Friday 24 August 2018

Birding in Holland: Day Two

Wednesday 22 August

The National Park Oosterschelde near Zuidkaap

Another wonderful day in typical Dutch countryside and this time exploring the bird sites north and south of the National Park Oosterschelde - basically, the Schelde estuary since recovering after the disastrous floods of 1953, the same floods that decimated the British east coast. Up and down the dikes with the road sometimes on top but mostly behind and protected from the sea. A wonderful experience for those trying to understand the meaning of a "polder."  All this visiting polders, I even said to Marieke that we were undertaking a "poldering" only to discover that there is already such a verb as used in the Dutch Parliament when the heated debates get under way!

Hundreds of waders driven across the sea dike by the rising tide
Once in the area we headed off to Zuidkaap but crossing the dikes as the tide pushed the birds up from the beaches we soon had many sightings of Black-headed Gull, Little Egret and Lapwing to add to the Crow, Jackdaw and many Wood Pigeons already seen.  The Mute Swans were lovely top see but then, approaching Bruinessi, an Osprey so close to the car you felt that if we let the window down the raptor might have joined us for a light snack rather than a choice fish!  But, as always, the bird appeared on a narrow stretch of road with no stopping place and traffic behind us.  No sooner had we turned the corner and the next road produced a quartering Marsh Harrier.  From here on we to see very many Lapwings and Carrion Crows along with regular Grey Herons and Magpies.

We spent some considerable time looking at the pools on the land side of the sea wall and with the sea racing on towards high tide we were able to witness not just the birds already resting on the small lagoons but the regular arrivals for the sea side of the dike.  Lots of Greylag Geese but also a score or more of Barnacle Geese along with a handful of Egyptian Geese.  A few Mute Swans but at least a score of Spoonbill and a small number of Little Egret and Grey Heron.  Mainly Mallards but we also recorded Shelduck.  Not so many Coots and Moorhens but loads, hundreds, of Oystercatchers.  A few Redshank and also Herring Gull present but then hundreds of Curlew taking a good, long sleep.  Also good to record Great Black-backed Gull.  A Meadow Pipit put in a brief appearance by way of a change form the Barn Swallows feeding around us and always the occasional Cormorant to be seen..

Barnacle Geese Barnacla Cariblanca Branta leucopsis
Plompe Toren and Burghsluis produced a small number of birds and it was certainly interesting looking at the tower of a previous, long gone church now standing out like some sort of sentinel lighthouse but we did add a Green Sandpiper.  Once on the southern side we stopped for a lovely lunch in Wissenkerke (I had the starter of mussels and they took some eating so goodness knows how many would have been on the plate if it had been the main course!) and Marieke noticed the feeding House Martins.  This was a village completely lost to the above floods and since returned to its former glory. Then on to the local hide.  But no hide any more.  Looking out over the water we had a couple of Common Tern, Teal, both Little and Great Crested Grebe and around us feeding Barn Swallows.  More Kestrels seen during the day than I have seen for a long time.

The delightful site at Colijnsplaat
We eventually found our last site at Colijnsplaat and, at first, felt quite disappointed that the whole area seemed now to be a giant reed bed.  But closer inspection revealed clear water further along and this really turned up trumps, fortunately not of the Donald variety, including about 30 Ruff and a similar number of Spoonbills
A large flock of Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia

Also present were a few Gadwall in with the Teal and Mallard plus a small number of Black-tailed Godwit and a handful of Dunlin.  Interesting to suddenly find a small flock of Canada Geese which were revealed when a score of Barnacle Geese took to the air but also leaving behind the Greylag Geese.  Then the distinct call of a Water Rail below us near the water's edge, a bird that was to be quite persistent so almost certainly a juvenile demanding food.

Barnacle Geese Barnacla Cariblanca Branta leucopsis and accompanying waders
A great day with some wonderful scenery and as we started our way back through the dikes to the main road a Buzzard flew up from the ditch immediately next to the car to become our 44th species of the day.  Then, once again, the long drive home and the the thought of packing in readiness for an early departure towards Spain on the morrow.

Spoonbill Espatula Comun Platalea leucorodia accompanied by Canada Geese Barnacla canadiense Branta canadensis and waders
Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Barnacle Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Gadwall, Mallard, Teal, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Heron, Spoonbill, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Dunlin, Ruff, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Tern, Wood Pigeon, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Common Starling, House Sparrow.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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