A couple a months back I got a call from my friends Ico Jalink and Caroline Jalink-Mulder. They explained how they wanted to organize a surprise birding excursion for Caroline’s dad, Hans. Caroline’s parents live in Glimmen, just south of Groningen. As luck happens to be this is just a stone’s throw away from one of the best birding sites in the Netherlands; the Kropswolderbuitenpolder. I opted to plan the excursion somewhere late May a this is exactly the time of the year when a couple of very special birds can be found in this particular area….
May 31, 2015: 06:00 AM sharp.
I picked up Hans, Ella, Ico, Caroline, Inge, Wouter, Pieter and Olivia and we set of to our first location, which was just a 5 minutes drive away. Here, around an oak-fringed lawn, the world’s most northwestern breeding pair of Middle-spotted Woodpecker (Middelste bonte specht) make their home! However these retiring birds are very difficult to see this time of the year as the trees are covered in lush green. I told the group to be very quiet as we stepped out of the van….
On the lookout for Middle Spotted Woodpecker
After half an hour of waiting we had nearly given up, but a Spotted Flycatcher (Grauwe vliegenvanger), delivering its wonderfully simplistic song from an exposed perch, urged us to stay for just a little longer. Suddenly a small woodpecker zipped overhead and started foraging in the canopy 30 meters away from us; a male Middle Spotted Woodpecker! Pfew!
With this difficult species in the bag we headed for the Kropswolderbuitenpolder. Halfway there a male Bullfinch (Goudvink) perched in the middle of the road, always a great bird to see!
We took coffee and snacks with us to what must be one of the best lookout-point in the Netherlands. Here the roof of a concrete pumping station overlooks the Kropswolderbuitenpolder; a huge area covered in swamp, wet grassland and stretches of open water.
Hans, looking at Black-winged Stilt
It didn’t take long before we located one of the key species here: Black-winged Stilt (Steltkluut). We observed a female on the nest and a male foraging nearby.
It was a cloudy and windy morning, but thanks to the coffee and cake we were able to withstand the cold. A Common Snipe (Watersnip) displayed overhead. Ringed Plovers (bontbekplevier), Garganeys (Zomertaling), Spoonbills (Lepelaar) and a host of other species highly dependent on these wet grasslands were observed over the next two hours. Best of the bunch were a couple of Whiskered Terns (Witwangstern) and White-winged Black Terns (Witvleugelstern) foraging among Black Terns (Zwarte stern) in the distance. Luck was with us as one Whiskered Tern decided to forage above a small stretch of open water right under our noses. It even caught a frog and devoured the amphibian on a mud-flat just 40 meters away! Very cool indeed!
Look! Whiskered Tern!
Whiskered Tern, by Pieter van Veelen, thanks for this brilliant photograph man!
White-winged Black Tern, by Pieter van Veelen, again thanks for borrowing your photo man!
Happy customers, happy guide!
After these successes in the Kropswolderbuitenpolder we headed for the Carel Coenraad- and the Breebaartpolder. Here we had one important target: Montagu’s Harrier (Grauwe kiekendief), one of the Netherland’s most iconic breeding birds. Half way there we had a sanitary stop which resulted in a perched Peregrine Falcon (Slechtvalk), the fastest bird on earth!
Upon arrival in the Carel Coenraadpolder we quickly found a male Montagu’s Harrier. Exceptionally beautiful birds indeed. Over the course of the next hour we found 4 more birds. A male Hen Harrier (Blauwe Kiekendief) with a mouse in its talons was a great bonus!
In the observation hut in the Breebaartpolder we observed a fine selection of waders from up close and practiced our ‘Grunnings’ with a local bird enthusiast. Soon after it started to drizzle so we drove back to Glimmen for a well deserved lunch…
SPECIES RECORDED NOTE: * = ONLY SEEN OR HEARD BY ME
- Mute Swan (Knobbelzwaan)
- Greylag Goose (Grauwe gans)
- Greater Canadada Goose (Grauwe gans)
- Barnacle Goose (Brandgans)*
- Common Shelduck (Bergeend)
- Mallard (Wilde eend)
- Gadwall (Krakeend)
- Shoveler (Slobeend)
- Garganey (Zomertaling) Several at Kropswolderbuitenpolder and a male in Breebaartpolder
- Pochard (Tafeleend)*
- Tufted Duck (Kuifeend)
- Great Crested Grebe (Fuut)
- Great Cormorant (Aalscholver)
- Grey Heron (Blauwe reiger)
- White Stork (Ooievaar)*
- Eurasian Spoonbill (Lepelaar)
- Marsh Harrier (Bruine Kiekendief)
- Hen Harrier (Blauwe kiekendief) 1 male carrying a mouse to his presumed breeding mate; this is one of the very last breeding pairs still clinging on in the Netherlands. We saw this beautiful bird in agricultural land near the Breebaartpolder.
- Montagu’s Harrier (Grauwe kiekendief) a signature species for this region. We saw at least 2 adult males, a 2nd summer male and a female at the same site as the above described Hen Harrier; always a magnificent species to see.
- Common Buzzard (Buizerd)
- Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Sperwer)*
- Common Kestrel (Torenvalk)
- Peregrine (Slechtvalk) A distant adult female on a telegraph-pole during a sanitary stop near Winschoten.
- Water Rail (Waterral) 1 heard at Kropswolderbuitenpolder.
- Common Moorhen (Waterhoen)
- Eurasian Coot (Meerkoet)
- Eurasian Oystercatcher (Scholekster)
- Avocet (Kluut)
- Black-winged Stilt (Steltkluut) A pair with a female on the nest at Kropswolderbuitenpolder is one of the most northern breeding pairs in northwestern Europe!
- Little Ringed Plover (Kleine Plevier)* 1 Kropswolderbuitenpolder
- Ringed Plover (Bontbekplevier)
- Grey Plover (Zilverplevier)* 1 Breebaartpolder
- Northern Lapwing (Kievit)
- Common Redshank (Tureluur)
- Spotted Redshank (Zwarte ruiter) 1 2nd summer bird, Breebaartpolder
- Common Greenshank (Groenpootruiter)* 1 Kropswolderbuitenpolder
- Black-tailed Godwit (Grutto)
- Common Snipe (Watersnip) At least two birds displaying at Kropswolderbuitenpolder; nowadays a rare breeder in the Netherlands.
- Ruff (Kemphaan) 1 male at one of the last Dutch breeding sites: Kropswolderbuitenpolder.
- Black-headed Gull (Kokmeeuw)
- Common Gull (Stormmeeuw)
- Zilvermeeuw (Zilvermeeuw)
- Lesser Black-backed Gull (Kleine Mantelmeeuw)
- Greater Black-backed Gull (Grote Mantelmeeuw)
- Arctic Tern (Noordse stern) 1 Breebaartpolder
- Common Tern (Visdief)
- Black Tern (Zwarte Stern) At least 20 birds; Kropswolderbuitenpolder
- Whiskered Tern (Witwangstern) At least 3 birds seen beautifully close. 1 bird even devoured a frog right in front of us. This surely was the bird of the trip! This species, along with the following species, reaches its most northwestern breeding site in the world at this locality: Kropswolderbuitenpolder.
- White-winged Black Tern (Witvleugelstern) Awsome birds, at least 8 birds gave excellent scope-views as they foraged among Black Terns. Hopefully these birds will breed again this year at Kropswolderbuitenpolder.
- Wood Pigeon (Houtduif)
- Stock Pigeon (Holenduif)
- Eursasian Cuckoo (Koekoek)
- Common Swift (Gierzwaluw)
- Green Woodpecker (Groene Specht) 1 bird in the garden at Glimmen!
- Great Spotted Woodpecker (Grote bonte specht)
- Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Middelste bonte specht) 1 very cool bird! At an undisclosed breeding site…
- Skylark (Veldleeuwerik)
- Sand Martin (Oeverzwaluw)
- House Martin (Huiszwaluw)
- Barn Swallow (Boerenzwaluw)
- Meadow Pipit (Graspieper)
- White Wagtail (Witte Kwikstaart)
- Yellow Wagtail (Gele Kwikstaart)
- Robin (Roodborst)
- Black Redstart (Zwarte Roodstaart) 1 male singing near Breebaartpolder
- Song Thrush (Zanglijster)*
- Common Blackbird (Merel)
- Common Blackcap (Zwartkop)*
- Common Whitethroat (Grasmus)
- Sedge Warbler (Rietzanger)
- Reed Warbler (Kleine karekiet)
- Willow Warbler (Fitis)
- Chiffchaff (Tjiftjaf)*
- Goldcrest (Goudhaan) Singing in the back-garden; Glimmen
- Winter Wren (Winterkoning)
- Spotted Flycatcher (Grauwe vliegenvanger) 1 male singing from an exposed perch; Glimmen
- Great Tit (Koolmees)
- Blue Tit (Pimpelmees)
- Short-toed Treecreeper (Boomkruiper)*
- Common Magpie (Ekster)
- Eurasian Jay (Gaai)
- Jackdaw (Kauw)
- Carrion Crow (Zwarte kraai)
- Rook (Roek) a colony terrorizing the back garden in Glimmen
- Common Starling (Spreeuw)
- House Sparrow (Huismees)
- Chaffinch (Vink)
- Linnet (Kneu)
- Goldfinch (Putter)
- Greenfinch (Groenling)*
- Eurasian Bullfinch (Goudvink) 1 male sitting on the road in Glimmen
- Reed Bunting (Rietgors)*