Monday, 28 January 2008

Oostvaardersplassen - morning tour

For anyone attempting to understand a cryptic 'Shropshire Birds' statement - I had certainly headed east (over the coast that is) for the weekend - my alpine plant activities, at this time of year taking precedence (and explaining why this blog may become a little quiet!). I had been asked to go and give a couple of lectures to the Dutch Alpine Garden Society which took up most of the Saturday, staying for a couple of nights in Lisse.
After the second night in the company of Eric Breed and family (I really felt I had become one of them), I was pleasantly and very pleased to discover that he shared an interest in birds!! Despite an evening of fantastic red wine, Dutch lager tasting and various spirits served at -20'C (which don't freeze due to the alcohol content!!!) we were up at daybreak... and no hangover.... (well only a tiny one).

I hadn't taken my 500mm lens so it was strictly record shots all the way - many out of the car window whilst moving.....

The Oostvaardersplassen wetland reserve was our destination and the local 'flying barn doors' - White-tailed Eagle. First, a wake up call with a pair of White Storks which had settled down in the area. We had spotted them the previous evening on a rooftop and now they were waiting for any free handouts - but not in the mood for photography, so I had to settle for some distant shots on the local 'meadow'.

A brief call at a large freshwater lake saw a spectacular gathering of a few thousand Wigeon. Gadwall, Tufted Duck and a very occasional Scaup were also seen.

As we neared our destination, the birds became more interesting - there were plenty of Smew and isolated small groups of Whooper Swans. Once into reedbed Country, we were immediately rewarded with a Marsh harrier, then several Common Buzzards and Kestrels which were also plentiful.

But no Eagle! "The Eagle is next", Eric kept announcing. It was never to be however, despite a few expectant moments when everything took to the air in alarm. A surprise Goshawk flying over the car was an unexpected bonus. The highlight had to be Great White Egret......

We saw five of these in total but this is such a large reserve, they were generally very distant. Plenty of Geese including Greater White-Fronts kept us amused until finally it was time to head fo Schiphol and the flight home.

The lectures had gone well, there was talk of a return visit.... Having listened to tales of Bluethroat singing within 10 metres, Shrike, Ospreys and of course the Eagles - I know where I will be going if I do, let's hope it can be scheduled for later in the year......