January 2009

Before I forget: happy new year everyone!
I went for a bike ride/walk today. It was really beautiful in the polder, everything was covered with a layer of frost. Birches especially look really nice, with their slightly hanging twigs. I cycled to the edge of Nijmegen first because I was hoping to get to see a Water Rail as that had been seen a couple of days ago at the fish ladder. Didn't see that unfortunately, but I did see about 6 Little Grebes, which are always very nice to see. Cycled on toward the Vlietberg, an area that used to house a big factory where stone was recycled. The factory has been demolished and removed last year. All that's left now is the large stone chimney and a kind of barren landscape surrounding it. Won't be a pleasant surprise for all the Black Redstarts and White Wagtails that used to hang around at the factory I assume.
Cycled on to the small nature reserve Greenlands and took a short walk there. Not much to see apart from the nice scenery and a Buzzard. I got back on my bike and after a minute of three, at the edge of the Greenlands reserve I noticed a Sparrow Hawk. Lost that quite quickly, but re-spotted it a minute later. It flew into some bushes where I saw it make a couple of impressive turns before sitting down on a branch, seemingly surrounded by alarming smaller birds. It hadn't caught anything though.
On my way homewards after a quick visit to the Bisonbaai I passed 14 Curlews. Always nice to see and especially nice to hear. Love their calls...
Then on to an area where some Thistle Broomrapes had been found. I'd never seen any kind of broomrape before, so I was eager to find these. I'd read about their discovery on a website, but the location was only vaguely described. It was just specific enough enough, because it took very little effort to find them. They're not all that beautiful now, they're just dried out flower stalks. But there were a lot of them. Hopefully they're grow and flower again comming summer. It's only a 10 minute bike ride to the location, so if they do I'm sure I'll be able to take some photo's. :)
Oh, and when I got home I took a picture of the ice in our 'pond', now that it's still there. It's been growing the last couple of days and is now sticking out a bit.


The garden is less interesting in than it is in the spring or summer. The skeleton of the Black Mustard (Brassica nigra, Zwarte Mosterd in Dutch) is one of the things that helps make it look less barren. After setting seed it withstood strong winds and lots of rain. The stem that grew in one short season was strong. But it couldn't withstand the thick layer of snow... :( It's still there though, it may be pointing down, it still makes the garden look slightly more interesting.

             I went on an excursion with the Bird Workgroup today. It was pretty great! The rendezvous-point was at this pump-house at the edge of the Ooijpolder, 'Hollands-Duits gemaal'. There's a fish pass there that offers great foraging opportunities for all kinds of animals. At the very start of the excursion we looked around for a Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus, Waterral in Dutch) which was had been seen a couple of times there. We didn't see it unfortunately. We then walked over to the nearby house boat harbor. We saw a couple of Goosanders (Mergus merganser, Grote Zaagbek in Dutch), I always love seeing those, such beautiful birds. We then went back to the rendezvous-point and got into the cars. There were 7 of us and 2 cars. We were going to visit multiple places within the workgroup-area, which is pretty large. We went to the Bizonbaai first, a nature reserve consisting of a lake and some surrounding brushwood/pioneering-vegetation. The lake was pretty much completely frozen over, apart from one small opening. That was in the middle and filled with ducks and geeze. I used my spotting scope to look at them. There were lots of different species; Shovelers (Anas clypeata, Slobeend in Dutch), Pintails (Anas acuta, Pijlstaart in Dutch), Graylag Goose (Anser anser, Grauwe Gans in Dutch), Teals (Anas crecca, Wintertaling in Dutch), Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula, Kuifeend in Dutch) and Wigeons (Anas penelope, Smient in Dutch). And Coots (Fulica atra, Meerkoet in DUtch) and Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos, Wilde Eend in Dutch) of course. But all very far away unfortunately.
After a quick stop (with not much to see) along the river Waal nearby, we went on to nature reserve De Bruuk near Groesbeek. It was a bit of a mess there, as there's some 'maintenance' going on (removal of trees and shrubs and turfing the top layer of some fields to maintain/preserve the low-nutrition soil and rich diversity of species). But it was still beautiful, not in the least because of all the snow. We got a really nice look at a Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta, Waterpieper in Dutch) and saw a Snipe (Gallinago gallinago, Watersnip in Dutch), but that was flying away from us. But on the way back to the cars we got a really nice look at a Water Rail afterall! It was looking really sad though, having only a tiny hole in the ice to drink/feed from. It was really nearby, so we got a really nice view at it. I was able to take a couple of pictures as well, though the lighting was pretty bad. I think the one below was the best one I got.
We then went over to the St. Jansberg, a forested hill. It was very beautiful there as well, pretty much a fairytale landscape with all that snow. Hardly any birds there though. But I was thoroughly impressed by the sheer width of one of the oaks there, it must've been hundreds of years old...
Then it was on to some agricultural landscape (Koningsvennen/Violenberg) near Milsbeek where we saw a lot of geese, including some Bean Goose species (Anser fabalis sp., Rietgans sp. in Dutch), not sure which one. And Great White Herons (Casmerodius albus, Grote Zilverreiger in Dutch). Hard to photograph, completely white birds...
We were pretty far from Nijmegen by then and went a bit further still, to walk along a small river called Niers. It was a beautiful river, fast flowing and deep but pretty narrow. Saw some Goosanders there again, and a Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula, Drilduiker in Dutch). We also saw about 8 Roe Deers in the distance, and loads of their tracks in the snow.
Then it was on to another lake, the Mookerplas. This was also nearly completely frozen, except for a small bit at a bridge. Standing on the bridge we saw a couple of duck species and some Little Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis, Dodaars in Dutch). Near Mook we stopped to take a look at a sleepingplace for Long-Eared Owls (Asio otus, Ransuil in Dutch). There were two of them there, resting in between dense branches. Got a nice look at them though.
I was dropped off at the same pump-house where we'd started as it was only just slightly getting dusk. I decided to take a quick look around for the Water Rail, and actually saw it! It was foraging between the reed, swam a bit (a great sight!) and then climbed up some reed into dense vegetation. I'd never seen a Water Rail before in my life, so this was a pretty good first time! :)



As I left Beek this morning on my way to the rendezvouz-point of the excursion (see next entry), I noticed some 'pruning' had been done across the provincial road N325. A row of Hawthorns (Meidoorn in Dutch), a Black Alder (Zwarte Els in Dutch) and a Guelder Rose (Gelderse Roos in Dutch) had been 'pruned' to the ground. That Guelder Rose was my fav shrub! GRRRR... The branches and twigs were still scattered around on the ground across the road.
I wrote about this Guelder Rose in my diary on December 29th (1st entry). I wrote there that I couldn't find a picture of the flowering shrub I though I had, so I'd have to take one next spring/summer. I guess that's pretty much impossible now. :(
On my way back after the excursion I stopped, crossed the road and broke of some twigs of the Guelder Rose, most still carrying berries. At home I made some cuttings of the twigs, which I treated with cuttings-powder and stuck into the ground. I also burried some berries, put out a couple for the birds and will get the seeds from some more. I'll 'scar' the seeds, simulating the digestion by birds. I'm pretty sure that's necessary. If the cuttings'll work I'm not sure at all. I made them just like it was desribed in a book on growing/multiplying plants, but I think it may be too late in the year to do it. I've made about 10 cuttings I suppose. If they all work I might have to plant a couple back at the place across the road, we don't have room for that many. But I doubt they'll all work. We'll see...

Another birding excursion today, but this time organized by the KNNV. Led by Bird Workgroup member Frans Nillesen and Ria Janssen we cycled around the Ooijpolder. I got to the rendezvouz-point quite a bit too early, but was entertained very well by the Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus, Waterral in Dutch) again. I got a really nice look at it and was able to photograph and film it. The first of the other attendees of the excursion arrived in time to see it as well, but some people that came later didn't get to see it as it had disappeared into the dense reed vegetation.
A group of 14 of us left by bike, stopping after only a couple of meters to take a look at Teals (Anas crecca, Wintertaling in Dutch) and a Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea, Blauwe Reiger in Dutch). We then cycled on along the Oude Waal, which, unfortunately, was still frozen which meant there wasn't much to see beside some Carrion Crows (Corvus corone, Zwarte Kraai in Dutch) and a Common Gull (Larus canus, Stormmeeuw in Dutch). We did however get to see a Great White Heron (Casmerodius albus, Grote Zilverreiger in Dutch) at the end, at distance in a field.
We cycled on in the direction of the Bizonbaai, seeing along the way: Buzzards (Buteo buteo, Buizerd in Dutch), a Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus, Torenvalk in Dutch), a Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus, Grote Lijster in Dutch) and Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis, Putter in Dutch).
Once at the Bizonbaai I noticed the opening in the ice had gotten a lot larges since I last saw it. Still loads of birds there, helping to enlarge the opening even more with their movements. We saw Shovelers (Anas clypeata, Slobeend in Dutch), Pintails (Anas acuta, Pijlstaart in Dutch), Graylag Geese (Anser anser, Grauwe Gans in Dutch), Teals (Anas crecca, Wintertaling in Dutch), Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula, Kuifeend in Dutch), Wigeons (Anas penelope, Smient in Dutch), Coots (Fulica atra, Meerkoet in DUtch) and Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos, Wilde Eend in Dutch). We used the three available spotting scopes (including my own) to look at them, as the distance was pretty big. Then Frans, one of the excursion leaders, noticed a Peregrin Falcon (Falco peregrinus, Slechtvalk in Dutch)! It sat down in a tree at great distance, but we got a very nice look at it using the 60x magnifying scopes.
After a short stop at the very popular café to warm up, we moved on along the Waal. In the agricultural land through which we cycled after leaving the dike at Ooij we saw more geese (Greylag and White Fronted (Anser albifrons, Kolgans in Dutch)), another Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus, Sperwer in Dutch) being harassed by Carrion Crows. But when we nearly reached the dike again, one of the excursion attendees, Piet Smeets, spotted a very cool bird of prey, a male Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus, Blauwe Kiekendief in Dutch)! A beautiful bird that we could see very nicely as we could follow it for tens, if not hundreds of meters untill it disappeared behind the dike. Back on the dike it was only a short trip back to the pump house where we'd started. A couple of us went to check if the Water Rail was available for viewing again, which it was (!), after which we all said goodbye and I went to get some pieces of the destroyed Guelder Rose... :(


I got some 'pond baskets' (flowerpots for water plants) yesterday. Went to the Wylerberglake today to get some soil to put into them (I don't use potting soil/pond soil as that is made of turf for which peatland is destroyed). The soil was sandy with a yellowish layer on top, about 10 cm, and dark greyish under that. I suppose it's not really ideal to use in a pond, as it contains a lot of nutrients, but I don't really know where to find alternatives. Besides, I want to saw Yellow Flag (Iris psuedacorus), and that's growing around where I got it, so it should be good soil for that plant. I bought some Yellow Flag seeds at the KNNV Hoorn (website in Dutch), a KNNV division from the north of the Netherlands. The seeds need to be exposed to low temperatures in order to germinate, so this is the time for sawing them. In hindsight, I didn't have to buy seeds as there were plenty all over the place where I got the soil. But I think there's only a couple in the pond baskets, so I'll saw a couple more anyway. I also got some seeds for the Common Waterplantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica).
Our 'pond' was on the terrace before (see also the September 2008 diary) but we've always been planning to dig it in. And so I have yesterday. It's still a bit of a mess. The water is a bit murky due to the soil in the pond baskets and there's a pile of soil next to the pond. Things are going to change a bit more anyway. We've gotten a second cement tub that I'll dig in next to the pond. We'll fill this second tub with low-nutrient soil though, which, combined with a lot of water, will make something like a marsh. A bit experimental I have to admit, we'll see how it works out. Oh, and I need some more submerged water plants for the pond as well, as they'll (hopefully) reduce the amount of nutrients in the water as they grow and produce oxygen, both will help to minimize the growth of algae. But even if algae grow out of control, it'd still be nice if there's some nice water plants growing in there. I'm very curious to see what happens, the soil in the pond baskets contains all kinds of seeds I didn't recognize...

             Two very nice sightings during two nice walks today! First, this morning, Lisette and I went out for a walk in the Duivelsberg forest 'behind' our house. The weather was great. A bit cold, but nice and sunny. I said at the start of the walk we were bound to see a woodpecker today. A little later we heard a clear chopping sound. It didn't take long before we found the source, a beautiful female Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius, Zwarte Specht in Dutch) was sitting low in a coniferous tree. We were at quite some distance at first with the light coming nearly from straight ahead (far from ideal circumstances obviously). I took some (crappy) pictures and made a short video, then I walked slowly and quietly forward on the path, closing in on the Woodpecker. I got pretty close without scaring her at all. She went about her business, chopping away pieces of bark to reach what must've been small insects. We could see her licking up something at times (which can also be seen in the video below). After watching her for a while we went on, happy with this nice encounter and happy to have been able to photograph and film without disturbing her.
After lunch I went for anouther trip. Alone and by bike this time. I went into the Ooijpolder, to the Bisonbaai and Groenlanden first. Not much to see there, apart from plenty of people... Saw a lot of geese in the Ooijpolder though. Greylag (Grauwe), White-Fronted (Kol) and a single Barnacle (Brand).
Went past the Thistle Broomrapes (Orobanche reticulata, Distelbremrapen in Dutch) as I was really near them at one point. Took some pictures without snow this time. Can't wait to see if they'll be around in the spring as well...
Then I went on to the Wylerberglake. Walked around a bit, looking for the first signs of Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum, Gevlekte Aronskelk in Dutch) which I didn't find. When I heard a soft nibbling sound I looked up to find a Hawfinch though! (Coccothraustes coccothraustes, Appelvink in Dutch). I don't see these magnificently-beaked birds very often at all, so spotting it was nice to begin with. But I also managed to take some decent pictures and a short video. :)

I wrote in the entry of the 25th that I'd gone looking for the first signs of Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum, Gevlekte Aronskelk in Dutch) at the Wylerberglake. Didn't find any there, but I checked another place where these plants grew last year and found the first dark green leaves peeking out from under the dead leaves there. I found them on monday on my way to work. It was still dark, so I used my bicycle light and the light coming from the nearby lamppost to look for the Lords and Ladies leaves. I found some at the base of a tree where they'd grown last year as well.
I took my camera along the next day, but didn't take pictures in the dark of course. On the way back from work, after getting groceries, I stopped and noticed there were a lot more leaves then I thought there were monday, but of course it was dark then... I hope I didn't stand on any, but they all looked fine. Spring's coming!