- After a morning flight to Amsterdam Schipol international airport, we meet our guide and drive north (approximately two hours) to our base at a pleasant hotel close to Groningen. We should be able to stop en route to go birdwatching (our leader will use his networking skills select a route where geese have been sighted).
- Accommodation: Hotel near Groningen, 4-nights on full board basis.
- After breakfast we drive northwest to nearby Lauwersmeer National Park, part of the UNESCO World Heritage area of the Waddenzee. Large numbers of waders, plus raptors, as white-tailed eagle and Montagu’s harrier breed in Lauwersmeer National Park and along the Waddenzee coast. We will start in the eastern part of the reserve and work round in an anticlockwise direction to end up at the Friesian side in the afternoon - it’s not unusual to see around 100 species on this day alone!
- This morning we drive south for around an hour to Fochteloërveen and Drents-Friese Woud National Park, an area mainly of woodland surrounded by open terrain with a mix of moorland and polder that is now one of the Netherlands’ largest nature reserves.
- We can see great grey shrike, plus lots of white-fronted and tundra bean geese feeding on the farmland. Whooper and Bewick’s swans are also present, along with various raptors. Cranes, black woodpeckers and crested tits all breed here and can be seen throughout the year.
- Today we head further afield to Kornwerderzand, then over the Ijselmeer to Den Oever. In winter, the polders at each end of the dike are renowned for holding vast numbers of wintering geese, ducks and waders. In addition to more common species, there are invariably specialties such as black brant a.k.a. brent, pale‐bellied brant, and red-breasted geese. From the dike we can see thousands of scaup and impressive numbers of goosander, red-breasted merganser, smew and eider.
- The morning is free to relax until it’s time to transfer back to Amsterdam Schipol airport for our flight back to the UK. Depending on the time of our flight, there should still be time for some final birding on the way.
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- All meals
- Guided activities
Comfortable mid-range hotel. All rooms have an en suite bathroom.
All meals are included. Breakfasts and dinners are taken in the hotel, whereas lunch is a picnic in the field. The vehicle carries a supply of tea/coffee, cake, fruit, chocolate bars and water for use during the day at no additional charge.
The Netherlands is known for the geese, ducks and swans that winter there – as many as half a million in all. And the spectacle of tens of thousands of geese taking off from their roost and heading to farmland to forage is undeniably impressive. Most of these are barnacle, greylag and greater white-fronted geese, plus - closer to the coast - brent geese. Other species include red-breasted, lesser white-fronted, pink-footed, and sometimes even snow and Ross' geese.
Most of the ducks forage in the fields by night and rest on the water during the day - sometimes wigeon are packed so close together that it appears possible to walk over them. Other species include teal, shoveler, gadwall, tufted duck and common pochard, along with smew, goldeneye, goosander, red-breasted merganser and red-crested pochard.
But these are not the only interesting wintering birds – there are also short-eared owl, hen harrier, purple sandpiper and bearded tit just to name a few.
- Barnacle goose
- Greylag goose
- Greater white-fronted goose
- Brent goose
The northern provinces of Groningen and Friesland lie along the North Sea coast with a mix of polder, beach, sand dunes, islands and woodland, plus great swathes of agricultural land.
The photographic opportunities on this trip are varied, although light levels are sometimes low in winter. Subject matter consists largely of seabirds, shorebirds, waterfowl and waders against a backdrop of big skies.
Some walking is involved, mainly at a slow pace on flat and level trails, although these can be wet and muddy. Although the distances covered are generally no more than a kilometre or two, you should still have a reasonable level of fitness.
Price includes return scheduled flights London – Amsterdam – London.
Minibus driven by the tour leader.
On this tour we reach a maximum altitude of no more than 100 metres or so above sea level.
The climate in the Netherlands is similar to the UK. The major influences are the North Sea and the prevailing northwest wind which brings North Atlantic weather systems. Winter temperatures average above freezing, although frosts are common during spells of easterly winds from central Europe. It can sometimes be wet and rainy.