Archive for May, 2019

Birdathon 2019

For the second year in a row I did my Birdathon using only “green” modes of transport; public transit, bicycle and my own two feet, in the Amsterdam area of the Netherlands. I was quite pleased with the route I had chosen last year and I decided to keep it more or less intact. I opted out of the Amsterdam Forest and Amstelpark which were a bit out of the way. Instead, I spent more time in the agricultural lands to the northwest of the city which gave me a few species I missed last year. In 2018 I reckoned it would be possible to get 100 species but I fell just short, tallying 95. With a bit of scouting and research this year I felt fairly confident I would be able to hit my goal this time around!

Wednesday May 15, 2019: Leaving the apartment at 5:45 I got my first bird of the day as I pedalled downtown, a calling Great Tit. I picked up a few other common things like Herring Gull and Eurasian Jackdaw before arriving at Central Station in Amsterdam at 6:00am. I bought my bicycle supplement for the day so I could bring my two wheels with me to the dunes and coast to the west of the city and boarded the train. Shortly before arriving at Zanndvoort-Noord station I spotted a few Canada Geese in the fields outside the train window.


Greater Whitethroat

At 6:40 I started birding in earnest as I pedalled into the Zuid Kennemerland National Park. Song Thrush, Common Chaffinches and Eurasian Wrens were singing everywhere as I passed through the mature forests en route to the dune scrub. Here the thickets held numerous Common Nightingales, Greater and Lesser Whitethroats and the odd Tree Pipit, giving their flight songs. Several birds over the course of the day were in full breeding mode, the first evidence of which was a pair of Woodlarks carrying food. A singing Common Redstart was worth a stop for, though I could not locate it in the canopy of the pines at the trackside. Stopping a little further along I found a pair of Hawfinches near where I had seen one last year on my Birdathon. I was quite pleased with this as they are a fairly scarce bird. Another pleasant surprise here was a pair of Marsh Tits that, like the Woodlarks, were carrying food to their young in a cavity in a small bush. Before turning around and heading northward I went a little further down the trail to where I had seen Eurasian Stonechat last year. Once again, a beautiful male was perched up atop a bush in typical Stonechat fashion.

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Eurasian Stonechat

As I made my way north toward Ijmuiden I spotted a Eurasian Nuthatch in a clump of pines after stopping to try and see (unsuccessfully again!) another singing Common Redstart. Another short foray into the dune scrub and I found a singing Garden Warbler as well as my first Common Swifts and Eurasian Sparrowhawk of the day overhead. Also flying over was a Black Woodpecker, a big (literally!) surprise as they are very unusual out here near the coast. After finally finding a Eurasian Jay I left the forest and dunes behind with most of my targets for those habitats in the bag. However, I was a bit worried by the fact that I had not found Short-toed Treecreeper or Eurasian Bullfinch as I would not be covering much more habitat appropriate for either.

At the coast I spent 20 minutes walking along the west side of Kennemer pond where I found the anticipated Bank Swallows and my first of many Eurasian Reed Warblers. At 10am I was on the Ijmuiden Pier, cycling out to the tip to spend an hour sea-watching. Along the pier were many Ruddy Turnstones and Eurasian Oystercatchers while on the beach a large group of Common and Sandwich Terns loafed. Near the end of the pier I spotted some roosting Sanderlings and my only two Black-bellied Plovers of the day. Offshore a few Little Gulls were flying around with the other gulls and terns but little else was happening. My patience was rewarded though as eventually a lone Dunlin flew in off the ocean and a single Common Scoter flew past heading south. This was followed by a lone male Common Eider heading north shortly before it was time to leave.

As I made my way back toward the nearest train station I was delighted to find a Eurasian Bullfinch, a species I had given up on for the day! Unfortunately I arrived at the train platform just as the train was pulling away which meant I had to wait a half hour for the next one.

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Grey Heron

Mid-day and I was back at Central Station in Amsterdam. I decided to take the ferry across to Amsterdam Noord rather than cycle across the two bridges leading out to Dugerdam, northwest of the city. It was an interesting bike ride through a part of the city I had never visited. The narrow streets and brick houses were reminiscent of the smaller towns and villages of the countryside. In the Vliegenbos city park a Short-toed Treecreeper sang, the last of the expected forest species!

Once out of the city, it was all farmland and polders and as I made my way through the freshly cut fields of Waterland I heard a distant Common Cuckoo and picked out my only Mew Gull of the day, in with the ubiquitous Black-headed Gulls. Some research the day before had lead me to a certain crossroads where there had been several recent reports of Eurasian Skylarks and sure enough, amid the cries of the nesting Black-tailed Godwits and Northern Lapwings came the cascading, bubbly voice of a Skylark! Eventually I spotted it way above me and watched as he slowly descended back to earth. While enjoying this show a pair of Meadow Pipits flew over and landed in the fields behind me while a lone Western Yellow Wagtail passed through.

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Black-tailed Godwit

Cycling south towards the Ijmeer near Durgerdam I spotted a Peregrine Falcon soaring overhead. This species is still quite uncommon here and was not one I expected to find on my Birdathon!  Also in the skies were my first Eurasian Marsh-harrier and a lone White Stork which I was pleased about as it meant I would not need to make a stop at a nest I knew of in the city. In the flooded fields east of Durgerdam were the usual flocks of lingering Barnacle Geese and several pairs of Common Redshanks. A lone male Garganey was a nice pick up, though I had seen it reported the day before so was half expecting to get it. In the reedbeds across the bike path came the songs of more Eurasian Reed Warblers and well as the similar Sedge Warbler, which were occasionally giving their little flight songs.

I went down to the viewing area at the pond here and spent some time enjoying the sunshine and watching the Pied Avocets foraging among several species of waterfowl including Northern Shoveler and Common Shelducks. I was hoping for Bearded Reedling and Bluethroat here, both of which I had seen two days previous from this very vantage point. Eventually a Reedling flew in but I had to give up on the Bluethroat which I knew I would have another chance at in Diemerpark. As I walked back to my bike three Northern Wheatears flushed up onto a fence out in the field!

I could sense that my species count was going well as I could think of only a handful of species that I was missing. One of these was Eurasian Kestrel, which I was hoping I would come across on my bike ride back towards Amsterdam. Sure enough, just as I was entering back into the fields a male flew over. I would also spot a female a short while later. Over the two bridges I went before turning south and heading into Diemerpark on the eastern edge of the city. At the south end of the park I stopped off at a pond where I had seen Little Grebe the previous week. There were 23 Red-crested Pochards present, as well as a few coots and moorhens but no Little Grebe. This was also where I was counting on getting Bluethroat and as luck would have it one was perched in the bushes beside the pond. Here I also found a pair of Whinchats and just as I was leaving the pond a Little Grebe gave its rail-like call! Stock Dove and a singing Cetti’s Warbler joined the list as I pedalled further southeast to Diemer Vijhoek.

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This little wild area is where I had been counting on getting Little Grebe if I missed it in Diemerpark and sure enough, there was one right in the pond at the trailhead. There were only a couple possible additions for me here, Willow Tit and Common Kingfisher but both are pretty scarce. More realistic I though was Long-tailed Tit, a species that, for the second year running I would not have on my Birdathon list! I had no luck on the Tit or Kingfisher either but I did not leave empty handed. A Spotted Flycatcher was my final surprise of the day after one flew onto a bare branch overhead!

A 5-minute cycle further on got me to a reed bed where I knew a couple Savi’s Warbler held territories. Sure enough, as I rolled up I could hear the incessant trill of one, while another Cetti’s Warbler sang from the same shrub it had been in last week!


The trail at Diemer Vijhoek

It was after 8:00pm and I was fading fast so after a final half cookie and a carrot I started pedalling back towards home. There were still a couple stops left – a brief and unsuccessful one for Black Redstart at one of the few territories for them in the city and a scan of a pond across the Rjin Canal before I followed the canal north and into Oost Amsterdam. At last, I arrived in Oosterpark just a couple blocks from home where I knew I could get one more bird for the day: Alexandrine Parakeet. Both this and Rose-ringed Parakeet have long-established introduced populations in the city and can be counted on in to be found in Oosterpark. Sure enough, after spotting a few Rose-ringed flying over I heard and then saw some Alexandrines. It was 9:10pm, I had biked over 70km and I had seen my last new bird of the day.

After some dinner I submitted my ebird checklists and was pleased to see I had surpassed my goal. My final tally for the day was 105 species!

Please consider making a donation to my Birdathon (you will receive a tax receipt from Bird Studies Canada) as I look to raise my goal of $2000 for the TLBO. For those who already have, I give my thanks. The TLBO is an important part of bird monitoring efforts across the country and indeed the continent and your contribution goes a long way toward ensuring the ongoing viability of the project. Donations can be made at:



My route for Birdathon 2019

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