Finally, the dark days of winter are behind us!
Spring is all around you: people are smiling, crocuses and snowdrops eagerly stick their head through the grass and daring girls walk around in miniskirts – for the trained eye it is just possible to see the goose bumps on their legs, emphasizing that it’s still a little chilly. Best however are the birds that suddenly sing from every patch of Amsterdam greenery! Chiffchaffs (Tjiftjaf), Dunnocks (Heggenmus), Song Thrushes (Zanglijster), Blackbirds (Merel), Great Tits (Koolmees) and Robins (Roodborst) vigorously compete for the best piece of green estate to raise this years’ young.
All the birds mentioned above, with exception of the Chiffchaff, are residents or short distance migrants. Truly exiting for the fanatic birdwatcher among us are those first longer distance migrants that arrive in the first week of March. For me there is no better sound than a flock of Black-tailed Godwits (Grutto) that nervously takes to flight from a shallow pool they’d just chosen as a refuel point after their long flight from northwest Africa.
Friday afternoon Lars Buckx and I did a loop around Ijmuiden and the ‘Haarlemmermeer polder’. Of course no rarities were found, but a gathering of over a thousand Fieldfares (Kramsvogel) and large flocks of Eurasian Wigeons (Smient) and Greater White-fronted Geese (Kolgans) at least gave us the false hope that we could find one! Best was a lone Pink-footed Goose (Kleine Rietgans), a scarce bird in the Amsterdam region.
Saturday afternoon Camilla and I cycled around the Ouderkerkerplas and ‘Het Landje van Geijsel’. The sunny weather made for excellent birding. A calling Green Woodpecker (Groene specht) was quickly followed by my first Mediterranean Gull (Zwartkopmeeuw) for the year 2015. At the Ouderkerkerplas a flock of 20000 Eurasian Wigeons was present, but despite some thorough scoping their American counterpart was of course not found – someday I’ll find that bloody Yank!
A very distant Mediteranean Gull
‘Het Landje van Geijsel’ was wonderful and I decided right at the spot that it will be my new ‘local patch’. We counted approximately 1000 Black-tailed Godwits. Among them stood a couple of Reeve (Kemphaan) and at least 40 Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit (Ijslandse Grutto), a subspecies that breeds exclusively on Iceland and migrates through Holland this time of the year. They can quite easily be distinguished by their smaller size and brighter brick red head, neck, breast and flanks.
Camilla looking at Godwits
On the way back to Amsterdam I found an immaculate first winter Caspian Gull (Pontische meeuw), a nice finish for this years’ first pleasantly warm day!
First winter Caspian Gull
Finally on Sunday I paid a quick visit to the Starrevaart near Leidschendam where the ever present Glossy Ibises put on a nice show. Also noteworthy was the elderly lady that had accidentally driven into the swampy ditch near the observation hut. I had to come to the rescue and pulled her with difficulty from the muddy water. Luckily her daughter answered her phone and half an hour later the lady was warm and safe – and very stinky – tugged away under a towel on the back seat of her daughters car J