Day 2 - Netherlands: Zuid-Holland, Noord-Brabant & Utrecht provinces
|Zuid-Holland in a bird - Barnacle Geese, in the 10's|
of 1000's, these ones at Oudeland van Strijen
After a largely non-birding day on the Thursday, Friday 18th was when I'd scheduled to see most of my targets, including the main one, Lesser White-fronted Goose. Thus, we started not long after dawn at the site for this rare species, the captivating Oudeland van Strijen polder fields, a little more than 12 miles SW of Dordrecht, in Zuid Holland. Polders are areas of low-lying land, reclaimed from the sea or a river, and protected by artificial channels. They're characteristic of the Netherlands. Indeed, when we arrived, the typical Dutch winter birding scene was spread out in front of me, as far as the eye could see. Tens upon tens of thousands of wintering Geese, predominately Barnacle, fed in the patchwork of fields, their yelping calls filling the air.
The other most populous Goose here was White-fronted, of which there were at least a few thousand. 3 other Geese speciess and many dabbling ducks were also viewable almost everywhere, with big numbers of Mute Swans, Grey Herons, Curlews, Lapwings and at least 10 Great White Egrets. Approaching from the village of Strijen, to the east of the polders, I didn't really know how to begin my needle-in-a-haystack search for the Lesser White-fronts. I decided to methodically work my way around the entire area, before cutting through a north-south track, Vlaamseweg, in the middle, checking each flock of Geese. The magic of the area was pushing me on, and the first hour flew by. The problem with the polders is the unevenness - the many dykes and ditches mean distant Geese can disappear easily, making targets even harder to pick out.
|The drake Bufflehead at Barendrecht|
|Great White Egrets were common |
- over 40 were seen on the 18th
|One of the Ringtail Hen Harriers at De Biesbosch|
|Oudeland van Strijen - flat, vast, and uneven habitat|
makes hard birding
We moved further up the track, and I scanned a big flock of White-fronts. As I moved the scope to the right, 5 Geese shot to my attention. Having tried to turn a few White-fronts into Lessers earlier in the day, these birds had me pretty sure from the off, with the extensive white blaze over the crown, the short stubby bill, slightly darker colour and size very clear. Any effects the biting wind had soon evaporated as the adrenaline kicked in. I wanted to nail the eye-ring, to be sure, and after finally managing to hold the scope steady I could see it clearly, certainly on the 3 right-hand birds. Finally, Lesser White-fronted Geese! Amazed, relieved, and delighted, I beckoned my girlfriend over, and she attempted a few phone-scope shots of the right hand birds. The 2 others had seemingly vanished, and after watching the 3 for a few minutes, suddenly, they took flight. They landed not far to the west, but after about 10 minutes of trying to relocate them, I gave in, still over the moon to have got a bird I had desired for a very long time. This was proper birding - picking a species out among thousands if similar ones, in a vast and testing habitat.
|A pointless picture, but of a birding|
moment that will live long in the memory -
3 of the 5 Lesser White-fronted Geese