Into the North Sea


IJmuiden is located at the mouth of the IJ river and is an important port, connecting Amsterdam to the North Sea. The Zuidpier (south pier) juts about two kilometers into the North Sea. The small map at right shows the approximate location of the pier. Below is a what the pier looks like on Google maps. As part of our short birding trip based out of Leiden, IJmuiden was our next major stop (following the Oostvaardersplassen).

We visited on a windy Sunday. The forecast was horrible so we weren’t too surprised to see few other people out on the pier. The only creatures on the beach were gulls, and our first Eurasian Oystercatchers of the trip.

Beach from Zuidpier, IJmuiden

We were on a tight schedule so we had no choice but to visit IJmuiden on the day we did, but we lucked out with the weather, mostly. It didn’t rain but ominous clouds hung low all morning and the wind was fierce. There were a few sport fishers on the pier; we were the only birders. The below picture was taken at the start of the pier, with the beach on the left side. On the far right you can see the lighthouse on the end of the pier. It was a long, windy walk!


Unfortunately, it wasn’t too birdy. We did get some nice looks at another oystercatcher, plus small groups of Ruddy Turnstones turned up every few meters and didn’t mind us stopping to snap some photos.

Eurasian Oystercatcher | Scholekster

Ruddy Turnstone | Steenloper

Ruddy Turnstone | Steenloper

The Red Knot and Stonechat were not so accommodating. That’s birding. Win some, lose some.

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Returning to an old haunt

During our recent trip to the Netherlands, Arthur and I twice visited one of our old birding grounds, Starrevaart. We primarily birded the lake from the hide “de Vogelknip.”

In preparation for the trip, I checked the blog of a Dutch birder who frequently visits Starrevaart. I was shocked to read that the bird hide there had burned down in June 2009. It was a total loss! But then I was pleasantly surprised to read that a new hide was built just a few months later. Phew! It’s a sturdy little hide, very similar to the previous one. A nice addition was a site-specific bird ID poster.

Interior Vogelknip
Brand new shutters. See the shiny new latches? They all worked! (That won’t last)

Starrevaart Poster
Some of the birds you might see from de Vogelknip

Of course, the wonderful view as just about the same as we remembered it.

View from Starrevaart bird hide
What the birds see

View from Starrevaart bird hide
Looking northeast

Great Crested Grebe
A Great Crested Grebe living up to its name

View from Starrevaart bird hide
Greylag Geese, swimming and landing; looking west-southwest

Mute Swan
Three Mute Swans

View from Starrevaart bird hide
More Mute Swans; looking northwest

It was great to go back to one of our old regular birding spots and sit for a while, quietly watching the birds. One of my favorites was a Great Crested Grebe having a nap on the choppy water. I also took a short video of this weary bird.

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What a bird blind should be

One of the last places we visited on our auto-tour of the Oostvaardersplassen on August 14 was a blind called de Grauwe Gans (the Greylag Goose). This little palace of birding is everything a bird blind should be, in my opinion: functional, comfortable, and perfectly located to view birds. While this blind is very nice, it’s not atypical of Dutch or European bird blinds I’ve visited. I have not seen anything like it in the U.S., so far.

Grauwe Gans vogelkijkhut
The path leading to the bind is bordered by a privacy fence

Grauwe Gans vogelkijkhut
The blind is octagonal, with windows on six sides

Grauwe Gans vogelkijkhut
A small utility shelf is made extra handy with bird ID guide images right on the shelf surface

Grauwe Gans vogelkijkhut
The view from the blind

I’ve created a Flickr pool for photos of bird blinds or bird hides. There are 279 photos in the pool now, and I’d love to have more! Please have a look and submit your appropriate pictures to the Bird hides / bird blinds pool on Flickr.

A very short video ‘tour’ of the blind

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BPW: Hot Spoonbill-on-Spoonbill action!

You never know what kind of behavior you’ll see from a bird blind. If the blind is good (and the birders are quiet), the birds should be comfortable and you’ll get to see them acting naturally. From the Grauwe Gans hide in the Oosvaardersplassen area, I spent some time watching a pair of Eurasian Spoonbill allopreening. Allopreening is mutual grooming, usually associated with pair bonding. Spoonbills have such long, unhandy-for-self-preening bills, I’m not sure this is pair-bond behavior or simply a mutually beneficial preening co-op between friends. Notice the surrounding geese are also taking the time to beautify themselves. Click on any picture to embiggen.










Bird Photography Weekly is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Go have a look at this week’s submissions!

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Posted in Behavior, Bird Photography Weekly, Netherlands | 5 Comments

Good luck, oriole!

Yesterday Arthur and I were privileged to be able to release an adult male Baltimore Oriole. The bird was in treatment with Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation for about ten days after suffering a head trauma. The release was done, with permission, at a Lake County Forest Preserve.

Baltimore Oriole release 1

A shoe box was used to transport the oriole to the release site. After the lid was lifted, the bird hesitated for only a very brief moment before flying up into a low tree. He spent some time flitting around a small group of trees before finally flying high into a tree far away from us, where we lost sight of him.

Baltimore Oriole release 4

Baltimore Oriole release 2

Baltimore Oriole release 5

This was our first release and it was awesome. It was so wonderful to watch this now-healthy bird flying away, adjusting to his surroundings, and taking off to live the rest of his life. Good luck, oriole!

Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation posted these photos on their Facebook page. If you’re on Facebook, why not become a fan of Flint Creek? You can also visit the FCWR website to learn more about their amazing work and, oh yeah, make a donation. 🙂

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Migration Awareness 8

Fall is here and that means many of our feathered friends are headed south. It also means that a new migration Rescue & Recovery season has begun. This morning Arthur and I are walking our route to look for fallen injured or dead birds that have struck buildings in Chicago during the night and early morning. This is our second week volunteering for R&R this fall, following our first season during last spring’s migration. During these weeks, I’d like to highlight some of the perils birds face on their migration by sharing a website or information about migratory birds.

Last week, twin columns of light shone above the former site of the World Trade Center in New York. The Tribute in Light attracted an estimated 10,000 birds who were in the midst of migration. The phenomenon resulted from a sort of perfect storm of conditions. The recent poor weather for migration changed on the night of September 11, 2010, and a large amount of birds who had been waiting out bad weather were suddenly on the move. Some of the birds’ normal methods of navigation were obscured: there was just a sliver of new moon and an overcast sky blocked the stars. The birds became confused by the huge beams of light and ended up flying in circles. You can see them in the video below. Note that the video will start at 0:35, which is shortly before the birds are first seen in the clip.

When the lights were turned off for 20 minutes, the birds moved on. But when the lights were turned back on, more birds became confused and trapped in the light. You can read more about the birds caught by the Tribute in Light here.

This sort of problem is not limited to big light beams as seen with the Tribute in Light. Blog readers know that big buildings with brightly-lit windows cause similar problems.

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Transmitter-fitted Black-tailed Godwits unable to breed

Some interesting news about the side-effects of attaching or implanting location transmitters on birds. This is from bird researchers at the University of Groningen, roughly translated from this article.

Grutto (2)
Grutto (2) by Alamagordo, Creative Commons on Flickr

Twelve female Black-tailed Godwits fitted with transmitters last May were unable to successfully breed this year. The birds, which are a threatened grassland species, did attempt to mate, but the transmitter worked inadvertently as a birth control device (IUD). The data was reported last week by Theunis Piersma of the University of Groningen in the NRC Handelsblad newspaper.

Scientists from the University implanted the transmitters, which are like small radios, inside fifteen female godwits. The purpose of the study was to learn more about the exact migration route of birds. The birds breed in Friesland, in the north part of the Netherlands, and migrate to southern Europe and Asia for the winter.

Although the study yielded a wealth of information about the migration habits of the birds, researchers were very disappointed with the inadvertent side effect it had on the birds’ lack of breeding success. One bird did lay eggs, but the eggs were deformed and did not hatch.

Via the work with the implanted godwits, the researchers noted that three of the birds flew more than 5,000 km non-stop, averaging 70 km per hour.

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BPW: Preening Green Sandpiper

Green Sandpiper

Remember this dapper Green Sandpiper we saw from the Grauwe Gans blind? Well, it took him/her some work to look that good. I snapped some shots of the bird having a good preen.

Green Sandpiper

Green Sandpiper

Green Sandpiper

Green Sandpiper

Green Sandpiper

Bird Photography Weekly is a regular collection of user-submitted bird photos from all over the world. The new edition comes out every Sunday. Go have a look at this week’s submissions!

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Posted in Bird Photography Weekly, Netherlands | 6 Comments

Birding around Flevoland, part 3

During our day birding (or should I rather say our day of visiting bird blinds?) the Oostvaardersplassen in Flevoland, we stopped at six different spots to watch birds along the Oostvaardersdijk (see part 1 and part 2). After Julianapad, we headed inland to the Grauwe Gans (Greylag Goose) blind. We spent a lot of time here watching the shorebirds and waterfowl.

View from Grauwe Gans blind
The view from the blind

A small flock of feeding Pied Avocet was particularly entertaining. There was a large flock of Eurasian Spoonbill – most were napping, but a couple of begging babies amused us while annoying an adult bird. Pied Wagtails, Green Sandpipers and Common Sandpipers spent time close to the hide.

Pied Wagtail

Common Sandpipers
Bathing Common Sandpipers

Green Sandpiper
Handsome Green Sandpiper

You might notice I haven’t said too much about the blind. That’s because I’m saving it for another post! 🙂

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