Limburg is the southeasternmost province of the Netherlands and its hilly loss landscape boasts a certain set of birds that are rarely encountered elsewhere in the Netherlands. Needless to say it is a must for every Dutch birder to now-and-than pay a visit to this very scenic part Holland!
So Monday the 12th of January Sjoerd Radstaak, Wouter van der Ham, Jillis Roos and yours truly decided to give it a go! Around 7:30 AM I picked up the other guys at Utrecht and from there we drove all the way down to Doenrade, Limburg to search for the – in the Netherlands that is 😉 – critically endangered Corn Bunting (Grauwe gors). As it ‘s been a long time since I last saw this large bunting and it would still be a new species for Wouter, this was one of our main targets today.
Wouter searching for Corn Buntings, by Jillis Roos
We arrived at the site and immediately located 2 females, a juvenile and an immaculate adult male Hen Harrier (Blauwe kiekendief), hunting over the windswept fields. These birds must be one of the best looking raptors out there!
It took us about an hour of searching – gale force winds didn’t make it easy! – and frustratingly chasing an elusive flock of about 20 Corn Buntings before we eventually found 8 birds perched and at one point even singing in the trees just 10 meters away from us!
Corn Bunting, by Sjoerd Radstaak
And a Yellowhammer… by Sjoerd Radstaak
From here we drove – via a Common Crane (Kraanvogel) that unfortunately was nowhere to be found – to Epen where we looked for Dipper (Waterspreeuw) around the Geul right at the border with Belgium. Despite some thorough searching, we failed to locate this aquatic passerine, although Grey Wagtail (Grote gele kwikstaart), Green Woodpecker (Groene specht) and several Hawfinches (Appelvink) provided some mild compensation.
Next up were the Vijlener Forests. Despite the howling winds we needed only half an hour to locate a beautiful Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Middelste bonte specht)and the hoped for Treecreeper (Kortsnavelboomkruiper) while a Black Woodpecker (Zwarte Specht) called distantly in the background. We were picking up some momentum here!
Middle Spotted Woodpecker, by Sjoerd Radstaak
Treecreeper, note that the goldentrapezium on its
wing jumps a step, a diagnostic feature for this species,
by Sjoerd Radstaak
We’ve got them! by Wouter van der Ham
We had about 2 hours of daylight left so we rushed to the ENCI-quarry near Maastricht to try for Eagle Owl (Oehoe). We meticulously scoped the limestone cliffs for half an hour but the bird was hiding – or hunting – somewhere out of site. Note to self: Eagle Owls don’t like blustery weather – Momentum lost again…
Our last stop of the day was a large man-made lake near Heel where the 5th Bufflehead (Buffelkopeend) – a 1st winter or adult female – for the Netherlands should be an easy find. And indeed it didn’t take us long before we obtained close-up views of this tiny North American duck. As dusk set in 3 Kingfishers (IJsvogel) and a couple of Black-necked Grebes (Geoorde fuut) provided the last ticks for today…
First winter or female Bufflehead, by Sjoerd Radstaak