Monday, April 20, 2009

The Hague Surprise 18/19th April

I’m just about to return to the UK from Holland on what was supposed to be a non birding weekend, visiting my best & lifelong non birding friend!
However, unawares to him his latest continental posting at The Hague is literally a short bike ride away from what I can only describe as ‘birding heaven’. I should have known a few surprises awaited me when, travelling on the train from Schiphol Airport to The Hague I had the good fortune to spot Hen Harrier and Ruddy Shelduck!
As you may know, everyone bikes in Holland and my friend is no exception, and so on Saturday we took an exceptionally long ride. What greeted me at Meyendel a short time later was a major shock to the system, considering I was totally unprepared and without my own equipment.
Meyendel, a huge coastal water filtration centre which supplies The Hague and the nearby districts is comprised of many small lakes surrounded by common reed and a selection of wooded areas and sand dunes, a bike route runs through the centre and the reserve also consists of a Visitor Centre and Café. It reminded me of a huge Brandon Marsh but on the coast.
We were literally yards into the reserve when we were greeted by a loud whistling crescendo, followed by song that can only be that of a Nightingale. I struggled to keep control of my bike as I immediately swung back for identification to discover it was indeed a Nightingale, but could I get sight, not a chance!!
Without going into greater detail, as I could write a post 10 pages long, over the Saturday and Sunday I’d stopped counting at 2 dozen Nightingales and by the time we’d arrived back on the Sunday evening my non birding weekend had logged Nightingales a plenty, Red Crested Pochard (pictured), Egyptian Goose, Grasshopper Warbler and Marsh Harrier a well as the before mentioned Hen Harrier and Ruddy Shelduck! This was without even trying and also without walking the many footpaths that run throughout the reserve or exploring the coastal perimeter. At one stage we had a brief chat with one of the rangers who also told us that the area we were standing in was a haven for Bluethroat. I can assure you that my next visit will be a well prepared one, what an amazing find!