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100 species: oops…

Every now and then, you get in a situation that makes you go ‘oops’. Sometimes, that is because something goes wrong, like when you drop a plate of food. In other instances, you might say ‘oops’, but it’s more of a ‘sorry, not sorry’ situation. Like when you eat the last cookie from the cookie jar, just before your significant other comes home. You might say ‘oops’, or ‘sorry’, but you don’t really regret it, you’re pretty okay with it. Those things usually resolve themselves again for the better. In the case of the cookie jar, an empty jar makes for a good excuse to get new cookies. In the case of birding, well…

Last week was a special week. The first house martins started to arrive, as well as some sand martins. The few reports of sand martins here were of migrating birds, so finding a couple of birds foraging between some barn swallows was a nice surprise. An even better surprise was the face that they have been there for a number of days now, so it looks like they are here to stay for a while!

Last week also saw the first blackcaps coming in; this week, their numbers pretty much went through the roof, and I managed to get some decent shots of both the male and female blackcaps. Although the male birds are obviously accountable for the name, the females wear a lighter, red orange cap. The male’s song can be heard in many parks and gardens throughout the town.

After some trail and error, I have found a nice spot to watch bird migration going through Voorschoten. My ‘post’ is located on the edge of a canal, with a large reed bed on the opposite bank. Large numbers of meadow pipits, redwings, fieldfares, barnacle geese, cormorants, and some spoonbills have passed me by in the last couple of days. Snipes and northern wheatears fly off from behind the reeds, and sedge warblers and reed buntings occupy the bed itself. Between large numbers of gulls, common terns have made their appearance, and small numbers of whimbrels and green sandpipers migrate through towards the north. Some nice additions to my local list!

This week’s, and perhaps this month’s, highlights came in twofold. A big part of that had to do with the wind. For the last week, we’ve had a steady easterly wind. Bird migration tends to move along with the wind direction, especially raptor migration. The largest part of that migration usually takes place in the eastern part of the Netherlands, but steady easterly wind moves the birds further west. So on two different occasions, I was fortunate enough to get some of these gifts from the east; one in the morning, one in the evening.

The morning bird came during a calm session of migratory bird watching. All was quiet; songbirds singing their songs, meadow pipits flying by, lapwings and oystercatchers foraging in a nearby polder. Suddenly, gulls start screaming, the lapwings and oystercatchers loudly take off; this can only mean one thing: a raptor. I start scanning the sky, and find a dark bird of prey in the distance, slowly flying in my general direction. A closer look reveals a forked tail. The tail isn’t forked that deeply, and the bird is pretty dark, so therefor, this must be a black kite! A relative rarity in the western part of the country, so seeing one is a neat experience. All the hassle in the polder doesn’t seem to bother the bird. It keeps its course, and, as swiftly as it appears, it disappears again, continuing its migratory route.

The other encounter happened in the evening, with a slightly less rare bird, but all the more spectacular. Whenever there’s a little bit of time to kill at home, I like to watch birds from my balcony. Most of the time it’s ‘just’ gulls and other typical songbirds, but sometimes, unusual or rare species fly by. Like with the black kite, this bird’s presence got announced by some gulls screaming. I look around, and find an osprey, slowly circling south, just a couple of meters above my flat. Instantly I start shooting what feels like a hundred pictures; I’m shaking, because this is amazing! I knew that any chance for an osprey would have been a migrating bird in April, but getting this close to one was pretty surreal.

All in all, some amazing encounters and sightings this week. It comes however, with the feeling of ‘oops’, because I have reached my initial goal of 100 species! So now what? Finding more species, that’s what! Apparently it is possible to find at least a hundred bird species on less than 12 square kilometers, so let’s see what else I can find before the end of the year!

Total number of species: 100 / 100

Number of new species: 10

  • Black kite
  • Green sandpiper
  • House martin
  • Northern wheatear
  • Osprey
  • Sand martin
  • Sedge warbler
  • Snipe
  • Tern
  • Whimbrel