Netherlands - Oostvaardersplassen and Zeeland - August 18th and 19th 2008

Published by Pieter van der Luit (Pieter AT

Participants: Pieter van der Luit



While visiting their daughter in the Netherlands, Bob and Ione wanted to go birding for a few days. They didn't want to drive themselves, nor did they want to browse the internet for birding locations in the Netherlands, so Bob started looking for a birding company that could provide a hassle free trip and found Birding Holland (
Bob contacted Birding Holland and explained what he had in mind for their birding trip. Pieter, the owner of Birding Holland, suggested an itinerary for them and agreed to pick them up and drop them off at their daughter's house.

Target birds

Bob and Ione wanted to get a taste of the Dutch bird life without having any specific target birds.


The weather was rather wet on the first day and very windy with heavy showers on the second day. The temperature ranged from 18º to 21º Centigrade (65 to 71 Fahrenheit). In spite of this rather difficult weather for birding we managed to see no less than 112 species!


Since they were staying with their daughter, Bob and Ione only used one conveniently located hotel at the end of the first day in Alphen aan den Rijn.


All logistics were taken care of by Pieter, the owner and one of the guides of Birding Holland ( Bob and Ione were picked up at their daughter's house in Barneveld on the first morning and from there they drove to the Oostvaardersplassen. At the end of the day Pieter took them to a hotel in Alphen aan den Rijn, a 10 minute drive from their final birding location for that day.

The second day took them to the province of Zeeland in the south-west of the country, visiting several sites along the way. A short detour took them to a forested area in the central part of the country, where Bob and Ione could enjoy some of the forest birds specialities of Holland, before returning to their daughter's house, just 20 minutes away.


Monday, August 18th 2008

Pick up in Barneveld by Pieter at 6.30 AM and drive to the Oostvaardersplassen. Upon arrival at the first stop, the rain is still coming down heavily, so we decide to have a cup of coffee first. A good decision, because after about 10 minutes it stops raining so we can have a relaxed walk to the vantage point. The walk itself is not very productive, with only Winter Wren, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Gadwall and Eurasian Reed Warbler, but the vantage point doesn't disappoint us.

Birds like Herring Gull, Common Redshank, Great Crested Grebe, Greylag Goose and Northern Shoveler are all present and allow for good views. The best bird possible in this area is the world's second largest raptor, White-tailed Eagle, that has been breeding here for a few years.

While scanning the treeline in the distance, Pieter finds one of these magnificent birds sitting in top of a tree. The bird, a juvenile, is apparently drying itself after the rain and doesn't want to move. Even though the bird is perched quite far away, it is still possible to appreciate the huge size of the bird.

Because we have found our target bird for today at the first stop, Pieter decides to go the northern end of the reserve to look for gulls and terns that may be present there. After a short drive we stop at the first stop on the dike where we see a House Martin and Bank Swallow as we get out of the car and surprisingly, also a Common Swift, a bird that should be gone by now.

Across the road there is a small rocky island where a lot of birds nest. We see Common Tern, Black Tern, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Stock Pigeon, Common Sandpiper and the largest gull in the world, Greater Black-backed Gull. At close range Linnet, White Wagtail and Yellow Wagtail are showing off well, allowing us to take several good pictures of them.

When Pieter hears Bearded Reedling calling, we cross the road and look for them in the reeds, but the birds remain hidden. Amazingly we do find the two adult White-tailed Eagles, and much closer than the juvenile we had seen earlier. The lighter colour and their white tails are very well visible at this distance.

Our next stop is at the visitor's centre where there is a hide which usually has some Spoonbills close by. We are not disappointed, because one is only two meters away! On the island in front of the hide, several Northern Shovelers and European Goldfinches are also very well visible.

While it is still dry we decide to take a walk into the reserve. The birds are not cooperating at first, but as we get to the second part of the reserve they start appearing: Spotted Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Willow Tit, Great Tit, Winter Wren and a female Blackcap are all present and add to our list.

After a quick stop for House Sparrow (becoming increasingly difficult to find in Holland) and White Stork, we drive to the southern end of the reserve where Pieter has a site for European Kingfisher. The bird is very much hidden behind some vegetation, but when Pieter tells Ione where to look, she can't believe how pretty and cooperative this bird is. It instantly becomes her bird of the trip!

Our last stop in the Oostvaardersplassen is a vantage point overlooking the reserve. It is also a good place to enjoy lunch while looking at the hundreds of wild horses and large groups of Red Deer. The only new bird for today's list here is a common sight for Bob and Ione: Canada Goose. What should have been a 45 minute drive to our next site, turns out to be twice as long because we get stuck in a traffic jam caused by an accident ahead of us. When we finally get to the site, we are not disappointed however. This newly formed wetland is as always teeming with birds, mostly ducks and waders: Common Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Ruff, Northern Lapwing, Common Redshank, Gargeney, Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Eurasian Spoonbill, Common Pochard and Marsh Harrier make this a very productive stop.

On our way to the final stop for today Pieter decides to spend some time to look for the beautiful Purple Heron. There is a large breeding colony not too far out of the way and this opportunity is too good to pass, even though it will probably take some time before we see one flying overhead. When we enter the reserve Ione first spots another European Kingfisher and shortly after that finds a Purple Heron standing in the reeds closeby! Another productive stop and it has only cost us a few minutes.

The last stop for today is a stake-out for Little Owl. The trees the birds are usually in have been pruned so it takes a little searching before we find one. Even though the bird is only seen in flight, it still is a very good bird to end the day with!

After a short drive Pieter drops off Bob and Ione at their hotel and they agree on a pick-up time for tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 19th 2008

Pick-up at 06.30 AM. One of the first birds we see is a miss from yesterday: Lesser Black-backed Gull. On our way to our first stop we add European Kestrel and White Stork to the list.

Our first stop is a small, newly formed wetland in the northern part of the province of Zeeland. On the shores and in the shallow waters there are a few waders like Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and Northern Lapwing. Because of a construction crew working next to the reserve there are fewer birds here than expected, so we quickly relocate to the other side of the reserve, where we add Little Ringed Plover and Ruddy Shelduck, a rare migrant.

A giant tidal mudflat area where there are literally thousands of birds is our next stop. The area is a roosting place for waders, gulls and terns and we are able to add Eurasian Curlew, European Oystercatcher, Little Tern, Dunlin, Black-bellied Plover and Eurasian Golden Plover. Unfortunately a strong wind is blowing and we have to move on to the next site.

Our route takes us to the Brouwersdam, one of the dams that was created as part of the Delta Works. The dam is a barrier between the North Sea on one side and the large Grevelingen Lake on the other side, preventing the sea from coming in during storms. Because of the strong wind there are very few people here, a huge advantage because now we can easily find birds like Common Eider, Ruddy Turnstone, Common Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Eurasian Oystercatcher and Whimbrel.

A nature development area close by has a lot of birds present, but a limited number of species: Barnacle Goose, Dunlin, Egyptian Goose, Eurasian Spoonbill and Greylag Goose. A hide at the other side of the reserve finally gives us Pied Avocet, a bird that has sofar been missing today.

A viewpoint overlooking some inland lakes and wetlands has Red Knot, Common Tern, Eurasian Wigeon and Spotted Redshank. Our lunch stop is a short drive away, overlooking a grassy area resembling arctic tundra. No arctic birds here, but no wind either because we are sheltered from the wind by a dike. Apparently dikes can block more than just water!

Because the wind is still blowing and it has started to rain as well, we decide to leave the province of Zeeland to try our luck inland, where there should be less wind. On our way there we have two more stops, one for Eared Grebe (which we find close to the car between two heavy showers) and one for Greater White-fronted Goose. This bird has a broken wing from being shot and can't follow the other geese on their way north in spring. We are able to spot the bird quickly and unexpectedly also see another Purple Heron fly over.

Our drive to the central part of the Netherlands is in constant rain, but fortunately it stops a few minutes before we reach our final stop for this trip, a woodland area with some forest birds. Without any doubt the best bird here is a Tawny Owl which has a roost in the area. After some careful searching we are able to get good views of this bird, which is apparently not disturbed by our presence.

After having enjoyed this very difficult to find bird we make a short walk in the area and are lucky enough to find a small feeding flock with birds we have not seen before on this trip: European Nuthatch, Willow Warbler, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit. Realizing how very fortunate we have been with this flock we stop birding and walk back to the car, only to be surprised by the last addition to our list, a European Robin sitting in a garden, just two meters away!

© Birding Holland 2008

Multiple day tours

Day tour Oostvaardersplassen

Previous trip reports

Species Lists

1. Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
2. Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
3. Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
4. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
5. Gray Heron Ardea cinerea
6. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
7. Great Egret Ardea alba
8. Little Egret Egretta garzetta
9. White Stork Ciconia ciconia
10. Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
11. Mute Swan Cygnus olor
12. Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons
13. Greylag Goose Anser anser
14. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
15. Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis
16. Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
17. Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
18. Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope
19. Gadwall Anas strepera
20. Eurasian Teal Anas crecca
21. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
22. Garganey Anas querquedula
23. Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
24. Common Pochard Aythya ferina
25. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
26. Common Eider Somateria mollissima
27. White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
28. Western Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus
29. Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo
30. Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
31. Water Rail Rallus aquaticus Heard only
32. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
33. Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
34. Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
35. Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
36. Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
37. Eurasian Golden-Plover Pluvialis apricaria
38. Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
39. Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
40. Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
41. Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
42. Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
43. Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
44. Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
45. Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
46. Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
47. Common Redshank Tringa totanus
48. Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
49. Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
50. Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
51. Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
52. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
53. Red Knot Calidris canutus
54. Sanderling Calidris alba
55. Dunlin Calidris alpina
56. Ruff Philomachus pugnax
57. Mew Gull Larus canus
58. Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
59. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
60. Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus graellsii
61. Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
62. Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
63. Common Tern Sterna hirundo
64. Little Tern Sterna albifrons
65. Black Tern Chlidonias niger
66. Stock Pigeon Columba oenas
67. Common Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus
68. Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
69. Tawny Owl Strix aluco
70. Little Owl Athene noctua
71. Common Swift Apus apus
72. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
73. Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
74. Bank Swallow Riparia riparia
75. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
76. House Martin Delichon urbica
77. White Wagtail Motacilla alba
78. Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
79. Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
80. Goldcrest Regulus regulus
81. Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
82. Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula
83. Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
84. Eurasian Reed-Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
85. Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
86. Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
87. Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
88. Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
89. European Robin Erithacus rubecula
90. Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus Heard only
91. Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
92. Willow Tit Poecile montana
93. Coal Tit Periparus ater
94. Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus
95. Great Tit Parus major
96. Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
97. Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
98. Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
99. Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
100. Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
101. Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula
102. Carrion Crow Corvus corone
103. European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
104. House Sparrow Passer domesticus
105. Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
106. European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
107. European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
108. Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina

Introduced or escaped species (not countable):
109. Black Swan Cygnus atratus
110. Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus
111. Ring-necked Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
112. Ring-necked Parakeet Psitticula krameri

European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
European Hare Lepus europaeus
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes
Red Deer Cervus elaphus
Konik Horse - Introduced
Heck Cattle - Introduced

© Birding Holland 2008