The Hague and Leiden area

Situated in the central west part of the Netherland, at the North Sea coastline, the capitol can be a good place to start from. Even just at The Hague the harbor of Scheveningen is with the wright conditions worth a visit. On the north and south sides of the city are wonderful dunes where you can undertake a nice early-morning hike. Heading east to visit the fields and marshlands which are especially productive in the winter en spring period.

In winter the weather conditions are mainly determine what the best options are. Of course there always good sites for birding, the lakes are full with wintering ducks and on the nearby meadows different species of geese are foraging. The surrounding reed beds provide food and shelter for Bearded Tit, Reed Bunting and Bitterns. In the park and forest you can find Gold- and Firecrests, several species of tits like Marsh and Crested Tit, Chaffinches but also Bullfinch and Hawinch and Green-, Greater Spotted and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker just to name a few. When the temperature drops below zero the lakes in the dunes attract more ducks like Goosander, Smew, Red-crested Pochard and sometimes Ferruginous Duck. The frost and snow force other birds to move and then the chances rise for Kingfisher, Great Grey Shrike, Jack Snipe, Woodcock and large numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings.

An early start in spring to visit the dunes is a must to experience a dawn chorus. Over a dozen species of are singing at their best, Nightingales, Common- and Lesser Whitethroats, Bluethroats, Stonechats, Grasshopper Warblers, Willow-, Segde-, Reed- and Marsh Warblers etc. Meanwhile Barn Swallows, Sand and House Martins, Common Swifts, Yellow and White Wagtails are flying overhead and other migrants like Northern Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Whinchat and with luck a Wryneck stop over on their journey north. Later in the morning it’s time for the raptors, one can see Marsh Harrier, Goshawk, Buzzard, Honey Buzzard and with luck an Osprey, Red- or Black Kite using the thermal. Over the meadows Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks and Lapwing are calling in the air together with the enduring song of the Sky Lark. Along the streams Spoonbills, White Storks and Great Egrets are looking for small fish and frogs with Northern Shoveler, Shelducks and Garganey in their side.

About a one hour drive from The Hague you can find the marshlands of Nieuwkoop. In summer it’s an important breeding area for Purple Heron, Black Tern and marshland songbirds incl Savi’s Warbler. In late summer the first migrants have left their breeding sites and gather here to forage. You can see male Ruff with their fantastic summer plumage, large numbers of Godwits, Black-necked Grebes and different sandpipers and stints. Early in the morning or before dawn one might be lucky to see or hear Spotted or Baillon’s Crake. Forest birds are more challenging now the leaves block the view but their very busy raising their young and we often know a nesting hole of Tawny Owl, Crested Tit and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

Next to The Hague is the harbor of Scheveningen has provides special sighting in autumn of rare seabirds like Sabine’s Gull, Red Phalarope, Little Auk and even more rare like Ross’ Gull and Yellow-billed Diver mostly during or after a heavy storm. So with these conditions it’s worth to spend a few hours in the morning or afternoon looking for seabirds there. The opposite of these conditions are ideal for migrants. Mid October is the peak of the season and tens of thousands of finches, pipits, thrushes and Starlings (flocks of last can sometimes stretch over a kilometer) are heading south. The bushes are teeming with tits, wablers and flycatchers and it’s always a challenge to find one of that rare birds like Pallas' Leaf Warbler, Raddes Warbler or Bluetail.