Trip Report: Holland, February 22-23 and March 18-19, 1999

Tom and Margot Southerland, 282 Western Way, Princeton, NJ 08540 USA;


By having a few days in Amsterdam on either side of our 1999 Princeton Nature Tours' trip to India and Nepal, we decided to look for birds in some of Holland's famous dunes, fields, canals, waterways and polders. We asked Mark Kuiper, an ornithological researcher and knowledgeable nature guide, to help us. We were not strangers to Holland because after leading numerous trips in Africa we often birded in Holland at a variety of times and places including the coast, interior, upland forested areas in the east and Texel (an island) to the north.

Holland, a country about the size of Switzerland but double the population, is renowned in the bird world for its water bird concentrations -- geese in the winter and shore and marsh birds in the summer. Because of its small size, flat terrain (average height is 37 feet and the entire western half of the country is below sea level) and its great roads, all birding spots are extremely accessible. All this works to the advantage of visiting birders with limited time who pass through Amsterdam from the U.S. en route to and from Africa or Asia. And some of the best bird spots, such as Flevo Polder, are only a few miles from Amsterdam.

Trip I: Friesland and Flevo Polder (February 22-23, 1999)

We had never seen the Pink-footed Goose on previous trips, so Mark recommended we head north to Friesland, a place we had never birded, to look for them on the first day. Friesland is the historic land reclaimed from the sea located across the immense freshwater lake, Ijsselmeer (formerly the Zuider Zee). The most direct way to get there from Amsterdam, and best for the birder, is to transverse along the top of the impressive 15-mile Enclosing Dike, with the North Sea on one side and the Ijsselmeer on the other. There were several places along the dike where we could pull over and scan for the various ducks on the lake side.

Friesland was indeed the place to go to find the Pink-footed Goose for we saw many feeding in a field and, later an even larger, and closer, group feeding in another field. Unfortunately, our first day had a myriad of weather and seemed to change every few minutes. The wind was the only common denominator. We had fog, rain, sun, snow and sleet at least twice for each condition and sometimes several at once. The area has numerous wildlife sanctuaries and refuges, so we made frequent stops. In spite of the weather, we walked several of the trails near dunes and around ponds and marshes.

The second day at Flevo Polder was better, a little wind and lots of winter sun. We were not able to start birding until about 11:30 a.m. because of the delayed flight arrival of two of our India trip participants who were the only other two serious birders. In spite of our late start, the four of us and Mark were compensated by the moderate, if not balmy, weather. We made frequent stops to scan for birds and walked various tracks to hides (blinds) for further scanning.


At Flevo Polder on Feb. 22, 1999, we saw about Red Deer (25-30), Red Fox (2 adults and 1 Juvenile), original cattle (several) and, up close while we walked, wild horses (10-15).

Notes for sightings in both Trips I and II

Note 1. The numbers below given for each bird in no way reflects actual numbers and were based only on individuals reasonably close and not for individuals, say Smews and other waterfowl, way out in the water as we drove by. Furthermore, some of us, particularly Mark, saw individuals that another may have missed.

Note 2. We use "a few" for 15-25 birds, "a number" for at least 50 birds, "many" for over 100 birds and "F" for our first sightings.

Note 3.For Trip II our abbreviations are as follows: " ASW" for Amsterdam Water Supply; "m". for male and "fem." for female.

Sightings: Trip I (February 22-23, 1999)

  Great Grebe                  Podiceps major  (a few)
  Great Cormorant              Phalacrocorax carbo  (Friesland - 2)
  Mute Swan                    Cygnus olor 
  Whooper Swan                 Cygnus cygnus  (Flevo Polder - 6)
F Pink-footed Goose            Anser brachyrhynchus  (Friesland - 2 groups of many)
  Greater White-fronted Goose  Anser albifrons  (Friesland - many)
  Greylag Goose                Anser anser  (Friesland - 4)
  Barnacle Goose               Branta leucopsis  (Friesland - 2 groups of many)
  Brant                        Branta bernicla  (abt. 50)
  Common Shelduck              Tadorna tadorna  (at least 25)
  Eurasian Wigeon              Anas penelope  (near Zuuanenwater many feeding on grass)
  Common Teal                  Anas crecca  (Flevo Polder - 9)
  Common Pochard               Aythya ferina  (Flevo Polder - a few)
  Tufted Duck                  Aythya fuligula  (Friesland and Felvo Polder - a number)
  Common Goldeneye             Bucephala clangula  (Felvo Polder - several)
  Smew                         Mergellus albellus  (en route to Fleisland - 10)
  Common Merganser             Mergus merganser  (Freisland - several)
  Gray Heron                   Ardea cinerea  (Friesland - 6 or 7)
  Eurasian Spoonbill           Platalea leucorodia  (Friesland - 1)
  White-tailed Eagle           Haliaeetus albicilla  (Flevo Polder - 1 in distant tree)
  Northern Harrier             Circus cyaneus  (Flevo Polder - at least a pair)
  Eurasian Sparrowhawk         Accipiter nisus  (Zuuanenwater - 1)
  Northern Goshawk             Accipiter gentilis  (Flevo Polder -1)
  Common Buzzard               Buteo buteo  (Flevo Polder - 12)
  Eurasian Kestrel             Falco tinnunculus  (Friesland - 3; Flevo Polder - 1)
  Peregrine Falcon             Falco peregrinus  (Friesland - 1)
  Common Pheasant              Phasianus colchicus  (en route Flevo Polder -  1)
  Common Moorhen               Gallinula chloropus  (Friesland - 8)
  Eurasian Coot                Fulica atra  (many)
  Eurasian Curlew              Numenius arquata  (Friesland - many)
  Common Redshank              Tringa totanus  (Friesland - 3)
  Dunlin                       Calidris alpina  (Friesland - many)
  Eurasian Oystercatcher       Haematopus ostralegus  (Friesland - many)
  Pied Avocet                  Recurvirostra avosetta  (near Zuuanenwater - 2)
  European Golden-Plover       Pluvialis apricaria  (Friesland - many)
  Northern Lapwing             Vanellus vanellus  (Friesland - many)
  Great Black-backed Gull      Larus marinus  (many)
  Herring Gull                 Larus argentatus  (a number)
  Black-headed Gull            Larus ridibundus  (many)
  Eurasian Collared-Dove       Streptopelia decaocto  (Flevo Polder - 1)
  Eurasian Jay                 Garrulus glandarius  (Flevo Polder - 1)
  Black-billed Magpie          Pica pica  (Amsterdam several)
  Eurasian Jackdaw             Corvus monedula  (6-8)
  Rook                         Corvus frugilegus  (many)
  Carrion Crow                 Corvus corone  (a few plus 3 Hooded Crows)
  Eurasian Blackbird           Turdus merula  (several)
  Fieldfare                    Turdus pilaris  (Flevo Polder - 5)
  Common Starling              Sturnus vulgaris 
  European Robin               Erithacus rubecula  (Friesland - 1)
  Common Stonechat             Saxicola torquata  (Zuuanenwater - female)
  Winter Wren                  Troglodytes troglodytes  (Zuuanenwater - 1)
  Long-tailed Tit              Aegithalos caudatus  (Flevo Polder - 3)
  Willow Tit                   Poecile montanus  (Flevo Polder - 1)
  Great Tit                    Parus major  (Flevo Polder - 1)
  Blue Tit                     Cyanistes caeruleus  (Flevo Polder -1)
  Sky Lark                     Alauda arvensis  (Friesland - 1)
  Horned Lark                  Eremophila alpestris  (Felvo Polder - group of abt. 30)
  House Sparrow                Passer domesticus  (a few)
  Meadow Pipit                 Anthus pratensis  (Flevo Polder - at least 5)
  Chaffinch                    Fringilla coelebs  (Flevo Polder  - 6)

60 Species

Trip II: Amsterdam Water Supply near Haarlem and Flevo Polder (March 18-19, 1999)

Our target birds upon our return to Amsterdam were the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Bearded Tit (Bearded Reedling -- if you use James Clements' world list). Mark again chose the right spot for the woodpecker, the Amsterdam Water Supply near Haarlem. Although near the coast with its share of great sand dunes and small waterways, this area has large wooded sections with numerous large, mature trees -- a true woodpecker habitat. We picked up the bird by its call but it moved continually. But with persistence, we were soon able to zoom in on it, a female, and our efforts were rewarded with leisurely looks as it worked over a tree branch. There were other birds here and in the shrubs we picked up several tits plus a Goldcrest and a Firecrest together.

Flevo Polder, our destination for the next day, was understandably the place to see the Bearded Tits, a non-tit that often moves about in tall reed beds. Bearded Tits often travel in small groups and are usually more easily heard than seen as they often fly low in the reeds before one or two shift up the reed stem just for a second before either dropping back into the reeds or flying about ten yards to another patch of reeds. One of us saw the movement -- rapid-moving dots in the center of some reeds -- and Mark confirmed that the sound made by the dots were our birds. Lucky for us they remained in our area at the edge of the reeds. Soon, two or three took turns coming up to the reed tops. Once, one even sat up long enough for Mark to get his scope on it so we could have a quick look through it. This was a great treat, for on past trips we had looked for them in vain in Holland and southeastern England.

Sightings: Trip II (March 18-19, 1999)

  Great Cormorant              Phalacrocorax carbo  (Flevo Polder -a number)
  Common Shelduck              Tadorna tadorna  (Flevo Polder - several)
  Common Pochard               Athya ferina  (Flevo Polder - male)
  Common Goldeneye             Bucephala clangula  (Flevo Polder - 3)
  Smew                         Mergellus albellus  (Flevo Polder - 5 m., 3 fem.)
  Common Merganser             Mergus merganser  (Flevo Polder - abt. 10)
  Great Bittern                Botaurus stellaris  (Flevo Polder - 1 heard only)
  Northern Harrier             Circus cyaneus  (Flevo Polder - fem.)
  Eurasian Kestrel             Falco tinnunculus  (Flevo Polder - 2)
  Common Pheasant              Phasianus colchicus  (en route - m.)
  Common Moorhen               Gallinula chloropus  (Flevo Polder - 1)
  Common Snipe                 Gallinago gallinago  (Flevo Polder - a few)
  Black-tailed Godwit          Limosa limosa  (Amsterdam area - many)
  Eurasian Curlew              Numenius arquata  (Flevo Polder - 2)
  Ruff                         Philomachus pugnax  (Amsterdam area - 1)
  Eurasian Oystercatcher       Haematopus ostralegus  (Amsterdam area - many)
  Northern Lapwing             Vanellus vanellus  (Amsterdam area - a number)
  Lesser Black-backed Gull     Larus fuscus  (Amsterdam area - 2)
  Black-headed Gull            Larus ridibundus  (Flevo Polder - many)
  Stock Pigeon                 Columba oenas  (AWS - 2)
  Common Wood Pigeon           Columba palumbus  (Flevo Polder - 1)
F Lesser Spotted Woodpecker    Dendrocopos minor  (AWS - fem.)
  Great Spotted Woodpecker     Dendrocopos major  (AWS - Several)
  Eurasian Green Woodpecker    Picus viridis  (AWS - 1 heard only)
  Eurasian Jay                 Garrulus glandarius  (AWS - 5)
  Eurasian Jackdaw             Corvus monedula  (several)
  Fieldfare                    Turdus pilaris  (Flevo Polder - 10-15)
  Redwing                      Turdus iliacus  (AWS - several)
  Mistle Thrush                Turdus viscivorus  (Flevo Polder - 1)
  European Robin               Erithacus rubecula  (AWS -1; Flevo Polder - 1)
  Short-toed Treecreeper       Certhia brachydactyla  (AWS - 1)
  Long-tailed Tit              Aegithalos caudatus  (AWS - 1)
  Goldcrest                    Regulus regulus  (AWS - 1)
  Firecrest                    Regulus ignicapillus  (AWS - 1)
F Bearded Reedling             Panurus biarmicus  (Flevo Polder - several)
  Marsh Tit                    Poecile palustris  (AWS - 2)
  Great Tit                    Parus major  (AWS - several)
  Blue Tit                     Cyanistes caeruleus  (AWS - several)
  Gray Wagtail                 Motacilla cinerea  (AWS - 1; rare for west Holland) 
  Chaffinch                    Fringilla coelebs  (AWS - several)
  European Greenfinch          Carduelis chloris  (Flevo Polder - 1)
  Eurasian Bullfinch           Pyrrhula pyrrhula  (AWS - m.)
  Reed Bunting                 Emberiza schoeniclus  (Flevo Polder - m.)

42 Species

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