VU Ecologists out Birding

On 12 January about 18 VU ecologists of wide-ranging plumage, birding experience and viewing equipment got together to give the Dutch birds some extra attention. Yes, it was the annual Ecologist’s birding extravaganza again. Setting off in (extra carbon-friendly) cars from Vrije Universiteit, we soon ended up in one of the most coastal of environments the country has on offer: the Brouwersdam, linking the islands of Goeree-Overflakkee and Schouwen-Duiveland in the southwestern delta area. The viewing conditions were accordingly, with a strong gale blowing towards us from the UK, whipping the waves to make our bird-watching life more “interesting” (read: difficult).  Fortunately we were generally well enough armed with binoculars, telescopes and experience to pick out some rare marine specialties like Great Northern Diver, Long-tailed Ducks and Black Guillemot. We also had beautiful close-up views of a specialty of coastal basalt rock constructions: Purple Sandpiper (see Oscar’s photo), a modest looking but ever so cute wader. Red-breasted Mergansers, Red-throated Divers, Eider Ducks, Slavonian Grebes, Brent Geese, Sanderlings and Turnstones were among the other coastal species we saw. For the new bird-watchers who found the viewing conditions and chill factor somewhat challenging after a while, there was a seal for distraction; and soon after, the hot drinks (including Irish coffee) and apple pies in the local beach café defrosted our outside and inside body parts. We decided to find a more sheltered area for the afternoon’s adventure, being the dune and salt marsh area of Kwade Hoek. The sun came out for us so no more numb fingers. And the binoculars which these happy fingers were holding helped to record a small flock of Greenfinches, and large flocks of waders such as Dunlins and Ringed Plovers. The ears in the meantime feasted on a Bullfinch which decided not to also reveal its wonderful plumage to us. Some of us managed to spot a stoat crossing the path, quite an amazing mammal sighting. As the sun started to fade down the horizon we said our bye byes although two car-loads with birding diehards used the very last daylight to search for a Ross Goose, a rare winter visitor. Thanks, Tanja, for still finding it when we’d almost given up. A great birding day all in all, let’s make it a more-than-once-a-year tradition.


Photo: Oscar Franken