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Happy birding in the Low Countries

Posted Monday 10th December 2007 at 16:40 by Nils K
Birding in Holland is fun!! - mostly


My favourite site in Holland is the Oostvaardersplassen - an area in the centre of Holland reclaimed from the IJsselmeer a couple of decades ago. Part of the reclaimed land is left on its own and loads of wildlife has discovered the place.
Wild horses, cattle, deer and many, many birds. Ranging from a flock of escaped flamingo's which resided for a couple of years to spoonbills, Great Egrets, all kinds of waterfowl and songbirds to the odd (escaped) Pelican. In recent years the White Tailed Sea Eagle started nesting successfully for the first time in centuries.

The Oostvaardersplassen are my main area for birding, lots of hides concentrated in a relatively small area. Coming from a place about an hours drive away I occasionally visit some other places around the centre of The Low Countries.

I'll try to describe the areas as well as my attempts and subsequent failures to shoot nice pictures and see new species.

So last weekend was a good weekend for birding. Started Saturday at a hide called the Poelruiter in the OVP. Weather looked good, although the forecast said rain and lots of wind. The hide is positioned so that from early afternoon the light is nice and the wind was blowing from the back of the hide. Perfect opportunity for the Kingfisher that lives in the area.
It was COLD... Four people in the hide, all waiting for the KF. It was seen and photographed just 15 min. before and I was feeling lucky. But, as a discussion over the new Nikon D300 I brought got underway, the sounds were so loud that mr KF probably heard it miles away... Luckily all were Nikon shooters and jealous of my new kit so the morning wasn't wasted. In the end, no KF, not a single frame shot of a bird.

Sunday, forecast rain, wind, grey skies. Okay, so I'll just sleep late. Waking up I notice a clear blue sky and no wind. What the heck? Never trust the weather service you fool!
Back to the same hide and try the Kingfisher again. No cars at the parking lot, no people in the hide. Good, coffee and a camera will be plenty for the next few hours. A buzzard in a tree at 80 mtrs is a good subject to test if the upgrade from my old trusty 50D was really as good as I thought. Yep, when I zoom in to the little dot I still see detail where before I saw only pixels. Now for the Kingfisher.
An hour passed, geese far away, lots of raptors flying around - mostly buzzard. Some Eider and Common Shelduck in the distance but no KF. Another hour, coffee gone, dark clouds and a LOT of rain. Hmmm.
When I step out of the hide to check if the sky is clearing I spot a deer at 50 mtrs. Freeze, don't move. It looks up and sniffs but the wind is in my direction and I'm still in the entrance. It continues feeding and I sneak back to get the camera. Unfortunately it's still raining pretty hard so even with the new gear the shots I take are, well, not so good... But the sky is clearing slowly and the deer still feeds happily, not caring about me at all. I'm thinking, if I was just a little closer, maybe somewhere around the path leading back to the car, I could make a much better shot. But, deer tend to be very nervous and run when they see someone pointing a big black thing at them. Would they stay put if they knew it was only a camera?
Anyway, the guy walking up to the hide had the perfect spot, only about 20 mtrs or so from the deer which didn't see him approach. I did, he even saw me. Pointing frantically at the deer so he could get a shot he looked at me with an expression of utter confusion: what’s this guy doing in the doorway of the hide pointing? Deer gone in an instant, sun and perfect light shortly after.

As it turns out the deer chaser is trying his new camera as well and we compare our gear at length. Finally a chirp close by: a wren, always nice to see and hear. Where is it? Hiding in a bush close by: I manage a couple of shots. More birds flying around, all is happening at once. A group of Long Tailed Tit land just outside the hide and pose for a few seconds. Still the light is low and I get no clean shot. Back in the hide some coots are calling constantly. I heard this when I came in but haven't seen them yet. A Water Rail says Deerchaser, sounds more like a coot to me I say, Water Rails sound like a small pig being tortured.
They are there however, they squeal from time to time. Never seeing an adult Water Rail is one of my major complaints about birding. Hear them all the time but they seem to know when I'm there and just hide.
Just before I leave I hear a splash right in front of me, followed by the distinctive call. I try to get my camera down but the window is to low to point straight down. As I look I see an adult Water Rail running for shelter a metre away. So thats what they look like for real...
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I loved the expression: "So that what they look for real..."I may use that for Hyacinth Macaws & Jaguars at the Pantanal! :-)
Posted Tuesday 2nd September 2008 at 12:34 by Paulo Boute Paulo Boute is offline
 
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