Few sights are as breathtaking as thousands of geese lifting against the winter sun and few places as good as Holland to witness this at its best. Vast flat landscapes punctuated with windmills form an atmospheric backdrop to the week during which we will circumnavigate the Ijsselmeer, starting and finishing our tour at Amsterdam.
En route we will spend time at selected reserves which offer some of the best birdwatching in the Netherlands, including De Putten, Lauwersmeer and Oostvaardersplassen where lagoons, scrub-lined dykes and reedbeds provide a wealth of wildfowl, waders and raptors.
The low-lying fields are the grazing ground for many thousands of White-fronted, Barnacle and Brent Geese with the occasional scarce species such as Lesser White-fronted and Red-breasted Goose. Goshawk, Rough-legged Buzzard and White-tailed Eagle are regularly seen and we will look out for Black Woodpecker in the forests. Cozy hotels and excellent Dutch hospitality provide the ideal complement to this winter vacation.
London / Amsterdam / Koudum
We make short early morning flights from local regional airports to Amsterdam from where, we will head north west by comfortable minibus(es), crossing the enormous Afsluitdijk enclosing the former Zuiderzee which is now a huge shallow lake called the Ijsselmeer. The dyke is again an excellent watch-point, not only for wintering wildfowl and sea-duck but also for grebes – five species can be seen here.
We will then continue on the short distance to Koudum and check in to the Galamadammen Hotel where four nights are spent. The hotel looks right out onto tranquil waterways where it is not unusual to see Smew and hunting raptors while we are having breakfast. The hotel exudes a warm and comfortable feel and there is a heated indoor pool should anyone fancy a dip!
Koudum / Vierhouten
From Koudum we will be taking daily excursions to enjoy the best offerings of North Holland. Returning back over the Afsluitdijk towards Den Helder, will give us a second opportunity to scan for sea-duck, divers and grebes. Further along this route we will be exploring open polder country which is exceptionally rich in birdlife. Here the sea is kept at bay by a huge dyke which is an excellent vantage point for sea-watching and scanning for waders.
Flocks of White-fronted, Barnacle and Greylag Geese graze the low fields against a backdrop of windmills and the lagoon at De Putten reserve attracts a wide variety of waders and wildfowl. On other days, a network of small roads running around the coast of Friesland provides the perfect means by which we can view more vast flocks of wild geese including White-fronted, Barnacle, Pink-footed, Brent plus the occasional, Tundra Bean, Red-breasted, and if we are very lucky, Lesser White-fronted Goose.
We will also take a day-trip further north to Lauwersmeer where a vast reed-fringed lagoon provides ideal wintering habitat for wild swans, wildfowl and waders. This is also very good raptor country with the possibility of Rough-legged Buzzard, Goshawk, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin and the occasional White-tailed Eagle.
We say goodbye to Friesland and head south to Flevoland where we spend the next two full days exploring the fabulously bird-rich reclaimed polders and dykes of this area. Water Rail, Bittern, Bearded and Willow Tits are present along with Marsh Harriers and the occasional Great White Egret. Amongst our destinations is one of Holland’s finest reserves, the Oostvaardersplassen, on the edge of the Ijsselmeeer, where huge lagoons are separated by equally huge reedbeds. This has also been a site for breeding White-tailed Eagle in the last few years.
The conifer and beech forests near our hotel also provide excellent bird watching with Crested Tit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Hawfinch, Black Woodpecker and Goshawk all present. We will also take a look over the heathland near to the hotel which regularly holds Great Grey Shrike.
Check in to the Hotel de Mallejan where three nights are spent. Nestled in extensive pine forests with heathland nearby, the hotel has a traditional feel with a high standard of cuisine. We are within easy travelling distance of Flevoland and the world famous reserve of Oostvadersplassen.
Amsterdam / London
After breakfast we will head to the south of Amsterdam to check a site which has traditionally been a roost for Long-eared Owls. After this it will be time to head back to Schiphol for the short hop back to the UK.