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Guessing the guests

One of nature’s biggest movements is about to embark once again: spring migration. In the next couple of months, large numbers of different bird species will leave, pass through, or visit the Netherlands. For my 100 bird species project, this means I will keep an eye out for any new winged visitors of Voorschoten. So for now, let’s look at some of the species that might show up in the next couple of months.

First, we take a look at three summer regulars: the swift, the barn swallow, and the house swallow. Large numbers of swifts (shown left) circulate the old city center, and most polders hold a good number of barn swallows during the summer months. With a little luck, a third species can be seen, foraging in the sky. Slightly recovering after years of declining numbers, the house swallow (shown right) is nicknamed the flying orca because of its black and white feather pattern. Besides those three species, there is always a change of spotting a migrating sand martin, of even a very rare red-rumped swallow, or a pallid swift!

A lot of passerine birds return from their wintering grounds; common birds like the chiffchaff, the willow warbler, the blackcap (shown right), and the garden warbler. I’ve talked about my obsession about reed dwellers before, so this year I hope to see a lot of them in Voorschoten, like the whitethroat (shown left), the reed warbler, the lesser whitethroat, and perhaps one or two surprises…

Luckily, not all birds are as small and difficult as swallows or warblers. For instance, spoonbills (left) and shelducks (right) are quite easy to identify, especially against a clear blue sky. An extra bonus would be to not only see these birds fly over Voorschoten, but see them forage or rest in one of the many polders.

Going clockwise, starting top left:
First picture: western marsh harrier, peregrine falcon, honey-buzzard, goshawk.
Second picture: hobby, merlin, kestrel, sparrowhawk, buzzard.

Lastly, another big personal favorite: raptors. In the last couple of years, I have had the pleasure of spotting nine different kinds of birds of prey within this township. Others have reported migrating red kites, ospreys, hen harriers, and even rough-legged buzzards, and white-tailed eagles. So I am really looking forward to the possibility that I might pass the ten species this year. This year I’ve already seen kestrels, peregrine falcons, buzzards, sparrowhawks, and goshawks, so let’s see what else I can find the next couple of months!