Category Archives: Netherlands

Falcons, Herons & Owls, oh my!

It’s March, which means it’s again the time of year when I give a little plug for my favorite nestcam website. Earlier this month, the nestcams over at the Dutch site Beleef de Lente started up for the spring nesting season.

Storks sleeping on one leg at the nest site.

For the 2011 season the site will have live streaming cams on the following Dutch nesting bird species:

Little Owl (Steenuil)
Eurasian Eagle-owl (Oehoe)
White Stork (Ooievaar)
Barn Swallow (Boerenzwaluw)
Eurasian Nuthatch (Boomklever)
Common Kingfisher (IJsvogel)
Purple Heron (Purperreiger)
Peregrine Falcon (Slechtvalk)

The kingfisher, heron and falcons are new for this year, although Common Kingfishers and Peregrine Falcons have been featured on the site before.

Remember the time difference (the Netherlands is GMT +1) when you have a look at the cams. The owl cams will probably be more active at night. Just this afternoon I had a look at the cams and saw a Peregrine Falcon snoozing outside the nest box, and both White Storks asleep on the nest. The Eurasian Eagle-owl began incubating just today. The swallow and heron cams have yet to start up, but all of the other cameras have seen birds visiting the nest sites, though no eggs have been laid so far.

Eurasian Eagle-owl incubating at her nest

I love these cams for a few reasons.

1. There are eight different cams available via one website.
2. Several of the nests have multiple cameras on them, so you can follow the birds as they move from view to view.
3. The cams are live streaming, with sound! None of this picture-refreshes-every-10-seconds nonsense. You see it all!
4. Archived clips of nestcam highlights. You don’t have to be fluent in Dutch to click through the clips to see amazing captures from the cams.
5. If you can read Dutch, the written regular updates by species-specific experts are great at explaining what is going on at each nest site.

If you have the chance, visit the Beleef de Lente site and visit some European nesting birds!

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Streaming Dutch back yard birds

Last week the Dutch branch of BirdLife International, Vogelbescherming, introduced a new website featuring four different bird cams. Beleef de winter is the non-breeding season’s answer to the hugely popular series of nest cams run by Vogelbescherming each spring, Beleef de Lente. Viewers from around the world can watch Dutch feeder visitors on four different cameras.

Like the springtime nest cams, the live streaming winter cams are available 24 hours. Highlights from the cams are archived, so if there isn’t any action when you take a peek, you can still see some resident Dutch winter birds.

My favorite is cam 3, which is pointed at an open water source. The bubbling water is pretty popular bathing site for birds like Great Tits, Blackbirds, and European Robins. The clip “02-01 Populaire badplaats” shows a robin having a quickie bath and a cute Blue Tit who seems content to just wash its face in the water. Another great clip features a pair of Long-tailed Tits, which are like chickadees only fluffier, bigger-headed, and sporting little white Mohawks and super-sized tails: “05-01 Staartmezen.”

Nest cams are popular in the spring breeding season, which for most local birds is still months away. These feeder cams from Holland are fun to watch while we wait for those nest cams to fire up again. Do you have any favorite winter bird cams that are running right now?

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Birds of the Year

Earlier this month, the Barn Owl was named Audubon California’s 2010 Bird of the Year by popular vote. Although not one of the six birds nominated by group, the Barn Owl won as a write-in candidate with nearly 70% of the total vote. The species probably got a boost via an extremely popular Barn Owl nest cam that ran over the spring. Molly the Owl got worldwide attention. The Barn Owl is doing relatively well in California; local populations suffer from habitat loss. The species is endangered here in Illinois for the same reasons.

Meanwhile, Dutch bird research partners including the Dutch branch of BirdLife International named 2011 the Year of the Barn Swallow. The population of Barn Swallows in the Netherlands has been cut in half over the past 40 years. Researchers are asking for the public’s help in reporting Barn Swallow sightings as well as previous and potential nest sites. Dutch friends can visit this site to learn more.

While I can’t predict what my bird of the year for 2011 will be, I can say that 2010 was the year of the Barred Owl. I got to meet a very special education Barred Owl named Meepy, and I am looking forward to spending more time with her in 2011.

Meepy the Barred Owl

And one of my most exciting bird sightings of the year took place on November 13th, when Arthur and I attended an Owl Prowl at Ryerson Woods in Lake County and saw our first Illinois Barred Owl! The owl was a lifer for many on the trip and a county tick for everyone except the trip leader (I think), including a friend who has been birding in Lake County for over 40 years. It was so exciting and I regret that I didn’t blog about it at the time (because I didn’t have any photos to share).

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I can’t resist

Using animals for our own amusement is wrong, absolutely. So the sight of dyed pigeons first gives me a feeling of dismay. But hand feeding beautiful, sweet, hungry birds — the lure is too much for me.

Pigeons at the Efteling

A mixed flock of dyed Fantail Pigeons (a domestic breed) and Rock Doves hangs out in one of the Efteling‘s beautiful open areas. A vendor sells seed in small packages and I cannot resist.

Pigeons at the Efteling

From what I have been able to find out online, the birds are colored using pigeon-safe dye. They are all fully flighted, and mix freely with non-dyed pigeons as well as Jackdaws, House Sparrows, and even a Wood Pigeon or two.

Pigeons at the Efteling

Pigeons at the Efteling

The first time I saw the dyed birds was on my first visit to the Efteling back in 2000. On a much later visit, perhaps in 2008, the flock of pigeons was in the same place, but there were no dyed birds. I thought, Joy! They stopped dying them, but we can still feed them, now that’s some progress. I was surprised to see the dyed birds again on this latest visit, August 2010.

Pigeons at the Efteling

Pigeons at the Efteling

If you’ve ever seen dyed pigeons, or know more about the process, or even if you have an opinion about the practice you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Pigeons at the Efteling

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African birds in Holland

One day during our visit to Holland we went to an art and craft fair at a garden center. Arthur’s cousin had a table there and we went to see her pottery work (check it out, Dutch friends!) and the other artists.

One of the tables represented the metal sculpture gallery Birdwoods. A company now based in New Zealand distributes and sells metal sculptures of (mostly) birds made from recycled oil drums by families in Zimbabwe. That’s a mouthful; read more here, and enjoy these photos of the interesting and beautiful sculptures.






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Natuur Museum Brabant

Back in August, we visited the Natuur Museum Brabant in Tilburg, the Netherlands. I was really impressed by the bird collection and other displays in this small provincial natural history museum.

Natuur Museum Brabant

A large part of the permanent exhibit features common Dutch wildlife, especially that found in Brabant. This includes an impressive number of birds – and rather small numbers of everything else, really. Notice the pet dog (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?) and domestic sheep bolstering the mammal numbers.

Natuur Museum Brabant

Natuur Museum Brabant

In another room, there was an interesting display depicting several species that were extirpated from the Netherlands, and recent reintroduction efforts. For example, the last breeding pair of Ravens was found in south Limburg in 1944; 200 Ravens were re-introduced in the natural area Veluwe over a period of 20+ years.

A temporary exhibit on reproduction and sexuality was pretty interesting, with a couple of bird-related tidbits that stood out.

First, it was neat to see a side-by-side comparison of male vs. female size in a couple of raptor species. In birds of prey, the female bird is almost always larger than the male.

Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawk

Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Next, it was kind of fun to show this duck display to my cousin- and mother-in-law. And I thought crazy duck genitalia was common knowledge! ๐Ÿ™‚

Natuur Museum Brabant

The caption below reads in part: Record penis: Most birds have no penis. But if they do have one, boy do they steal the show. This Argentinian Stiff-tailed Duck has a penis nearly a half meter long.

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A visit to Papegaaienpark Veldhoven (part 4)

We had so much fun visiting the parrots at the Papegaaienpark. During our visit, we got to meet lots and lots of parrots. But the facility is home to more than parrots. The park also takes in unwanted zoo animals, other unwanted exotic pets, and animals confiscated by the Dutch customs authorities at points of entry.

Unflighted birds were scattered throughout different open-air habitats in the park. Some were freely walking among the visitors, while others, like the Emu and the Chicubas, were separated by moats or fences.

Red-crowned Cranes
Red-crowned Cranes mingled with ducks, pelicans, and others

Red-breasted Goose
A small group of Red-breasted Geese crossed the path in front of us

Chicubas shared space with a Bar-headed Goose

Emu looking at you

Others were kept inside large outdoor aviaries.

Bald Eagles
A pair of Bald Eagles shared a HUGE aviary

Snowy Owl
This Snowy Owl preferred to stand on the ground

Several times, I walked by a large aviary holding several vulture species. The weather that day was partly cloudy, with a few showers here and there. The last time I walked by the vulture aviary, the sun was shining, and you know what vultures do when the sun comes out… Look at that second sweetheart, sunning herself just like a vulture ought to.

King Vulture
King Vulture in the sun

King Vulture with wing amputation
King Vulture taking in the sun

The final area to visit in the park is a huge building, where several tropical species were housed. Many were free-flighted, but remained wary of people and didn’t approach. Visitors weren’t allowed to feed these birds. The TropiJoy building also had many enclosed aviaries for lots of different bird species.

Sunbittern perched on a railing!

Red-billed Toucan
Red-billed Toucan

Pygmy Owl
Impossibly small at just 6.5″: Peruvian Pygmy Owl!!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this photo-heavy mini-series on our visit to the Papegaaienpark in Veldhoven, the Netherlands. It makes me sad that such a place is necessary in this world, but the staff, volunteers, and residents make it a wonderful place to visit. We’ll certainly be back.

Me leaving the park

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Parrot Week: A visit to Papegaaienpark Veldhoven (part 3)

Seeing the birds at the parrot park was a joy, as was giving the friendly feathered friends treats from our hands. As we followed the suggested route through the park, we came upon my favorite aviary of all – the one that we could go inside!

The aviary that welcomed human visitors

Several different species were housed in the aviary open to visitors. The birds came to us, if they wished. There were plenty of perches where the birds could retreat if they didn’t want to visit with the papegaairazzi (zing!).

Peach-faced Lovebird
Peach-faced Lovebirds chillaxing in the aviary

Please forgive (or enjoy!) this series of gratuitous me-feeding-parrots pictures. The short video shows a Cockatiel on my shoulder. It looks like I’m encouraging her to kiss me, but she started it, honestly!!

Jandaya Conure & Red-fronted Conure
Jandaya Conure & Red-fronted Conure

Jandaya Conure & Red-fronted Conure
Jandaya Conure & Red-fronted Conure

Alexandrine Parakeet
Alexandrine Parakeet


Hand-feeding & kissyface Cockatiel

You can imagine this was a really special experience for me, and I loved meeting all of the birds up close and personal. Unfortunately, the pet trade is no friend to parrot species in general, and so almost everywhere you look in the park, there are signs like this one.

“Don’t buy any parrots, because parrots live long. Sometimes longer than even yourself.”

This post concludes Parrot Week on the blog. I’ll have one final post on the Papegaaienpark Veldhoven next week – because there are more than parrots at the park!

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Parrot Week: A visit to Papegaaienpark Veldhoven (part 2)

Following yesterday’s introduction to our visit to this wonderful sanctuary for parrots and other animals, today I’d like to share some photos of our encounters with the residents.

After passing the initial “quarantine” aviaries, we visited the larger macaws and the unflighted birds in an outdoor, uncaged area. By the time we reached this area we’d only spent about a half hour in the park and I was having a ball. We walked further, finding larger aviaries full of many more of these social, noisy, happy birds. But we weren’t just viewing these magnificent creatures – we were interacting with them, namely by providing them with treats.

parrot noms
Parrot noms. The hard shells of these pinenuts were discarded for the tiny nutmeat inside

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
My brother-in-law Patrick feeds a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

At each aviary, some of the birds would approach us as we walked by. These large cockatoos and parrots have huge, powerful hooked beaks, but they were all, without exception, extremely polite and gentle when reaching for offered treats. The park provided feeding sticks for visitors to use to pass nuts to the birds, but I didn’t see any need for them. While the birds were polite with us, they also displayed extreme courtesy to each other… most of the time! The African Greys did get a bit loud with their protests.

Hungry, friendly birds

African Greys
African Grey Parrots

African Greys
Father-in-law Ben feeds African Greys

More friendly, hungry beaks to feed

While most of the birds seemed eager for treats, in each aviary there were many other birds socializing with each other in the background, paying us no mind. Then there were the handful that were interested in us, but not in our treats. A few times a bird would catch our attention, and then, instead of reaching out for a treat, would turn its head away from us, pressing against the fencing. These birds, former beloved family pets, were only looking for some contact, a scratch, or a pet. They just about broke my heart.

Senegal Parrot
Arthur pets a Senegal Parrot

Western Corella
I’m scratching the head of a beautiful Western Corella

I was falling in love with the birds left and right. And there was more to come. We got even closer! Stay tuned.

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Parrot Week: A visit to Papegaaienpark Veldhoven (part 1)

In August we visited the Papegaaienpark (parrot park) Veldhoven, a sort of parrot, bird and animal rescue center and sanctuary near Eindhoven. The park took in its first birds in 1987 and is run by the Dutch Foundation for the Refuge and Care of Parrots. Besides providing a forever home for unwanted parrots, the sanctuary cares for birds and animals caught by customs agents at Dutch airports, and other confiscated exotic animals.

The facility covers almost 20 acres and is open to the public 363 days per year. There are over 500 enclosures housing thousands of parrots, birds, mammals and other animals. A team of about 50 volunteers works with the park’s veterinarians and management staff.

The entrance to the Papegaaienpark Veldhoven

We arrived shortly after the park opened, and began our visit by walking by large outdoor cages housing newer arrivals. When a bird first comes to the sanctuary, it is housed in a small aviary alone or with just one or two other birds. The birds remain there until the staff can determine the bird’s temperament and which larger aviary will be the best fit.

Quarantine area
Birds are initially housed in these “quarantine” cages alone or in pairs

Salmon-crested Cockatoo
Salmon-crested Cockatoos

Walking on, we passed a large open area where bigger parrots who were unable to fly were housed. This large yard was surrounded by aviaries housing large macaws.

Open area for unflighted parrots
The unflighted birds could climb up the branches to perch; they could also retreat to an enclosed shelter.

White-crested Cockatoo at play
White-crested Cockatoo

White-crested Cockatoo
White-crested Cockatoo

Scarlet Macaw
Scarlet Macaw

Hyacinth Macaw
Hyacinth Macaw

While these beautiful birds were wonderful to see, we weren’t just looking at them, we got to feed them, too. More on that in the next post.

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