dinsdag 31 januari 2012

One of the best birding days in my life?

- An interruption from the Spain trip report for some variety:) -

Our province Zeeland in winter: definitively thé place to be for watching birds! With my dad and our friend Henri we decided to do a day of birdwatching yesterday - Sunday January 30th -. We had made a planning of what itwere going to do first etc. The alarmclock was set on 5.30, very early during winter time! We picked up Henri at his home around 6.45 and off we went in the complete darkness.

We  headed to the Reeuwijkse Plassen at Reeuwijk in the province of Zuid-Holland first where we would try to see the long-staying White-headed Duck. We arrived at the exact place around 8.00 when it was still a little bit dark but we could already scan the ducks. The first surprise were two Slavonian Grebes that were present among a group of Pochards and Tufted Ducks. This was the group of ducks that often held the White-headed Duck as well so I scanned the group thorougly. No White-headed Duck however. We did find his overseas related brother, a male Ruddy Duck, which is considered to be an escape here. We walked closer to the group as the light was getting better and after scanning the group again I discovered a Ferruginous Duck, a welcome surprise too! It was already 8.45 but still no sign of the White-headed Duck. We slowly walked back to the car, realising we would be dipping this duck that is ALWAYS present in the group of ducks, but not today! Then, as we had arrived at the car, I decided to check the lake once more time, to make sure we had checked it thorougly, and while scanning the water I suddenly found the White-headed Duck, actively foraging and therefore difficult to find! After seeing many tens of these wonderful ducks in Spain less than a month ago it was a pleasure to see one more closeby as well!

Our plan was to wait for the Gyr Falcon to be seen again and then we would drive to the bird, full speed! After we'd seen the White-headed Duck I checked www.dutchbirdalerts.nl on my phone and I saw an alert of the Gyr! We installed the TomTom and the TomTom told us we were 1 hour and 46 minutes (165 km) away from our destination. We drove partially through Belgium to get to the village Zandstraat, just above Sas Van Gent. We arrived at the Van Remoorterepolderstraat at 10.30. There were +15 other birders present as well. Already from the driving car we could distinguish a large raptor sitting on a pylon in the field. As expected this was the falcon. What a fantastic bird! The Gyr Falcon was in the pocket! It was sat in a pylon at 200 metres distance. From the road we had great views of the bird.
In the top of of the pylon: the Gyr Falcon.
The Gyr, digiscoped by Tammo. Too bad of the terrible light conditions..

We could calmly observe the Gyr and all details were visible. We saw the bird tidying its feathers and massive claws, spreading its wings and eventually flying off to another pylon further away. Very satisfied we continued our way towards Axel where a Catlle Egret had been observed for over three months already. When we arrived at the place where it should be - a meadow with horses - it was nowhere to be found. Luckily I knew another place closeby where it had been observed regularly too. Arriving there we soon noticed the Cattle Egret resting in the grass next to a small canal. Soon it started foraging and flew off to some cattle.
Adult winter Cattle Egret

Our next target species was the Greater Yellowlegs, which has been present for over 1,5 years now in the same creek, at Colijnsplaat. Last November we dipped it due to heavy fog so we hoped that we would see it now! We drove through the Westerscheldetunnel via Goes to Colijnsplaat. We stopped on the brigde at the creek and started scanning. Quite soon I found the Greater Yellowlegs foraging on the side of the creek. It was a bit distant but we could distinguish all the features very well. I made a terrible recordshot with my camera that I won't post, haha. Furthermore we saw Snipes, Little Grebes and a Redshank and Henri found a Great-spotted Woodpecker, good for the daily list;) Around 13.45 we left to the Veerse Meer for Great Northern Diver. We scanned the lake from the northern side but didn't find the diver, it turned out it was present more to the south, not visible from where we were standing. Because of a bit of time pressure we decided not to head there but to continue our way north. On the Veerse Meer we did see 40+ Black-necked Grebes.
One of the many Black-necked Grebes present on the lake.

We drove north to Neeltje Jans/Oosterscheldekering, a large complex of floodgates. After a bit of searching we found three Shags, 2 adults and 1 first winter. One of the adults was foraging close to the land which meant we were able to take some good pics. We didn't find the Glaucous Gull that should've been present here. 
The adult Shag. Note the yellow skin near the bill.

Around 15.00 we left Neeltje Jans and proceeded further north. At Schouwen-Duivenland our goal was to see the long-staying Crane. We found it foraging on a cropfield. After a few minutes the bird took off and landed in its favourite cornfield patch. In the same field we saw a hunting Hen Harrier
The Crane.

From the Crane we drove to Burghsluis where our mission was to find the two rare species of Brant in between the common Brants. Soon we came upon a small group of 200+ Brants. From the car we scanned the group with our binoculars. After just a few minutes: bingo! 3 Pale-bellied Brants were foraging amongst the other Brants. And then, only a few mintues later, we discovered the 1st winter Black Brant. This was a quick succes!
2 of the 3 Pale-bellied Brants present in this group.
And the 1st winter Black Brant.

A bit further down the road we discovered another Pale-bellied Brant from the driving car! Number 4 of the day. We continued towards the Koudekerksche Inlaag. It was 16.00 already and the light started to decrease.Our chances of seeing a Short-eared Owl increased. And as we hoped, we were rewarded with a great hunting Short-eared Owl! The pictures speak for themselves..
With succes!

After this show we drove to the Brouwersdam. On our way we saw a hunting Rough-legged Buzzard from te car. At the Brouwersdam the light was getting bad which meant that our view on the sea wasn't what we hoped for. We hoped to find a Great northern Diver here, but we didn't. We did see 25 Red-throated Divers, hundreds of Black Scoters, hundreds of Red-breasted Mergansers, some Ruddy Turnstones, a Purple Sandpiper and a Bar-tailed Godwit.
Henri and me at the Brouwersdam.

We ended the day with a great Mc Donalds meal!

To recap: our score of rare birds after a full day of birding: Gyr Falcon, Greater Yellowlegs, White-headed Duck, Crane, Cattle Egret, Ferruginous Duck, Shags, Black Brant, Pale-bellied Brants, Rough-legged Buzzards and also Short-eared Owls! So I suppose I can consider this one of my best birding days in Holland?!

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