During the spring, small numbers of Dotterel stop off in The Netherlands on their way north. Photo: WINGS
Following the success of James Lidster’s short winter breaks in The Netherlands, he is now offering a new short spring tour to his adopted home country. The focus of this tour will be to see species that can be frustratingly difficult to see in the United Kingdom, from breeding Great Bittern and Eurasian Spoonbill to Marsh and Savi’s Warblers and Bluethroat. At the time of our visit migration will be in full swing, and just about anything can turn up. We’ll concentrate on searching for such enigmatic species as Eurasian Dotterel, Montagu’s Harrier, and Ruff - all in brilliant breeding plumage. As an added bonus, our tour will coincide with the spectacular displays of flowers as the Dutch bulbfields burst into colour.
Note that if you travel by air you will need to check-in at least 2 hours before departure so the earliest you can fly from Schipol on the departure date is 20.00. The website http://www.seat61.com/Netherlands.htm has useful information about getting to The Netherlands by means other than flying.
Day 1: The tour starts at 10.00 am at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. From there we’ll make our way to the famous island of Texel, just a 30 minute ferry crossing from the mainland. We will soon start to see our first Common Eiders and groups of Sandwich and Common Terns. Once on the island we’ll begin our birding in earnest with a visit to a wetland area which holds breeding terns, Eurasian Spoonbills, Pied Avocets - plus a whole host of other waders, Mediterranean Gull, Hen and Western Marsh Harriers, as well as perhaps a surprise or two. Night on Texel.
Day 2: We’ll spend the whole day visiting a variety of habitats on the island. Here we hope to see Arctic, Black and Little Terns, Eurasian Bittern, Bluethroat, lots and lots of shorebirds from Common Greenshanks and Curlew Sandpipers to breeding plumage Bar-tailed Godwits, Red Knot and Grey Plovers while we may stumble upon Little or an early Temminck’s Stint, Wood Sandpiper, and Little Ringed Plovers. However we’ll not ignore the passerines with species such as Nightingale, Pied Flycatcher, Icterine and Grasshopper Warblers all possible. Open fields may hold flocks of pipits and yellow wagtails of various races. With migration in full swing we could encounter a rarity in the form of a Eurasian Dotterel, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eurasian Wryneck or Red-footed Falcon - all have been seen here in the past. Even though it is technically spring it can be surprising how late some species return north and, in addition to the shorebirds building up their reserves for the final push to their northern breeding grounds, we may still see large numbers of geese, including thousands Brent and Barnacles. With so much prey on offer we can expect to see Eurasian Hobby or Peregrines trying their luck. Night on Texel.
Day 3: After breakfast we’ll leave Texel behind and, depending on the local bird news, we’ll make our way to our next base near the Hoge Veluwe. We may follow the Houtribdijk, a 27 km long dike separating the IJsselmeer and Markermeer, two lakes formed by the damming of the Zuiderzee. Once on the Flevoland side of the dam we’ll continue our search for reedbed species including Savi’s’s, Eurasian Reed and Sedge Warblers, plus more Western Marsh Harriers and hopefully White Stork, White-tailed Eagle and Great Egrets. Night near Vierhouten.
Day 4: We are now ideally situated to explore the local woodland and heathland, with Black, European Green and Great spotted Woodpeckers all possible. The beech and pine woodlands hold Hawfinch, Eurasian Siskin, European Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Crested Tit, Pied Flycatcher and Wood Warbler whilst the nearby heath is good for Wood Lark, Tree Pipit, Common Cuckoo and maybe Northern Goshawk.
We will take our time to search for these species, whilst also getting to grips with the bird song of a European woodland, the local warblers sounding more impressive than their drab appearances betray. Night near Vierhouten.
Day 5: We will spend our last day around some wetlands in the middle of the country, looking for Purple Heron, Black-necked Grebe, Ruff, Black Tern, Cetti’s Warbler and hopefully Bearded Tit. The tour concludes at 6.00 pm at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
Updated: 20 January 2017