As I drive to Arnhem to pick up Max and Liz, who are on a European tour (UK, Netherlands and Germany) to see historical sights of WWII and also wanted to do some birding, it’s very misty. This creates a wonderful atmosphere with the old buck trees and mist while I pass the National Parc Hoge Veluwe.
We meet in front of the hotel before we head to the Oostvaardersplassen as they wanted to see a variety of wintering birds. Luckily it’s getting clearer and by the time we arrive on the first spot we have a good view on the large number of diving ducks.
From the dike we scan the water with the telescope and the binoculars I brought with me for them. Hundreds of Tufted Ducks, Common Pochards and Coots are right in front of us. Within these flocks we see some Gadwall, Mallard and Northern Shoveler.
At the next site we see a nice flock of Common Goldeneyes together with some female (types) Smew. A Little Grebe is hunting in the shallow water while the Great-crested Grebes (in summer plumage) are tackling the deeper water.
From the car we check the fields where we find a wintering mixed flock of Northern Lapwings and Golden Plovers. A group of Fieldfares looks for worms close to the reed bed where a pair of Stonechats keep an eye out on any other insects.
We planned to walk to a hide but some Beavers have been very active and the path to the hide is flooded by the dam they’ve build. We have to do it with sightings of a Jay, Great and Blue Tits and impressive woodworks of the Beavers.
There is a special area created for wintering birds of prey (actually it’s a vole’s paradise where these birds prey on) Here we see many Grey Herons, Great Egrets, Common Buzzards, some Kestrels and the target two female Hen Harriers. Sadly we can’t find the Rough-legged Buzzard. In the fields we also see a mixed geese flock with Greylag, Barnacle, Greater White-fronted, some Egyptian Geese and near them a dozen Roe Deer.
We make a toilet stop at the visitors center and from here take a walk into the national park Oostvaardersplassen. In the willows we see a pair of Willow Tits, a flock of Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits and on the ground a Nuthatch, Song Thrush, Robin, Dunnock and many Blackbirds are foraging. We continue our way and in the open area we see the large number of Red Deer and a large flock of Chaffinches. After 10 minutes of waiting we finally get a glimpse of the Bearded Tits but they keep low.
We check some more lakes and see a flock of 20 hunting Smews with some of the arty drakes. While we had a whole afternoon ahead of us Max suddenly asks me if I can drop them off at the train station as it turns out the have to be back at a sudden time in Arnhem. Even when I try to convince them to visit the Long-eared Owl roost which I had in mind as an icing on the cake at the end of the tour they still want to get the train. They are already very happy with all that they’ve seen and want to come back again to see more in the near future.
After we’ve said goodbye at the train station I go to the sites I had in mind to show them and also do some recon of sites for future tours. In these hours I see three White-tailed Eagles (two of them in an air combat), a Caspian Gull, Water Pipit and a large flock of Dunlin and Eurasian Teal. At one of the recon sites I get relative close to some Smew and Goosander and as I drive home along the IJsselmeerdijk I see more Smew, two Red-breasted Merganser and a pair of Marsh Harriers.
Still we record 70 species of birds. Eight species I see at the planned afternoon locations*, the Long-eared Owl roost not included.