30 January–3 February 2014
This new tour is designed to look for the huge numbers of wildfowl that winter in the polders and meers of Holland including the very rare Ross's Goose as well as two introduced species: Bar-headed Goose and Black Swan. We could see up to 12 species of goose together with large numbers of ducks that are scarce in Britain, such as Smew, Common Merganser and Greater Scaup and only in the harshest weather do many of them visit Britain. There will also be good numbers of waders including European Golden-plover and Ruff. All of these birds inevitably attract raptors including the spectacular White-tailed Eagle.
Day 1 Early morning flight from the UK to Amsterdam; these can be arranged from many regional airports at a small supplement. On arrival, we will drive to Flevoland where our first stop will be at Lepelaarsplassen to scan the Markermeer for the huge flocks of common diving ducks which winter including Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser and Smew. We may also find Common Eider, Velvet Scoter, Ferruginous Duck and Red-crested Pochard. Our next stop will be the Oostvaardersplassen, an extensive area of marshes, which are outstanding for birds. We should see four species of swan (including the introduced Black) and many geese, especially Tundra Bean, Barnacle and Greater White-fronted. Numerous Northern Pintail, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Pochard and Tufted Duck will be present whilst along the muddy margins we should see Water Pipit and Water Rail and, in the reeds, Reed Bunting, Bearded Tit and maybe even a Great Bittern. In the open areas we will see Fieldfare, Redwing, European Golden-plover and Northern Lapwing whilst Brambling and Common Redpoll can be found around the edges of the woodland. We must also keep a look out for Twite and Snow Bunting, which winter in the area. Also, with luck, Great Egrets and Eurasian Spoonbills which now winter in small numbers. With all these birds about, it is inevitable that there will be raptors and we will look out for Hen Harrier and Western Marsh-harrier (rare in winter), Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and Rough-legged Hawk, Common Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine, Northern Goshawk and the scarce White-tailed Eagle. By moving on and searching all the polders on the way to our hotel, we should be able to see many more geese including Greylag and maybe even Lesser White-fronted Geese. Two nights Flevoland.
Day 2 Today we will visit the Noordoostpolder. This is another excellent area for geese and, as well as those already mentioned, we will also see Pink-footed Geese. There is also the possibility of Lesser White-fronted, Red-breasted, Snow or even Ross's Geese, all of which have been present over past winters. Bewick's and Whooper Swans should also be present in good numbers. Again by looking over the Ijsselmeer we should see huge numbers of duck with grebes, mostly Great Crested, but Red-necked, Eared and Horned are all possible. We will then return to the mixed woodland east of Harderwijk, which is excellent for Short-toed Treecreeper, Hawfinch and Crested Tit. We may even be lucky enough to see a Black or Middle Spotted Woodpecker.
Day 3 After breakfast we will head to the north of the country, birding en route. Species we will look for during the journey include Common Crane and White Stork (rare in winter) and raptors including Hen Harrier and maybe White-tailed Eagle. After lunch, we will start our search for Red-breasted Geese, small numbers of which regularly winter with the huge flocks of Barnacle Geese. It isn’t an easy task however, despite their bright plumage they can be overlooked amongst the hordes of other geese. Other species present include Brant of the bernicla dark-bellied race and we may find light-bellied (hrota) birds present or maybe even a Black (nigricans). Two nights Freesland.
Day 4 Today we will visit Lauwersmeer and the Wadden coast but not before checking out a Long-eared owl roost site. The day will be spent visiting various coastal and locations searching for geese flocks and looking for species we may have missed. Late afternoon we will watch the spectacle of countless thousands of geese going to roost before returning to our hotel for the night.
Day 5 After breakfast, we will head south towards Utrecht where we will search the fields and meers to the southeast of the city for introduced Black Swans and Bar-headed Geese. Next, we will head west to Amsterdam where we will search for a regular wintering flock of Lesser White-fronted Geese from the re-introduction programme in Scandinavia. Our itinerary will be flexible to ensure that we make the most out of our last day, returning to the airport early evening for our flights back to the UK.
General Information This tour is designed to look for the huge numbers of wintering wildfowl, and to search for vagrant Lesser White-fronted, Red-breasted and Ross's Geese and introduced Black Swan and Bar-headed Goose. Our itinerary will therefore be entirely flexible with information received from our friends in Holland to achieve this end. We may also react to any Dutch rarity news that breaks during our stay. There are no special health requirements. Visas are not required for EU citizens. The pace of the tour is medium with only a moderate level of fitness required for walks.
Group size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 7 with 1 leader, 14 with 2 leaders.