goose Anser anser
Widespread. Large flocks in Zeeland, particularly at Koudekerke, and Overflakkee, Oostvaardesplassen, Lauwersmeer. As in Britain the wild or feral status of this species is uncertain. Winter numbers are much higher, so ‘wild’ birds must be involved, but large numbers of feral birds are present throughout the year.

Canada goose Branta canadensis
A few birds at Krammersluisen, and at Oosterleek

Barnacle goose Branta leucopsis
Probably 50,000+. Largest flocks were at Koudekerke and Schelphoek, Zeeland, and in the fields south of Anjum, Friesland. This was the defining species of the trip.

Brent goose Branta bernicla
20 at Neeltje Jans, Zeeland. Small numbers at Schelphoek. All birds observed were of the dark-bellied nominate subspecies.

Egyptian goose Alopochen aegyptiacus
Mostly in pairs, seen in each region and much commoner than in the UK.

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Not in great numbers. Seen in Belgium, and at Oostvaardesplassen, Lauwersmeer, Holwerd

Eurasian wigeon Anas penelope
Widespread and numerous, in all regions visited – estimated flock of over 5000 at Oosterleek

Gadwall Anas strepera
In relatively small numbers, at Goesmeer, Oostvorne, Oosterleek, Oostvaardesplassen, on the Waddensee, Lauwersmeer, Oye Plage

Teal Anas crecca
Flocks at Schelphoek, Oostvaardesplassen, Lauwersmeer

Mallard Anas platyrinchos
Widespread and numerous in all the regions

Northern pintail Anas acuta
Schelphoek, Oostvaardesplassen, Lepelaarsplassen

Northern shoveler Anas clypeata
Schelphoek, Oostvaardesplassen, Lepelaarsplassen, Lauwersmeer – not large numbers

Pochard Aythya fernia
Widespread. Largest flock at Oostvorne, numbering over 1000

Tufted duck Aythya fuligula
Widespread and numerous, in large flocks. Largest flock north of Enkhuizen, probably 1500. Many hundreds on sea from the Ijselmeer/Waddensee road bridge

Greater scaup Aythya marila
1 male and 1 female, north of Enkhuizen

Common eider Somateria mollissima
6 male and 6 female at Neeltje Jans. Small flock at Lauwershaven

Common goldeneye Bucephala clangula
12 at Neeltje Jans, drakes displaying. Brouwersdam, Oostvaardesplassen, Lepelaarsplassen, Lauwersmeer

Smew Mergus albellus
Schelphoek, Oostvaardesplassen, Lepelaarsplassen, Lauwersmeer – up to 12 at each site. A much commoner duck than in England.

Red-breasted merganser Mergus serrator
Largely seen in Zeeland, at Goesmeer, Neeltje Jans (over 20), Brouwersdam, Oostvorne. Also seen at Lauwershaven. Common and widespread.

Goosander Mergus merganser
Not seen in Zeeland. Small numbers at Oostvaardesplassen and Lauwershaven. Much less numerous than the preceding species.

White-tailed eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
2 adult, 1 juvenile at Oostvaardesplassen; 1 juvenile at Lauwersmeer. The highlight of the trip. White-tailed eagles are present all year round at Oostvaardesplassen and in winter at Lauwersmeer. We probably observed all the individuals (4) present in the country. That is unless there were others on Texel….

Common buzzard Buteo buteo
Widespread and plentiful, particularly in the Lauwersmeer region, but seen every day in good numbers. Many individuals were very pale, and in two cases almost white. These are thought to be first-winter birds from the Scandinavian breeding population.

Rough-legged buzzard Buteo lagopus
1 at Oostvaardesplassen on two different days. Several pale common buzzards were considered as candidates for this species, but were fairly quickly rejected, but these two white-tailed birds were clearly RLBs.

Northern goshawk Accipiter gentillis
1 at Oostvaardesplassen

Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
1 near Oostvaardesplassen. A very scarce bird in the Netherlands.

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus
Single birds in Overflakkee, Oostvorne, Lauwersmeer (always in reedbed habitat). Most of the substantial breeding population move south for the winter, unlike the British population which is sedentary.

Hen harrier Circus cyaneus
Male and ringtail at Oostvaardesplassen, ringtail at Lauwersmeer

Common kestrel Falco tinunculus
Widespread and numerous throughout.

Peregrine Falco peregrinus
1 along the sluices at Neelte Jans (Zeeland) one confiding bird on a pylon at Oostvaardesplassen

Partridge sp. – most probably red-legged, Alectoris rufa, seen en route through France

Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
Good numbers in the Delta region

Water rail Rallus aquaticus
Heard – at Oostvaardesplassen

Moorhen Gallinula chloripus
Widespread, in small numbers, in suitable habitats

Coot Fulica atra
Widespread and numerous, in suitable habitats

Common crane Grus grus
1 flying bird observed from the car near Oostvaardesplassen

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
In fields and on grassy edges. Small numbers at Goesmeer. Neeltje Jans, Grevelingendam, Schelphoek, shore of the Waddensee, Lauwershaven

Pied avocet Recurvivostra avosetta
Two flocks of over 500 birds in each flock at Schelphoek, from the road and from the hide

Common ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula
1 bird seen at Schelphoek

European golden plover Pluvialis apricaria
At Oostvaardesplassen, and in Friesland, in large flocks with lapwings

Grey plover Pluvialis squatarola
In small numbers at Neeltje Jans and Grevelingendam

Northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Abundant and widespread. Large flocks throughout all regions (in Friesland together with Golden plover)

Dunlin Calidris alpina
A few birds at Schelphoek and Oostvaardesplassen

Ruff Philomachus pugnax
A few birds at Schelphoek

Common snipe Gallinago gallinago
Several at Lepelaarsplassen; about 80 at Oostvaardesdijk

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
1 seen in fields in Overflakkee

Curlew Numenius arquata
Goesmeer, Grevelingendam, Schelphoek (flocks of hundreds), Lauwersmeer (in fields), Holwerd

Redshank Tringa totanus
A few at Goesmeer. The scarcity of this species was a great surprise. Perhaps the reduction in inter-tidal mud following the isolation of the Isjelmeer is responsible.

Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
1 at Schelphoek, 1 at Oostvaardesplassen

Turnstone Arenaria interpres
A few at Goesmeer, Neeltje Jans, and at Lauwershaven

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Widespread, seen in each region in good numbers

Common Gull Larus canus
Goesmeer, Oostvorne, Oostvaardesplassen

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
En route, through France

Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Widespread, found in each region

Yellow-legged Gull Larus cacchinans
1 on beach at Oostvorne

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
On the crossing; Schelphoek; Lauwershaven

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla
Many on the Channel crossing

Guillemot Uria aalge
Many on the Channel crossing

Stock dove Columba oenas
In small numbers, Overflakkee and Oostvaardesplassen, en route to Dokkum

Woodpigeon Columba palumbus
Seen in each region in small numbers. This species seem not to occur in such plague proportions as in England!

Collared dove Streptopelia decaocto
Seen in each region in very small numbers

Common kingfisher Alcedo atthis
1 at Lepelaarsplassen

Green woodpecker Picus viridis
1 at Dunkerque, France

Great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major
1 heard drumming at Oostvaardesplassen; 1 seen at Lauwersmeer

Skylark Alauda arvensis
1 at Neeltje Jans

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
A few at Lepelaarsplassen

White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba
1 at Oostvaardesplassen

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
1 heard at Oostvaardesplassen, 1 seen at Lepelaarsplassen

Dunnock (Hedge Accentor) Prunella modularis
2 at Brauwersdam, 1 at Oostvoorne, 1 at Oostvaardesplassen

Robin Erithacus rebecula
1 at Brauwersdam, 1 at Oostvorne, 1 at Oostvaardesplassen

Blackbird Turdus merula
1 at Brauwersdam, 1 at Oostvaardesplassen, 2 at Lauwersmeer

Fieldfare Turdus pilaris
A flock of about 20-25 at Lauwersmeer

Redwing Turdus iliacus
1 in Dunkerque, France

Mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus
1 at Oostvaardesplassen

Goldcrest Regulus regulus
2 at Oostvaardesplassen

Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus
2 at Lauwersmeer

Willow tit Parus montanus
1 heard, 2 seen at Oostvaardesplassen

Blue tit Parus caeruleus
1 at Oostvorne, 1 at Oostvaardesplassen, 1 at Lauwersmeer

Great tit Parus major
3 at Brauwersdam, 1 at Krammersluisen, 1 at Oosterleek, 1 at Oostvorne, 1 near Enkhuizen, 2 at Oostvaardesplassen, 2 at Lauwersmeer, plus others at unnamed woodland stop for lunch. Generally the commonest and most widespread of the tit family

Short-toed treecreeper Certhia brachydactylla
2 at Oostvaardesplassen

Great grey shrike Lanius excubitor
Single birds seen in the same area at Oostvaardesplassen on two separate days

Eurasian jay Garrulus glandarius
1 at Oostvaardesplassen, 1 at Dunkerque

Magpie Pica pica
Seen en route in each region, plus at Brauwersdam, Oostvaardesplassen

Eurasian jackdaw Corvus monedula
Widespread, in small numbers

Rook Corvus frugilegus
A small rookery at Anjum in Friesland contained the only birds seen on this trip. The scarcity of groups of mature trees no doubt accounts for the rarity of this species.

Carrion Crow Corvus corone corone
Widespread and common. Perhaps the solitary nesting Carrion crow can exploit the odd tree here and there better than its communally-nesting relative.

Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix
Flock at Lauwersmeer, with Carrion Crows

Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Widespread and abundant.

House sparrow Passer domesticus
Hardly any! 5 at Oosterleek, 3 at the hotel Abdij van Dokkum

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Another passerine species notable for its scarcity. 2 at Oostvaardesplassen, 2 at Lauwersmeer

Greenfinch Chloris chloris
1 at Oostvaardesplassen, 1 at Lauwersmeer

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
1 heard at Oostvaardesplassen by Rik Feije, plus 1 very briefly glimpsed at Dunkerque

Twite Carduelis flavirostris
Flock of 20 at Holwerd

Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
1 at Lepelaarsplassen

Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis
Flock of 18-20 at Lauwershaven

Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus
1 at Oostvaardesplassen