Thanks to all the birdchatters who provided information on birding Holland and Kenya. Especially Barbara Passmore who activated an entire network of people to help me out. Birdchat is such a great way to connect with other birders.
The most important lesson birdchatters have taught me recently: If you ever have to change planes in Amsterdam on an international trip, be sure to schedule at least a day layover for some outstanding birding.
I ended up birding Holland on my way to my business trip in Malawi. I'm sure Nairobi would have been exciting birding, too, but given the current safety problems there, I chose the Netherlands. And I certainly wasn't disappointed!
But before I describe the trip, I need to digress just a bit.
A few years ago I posted an enthusiastic trip report about birding in France and was flamed for daring to enjoy birding in France while the French were still conducting nuclear testing. In fact, the fallout from my post rivaled that of a nuclear test.
Let me warn you: I really enjoyed birding in Holland, too. So if this offends you because the Dutch built dikes which you think may have upset the environment or if you think they have an unfair advantage at Scrabble because all their words have j's and k's in them, or for any other crazy reason, STOP NOW. Don't upset yourself by reading this. Fair enough?
I put the word out through Birdchat that I wanted to get in three days of power birding in the Netherlands, and thanks to birdchatter Mark Kuiper of NatuurBeleven, that's exactly what I got.
Mark picked me up at the airport Wednesday August 27 at noon; we dropped my luggage at a local hotel and immediately headed off for the first afternoon. Before I knew it we had Grey Herons and fields full of Northern Lapwing. "Stop! I need that bird," I cried out, but Mark reassured me we'd have plenty of close-up looks at them. This was going to be fun.
Our first destination was the Flevopolder just an hour northeast of Amsterdam. A beautiful setting with countless spots for birding including some great blinds (handy in the intermittent rain). We birded until it was too dark to see and were rewarded with our first 67 species:
By the time we finished the first afternoon/evening, I knew I had paired up with the right guide. Mark is extremely knowledgeable about the birds and just where to find them (he's been birding Holland for 20 years). On top of that, he's easy to get along with -- important if you're up for 3 days of power birding. And in Holland, if conversation gets slow, just ask them about the dikes. They love that.
Thursday morning I got up in the dark and stumbled downstairs in the hotel for a bit of breakfast. They pointed me to a table filled with hamburger buns (the national food of Holland I suspect) filled with cheese and salami. "Is this for breakfast?" I suavely inquired. Yah sure. So I ate them.
Mark picked me up at 6:00 for our excursion to Texel -- an island in the North Sea. Texel boasts various habitats from beaches to agricultural fields to pine stands to the North Sea. We alternated between car birding, ferry boat birding and hiking under a threatening sky. We got soaked to the skin on a beach along the North Sea. And loved it. Plus we logged an additional 30 species, including some remarkably close looks at many of the shore birds:
On Friday we teamed up with another birdchatter, Pierre van der Wielen, who had contacted me in response to my original post. Pierre took us on an excursion across the dike to Friesland. The locals in that area are supposedly the tallest people in Europe as a result of their diet (dairy products). The birds seemed the same size to me, though. And we saw some good new ones for the trip:
We chased and missed a Spotted Eagle.
One of the nice things about birding new places, of course, is the chance to see and study birds which are so rare here at home. And of course our "common" birds are rarities there. So I got a kick out of the fact that Mark and Pierre were doing high fives to see a Caspian Tern (a common bird in Southern California) while they thought it was cute that I couldn't get enough of the wagtails, Northern Wheatear and the godwits. And I loved the fields of Ruff.
With all those birds, were there any new species left to see, you ask? Hah! Do the Dutch have dikes?
Saturday Mark took me to the Hoge Veluwe National Park, woods, grasslands and agricultural fields a couple hours southeast of Amsterdam. A very different environment from the polder and the North Sea -- and we added the following birds:
We missed Short-tailed Eagle, Wryneck and Red-backed Shrike.
As my trip drew to a close Mark continued his bird-finding magic. On the way to the airport, we stopped in a park in Amstelveen and got
All in all, the Netherlands offers a wonderful birding experience -- not to mention the salami and cheese breakfast sandwiches and, of course, the dikes. If you want to avail yourself of Mark Kuiper's services, his web site is: http://www.infoplaza.nl/natuurbeleven/. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks again to Birdchat for the connection to great birding!
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