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100 species: spring migration

A common Dutch saying is ‘April does whatever it wants’, usually referring to April’s varied weather. And last week was a prime example of that, with temperatures getting close to 20 degrees Celsius for a couple of days, only to drop to just above freezing point for the rest of the week. It did not really bother spring migration however; loads of migratory birds and summer guests have paid (short) visits to Voorschoten.

On the last day of March, I spotted a barn swallow, but was unable to photograph it. This week, some more barn swallows passed by, with one even seemingly already settling here for this summer. This gave me a nice opportunity to get some shots of it. I forgot how fast they were! Hopefully, more will come in the next month or so, and I can get some more pictures of them.

The big surprise of March, the bluethroat, was also still present. A pleasant surprise was finding a second bird; either a juvenile bird, or a female. Perhaps the possibility for a breeding pair, exciting stuff!

That spot proved to hold some more surprises. All sorts of birds seem to be attracted to this piece of fallow land, with its bushes and reed beds. A small brown bird started singing its song a little further back: that sounds like a willow warbler! Getting a view and shot of it was a tricky affair, but eventually it sat still on a branch just long enough to get its picture taken. Willow warblers are pretty indistinguishable from chiffchaff when silent, but their songs are unique and recognizable from one another. Further down the patch, two birds keep brabbling to each other. Every once in a while, to fly off, only to return with some branches or possible nesting material. These are common linnets! Only about a dozen have been seen here in the last couple of years, most of them just passing by. So finding two possible nesting birds is a good sign; let’s hope the breeding season brings even more linnets to Voorschoten!

The black-tailed godwits are still present in the polders, but spend most of their time well away from the roads. One morning however, I found two birds foraging not to far from one of the roads surrounding the polders. Sitting on the site of a ditch, hidden between some trees, I waited for them to come to me. Slowly they moved my way, accompanied by some starlings. Finally some nice close-up shots from black-tailed godwits, in my own township!

The sky also had some nice surprises up its sleeve, especially during the early morning hours. Some migrating groups of redwings, gulls, and meadow pipits, were interspersed with small numbers of fieldfares, and even a yellow wagtail, that flew right over my building at first light, which is another nice addition to this list. But the big surprise happened last sunday. At about 10 in the morning, I spotted a white bird at a significant distance. I had trouble identifying it at first sight; definitely not a gull, or a great white heron, or a stork. I take a number of shots, and zoom in to get a better look…

Short, orange beak, short black legs: this is a cattle egret! I’ve written a blog before about different kinds of white egrets, ├índ the small cattle is still considered a Dutch rarity. There is always something special about finding a rare species by yourself, so I might have done a little dance of joy after I got the identification right. I quickly report the bird through the Dutch version of, hoping that someone else might spot it, or sees it land, but no luck. Oh well, still a great addition to the list!

Total number of species: 90 / 100

Number of new species: 6

  • Blackcap
  • Cattle egret
  • Fieldfare
  • Linnet
  • Willow warbler
  • Yellow wagtail