If I have to describe the last couple of weeks using only one word, it would be ‘wind’. A relentless westerly has been blowing over large parts of The Netherlands for a number of days, which complicates spotting and photographing birds. Most people might choose to snuggle up with a book or a film with weather like this, but I am not one of those people. With the help of rain radars and weather forecasts, I made some birding plans between the showers. West wind occasionally brings shore birds more inland, so there is always a chance of finding some extraordinary.
So there I am, in the polders, with a strong sea wind in my face. My efforts are immediately rewarded with the sighting of a small group of redshanks. Even in this wind, their loud, characteristic call is clearly recognizable. Another new species for the project! Large numbers of gulls have also settled nearby. The group consists of herring gulls, lesser-black backed gulls, mew gulls, and black-headed gulls. Secretly, I’m hoping for a yellow-legged gull, caspian gull, of greater black-backed gull, but none in this group. Maybe next time…
After those windy days, some calmer weather has moved in. A good moment to find two species I still want to photograph, the chiffchaff and the green woodpecker. I have heard them before this year, but I have not managed to get a picture of either of them. So, on a calm morning, I stroll through a park, and I am greeted with calls from both species. After some time, I finally get some shots of an energetic chiffchaff, that bounces between a couple of different tree tops.
Although the green woodpeckers stay well hidden, another secretive bird species shows itself. A male dunnock sings its song from the top of a bush. Dunnocks spent most of their lives hidden in bushes and foliage. Only during the spring, male birds rise from the shadows to sing and find a mate for the breeding season.
The big milestone wasn’t a songbird though, but a duck-like creature. The shelduck is part of a subfamily called tadornidae, consisting of birds roughly between ducks and geese, size wise. Only two species from this subfamily are native in the Netherlands, namely the (common) shelduck, and the ruddy shelduck, although some numbers of escaped ruddy shelducks are year round present as well. The common shelduck is a common summering bird here, with large numbers breeding in the western part of the country.
This pair of shelducks is special for me personally, because it is my 100th species in Voorschoten ever! I got a big smile on my face from the first moment I spotted them through my binoculars, and that smile stayed until the end of the day. That encounter pretty much sums up what this ‘100 bird species’ project is all about; enjoying birding, and getting excited by seeing (relatively) common species such as this! From the stone edge of a bridge, I get a nice vantage point for looking at these birds. They are a long ways away, but move in my direction, battling the wind. A mallard isn’t as pleased as me to see them, and after some quacking back and forth, he scares the two shelducks away. Very well then.
For the project, the shelduck is species number 79, but I will remember these two birds as ‘number 100’. So that’s one big milestone passed, now it’s time for the next one: getting those 100 species this year!
Total number of species: 79 / 100
Number of new species: 2