On his way back from a meeting in Eastern Europe, Bill wanted to see some of Hollands birding highlights. He considered renting a car and driving to the birding areas himself, but after looking at the Birding Holland website (www.birdingholland.com), he concluded that going on a private tour would be comparable in price, but much better in experience.
Birding Holland suggested an itinerary for Bill based on his target birds and also suggested a conveniently located hotel. They agreed on a full day of birding in the Oostvaardersplassen and a few hours the next morning in the airport surroundings, because Bill had to catch a flight home at 1 PM.
Bob is a very experienced birder and he had visited Europe several times before, so there were only a few target birds on his list:
- Purple Heron
- Eurasian Spoonbills
- Marsh Harrier
- Montagu's Harrier
- Spotted Crake
- Tawny Owl
- Little Owl
- Bearded Reedling
- Pied Avocet
Some of these birds (Montagu's Harrier, Spotted Crake and Tawny Owl) had either already migrated south or were not possible on this itinerary, so the focus was on the other birds.
The weather was extremely difficult for birding the first day: very strong winds with almost continuous rain. The second day was slightly better, but still had some heavy rain showers. The temperature ranged from 15º to 20º Centigrade (58 to 68 Fahrenheit). As a result it proved impossible to find a large number of species, but we still managed to see over 100 species, including some rare ones!
Because Bill was in between flights, Birding Holland suggested a hotel that was both close to the airport and conveniently located for the pick-up and drop-off.
All logistics were taken care of by Pieter, the owner and one of the guides of Birding Holland. Bill arrived on his own at the hotel after a short train ride and was met by Pieter upon arrival. Pieter suggested that, instead of going to the Oostvaardersplassen, it would probably be a good idea to change the itinerary and to go birding in one of Holland's rarity hotspots, the Maasvlakte, because a lot of hard to find birds had been seen in that area during the past days. Bill agreed to go there and they also agreed on a pick-up time for the next morning. Remco, one of the other guides of Birding Holland (www.birdingholland.com/aboutus) would join them for the trip to the Maasvlakte. With a return flight at 1PM the second day, Bill only had a few hours available for birding. The birding on this day was spent looking for birds we had missed the first day, as well as some birds that were not possible the first day.
Sunday, September 7th 2008
Pick up at the hotel at 6.15 AM and drive to the Maasvlakte, close to Rotterdam. Our first target for today is a couple of Dotterels that had been reported in this area over the past few days. Upon arrival it is raining and very windy and it becomes clear that finding birds today will be a challenge. After a short walk through the area Remco finds the Dotterels, an adult and a juvenile, and puts them in the scope for excellent views.
In spite of the weather the area is heavily birded and several people are birding different parts of this huge area. Walking back to the car we pick up a Wheatear and when talking on where to go next, Remco gets a phone call from another birder, telling him he has found a Greater Whitethroat and a Common Redstart close by. These birds are in a small row of little bushes, but still prove to be challenging to find. The Common Redstart is the first one to show, and a little bit later the Greater Whitethroat, Bill's first lifer of the day, is seen as well.
Our good contacts with the other birders prove to be very rewarding: we receive a call about an Ortolan Bunting nearby. After picking up two Whinchats and a couple of Eiders, we quickly relocate to the area where the Ortolan Bunting has been seen. Unfortunately the bird was flushed just before we arrive and can now be anywhere in the area. A Merlin chasing a long-tailed buff-breasted probable bunting, which might very well have been the Ortolan Bunting, fails to catch it and then turns its attention to a Meadow Pipit. First we follow the spectacular chase of the Merlin, then, with 3 other birders, we set out for the place where the probable Ortolan Bunting landed, but unfortunately we fail to locate the bird.
Remco and Bill continue walking through the area while Pieter gets the car to pick them up at the other end. The long walk has only yielded Linnet, Sky Lark and a Garden Warbler and by now things start to look grim: heavy winds, strong rain and only 10 species of birds in more than 2 hours of intense birding. We decide to relocate to another part of the Maasvlakte, looking for birds on the way. A hot cup of coffee with some snacks while looking for a Wryneck gives us a more positive look on things again and a when we notice a small group of Eurasian Spoonbills, another lifer for Bill, we are in good shape again.
A vantage point overlooking the sea and a sandy beach, looks very promising, especially when we are told that an adult Pomarine Jaeger has been seen 5 minutes before our arrival. It has started raining again and being directly on the coast, where the wind is so strong that looking through the telescope is almost impossible, we have to spend half an hour in a hide, waiting for the rain to stop. Even though the Pomarine Jaeger never resurfaces, the waiting is fruitful with two hunting Parasitic Jaegers, an Osprey, a Black Tern, some distant Harbour Seals and a group of Sandwich Terns.
Enough is enough, and as this weather is getting the better of us, we decide to go to a small wetland, a little bit more inland, where the wind should be less. Upon arrival at the site we find the wind is indeed not as strong as before, but the rain is just as bad. While hiding under our umbrellas we scope the area and find waders like Red Knot, Ruff, Common Sandpiper, Dunlin and Northern Lapwing. When we hear Long-tailed Tits calling in the woodland behind us we walk there, finding not only the Long-tailed Tits, but Great and Blue Tits, Chiffchaffs and a Kingfisher as well. In the meantime one of Bill's target birds, Pied Avocet, has appeared in the wetland, allowing for excellent views.
On our way to the next stop that is to be the most important site for the day, Bill picks up a Peregrine Falcon, a good bird for today. Fortunately the rain has stopped and we can see a large feeding flock of Common Terns, Black Terns and Black-headed Gulls. After parking the car we climb the dike to see what birds are present at the other side. When Bill first sees the tidal mudflat area where there are literally thousands of birds (the conservative estimate we made is well over 25.000 birds!) it takes him a while to catch his breath again, what a site! The site is a feeding and roosting area for waders, gulls and terns and we are able to add birds like Eurasian Curlew, European Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover, Kentish Plover, Greater Black-backed Gull, Little Gull, Little Tern, Eurasian Shelduck, Greater Scaup, Goosander and Bar-tailed Godwit.
Our route then 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. In spite of the strong wind there are a lot of people here, mostly out at sea windsurfing, so they don't interfere with our birding. On the rocks we are able to find birds like Ruddy Turnstone, Common Ringed Plover, Sanderling, and Eurasian Oystercatcher. In winter this area is very good for Purple Sandpiper and Long-tailed Duck (they have not returned from their breeding grounds yet) and grebes. It is possible to see 5 species of grebe here in winter, but we also do very well, with four species: Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, a summer plumage Red-necked Grebe and an Eared Grebe.
Because we still haven't seen many songbirds we decide to drive back and take a walk to a hide where we expect some songbirds during the walk and some ducks and waders from the hide. We start with a number of Tufted Ducks on the creek and two minutes into the walk a Cetti's Warbler bursts out with its explosive song and Bill even manages to get a glimpse of this rare and skulking warbler. Other songbirds during the walk are Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Winter Wren and from the hide we are able to add Green Sandpiper and an adult female Marsh Harrier to our list and we realize we will have seen a respectable number of species at the end of the day.
Before the day is over however, we still have some sites to visit and the first stop has Barnacle Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose present. Crossing the road, we walk to a hide that is well known for seeing Osprey in August and September. When we reach the hide we don't see any Ospreys, but we do see a large group of Eurasian Spoonbills nearby and a nice juvenile Marsh Harrier eating a prey on the ground. While admiring the Marsh Harrier an Osprey comes in, eating a fish and flying off a few minutes later, and best of all, an European Kingfisher perches on a stick only 20 feet from the hide, staying there for several minutes, allowing us to appreciate every detail of the bird, even the rarely seen barring on top of the head.
When driving back to the hotel, Remco does a quick count and mentions we have seen over 90 species today. Nobody would have guessed that many birds after the first 3 hours of birding this morning!
After a nice warm diner we try for two more birds, Little Owl, which we fail to see as this bird is notoriously difficult to find in strong winds, and White Stork, a bird Bill has only seen during his childhood. We do see the Stork standing on the nest, but the light is fading, so we decide to try again for these two birds tomorrow.
Monday, September 8th 2008
Because Bill has a 1PM flight to the US, we have to be at the airport at 10.30 AM, leaving only three and a half hours to go birding. After picking up Bill at 7 AM we drive to a wetland area about 5 minutes from the hotel. This area can be good for songbirds, waders and ducks and we quickly hear a European Robin calling. Because of the heavy rainfall the water level is too high for any waders, but we do find a Garganey in eclipse plumage, a trip bird. The adjacent farm has some post-breeding Stock Pigeons that we get excellent views of.
On our way to a site for Purple Heron we pass the Little Owl site again, but unfortunately the bird is nowhere to be found. The drive through the typical Dutch landscape is very nice and when we arrive at the site for Purple Heron we are almost immediately rewarded when Pieter spots a late juvenile bird, sitting at the side of the road. Most Purple Herons have left Holland by now, but fortunately we still manage to find one. Amazingly, only one minute after having seen the juvenile bird, Bill picks up an adult Purple Heron, giving excellent views!
A quick stop at a good site for Red-crested Pochard indeed yields this species, but the birds are incredibly far away and the views aren't exactly great, but when we drive to our final stop one single Red-crested Pochard is swimming in a canal next to the road, giving excellent views. The site itself is crammed with birds, mostly Greylag Geese, but we are also able to add a few trip birds like Wood Sandpiper, Little Egret and Black-tailed Godwit and we get excellent looks of flying Eurasian Spoonbills and feeding Common Snipes.
When walking back to the car we see two White Storks feeding in the meadow. When they relocate to another field, they soar overhead and we get perfect views of this magnificent bird! After a 20 minute drive we arrive at the airport and Bill is dropped off at the check-in counter for his flight home.
1. Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
2. Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena
3. Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
4. Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
5. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
6. Gray Heron Ardea cinerea
7. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
8. Great Egret Ardea alba
9. Little Egret Egretta garzetta
10. White Stork Ciconia ciconia
11. Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
12. Mute Swan Cygnus olor
13. Greater White-fronted Goose Anser albifrons
14. Greylag Goose Anser anser
15. Canada Goose Branta canadensis
16. Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis
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. Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
25. Common Pochard Aythya ferina
26. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
27. Greater Scaup Aythya marila
28. Common Eider Somateria mollissima
29. Common Merganser Mergus merganser
30. Osprey Pandion haliaetus
31. Western Marsh-Harrier Circus aeruginosus
32. Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
33. Eurasian Buzzard Buteo buteo
34. Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
35. Merlin Falco columbarius
36. Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
37. Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
38. Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
39. Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
40. Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
41. Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
42. Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
43. Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
44. Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
45. Eurasian Dotterel Charadrius morinellus
46. Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
47. Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
48. Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
49. Common Redshank Tringa totanus
50. Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
51. Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
52. Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
53. Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
54. Red Knot Calidris canutus
55. Sanderling Calidris alba
56. Dunlin Calidris alpina
57. Ruff Philomachus pugnax
58. Parasitic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus
59. Mew Gull Larus canus
60. Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
61. Herring Gull Larus argentatus
62. Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus graellsii
63. Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
64. Little Gull Larus minutus
65. Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
66. Common Tern Sterna hirundo
67. Little Tern Sterna albifrons
68. Black Tern Chlidonias niger
69. Stock Pigeon Columba oenas
70. Common Wood-Pigeon Columba palumbus
71. Eurasian Collared-Dove Streptopelia decaocto
72. Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
73. Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
74. Sky Lark Alauda arvensis
75. Bank Swallow Riparia riparia
76. Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
77. House Martin Delichon urbica
78. White Wagtail Motacilla alba
79. Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis
80. Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes Heard only
81. Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula
82. Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
83. Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
84. Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla Heard only
85. Garden Warbler Sylvia borin
86. Greater Whitethroat Sylvia communis
87. European Robin Erithacus rubecula Heard only
88. Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
89. Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
90. Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
91. Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
92. Great Tit Parus major
93. Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
94. Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
95. Eurasian Magpie Pica pica
96. Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula
97. Carrion Crow Corvus corone
98. European Starling Sturnus vulgaris
99. House Sparrow Passer domesticus
100. Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
101. Eurasian Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Introduced or escaped species (not countable):
102. Black Swan Cygnus atratus
103. Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus
104. Ring-necked Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
European Hare Lepus europaeus
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina
© Birding Holland 2008