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.
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).
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.
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)
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.
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.)
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