December 2008

Lisette and I went for a walk at Dal Palland and the forest Duivelsberg today. The weather was great, cold, but nice and sunny. We didn't see a whole lot of spectacular things, but I thought it was really nice to see flowering Common Gorse! Everything in nature is looking dead or dying (though of course a lot of things are just going into 'winter-mode' and will be alive and kicking when spring arrives), but this Gorse plant was looking like it was the middle of spring or summer. I suppose it doesn't need insects to pollinate because it can pollinate itself? It didn't say in the great book Dutch Ecological Flora. It did say some other interesting things. Gorse doesn't have any real leafs. Young plants do, and leafs can be found when twigs have been broken off, but all other leafs, as well as the ends of all twigs, have been converted into spines. As hard as glass according to the flora. And Gorse is one of the most unrelenting thorn-bushes of the country as it's needles hardly ever break... It is said to flower in the spring, but it can also flower as early as in the fall if the weather is gentle. I guess it is then?



Went for a walk around the lake Wylerbergmeer near our house today. There are quite a few Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) around. And, as usual, there was a Kingfisher around as well. Very easy to find, but not so much thanks to it's bright colours, but thanks to it's typical high pitched call. Once you get to know that it's so much easier to spot these gorgeous birds. Usually you don't see much of them though, you hear the call, look, and see a blue dart shooting along only centimeters above the surface of the water. Sometimes, like today, you're lucky though. Today I spotted the Kingfisher across the lake, which wasn't very far away. It flew over to a tree a bit further away where it sat for a while, looking around. But then quite suddenly it took a dive. It emerged holding a quite big fish, about three quarters the length of the bird itself. The Kingfisher flew over in my direction and sat down on a branch only about four meters away from me. Unfortunately though, my sight at it was blocked by a treetrunk. I took a couple of very carefull steps aside, but the Kingfisher saw me and was scared off to across the lake. I could still see it using my binoculars and saw how it ate the fish.
A bit later I was looking at a Winter Wren as it was searching for food amongst some reed and brambles. It flew over to a different bramble and disappeared. A moment later I noticed a small bird amongst the bramble branches coming toward me. It wasn't the Winter Wren though, the colour was much greyer and the shape was different. It continued to approach me so I was able to see it was in fact a Goldcrest. I love these tiny birds. I always have a lot of trouble photographing them though, they're restless and fast. Not shy though, and this one honoured that feature. Jeez, it came so close! I've never wished I had a better camera than today... :( My camera had a lot of trouble focussing in the poor light so most of the pictures I took are pretty much worthless. The one I'm placing here isn't great either, but it's the best one I have.
And today we also had a visiting Marsh Tit again. It was able to get to the peanuts a couple of time despite all the Great Tit-'violence'... :)



I'm spending my day off today waiting for the delivery of my repaired notebook... The courier can come along anywhere between 9 and half past 4... :/
But as I was writing this he came along! :) Lisette and I are going for a walk after lunch, so there might be another entry later.
But first I'd like to show you pictures of 'the' ringed Dunnock in our back garden. I'm not sure if I wrote about that before. Dunnocks visit our garden reasonably frequently. And I know there are at least three of them, as I've seen two without rings in our garden at the same time and then there's this one with a small metal ring around it's leg. I'm guessing it's a female, but I'm not completely sure. My bird guide says males have slightly more grey on their head. The ringed one seems to have only a bit, compared to the other Dunnock I saw in our garden today.
I wonder where it was ringed. There's a big ringing 'center' near a nearby city (Arnhem), but if I'm not mistaken a small amount of birds are ringed right here on the lateral moraine, behind Sovon's headquarters (Sovon being the national bird research organisation).



Today I went along on an excursion to Ijmuiden with Nijmegen (and surroundings') Bird Workgroup. I'd never been to to Ijmuiden's south pier, a pier that heads into sea for about 1,5 kilometers. At the end of the pier you're virtually surrounded by the sea. But before we got there we'd already seen a couple of nice birdspecies, among which a Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), a Red-Necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) and a group of Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis). The Red-Necked Grebe was appearantly hungry as just after catching and eating a fish, it caught and ate another. There's a short video of the grebe in the videos section. While walking towards the end of the pier we saw a couple of Rock Pipits (Anthus petrosus), a bird species I'd never seen before. We saw a couple of nice gull species like Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) and Little Gulls (Larus minutus). After visiting the pier we went to visit a nearby sweet water lake. On the way over there we saw Snow Buntings and a couple of Snipes (Gallinago gallinago). I also photographed this spurge species which at home appeared to be Sea Spurge (Euphorbia paralias), a red list species. The lake itself wasn't very spectacular, but there were loads of Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and some other nice birds like Bramblings (Fringilla montifringilla). We then drove to another lake called 'Birdlake' in nature reserve Zuid Kennemerland. We saw a female Goosander (Mergus merganser) and a female Smew (Mergellus albellus) from the birdwatch-shed.
A very succesful and fun first excursion with the Bird Workgroup! Some of the pictures ended up in the birds section and the one of Sea Spurge went to the plants section of the pictures & videos pages.



Went for a walk in forest Duivelsberg today. Loads of people were walking their unleashed dogs, very annoying (noisy and clearly disturbing for several alarming birds) and against the rules. I tried to photograph Goldcrests again. But without much luck. I got really close to them, but the light was poor and my camera just wouldn't focus... Grr...
There's always room for another Deer Fern picture, right? :)



             I noticed today a couple of bulbous plants in our back garden have started to grow. I'm pretty sure it's crocusses and some daffodils. Haven't seen any snowdrops yet. It's not very spectacular, but nice anyway.
Also noticed a pretty and somewhat strange looking mushroom growing on the old pinewood treetrunk. We have a book on mushrooms that's supposed to be really good, Gerhardt's; over 700 pages, 1200 species, 1000 pictures. I've browsed it hoping to identify species I've seen a couple of times now, but with a very poor success-rate so far. And that goes for this one on the pine-trunk as well. No idea what it is...
I sawed some Brown Knapweed (Centaurea jacea) sometime in may I think. It was a bit too late to saw, but the seeds germinated and an enormous plant grew up, about 1,5 meters tall. It formed flowerbuds, but didn't actually flower. Today I noticed some ray florets had emerged from one of the flowerbuds though. It doesn't look like a healthy flower though...



Lisette and I took a walk in Dal Palland and the neighbouring forest Duivelsberg this morning. Dal Palland especially was very nice and quiet, but apart from the beautiful landscape and hoard frost-covered leaves and branches (well, everything really), there wasn't much to see wildlife-wise. That certainly changed once we were walking through forest Duivelsberg. Saw some Goldcrests (Regulus regulus) perform their hummingbird-like flight in their search for whatever tiny insects they eat. Also a Greater Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), Stupid Cycling People (Homosapiens stupidicus spp. velocipedus) and Robins (Erithacus rubecula).
So very often a source of annoyance... It is prohibited to enter forest Duivelsberg with unleashed dogs and bikes (and it says so on the sign at every entrance), yet TONS of people do so anyway.
Mountainbiking on the narrow bending paths in the hilly forest might be fun for those doing it, but it's very dangerous for people walking in the forest. In addition, this forest houses loads of rare and vulnerable plants which are easily destroyed by the broad digging tires of mountainbikes.
Unleashed dogs may seem harmless to their owners, but they, like most people that walk in the forest on a sunny sundaymorning seem completely blind and unaware of the nature surrounding them. The forest here may not be a primary forest, it's not a park either. There are animals for whom this forest is their home, yet they can't feel safe or peaceful the way people feel when they're at home because of the constant risk of being attacked by dogs.
We heard the calls of a Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius). Magnificent sounds... It'd been a long time since I last heard them and I was very glad to do so now. The first call was a distress-call, which I didn't immediatly recognize (shame, shame). The calls that followed were somewhat low pitched whistling tones, which I did recognize to be Black Woodpecker's. We didn't get to see one unfortunately. Who knows, maybe I will tomorrow (I plan on going for a walk in the early, (hopefully) quiet monday morning).
Another great thing to see (and hear!) were four Roe Deers (Capreolus capreolus)! I was actually looking at something else first; there was a large bird flying high up among the treetops while I heard a loud rustling of leaves, as if a couple of large dogs were running downhill through the leaves. After the bird turned out to be a Jay (Garrulus glandarius), I looked in the direction out of which the sound was coming and simultaniously asked Lisette what it was that was making it. I saw the Roe Deer pretty much at the same time Lisette said that's what it was and was able to get a nice look through my binoculars; they were only 20 meters or so away from us! They hesitated for a second and then went on noisely galloping down the hill, crossing two paths as they did so. If I had been carrying my camera on my chest I might have been able to take a nice picture, but it was on my shoulder and I didn't want to scare off the Roe Deer (they seemed more than scared enough already). I did take a short video clip by the time they were crossing the second path. It's pretty bad though. I don't see Roe Deer around this time of day very often (around 11:30), I wonder if perhaps they were scared off by dogs...
A couple of minutes later we got to a nice field where I've seen Green Woodpeckers (Picus viridis) before, so I looked around hoping to see one (or two ;)) again. I didn't find one, but I did see a small bird hanging in a woodpecker-like way onto the side of a branch. Looking through my binoculars I saw it was a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor). Hadn't seen one of those for ages, so I was happy to get a good look at it and even take a couple of pictures and a short video (see the videos section).

Call of a Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius). Sound taken from

This morning I went for a walk in Dal Palland and forest Duivelsberg with my mother. We left at a bit past 8 in the moring, it was only just light enough and still very, very cold. But the sky was nice and clear and the sunrise was beautiful. I had hoped to see at least one Roe Deer and hear a Black Woodpecker again, but unfortunately we didn't. We didn't see a whole lot of special things at all to be honest. It's always nice to see Greater Spotted Woodpeckers of course. And I like seeing Nuthatches, Chaffinches, Robins and (a whole bunch of) Blackbirds of course, but you know... A Middle Spotted Woodpecker or a black one would have been nice... But we did see a Green one. :)



             After the walk with my mum I decided to go for another walk. Just a quick one, to the nearby Wylerberglake. On my way over there I stopped to photograph one of my favorite plants in the neighbourhood: Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus). A single Fieldfare flew off as I approached the bush by crossing the busy provincial road N325. I'm not sure if it was on the ground near to it or actually in it, but as Fieldfares love berries, I'm guessing it was in it. The bush is quite full of berries at the moment. The amazing amount of flowers last summer must've done their job well. I thought I had a picture of the flowering bush somewhere as well, but I can't find it. I'll have to take one next spring/summer. It's nice to see this beautiful plant every day, even if there's an ugly busy road in between us.
After crossing the busy provincial road again I picked up my bike and went on to the Wylerberglake. Once there I took a small path that leads past one of the two lakes, hoping there might be a Kingfisher at a pipe drop with steaming water (the rest of the lake was frozen over). No luck though. But I did spot a tiny Goldcrest-like bird nearby. I went to take a closer look and noticed the white stripes above and under it's eye: a Firecrest! :) I tried to photograph it, I sure did get close enough, but my camera wouldn't focus quick enough. The only picture I got was of it's back... :/
A bit further along the way I spotted a weird looking bird sitting in a small tree. It looked like a Buzzard, but as though maybe it had a prey? I went for a closer look and found it was just sitting in a slightly strange position, it's wings kind of draped alongside it's body. As it flew off a little while later I heard the call of a Kingfisher, probably in response to the sight of a Buzzard passing by. Didn't get to see it though. I did see a Little Grebe. clearly it didn't see me, as it didn't immidiatly dive to get out of sight as Little Grebes always seem to do. It was just drifting around, preening a bit.
I went over to a big Bramble-shrubbery where I'd seen Goldcrests the last time I was there. No Goldcrests there this time, but I find a Bullfinch! A female was at the edge of the water first, probably drinking at the edge of the layer of ice. She then flew up to a high branch and started to pick old dried brambles. In the way I see Greenfinches skillfully skin sunflower seeds in our back garden the Bullfinch was getting the seeds out of the dried brambles. Beautiful birds which unfortunately I don't see very often.
After the Bullfinch left I went on to check out a small 'forest' nearby. I heard the typical Goldcrest calls coming from among the young trees. I went in and found about 4 of them foraging busily, moving from tree/shrub to tree/shrub. I followed them for a while, trying hard to get one on a picture. My camera wasn't cooperating (again) though... Very frustrating, I got so close, the Goldcrests were completely ignoring me, if I could just have photographed some of the great poses they showed... The Goldcrests crossed a path at the edge of the 'forest' to continue foraging in some shrubs beside the water and I followed. After some more frustrating failures of my camera I decided to switch to manual focus, which doesn't work very handy on my camera. But it worked a lot better than autofocus and I was finally able to get a couple of shots. :) And then my batteries died... Haha, oh well...
Another picture of the Bullfinch and two more of Goldcrests can be found in the pictures & videos section on the birds page.