Written by Wouter Teunissen

Today´s fellowship: Menno van Duijn, Sander Pieterse, Kasper Hendriks & Wouter Teunissen

Thousands of birds….. The Dutch Delta is impressive even during the winter! The islands of the Dutch provinces Zuid-Holland and Zeeland house many different birding hotspots. It’s so crowded with birds and good habitats that it is hard to make the right choices, where to stop and where not to stop? There are mudflats and saltwater swamps with waders and egrets, meadows and fields with geese and swans, vast areas of water with ducks, shrubs and reed beds with passerines and raptors and of course there is the sea. Without a car this part of the Netherlands is not that easy to access: public transport does not cover the good birding areas and visiting the area by bicycle (normally a good way of transport in the Netherlands) is not recommended. The area is very open, windy and cold, birds flee when seeing pedestrians or bicycles and distances between the areas can be large. It’s also not the best area to visit when doing only a photography tour. This trip is more for enjoying scenery and use of telescope. When getting a big list of birds in a short period is your goal, this is the area you should visit! For Dutch birdwatchers the islands (most of them are nowadays connected by bridges) are one of the main birding destinations.

We leave from Leiden, where we start with Peregrine Falcon, White Stork. On the way to The Hague - where we have to pick up two other birding friends - we tick some more birds. It’s already 8:30h in the morning… late for a birdwatcher, but okay in the Netherlands in winter ( most birds also start a little later than usual in this time of the year).

Our first destination is Sint Philipsland. West of this village is a dike where it´s possible to have good views of the surroundings. We make sure not to run to the top of the dike, because it is a good spot for resting geese and waders. We see a large group of Oystercatchers, some Redshanks, Dunlins, a Curlew, Ruddy Turnstones all sitting on the stones of the dike. On the water and on the mudflats with Common Cord-grass are many Brent Geese. A group of 8 Red-breasted Geese were recently reported on this spot, but we can’t find them. We do however find a Black Brant (Branta nigricans), a rare species In the Netherlands. The list continues to grow. A pair of Ruff fly by, on the water are groups of Northern Pintails, some Common Shelducks, Eurasian Wigeons, Northern Shovelers, Eurasian Teals, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser.

When watching the fields and meadows on the inner side of the dike, Kasper finds a Red-breasted Goose flying in a large flock of Barnacle Geese. In the distance the flock seems to land, so we decide to get back in the car and try to find the group, to get better views of the Red-breasted Goose. Within ten minutes we find a large group of Barnacle Geese on a small lake. With our binoculars we don’t see a Red-breasted goose, but we are pretty sure this was the group that the bird joined, so we get our telescopes and scan the group. And yes! There’s the bird! We find the group very alert and pretty soon they fly off. We don’t understand why they were so wary, it couldn’t be they were scared of us, because we kept quite some distance. Then we find out that probably the combination of a birdwatcher not being so cautious as we were and some hunters walking along a road caused the birds to fly off.

We have more plans for today, so we head for our next destination. Along the route we find an abandoned farm and we decide to stop and check for Barnowl. Although the place looks perfect, we don’t find a bird nor traces of an owl. We do however get a Green Woodpecker. A short stop in the harbour of Sint Philipsland delivers a Greater Scaup, some Little Grebes and Little Egret.

We head for the Krammersluizen (A complex of large sluices). Along the N257 there are many waders, like Dunlins, Oystercatchers, Grey Plovers. We take a parallel road of the N257 which brings you to a large concrete watchtower at the Krammersluizen. From this road we find a very large group of Diving Ducks ( >2000 birds). These are mainly Tufted Ducks, but about 10% are Greater Scaups. One of the Scaups is a completely white bird, something none of us had ever seen. There are some interesting lichens along this road but we don’t have time to check them thoroughly. We do however find a parasitic lichen called Diploschistes muscorum, which is pretty rare in the Netherlands.

From the watchtower you have great views of the surroundings. Only one of us spots a fly by of a Eurasian Bittern, the rest misses the bird and although we try, we don’t find it back in the reeds. We scan the area with our telescopes. There are large numbers of Great Crested Grebes and Black-necked Grebes. In the distance we spot a group of Goosanders and again large groups of ducks. We miss the reported White-tailed Eagle, Great Grey Shrike and Northern Diver. In the shrub under the tower we score Chiffchaff and Firecrest. At the Krammersluizen we have some more stops (only where this is allowed and safe). We find a group of a couple of hundred Common Pochards (mainly males). This bird tends to become much scarcer in recent years, so a group of a couple of hundred birds is pretty special. In a large group of Great Crested Grebes and Black-necked Grebes, we find one Slavonian Grebe. All grebes are still in winter plumage, so sometimes not that easy to distinguish. Also Smew (a male) is present.

Battenoord is a small village with a small old style harbour at the Grevelingen lake. In winter chances are good for finding Flamingoes. Three species of flamingo are present (of which two are exotics). These birds breed in Germany close to the Dutch border and winter in the Netherlands. There are more areas in the Netherlands where this group can be seen, but Battenoord is the best spot. From the harbour there’s a path towards the lake. From this path you have great views of the Flamingoes, we find a group of 63 birds, about 2/3 are Chilean Flamingoes (and some hybrids).

Our next destination is Neeltje Jans, but before we arrive there, we have 2 stops along the way. Our first stop is a large mixed group of Tundra Bean, Greylag and Greater White-fronted Geese. Other mentionable birds are some Bewicks Swans we see while driving. The other stop is at the Prunje polder. The Prunjepolder is especially good for waders, but winter is not the best period. We discuss what to do? Continue birding in an area that is much better in spring or end of summer or go continue our trip and focus on the sea? We decide the sea is much better in winter and drive on. From the car we get Eurasian Spoonbill, Little Egret, Pied Avocet.

Neeltje Jans is an artificial island built to facilitate the construction of the Oosterschelde Dam. This Dam is the largest of the famous Dutch Delta Works. The Delta works were built after a horrendous flood in 1953, which flooded very large parts of the province Zeeland. The Oosterscheldedam is genious, it´s a large surge barrier, but it´s not closed. It has massive doors, which are normally open and only closed during a combination of high tide and storm. This construction with the doors meant the special marine life of the Oosterschelde could be maintained and protected (which would have been lost if the dam was a closed construction). Neeltje Jans with her stunnings views and the Dam with it’s impressive construction and interesting history are a must see for tourists, even without birds. But don’t worry this place also delivers. This time we only have a short visit in one of the harbours. A couple of days before a Black Guillemot was reported in this harbour, so we give it a shot. We can’t find the bird, but we do find a European Shag and a juvenile Little Gull. We check the Little Gull, but sure it’s not a juvenile Ross’Gull.. such a pity…

Because we think we can see more birds at the Brouwersdam, we leave Neeltje Jans and drive towards the Brouwersdam. It’s so hard not to stop at extremely good birding spots so when we pass a place where there’s a beautiful male Velvet Scoter, we can’t resist… let’s give it a shot! We are rewarded because apart from the Scoter, we also get a Spotted Redshank, a Common Greenshank, another Eurasian Spoonbill and a Common Guillemot. Sander finds as an extra bonus 4 beautiful Grey Partridges.

Our final destination is the Brouwersdam. This place is good for birds like typical marine ducks, grebes and divers. Along the dam on the boulders, you can find species like Grey Plover, Knot and Purple Sandpiper. It’s also a great place for spotting Grey Seal and Common Seal. When we arrive the weather has changed. It’s cold, rainy and visibility decreases quickly. Despite the weather we do see most of the species we wanted. One of the highlights are groups of Long-tailed Ducks. We count all in all around 25 birds of which one is a splendid male with its long pointed tale. Other species include Slavonian Grebe, Black Scoter, Eider, Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Purple Sandpiper.

Today we got more than 100 species, a stunning number! All this without getting up early and without really visiting a forest! The Netherlands is a great birding destination!

Nr

English name

Scientific name

1

Dunnock

Prunella modularis

2

Common Murre

Uria aalge

3

Common Reed Bunting

Emberiza schoeniclus

4

Common Kestrel

Falco tinnunculus

5

Peregrine Falcon

Falco peregrinus

6

European Shag

Phalacrocorax aristotelis

7

Great Cormorant

Phalacrocorax carbo

8

Eurasian Magpie

Pica pica

9

Carrion Crow

Corvus corone

10

Western Jackdaw

Coloeus monedula

11

Red-throated Loon

Gavia stellata

12

Black-throated Loon

Gavia arctica

13

Common Eider

Somateria mollissima

14

Common Scoter

Melanitta nigra

15

Long-tailed Duck

Clangula hyemalis

16

Velvet Scoter

Melanitta fusca

17

Bewick's Swan

Cygnus bewickii

18

Greylag Goose

Anser anser

19

Greater White-fronted Goose

Anser albifrons

20

Tundra Bean Goose

Anser serrirostris

21

Smew

Mergellus albellus

22

Common Pochard

Aythya ferina

23

Canada Goose

Branta canadensis

24

Red-breasted Merganser

Mergus serrator

25

Greater Scaup

Aythya marila

26

Red-breasted Goose

Branta ruficollis

27

Northern Shoveler

Anas clypeata

28

Black Brant

Branta nigricans

29

Common Goldeneye

Bucephala clangula

30

Eurasian Wigeon

Anas penelope

31

Brant Goose

Branta bernicla

32

Northern Pintail

Anas acuta

33

Common Shelduck

Tadorna tadorna

34

Eurasian Teal

Anas crecca

35

Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos

36

Barnacle Goose

Branta leucopsis

37

Gadwall

Anas strepera

38

Tufted Duck

Aythya fuligula

39

Mute Swan

Cygnus olor

40

Common Merganser

Mergus merganser

41

European Goldfinch

Carduelis carduelis

42

Greater Flamingo

Phoenicopterus roseus

43

Grey Partridge

Perdix perdix

44

Horned Grebe

Podiceps auritus

45

Black-necked Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis

46

Little Grebe

Tachybaptus ruficollis

47

Great Crested Grebe

Podiceps cristatus

48

Little Gull

Hydrocoloeus minutus

49

Great Black-backed Gull

Larus marinus

50

European Herring Gull

Larus argentatus

51

Black-headed Gull

Chroicocephalus ridibundus

52

Mew Gull

Larus canus

53

Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Accipiter nisus

54

Common Buzzard

Buteo buteo

55

Great Egret

Ardea alba

56

Little Egret

Egretta garzetta

57

Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea

58

Eurasian Bittern

Botaurus stellaris

59

Eurasian Spoonbill

Platalea leucorodia

60

Common Kingfisher

Alcedo atthis

61

Eurasian Skylark

Alauda arvensis

62

Common Chiffchaff

Phylloscopus collybita

63

Long-tailed Tit

Aegithalos caudatus

64

European Robin

Erithacus rubecula

65

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Passer montanus

66

House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

67

Eurasian Oystercatcher

Haematopus ostralegus

68

Common Wood Pigeon

Columba palumbus

69

Eurasian Collared Dove

Streptopelia decaocto

70

Stock Dove

Columba oenas

71

Eurasian Rock Pipit

Anthus petrosus

72

Meadow Pipit

Anthus pratensis

73

European Golden Plover

Pluvialis apricaria

74

Grey Plover

Pluvialis squatarola

75

Northern Lapwing

Vanellus vanellus

76

Common Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus

77

Eurasian Coot

Fulica atra

78

Red Knot

Calidris canutus

79

Sanderling

Calidris alba

80

Common Greenshank

Tringa nebularia

81

Green Sandpiper

Tringa ochropus

82

Spotted Redshank

Tringa erythropus

83

Ruff

Philomachus pugnax

84

Ruddy Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

85

Dunlin

Calidris alpina

86

Eurasian Curlew

Numenius arquata

87

Common Redshank

Tringa totanus

88

Purple Sandpiper

Calidris maritima

89

Common Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

90

Pied Avocet

Recurvirostra avosetta

91

White Stork

Ciconia ciconia

92

Fieldfare

Turdus pilaris

93

Song Thrush

Turdus philomelos

94

Common Blackbird

Turdus merula

95

Eurasian Blue Tit

Cyanistes caeruleus

96

Great Tit

Parus major

97

Short-toed Treecreeper

Certhia brachydactyla

98

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Dendrocopos major

99

European Green Woodpecker

Picus viridis

100

Eurasian Wren

Troglodytes troglodytes

101
Firecrest
Regulus ingicapilla

English name

Scientific name

exotic

Egyptian Goose

Alopochen aegyptiaca

exotic

Black Swan

Cygnus atratus

exotic

Chilean Flamingo

Phoenicopterus chilensis

exotic

American Flamingo

Phoenicopterus ruber

exotic

Common Pheasant

Phasianus colchicus

exotic

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Psittacula krameri