5th-8th January 2014
A four day, three-night trip to the Netherlands in search of geese.
This short break was organised by Wilf Banfield and the four of us on the trip were
Day 1 – Across the Channel, France and Belgium to the Netherlands
The trip began in earnest when we boarded the 9 a.m. ferry to Calais. After breakfast on board we headed out onto the main deck and hung around the stern of the boat for the remainder of the journey.
The highlights of the crossing were Black-throated Diver, Fulmar, Gannet and half a dozen Great Skuas.
Arriving in Calais we made our way uneventfully to the Belgian border with a couple of Grey Herons, Buzzard, Golden Plover and Skylark providing the excitement!
Today’s birding was mainly in Belgium where we had lunch at the very welcoming Visitor Centre of Uitkirkse Polder Nature Reserve.
Here we watched Short-eared Owl hunting over the raised field outside the Visitor Centre.
At the reserve we came across five species of goose; Pink-footed, Greater White-fronted, Greylag, Barnacle and Canada, as well as several species of duck. Raptor interest came in the form of Hen Harrier, Buzzard and Kestrel.
A field containing three White Storks added to the list as we drove across Belgium.
Crossing the Dutch border in the late afternoon we began to see our first Netherlands flocks of geese as we made our way to Renesse and our base for all three nights, the Bad Hotel, chosen by Wilf for its name alone! It turned out to be a very comfortable hotel with a good restaurant and halfway decent wine list.
Day 2 – Zeeland and Oosterschelde
We were greeted by a bright, clear day with the occasional and welcome, sunny spell alternating with the light cloud cover which produced a couple of showers during the day. 11°C, mild and with a steady south-westerly breeze all day.
We began by birding the area around Renesse, where the plentiful flocks of geese produced Tundra Bean, Greater White-fronted, Greylag, Barnacle, Canada and Egyptian Geese as well as a couple of Green Sandpipers sheltering in one of the dykes.
By 10 a.m. we had arrived at Schelphoekkreek Nature Reserve where we walked around the lake and through the small adjacent wooded area. Wildfowl included Shelduck, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser and we also saw a Kingfisher.
In the woods we found Goldcrest and a flock of more than a dozen Long-tailed Tits which included at least two of the Scandinavian white-headed sub-species.
We moved on, finding three Brent Geese at Burghsluis and our first Slavonian Grebe of the trip at Schelphoek.
We stopped for a while at Boogerdweg to admire a flock f over 4,000 Barnacle Geese. Here Danny spotted a single Bewick’s Swan and Pintail and Smew added to the duck tally. Other species of note included three Spoonbill, several Avocets and large flocks of Golden Plover.
Passing through Elkerzee we added Wigeon to the list and at 16.30, with the daylight beginning to fade, we made a brief visit to Brouwersdam where, on the sea and close to shore, we saw Common Scoter, Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers and Red-necked and Great Crested Grebes. Feeding on the shore were half a dozen or more Purple Sandpipers.
Day 3 – Two Twitches!
It was clear and mild all day, about 11-12°C. and although it remained overcast all day there was no rain. The wind had picked up from yesterday and blew a steady 15-20m.p.h. all day.
We returned early to Brouwersdam were we saw 25 species including Brent Goose, Eider, Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Northern Diver, Slavonian, Red-necked, Black-necked and Great Crested Grebes as well as Cormorant, Shag and about 25 Purple Sandpipers.
From there we moved on to Slufter to see if we could find the Long-legged Buzzard that had been reported in the area but despite a lot of searching and turning up both Common and Rough-legged Buzzards we had no luck with our target bird. Wilf's theory of 'Look, we've seen all the Buzzards that are in this field, therefore we must have seen the Long-legged Buzzard' didn't wash with the rest of us and, so, out first twitch of the day ended with a dip.
We then moved on to Barendrecht for our second twitch of the day – the Bufflehead that had again been reported from the large lake in the town. This time we were not disappointed and soon found this delightful little duck that was constantly diving and showing his red feet as he went down.
Our walk along the lake shores produced a total of 27 bird species including Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Sparrowhawk.
Passing through Zierikzee on our way back to the hotel we saw large flocks of several hundred Golden Plover and Lapwing.
Day 4 – The Return Journey
Following our final breakfast at the Bad Hotel we stopped at Brouwersdam at 09.30 where Scaup was among the 29 species that we saw, the others including Grey Plover, Sanderling and Shag.
By 10.30 we were passing through the Dutch countryside on our way to Belgium and an afternoon ferry home. A couple of White Storks in a field caused us to slow down but nothing else did!
Once on board the ferry we made our way to the outer stern deck but the call of a warming cup of hot coffee and a relaxing beer proved too much and we settled down in the comfort of a bar for the return journey, watching the passing Gannets from the warmth.
Here is the trip list.
|1||Tundra Bean Goose||1||Renesse|
|2||Pink-footed Goose||1||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|3||Greater White-fronted Goose||5||Zeeland|
|11||Shelduck||7||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|12||Gadwall||3||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|13||Wigeon||4||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|14||Mallard||13||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|15||Shoveler||3||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|17||Teal||4||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|19||Tufted Duck||4||Schelphoekkreek NR|
|27||Red-breasted Merganser||6||Schelphoekkreek NR|
|28||Pheasant||4||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|31||Great Northern Diver||2||Brouwersdam|
|35||Great Crested Grebe||5||Schelphoek|
|40||Great Cormorant||7||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|42||Grey Heron||5||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|43||Great Egret||1||Nr. Oost|
|44||Little Egret||4||Schelphoekkreek NR|
|46||Hen Harrier||2||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|50||Moorhen||5||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|58||Spotted Redshank||2||Schelphoekkreek NR to Burghsluis|
|60||Redshank||3||Schelphoekkreek NR to Burghsluis|
|62||Curlew||12||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|67||Great Skua||1||English Channel|
|70||Common Gull||4||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|72||Lesser Black-backed Gull||2||Burghsluis|
|73||Great Black-backed Gull||4||Elkerzee|
|78||Short-eared Owl||1||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|84||Rook||1||Schelphoekkreek NR to Burghsluis|
|87||Blue Tit||3||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|88||Great Tit||4||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|89||Long-tailed Tit||1||Schelphoekkreek NR|
|91||Robin||3||Uitkerkse Polder NR|
|94||Chaffinch||4||Uitkerkse Polder NR|