European road trip Amsterdam and Brugge  - Saturday 24th – Friday 30th November

I went with Stella for a week away in Europe and we decided to take the car over and go for a road trip. The ferry crossing on Saturday was the first chance of some birding and I spent the crossing scanning the seas. Gannets were always present close in and near the ports were Kittiwakes. A few Guillemots and single Razorbill were on the water and a distant Skua was seen that was most likely an Arctic but too far off to be certain.

Sunday 25th November

We went into Amsterdam today and in the park there were many Ring-necked Parakeets and 3 very tame Grey Heron. We enjoyed many great pubs during the day and the city has a great atmosphere.
Monday 26th November
There was a lake and canal near the accommodation and I could hear White-fronted Geese going over and whilst eating the cracking buffet breakfast I saw a few small skeins high in the sky. Just before moving on to the next place I noticed a flock of finches feeding in alder and 5 smart Brambling were with around 15 Chaffinch.
We moved on to another hotel a little further out and before checking in went to a small town near the coast and saw 15 -20 Great Crested Grebe wintering in the harbour there.
We returned to Amsterdam for the afternoon and evening to soak up the cities atmosphere.

Tuesday 27th November

Before leaving for our next leg of the journey I got up early and went for a walk near the hotel. It was a very productive hour or so. In the fields opposite around 40-50 Bean Geese were grazing with around 10 White fronts and 10 Greylags. There were Mute Swans nearby and a Black Swan stood out with them.
Two Egyptian Geese were nearby and in a flooded area were Lapwing and Golden Plover. A short walk along a canal produced great views of a Kingfisher.

After another cracking buffet breakfast we set off for our next spot which was in the Friesland area on north Holland. This area offers some top birding. We first stopped off near the port of Harlingen and on a short walk along the beach stumbled across a cracking flock of 42 Snow Bunting. I spent some time watching this flock that came nice and close. Great birds. Scanning the sea here produced large rafts of Shoveler (at least 200 seen) with Wigeon, Pochard a few Goldeneye and single Scaup.  We took the scenic route through Workum and Gaast stopping regularly and on a lake were around 40-50 Bewicks Swan. Around Gaast we soon found ourselves surrounded by Geese.

The fields were covered in Barnacle Geese with smaller numbers of White fronted Geese. They allowed amazing close views compared to the flightier flocks in Hungary that were more difficult to get close to without flushing.  We checked into our hotel and returned to Gaast to watch the geese come in to roost out on the open water. It was an amazing spectacle with tens of thousands of geese coming in low overhead and a whole field lifting up next to us. As we were watching them Starlings were swirling overhead and getting down in the nearby reed bed just adding to the show. A fantastic spectacle.

Wednesday 27th November

With our hotel only being 15 minutes from the huge roost of geese I couldn’t resist an early morning visit. It didn’t get light until late so I was at the area before the sun was up. Just walking along the embankment near the large reed bed and the sound of all the Starlings getting ready to leave the roost was amazing. Water Rail were squealing all over the place and the Geese were noisy out on the water with Bewicks Swans and Wigeon adding to the amazing atmosphere in the early gloom. As the sun started to appear on the horizon skein after skein of Barnacle Geese started to stream overhead and a Hen Harrier put all the starlings up briefly from the reed bed before they dived back in. When they finally left they scattered in all directions as the Hen Harrier and a Buzzard were nearby. Great birds.

I watched the Geese leaving their roost and had good views of a Water Rail and a female Bearded Tit in the reeds. Offshore 3 Smew and 5 Scaup were quite close in and around 1000 Lapwing were swirling around.
When most geese had left the roost and were grazing I scanned through a few large groups and a single Bean Goose was close by with White fronts and a small Canada Goose species was seen in flight with Barnacle Geese. It was a really fantastic morning, crisp and clear and loads of birds to be seen. I headed back to the hotel and we started our journey to Brugge.

On the way we stopped off at a service station with some pine woods nearby and had good views of Crested Tit and Short-toed Treecreeper.

Thursday 28th November

Today was about enjoying Brugge and we spent the day looking around and visiting some of the many great pubs sampling the local beers.

Friday 29th November

Before our evening ferry we went for a walk around the Zwin reserve on the coast. Driving through the village just prior to the reserve a Woodcock flew just in front of the car. The reserve was an excellent habitat made up of salt marsh, dunes and small lagoons. Grey Plover, Avocet, Ringed Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit were close by with a flock of around 30 Turnstone.

We went for a walk along one of the trails across the saltmarsh and 6 Shore Lark dropped in. They shuffled around nearby briefly, before picking up and heading towards the larger dune system. Great little birds.
As we were leaving a White Stork was stood in a flooded field and we watched this bird before hitting the road to Calais again for the return ferry.

An excellent trip with great food drink and a few great birds thrown on too.