Fenland 3000: Dutch Chicks and hyper-Honey’s
with Dan Brown and James Lidster
Late June and early July may not stimulate a response of excitement and anticipation from most people birding in Europe but a visit to see the new and improved Euro Lidster proved just why a few days with our tulip-loving friends in the nether regions can be so good.
With the tulips long-since cut and the windmills shimmering in the blistering mid-day sun JL took me in search of the elusive Grass Snake on Flevoland, part of the slave labour tactics he employed before allowing me out to play. The snakes proved a little too elusive for us, but the supporting cast of countryside birds was enough to entertain. Acro’s pumped out the tunes ditch-side with Marsh and Reed heading up the cast, a fine young Hawfinch gave pornstar views, and a pair of Bluethroats alarmed from the Phragmites. Overhead White Storks and Purple Herons made occasional fly-by’s.
Slowly winding our way uphill we eventually reached -2m asl and in front of us an expanse of flooded meadow teeming with birds. Nene Washes eat your heart out, Ham Wall take a hike, this was Groene Lonker Reserve, Zevenhoven. If you’ve ever wondered what Lincs and Cambs looked like 3000yrs ago or even what it will look like in 300yrs (climate change permitting) then here’s the place to come. Unlike the dude plagues of Titchwell; 500m lens and Bicycles outnumber the average birder here. Black-wits, Lapwing, Redshank and Ruff proved abundant whilst Black Terns veered around the occasional birder as they foraged along the paths. At the edge of the Bullrush a small black ball of fluff stood partially slumped against a dead stem. The parent Spotted Crake casually strode around the mud picking up tasty treats to feed to this pube-like chick. After a session of papping away we departed to leave them in peace and returned to the start of the path where its micro cousin was now on display.
P. porzana and pubic chick (DB)
Strutting her stuff along the scrape edge a superb female Baillon’s Crake skulked between the veg. Shutters fired as the bird occasionally left its cover for a brief forage out onto the open mud before panicking and retreating back into cover. These must now be the most photographed birds in Dutch history and a massive blocker on full display for many a WP or Dutch lister (er, on my list: ED). Given the miniscule area of habitat this pair are breeding in it may well be worth searching for these beauties a little more frequently in the Fens, the Broads and the South-East. Out over the rest of the flood small groups of Spoonbills scythed away with a smattering of Wood and Green Sands, Garganey, Black-necked Grebes, and Black Terns thrown in for good measure.
mmmmm mega.... (DB)
Spooners wishing they were at Cley (DB)
During the heat of the day we activity reduced so we resorted to chasing dragonflies and butterflies. Out on the polder family parties of Black-tailed Godwits and flocks of Lapwing provided a pleasant change to the usual devoid British farmland. Close to Arnhem the Veluwe dealt out a suite of classic heathland and woodland species. Overhead Honey Buzzards put on a great display, only made better by the fact we were simultaneously enjoying great coffee and apple cake. A Woodlark also put in a brief appearance over the café whilst the oak woodland dealt a couple of Wood Warblers and the conifers produced several Crested Tits and Spotted Fly’s. Out on the heath a female Sand Lizard made up for her dead male counterpart which more closely resembled a squashed herring on the road.
Back in Arnhem a traditional Dutch meal proved to have one of the highest cholesterol levels ever. As we headed out for another evening of survey work a Black Woodpecker cruised into the tall trees on the edge of the park in Arnhem and a Honey Buzz circled over the road. Evening work produced a chorus of Natterjacks down at De Warden just east of Chav town central, Druten, whilst a giant bat cruised by at Rijn Eeburg, possibly a Giant Noctule although with only one previous country record it is perhaps not that likely!
It seems that having fun in Holland doesn’t have to revolve around drugs, hookers, alcohol and saunas (although no doubt all help), so pack your panniers and puncture repair kit and get pedaling, who knows what you’ll find!