Monday, December 20, 2010


Like most of Europe, the Netherlands are in a firm grip of Winter. Last week large parts of the country have had a lot of snowfall up to several decimetres. For many birds – especially those that forage on the ground – this is quite a problem and hunger drives them to go further south. When snowfall causes a massive migration event we call that a ‘snowrush’. Most prominently are the geese, especially White-fronted, of which many thousands could be seen on any place in the Netherlands over the last few days, all migrating in south-western direction. They are followed by large flocks of Skylarks, another species typical for a snowrush. The increasing numbers of Barnacle Geese are an indication that the enduring snow cover is indeed a problem. Surely these birds don’t really enjoy the weather, but for birdwatchers a snowrush is a very enjoyable phenomenon.

Not all hungry birds decide to leave the snow covered northwest of Europe. Gulls for instance are more opportunistic in finding food and gather on places with open water or in towns and cities where people (like me!) feed them with bread crumbs. Of course my efforts are not entirely out of a deeper sense of morality towards living creatures. Feeding bread crumbs also gets you closer to the ringed individuals… On the ice of one of the ponds in the village of Werkendam (where Jonne lives) two metal ringed Black-headed Gulls were among the large flock that was attracted by my bread crumbs, one Belgian bird and one Polish, my very first from this country! Two days before, on last Friday, I also found a colour-ringed Common Gull at my favourite ring reading spot along the Hollandsche IJssel near Gouda. A green ring with a white code, a colour combination I had never seen before on this species. The metal ring on the other leg read FINLAND so it wasn’t hard to find out where this bird came from. As a matter of fact the ringer replied to my report with the information that he had ringed the bird in July 2006 in western Finland and never had a sighting of this bird before! A very valuable sighting! I’m curious if I will see this bird again…

Very close to this ring reading spot of mine there is another city pond (in Gouda) where I saw something I had never seen before. On the edge of the ice along the last bit of open water there was not only a Grey Heron, but there were also two Great Egrets standing there, staring in the water. Simply next to a road in a city! Normally you see these bird in the open polders where they are often quite shy, but these birds were just standing there… I couldn’t resist making a few record shots. Very funny to hear that even some of the local people had noticed these odd birds (thinking they were something like White Storks)! Hopefully these gracious birds survive a few more cold days before the thaw comes in again.

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