Currently my friend Stratton Hatfield, a US-born Kenyan birder, is in the country with his Dutch girlfriend Britt visiting her family in Middenbeemster. Given the fact that we had to discuss quite a lot about the Africa-part of my Biggest Year and Stratton had a wish-list of birds typically found wintering in the Dutch delta, we decided to team up for a day’s birding in the province of Zuid-Holland and Zeeland.
So Wednesday the 7th of January I picked up Stratton from Sloterdijk Station and we drove towards the Maasvlakte; our first destination of the day.
En route he told me about his startup African Birding Safaris, his company will go online next year and will be – as the name already suggests – all about finding those dream-birds endemic to the mighty continent of Africa!
As a promotion for his company and because Stratton wants to explore some remote corners of northern Mozambique and northwestern Zambia, he decided on teaming up with me for a road-trip from Kenya all the way to Johannesburg (South Africa) from late April to early July 2016! (I will post the rough itinerary of this ‘road-trip’ next week on my blog!). This means that I’ve got the eastern and southern Africa part of my Biggest Year more or less covered… Stratton, I’m looking very much forward to this mega road-trip!
Before we drove up to the 2nd Maasvlakte we made a quick stop at the Oostvoornse Meer where we notched up two new species for Stratton: Northern Bullfinch (Goudvink) and Whooper Swan (Wilde zwaan). At the 2nd Maasvlakte we were greeted by two hunting Short-eared Owls (Velduil) and a Merlin (Smelleken) and after some thorough searching the lingering Long-legged Buzzard (Arendbuizerd) gave some rather distant scope-views, not a bad start!
The first bird we found at Brouwersdam was the adult winter Black Guillemot (Zwarte zeekoet), present here for a couple of weeks now. Stratton was really stoked about this bird as a new species of alcid is always a thrill!
Black Guilemot at Brouwersdam January 7
At the southern part of the Brouwersdam birds came thick-and-fast as always and we notched up Velvet Scoter (Grote zee-eend) – nowadays a globally endangered species! – and a much-wanted male Long-tailed Duck (IJseend), listed as globally Vulnerable. Other good birds were Red-throated Diver (Roodkeelduiker), Purple Sandpiper (Paarse strandloper), Horned Grebe (Kuifduiker), Red-necked Grebe (Roodhalsfuut) and Common Scoter (Zwarte zee-eend).
On our way to Strijen we made a quick stop at the Krammersche Slikken to look for White-tailed Eagle (Zeearend), but these majestic birds didn’t give home, however Bewick’s Swan (Kleine zwaan), Peregrine (Slechtvalk), Northern Goshawk (Havik) and Black-necked Grebe (Geoorde fuut) were nice compensation.
Strijen was fantastic with large flocks of Barnacle Geese (Brandgans) and Greater White-fronted Goose (Kolgans). Best however was the totally unexpected pair of White-tailed Eagle that devoured a Barnacle Goose just 200 meters away from us, magnificent! After some searching we eventually found no less than 11 Lesser White-fronted Geese (Dwerggans) a vulnerable species I’d seen just a month ago at Poyang Lake, China! A Rough-legged Buzzard (Ruigpootbuizerd) that gave point blank views was our 10th species of raptor and a fantastic finisher!
Two White-tailed Eagles! At Strijen January 7
Lesser White-fronted Geese among Barnacle Geese, Strijen January 7th