Our last autumn tour (November 2019) returned with 120 species, including a Red-breasted Goose, 3 Black Brants and 21 Lesser White-fronted Geese, 50 Red-crested Pochard, 3 Long-tailed Ducks, 19 White Storks, dozens of Great Egrets, 3 Cattle Egrets, 4 White-tailed Eagles, 2 Caspian Gulls, no fewer than 51 day-roosting Long-eared Owls, Merlin, Great Grey Shrike – and a cracking drake Hooded Merganser displaying with Tufted Ducks! Add the likes of Goshawk, Black Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper, Willow Tit, Firecrest and Hawfinch that we see most years and you will find our Dutch Wild Goose Chase offers a perfect panacea to the dull days of winter back home.
From November to March, Holland’s low-lying fields are a haven for geese and all of Europe’s recorded wild species have occurred here in recent years; indeed, our groups have seen the lot amongst the tens of thousands of Barnacle, Brent, White-fronted and Tundra Bean Geese which flock to the Netherlands each winter. There are also large concentrations of other waterfowl to enjoy, with parties of wild swans, smartly plumaged Goosanders and usually a few Smew amidst masses of more familiar species.
We usually also see plenty of birds of prey on this trip, with Peregrine and White-tailed Eagle always on the cards and there is often the odd Goshawk and Rough-legged Buzzard too.
This part of Holland is blessed with some excellent woodlands and one afternoon will find us waiting eagerly beside a Black Woodpecker’s winter roost for the ‘owner’ to appear. With its crimson topknot and staring white eyes, close encounters with this magnificent bird have been a highlight on all our recent tours. Roosting Long-eared Owls have been equally reliable, invariably seen at close range and often in the most unlikely of settings.
Limosa’s Arnoud van den Berg knows the birds of his native Holland better than anyone and has led this tour annually for us since our very first Dutch Wild Goose Chase in the winter of 1991. In addition to the ‘expected’ species, over the years he has conjured up an impressively long list of rarities for our groups and we have seen everything from Snowy and Hawk Owls to Ross’s Goose, Bufflehead and unseasonable Whiskered Terns and Olive-backed Pipit. Not forgetting that famous Nutcracker, of course, which was so tame it landed on Chris Kightley’s head and to which (in 2018) we recently added a second!
We spend all four nights at an excellent hotel in the forests near Harderwijk, where good food, stylish rooms and a warm welcome are assured. We invariably manage the odd stop for our customary helping of hot chocolate and Dutch apple tart during our days in the field – a long-established tradition on this Limosa tour.
This is both a cracking trip for beginners as well as one that is just perfect for anyone in search of a rewarding short winter break crammed with great birding. Our November 2022 tour marks 32 years since Limosa’s first Dutch Wild Goose Chase. It is led for us as always by our own English-speaking resident Dutch birding expert, Arnoud van den Berg.
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