Stratton Hatfield – with whom I will travel in Africa during my Biggest Year – was in the country and given the fact that migration is well on its way now and weather predictions were quite all right, I decided to take him to Breskens; the best plays to watch spring migration in the Netherlands.
On Thursday 6:30 PM I picked up Stratton and Camilla – she had also never visited this birding hotspot – and we drove down to Camping ‘De Blikken’ near Groede, just a 5 minutes drive from Breskens. A Northern Goshawk (Havik) was the only notable sighting during the 3 hour drive, but just as we neared the campsite Stratton saw a Barn Owl (Kerkuil) at the side of the road.
After a cold night in the tent we drove to the migration-post around 6 AM. It was rather misty, but as the post lays high on a dike, visibility was ok. Just 5 minutes after our arrival 4 Purple Herons (Purperreiger) flew by, not a bad start!
Photos by Camilla Dreef
Around 7 AM I picked up a swallow overhead that immediately struck me by its large size and slow wing beats. when I put my bins on it I noted a straight pencil-like black tail that contrasted sharply with the pale underside, throat and underwings: Red-rumped Swallow (Roodstuitzwaluw)!!! Holy shit! I picked up the bird early enough for Stratton and Camilla to have excellent looks from the underside of the bird before it disappeared in the mist, fantastic! A new self found for me!
Field notes of the Red-rumped Swallow
My day already couldn’t get any better, but the spectacle was far from over. In the next 3 ½ hours we enjoyed good numbers and high quality birds, especially when the sun and a light southeastern breeze blew the mist right away. Highlights were 3 Merlins (Smelleken), Hobby (Boomvalk), 2 more Purple Herons, 2 Little Egrets (kleine zilverreiger), Eurasian Cuckoo (Koekoek), Serin (Europese kanarie), Red-necked Grebe (Roodhalsfuut), Ring Ouzel (Beflijster), plenty of Mediterranean Gulls (Zwartkopmeeuw) and best, a fantastic Red Kite (Rode Wouw)!
Mediterranean Gulls are stunning birds! by Stratton Hatfield
Purple Herons, by Camilla Dreef
And a stunning Red Kite
After this spectacle we visited a stakeout for Kentish Plover (Strandplevier) and one for Little Owl (Steenuil), both cooperated nicely!
Little Owl, by Stratton Hatfield
After picking up the tent we drove back all the way to Amsterdam, birding various at stops in the Dutch Delta. No rarities, but Pied Wagtail (Rouwkwikstaart), Yellow-headed Wagtail (Engelse gele kwikstaart), Ring Ouzel and a nice selection of ducks and waders added to the end-score of 118 species (!)
Birding the Prunjepolder, by Camilla Dreef