Category Archives: Europe

Top Dutch nestcam clips 2010

The Dutch branch of BirdLife International, Vogelbescherming Nederland, has an extremely popular nestcam website each spring at Beleef de Lente. As cameras are nearly shut down for the season, fans have voted for their favorite highlight clip from the eight nestcams. The Clip of the Year is called “Huiselijk Geweld” – Domestic Violence. It shows a Little Owl family dealing with an intruder – a Stock Pigeon with a nest of her own in the same box as the owls!

Unfortunately the highlight clips are not embeddable this year, but if you click on the image below you will be taken a page showing all of the best clips.

The favorite highlights from all of the nestcams are shown below the Little Owl clip. Check out the seven impossibly tiny Great Titlings in “Koolmees: Zeven snaveltjes” and two White Storks sleeping through being banded in the nest in “Ooievaar: Ringen Gorssel 2010.”

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Posted in Netherlands, Webcams | Leave a comment

Raptor robots

The following video profiles two companies that are marketing raptor robots. The machines are being marketed to airports as bird deterrents.

The Spanish company Bird Raptor Internacional has produced a model airplane painted to look like a Peregrine Falcon. In the clip, the “falcon” flies by a flock of gulls, who quickly disperse. I wonder if the falcon paint job had anything to do with it, though. Would they disperse if a regular model airplane flew closely over them?

A Dutch company has developed another robotic bird, but the GreenX model Bald Eagle actually flaps its wings! Developers of this model see it being used in nature films or as a spy plane. I think they should market to model airplane enthusiasts – I mean, what a cool toy!

Read more about the robo-raptors here.

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Posted in Funny, Netherlands, Offbeat, Science & Tech, Spain | 1 Comment

Spring nest cam time again!

My favorite nest cams over at the Dutch site Beleef de Lente start streaming today. For the season it looks like they’ll have cameras on Common Kestrel (Torenvalk), Little Owl (Steenuil), Great Tit (Koolmees), White Stork (Ooievaar), Barn Swallow (Boerenzwaluw), Eurasian Nuthatch (Boomklever), Eurasian Eagle-owl (Oehoe) (!!), and Barn Owl (Kerkuil). Those last two are new for this year and I’m really looking forward to peeking in on the Eagle-owl in the coming weeks.

UHU! [Eurasian Eagle Owl] by hans s, Creative Commons on Flickr

Usually at least a few of the nests have multiple live cameras going, and highlight videos are archived for later viewing (Iets gemist?). Nest milestones like the date of each egg and hatching are noted too (Hoogtepunten).

Even if you don’t read Dutch, the streaming cams are fun to watch and the archived clips are usually neat.

Are you looking forward to watching a nest cam this season? Do you have a favorite live streaming nest cam website? Please let me know in the comments!

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Posted in Netherlands, Webcams | 3 Comments

Where are the hides hiding?

When Arthur and I first started becoming interested in birds back in Holland, Arthur’s father told us about a site he’d seen called, which I kind of like to think was our spark thing (no spark bird). Vogelkijkhut means bird-look-hut or bird hide, and the website is a totally awesome directory of the all the bird hides in the Netherlands. The site is also integrated with, similar to North America’s eBird. There is basic information for each entry, including type of site (blind or hide, screen, tower, etc), whether there is parking and if it is accessible via public transportation. Further details are provided per site, including user-submitted photos, detailed driving or public transport directions, habitat, and recent bird and wildlife sightings via the link. The site is naturally in Dutch, but if you look at the page on our favorite local birding spot, Starrevaart, you can get a good idea of the wealth of information on the site. There are 376 locations listed in total.

Vogelknip bird hide @ Vogelplas Starrevaart
The entrance to the hide at Starrevaart. Note how the path to the door is also blinded from wildlife.

We would base weekend outings on bird hides we found on this website. Since is linked to, we could look on the site at the hides close to our home or intended day-trip location and see what birds were recently seen from that hide.

Our interest in birding grew as we easily found new birding sites within our reach, with loads of data about each site available at our fingertips. Birding from hides meant that we could sit and enjoy great views of birds that would go about their business – without noticing all the bird groupies that were watching their every move.

Bird hide @ Doñana National Park
Bird hide with low windows at Doñana National Park in Spain

As our interest continued to grow, we would bird farther and farther afield, and during the years we lived in Rotterdam and Leiden we were able to take several trips within Europe where we usually tried to fit in some birding. A lot of this birding was also done from hides.

Bird hide in the Loire Valley
Exiting a bird hide in the Loire Valley, France

When we moved back to Illinois in late 2008, we looked forward to American birding, presumably some of which would be from some good American bird hides (I guess we call them bird blinds, here?) – boy were we wrong!

Why aren’t there bird blinds here? Why are the majority of bird observation areas we come across locally open decks? Why are there so many hides in the Netherlands and Europe? This question has been on my mind a lot lately, and I can’t really come up with one good answer.

Of course, I’ve only got experience birding around our local counties (Lake, McHenry and Cook) and a very little bit of birding in Florida and Ohio (just a few day’s worth), so it could be that there are more wildlife observation blinds in other parts of the country. It’s just the near complete lack of them in our own birding excursions is so disappointing. I mean, birding by butt is so comfy, am I right?

Wildlife Observation Hide
Open “blind” at Merritt Island NWR in Florida

I started a Flickr pool for bird hide images a little while ago. Unsurprisingly, most of the photos are from hides in Great Britain, the Netherlands, and other parts of Europe. (If you’ve got photos of bird blinds or other wildlife observation constructions, I would love for you to add them to the pool.)

If birding is such a popular hobby here in the United States, why aren’t there more comfortable hides from which birds and other wildlife can be observed?

America has a lot more conserved land than Europe, so one reason may be that wildlife viewing opportunities are more restricted across the pond, and providing a blind from which to view animals 1) makes the chance of seeing some wildlife more likely and 2) is less likely to disturb the birds and animals that are living in the restricted natural area. In the Netherlands there seems to be a bird hide at every natural park or wildlife area we came across, while here in Lake County I only know of one true blind, a small building on the Tamarack Trail at Volo Bog (also the smallest hide I’ve ever seen).

Bird Hide at Volo Bog
Observation blind at Volo Bog

There are, however, several sites in the county where bird or wildlife observation areas are set aside. At Rollins Savanna there is an open viewing area with a couple of scopes. A platform was recently built at Prairie Wolf Slough for viewing the wetland.

Viewing platform
Viewing platform at Prairie Wolf Slough

Could weather be a factor? It rains a lot in the Netherlands, much more than here in northern Illinois. Are there a lot of covered bird blinds in the Pacific Northwest of the United States?

Are there a lot of bird or wildlife observation blinds at your favorite local birding patches? Do you have any ideas as to why we seem to lack blinds here while Europe uses them extensively? I would really love to hear your theories!

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Posted in Europe, North America | 1 Comment

Blackbird tops Dutch favorite birds

About 5000 people voted for the favorite bird song of Holland and the Blackbird (Merel) came out on top. Rounding out the top five were Nightingale (Nachtegaal), Song Thrush (Zanglijster), Robin (Roodborst) and Winter Wren (Winterkoning). The survey was done by the VARA radio show Vroege Vogels (Early Birds) and they have the entire top 100 list on their website. The neat thing is that it shows a picture of each bird and even includes the song. Among the top birds are the most common back yard birds in the Netherlands, so it’s a great overview of the everyday birds of that part of the world. Let me tell you, listening to those songs made me feel homesick for Holland! Check out the site and do some online international birding!

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Some favorite photos

I’ve been looking through my bird photos, trying to come up with my favorite birds of the last decade. I’m saving that list for another post, but I managed to pick out some favorite photos of birds that didn’t make my top ten list.

These twelve photos were taken in four different countries between 2006 and 2009 (since I haven’t been birding all that long and have only had my (super-zoom point-and-shoot) camera since ’06).

Can you guess what they are? They all link to Flickr where you can find out, or scroll to the end for a list.

Indian Pond Heron


Common Coot chick

Black-headed Ibis

Blue-winged Teal

Rufous Treepie


Red-breasted Nuthatch

Great Crested Grebe on nest


Red-vented Bulbul

Tufted Ducks

Indian Pond Heron: Kota, India;
American Robin: Great Smoky Mountains National Park USA;
Common Coot chick: Starrevaart, Netherlands;
Black-headed Ibis: Ranthambhore, India;
Blue-winged Teal: Viera Wetlands, Florida USA;
Rufous Treepie: Ranthambhore, India;
Chaffinch: Munster, France;
Red-breasted Nuthatch: Illinois USA;
Great Crested Grebe: Voorschoten, Netherlands;
Red-shouldered Hawk: Viera Wetlands, Florida USA;
Red-vented Bulbul: Jaipur, India;
Tufted Duck: Flevoland, Netherlands.

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Posted in Florida, France, Illinois, India, Netherlands, Travel, Viera Wetlands | 1 Comment

Trash birds in trouble

I read an article earlier this week about the European Starling’s decline in the Netherlands. The number of starlings has been in decline there since the 1990’s. Unsurprisingly, the reason is habitat destruction.

The House Sparrow has also been suffering population loss in Europe due to habitat loss; there is a program to stimulate House Sparrow populations in the Netherlands and studies in Britain over the decline of the House Sparrow (and how about that nice logo?!). logo by Birdorable

The fact is that while these birds might be in trouble in Europe, where they are native species, starlings and House Sparrows are pests here in the United States. Non-native sparrows use up nest boxes and deny native cavity-nesting birds suitable habitat. A letter in the current issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest urges anyone who does not “have the heart to remove house sparrows’ [nests …] to take down the nest box. The house sparrows will find another place to nest, and you’ll give our native cavity-nesting birds a fighting chance to compete for survival.”

I find the problems the House Sparrows are both suffering (over there) and causing (right here) interesting. Having lived on their native continent for nearly a decade and knowing they are in serious trouble there I doubt I would have the heart to remove one of their nests (it’s a good thing I don’t have any nest boxes to look after) – even though I understand the serious threat they pose to native birds here.

I wonder what the reaction would be if a declining American bird was treated as a pest in another part of the world. Earlier this year (on April 1st, actually) a joke-rumor was spread on the internet that a population of Carolina Parakeets was found living in Honduras. What if the parakeet story were true but that Honduran farmers considered the fruit-eating birds to be a pest and were destroying their nests? Okay, this is a really bad example, because the House Sparrow is not in such dire straits in Europe (at this time). It’s just something I’ve been thinking about lately – every time I hear sparrows and starlings referred to as ‘trash birds.’

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Posted in Endangered, Netherlands, North America | 1 Comment

Ice fatal for Dutch “Ice Birds”

The long lasting freeze that hit the Netherlands this winter was fatal for about half of country’s native Common Kingfishers. Dutch bird research group SOVON conducted the survey on the little birds that rely on unfrozen waters for survival.

The Dutch name for Kingfisher, IJsvogel, means “Ice Bird” – although these small fishing birds have no love for ice.

IJsvogel by Corin@ 2008, Creative Commons on Flickr

The worst losses took place in the provinces of Limburg, Noord-Brabant and Gelderland, which suffered some of the coldest temperatures and longest freezes. In Gelderland, 39 Kingfishers were counted as late as December, but in January only 3 remained and in February only one was counted.

After such a large population decline, it will take several years for Dutch Kingfishers to rebound. After eleven years of relatively warm winters, more and more Kingfishers were remaining in the country rather than migrating south. The population of nesting Kingfishers in Holland also increased during these mild years.

The exact toll on the Dutch Kingfishers won’t be known until the fall. After the breeding season the birds will be more visible and surveys will be possible to tally their numbers.

Source: Helft ijsvogels dood door koude winter

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Dutch stamp to honor NL BirdLife partner

Vogelbescherming, the Dutch partner of BirdLife International, celebrates its 110th anniversary on Friday. To celebrate, the Dutch postal service (TNT) will issue a commemorative stamp to honor Vogelbescherming. The stamp, to be issued in May, joins stamps honoring other Dutch charity anniversaries like SOS-Kinderdorpen (60 years), Cordaid (95 years), De Zonnebloem (60 years), and KWF Kankerbestrijding (also 60 years – busy Dutch people in 1949).

I couldn’t find images of the upcoming stamps, but via their website I see there have been Vogelbescherming stamps issued in the past.


This page also has a nice collection of Dutch stamps featuring birds throughout the years (with some Austrian and Belgian stamps, too). Do you or does someone you know collect bird stamps?

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Online encyclopedia of Spanish birds launched

BirdLife International announced last week the launch of a new website encyclopedia of Spanish birds. The site is a huge database including bird fact sheets, 1600 photos and over 4000 individual pages.

The encyclopedia is at and you will need the latest version of Adobe Shockwave to view the site.

I had a look at the info page of one of my favorite birds, the Hoopoe. Each fact sheet includes distribution information, an audio file of the call and several photos. Similar birds can also be explored.


The database of birds can be viewed in several languages, including English.


Besides the bird fact sheets, there is a wealth of information on birding and bird life in general.



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Posted in Spain, Websites & Blogs | Leave a comment