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Holland (Netherlands) Wild Goose Chase!

A 5-day, single-centre, small group birdwatching tour to Holland (Netherlands)

2019 marks the 29th year for Limosa's famous Dutch Wild Goose Chase! Join us for a trip that’s simply packed with great birding - from rare geese and raptors to roosting Black Woodpeckers and Long-eared Owls... and everything in between. Not to mention our trademark coffee stops for warming hot chocolate and Dutch apple pie. Based at a fine hotel in the forests near Harderwijk, this single-centre small group tour is led for us as ever by our own resident Dutch birding expert, the inimitable Arnoud van den Berg.

Tour Dates

2018

Spaces
2

2019

Spaces
6

Leaders
Arnoud van den Berg

Max Group Size: 7
Duration: 5 Days

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Cost: £1195

inc return flights London Gatwick-Amsterdam, nonstop with British Airways

Deposit: £300

Single Supp: £185
Land Only: £1095

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Tundra Bean Geese Wieringermeer Holland Arnoud van den Berg Jan 2009 2706

Lift off for a flock of Tundra Bean Geese on our Dutch Wild Goose Chase © Arnoud van den Berg, Limosa Holidays

With its immense flocks of geese and other waterfowl, impressive range of wintering raptors and every chance of the unexpected, our annual birdwatching tour to The Netherlands boasts some of the finest winter birding in Europe.

Our last tour (November 2017) returned a remarkable 129 species, including 19 Lesser White-fronted Geese, Black Brant, 8 Ruddy Shelduck, 80 Red-crested Pochard, a drake Hooded Merganser, four species of grebe, 200+ Great Egrets, juvenile Pallid Harrier, Red-necked and Grey Phalaropes, Caspian Gull, 27 day-roosting Long-eared Owls - and a male Desert Wheatear at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport! Add the likes of Goshawk, Short-toed Treecreeper, Willow Tit, Firecrest and Hawfinch that we see most years and you'll find our Dutch Wild Goose Chase offers a perfect panacea to the dull days of winter back home.

From November through to March, Holland's low-lying fields are a haven for geese. All of Europe’s recorded wild species have occurred in recent years - in fact our groups have seen the lot - mingling with the tens of thousands of Barnacle, Brent, White-fronted and 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 dressed Goosanders and often a few Smew amidst masses of more familiar species.

We usually see plenty of birds of prey on this trip, too. Goshawk and Rough-legged Buzzard are always on the cards and there’s generally the odd Peregrine and White-tailed Eagle about.

This part of Holland is also 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!

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 - way back in winter 1991. In addition to the 'expected' species, over the years he’s conjured up an impressively long list of rarities for our groups and we’ve 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, so tame it landed on Chris Kightley’s head!

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, too - a long-established tradition on this Limosa tour.

This is both a cracking trip for beginners as well as one that’s just perfect for anyone in search of a rewarding short winter break crammed with great birding. Our November 2019 tour marks 29 years for Limosa's Dutch Wild Goose Chase - although we've now operated more than 30 such tours there during that time. It's led for us as ever by our own English-speaking resident Dutch birding expert, Arnoud van den Berg. Why not join us this year?

AB 20131128 SurniaululaZwolleOV9975

Not just geese!... Our Dutch 'Wild Goose Chase' regularly turns up a few surprises - like this cracking Hawk Owl, seen and photographed on our November 2013 tour © Arnoud van den Berg

Note: the below itinerary is intended only as a guide to the places we have visited on previous tours, and we may sometimes change things around according to where the birds happen to be wintering when we arrive on the ground.

Day 1                                    
TO AMSTERDAM & HARDERWIJK

To make the most of the short winter days, our Dutch Wild Goose Chase begins with an early morning flight from London Gatwick to Amsterdam, where Arnoud will be waiting to welcome us. The route we follow to the hotel today will depend largely upon where the various flocks of geese and other wintering birds happen to be.

Birding in Holland is always exciting and past tours have kicked off in fine style - perhaps with a visit to a roost of Long-eared Owls. Wherever we go, we are likely to see our first big skeins of White-fronted and Barnacle Geese as well as herds of Bewick’s Swans in the fields. Grey Herons and Great Egrets stalk along the ditches and dykes. With luck, we may come across something scarcer: Great Northern Diver, White Stork, Hawk Owl, Nutcracker, Waxwing and Great Grey Shrike are among ‘first day species’ that have come our way over the years - and the birding on our November 2017 tour began even before we had left the confines of Amsterdam Airport, with a male Desert Wheatear there!

Our destination this evening is an excellent contemporary hotel situated in forest of de Veluwe, not far from the charming old town of Harderwijk. This will be our base for all four nights of the holiday. Night near Harderwijk

Days 2 - 4                                            
EXPLORING FLEVOLAND & FRIESLAND / ZEELAND

Harderwijk stands at the edge of what was formerly the Zuiderzee, which was enclosed in 1932 to form one vast, shallow lake - the IJsselmeer. Subsequent drainage and enclosure here has led to the creation of the now famous Dutch 'polders'. Largest of these is Flevoland, nowadays a patchwork of arable land, woods, marsh and open water that quickly earned a reputation as one of Europe’s top birding spots.

Winter birding on Flevoland is always a thrill. Marsh and Hen Harriers, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard are likely at this season, with Bittern, Water Rail and Bearded Tit are typical of the more secretive marshland species awaiting our discovery. Noisy flocks of geese should be much in evidence and we should see plenty of European White-fronts, along with Barnacle, Greylag and Tundra Bean Geese. Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew and Ruff mingle with the grazing flocks, only for the sudden appearance of a speculative Marsh Harrier - or the more purposeful and powerful Goshawk - to panic the whole lot into flight. An amazing sight!

The wealth of wintering raptors in Holland often comes as a surprise to visiting British birders and we have excellent chances of seeing one or two scarcer species. Rough-legged Buzzard, Peregrine and the immense White-tailed Eagle have all been regularly present in recent years.

Waterfowl are abundant too, especially Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Goldeneye. The four ‘smaller’ grebes, Scaup and other scarce duck are frequent visitors and we often see all three sawbills: Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser and Smew. As we travel between the various wetlands, we’ll be keeping an eye open for Water Pipits on the flooded fields, as well as flocks of Redwings, Fieldfares, Brambling - even Hawfinch, which are sometimes to be found feeding beside the quieter back roads.

Close by our hotel, mixed woodlands of pine, oak and birch in the Leuvenumse Bos are home to an excellent range of forest birds. As we walk the trails looking for Crested and Willow Tits, Short-toed Treecreeper and possibly Raven, it’s here that we shall also hope to discover an active roost of Black Woodpecker ... an incredible bird when seen up close. We’ve not missed them yet!

During our stay, one longer day trip out may take us north to Friesland, for some of the best winter birding in all Holland. Amidst a classic Dutch landscape of meadows and pretty villages dotted with windmills old and new, noisy gatherings of White-fronted, Bean and Barnacle Geese can run into tens of thousands. There are often good numbers of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese about, too. Rarities turn up annually here, with perhaps a flight of Snow Geese or a stunning Red-breasted Goose for us to look for amidst the ranks of more common species.

Wild swans graze the pastures and likely raptors include Hen Harrier, Rough-legged Buzzard and Peregrine. Merlin is also present most years and Great Egrets have latterly become a daily sight. Holland is a great place to find Long-eared Owls in winter and we’ll check a couple of favoured roost sites for them during our stay. In the past, we have occasionally found the odd Short-eared Owl in amongst them, too.

The Netherlands is a compact country with an excellent motorway network and, depending on what’s about at the time of our tour, on another day we may decide to venture south to explore Zeeland and Zuid-Holland. Here we should find Bewick’s Swans (and perhaps a few Whoopers), along with many more geese. Amidst the milling throngs of White-fronts and Barnacles, we will hope to unearth the much rarer Lesser White-fronted Goose; our last eight tours have all been successful, finding between one and 22 of these beautiful little Ansers. Several Red-breasted Geese, an adult Ross’s Goose and ‘Black Brant’ have also come our way here over the years, not to mention a cracking drake Bufflehead - and in 2017, a drake Hooded Merganser! Three further nights near Harderwijk

Day 5                                    
COAST, AMSTERDAM & FLY LONDON

We bid a reluctant farewell to our hotel after breakfast this morning and set off to enjoy our final day in the field as our Dutch Wild Goose Chase draws to a close.

Red-throated Diver, Brent Goose and Eider are regularly present along The Netherlands’ North Sea shore and, depending on what we have seen so far, we may well head in that direction today. Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone and Mediterranean Gull are also likely at the coast, and Rock Pipit, Common Crossbill and Snow Bunting occur there sparingly throughout the winter months.

If the weather has been mild, we might be lucky to find a lingering Chiffchaff, a stunning Firecrest - or possibly something unexpected!

Having enjoyed another full day of Dutch birding, we make our way back to Amsterdam this afternoon for farewells to Arnoud and our evening flight home. Thanks to the one-hour time difference, we shall get back into London again at pretty much the same time as we take off from Amsterdam!

Lesser White fronted Geese Zierikzee Holland Arnoud van den Berg Nov 2009 3625

Lesser White-fronted Goose is a rare but regular winter visitor in small numbers to The Netherlands, mingling with flocks of the much more numerous White-fronted and Barnacle Geese © Arnoud van den Berg, Limosa Holidays

What To Expect

2019 marks the 29th year for Limosa's famous Dutch Wild Goose Chase! Join us for a trip that’s simply packed with great birding - from rare geese and raptors to roosting Black Woodpeckers and Long-eared Owls... and everything in between. Not to mention our trademark coffee stops for warming hot chocolate and Dutch apple pie.

Based at a fine 4-star hotel in the forests near Harderwijk, this single-centre small group tour is led for us as ever by our own resident Dutch birding expert, the inimitable Arnoud van den Berg.

The weather in the Netherlands is similar to that of East Anglia at this season - often clear, bright and crisp with daytime temperatures typically in the range of 2-10°C (36-50F). As in the UK cool and cloudy conditions with showers or rain (more rarely snow) are also possible.

Lightweight layers of warm and weatherproof clothing, including a woolly hat, scarf and gloves should ensure your enjoyment of some excellent winter birding!

Birds

100-135 species

Accommodation

Four nights accommodation at an excellent contemporary 4-star hotel set in the Veluwe forest near Harderwijk. The hotel is comfortable, warm and welcoming, with good food and stylish en suite rooms... and Black Woodpeckers roosting in the woods nearby!

Meals

All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with lunch on Day 1 and concluding with lunch on Day 5.

Breakfasts and dinners will be taken at the hotel. Our lunches will usually be picnics in the field... and not forgetting our ‘trademark’ cafe stops for a mug of hot chocolate and a slice of Dutch apple pie, which have become something of a Limosa tradition over the past 28 years on this tour! 

Walking

Easy. Short walks over flat terrain - no hills! It can sometimes be a little muddy or wet underfoot, so sturdy waterproof shoes or boots with corrugated soles for grip are advised.

Travel

We fly London Gatwick to Amsterdam with British Airways or KLM.

** We can also arrange flights from London Heathrow and various UK regional airports - including Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Norwich with KLM or Easyjet. Please ask us for details and a quote at time of booking **

For those that prefer not to fly, we offer a 'land only' price leaving you free to make your own travel arrangements getting to and from the tour.

Amsterdam can be reached by ferry or by Eurostar, with easy onward connections to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport where our tour starts and finishes. For further details as well as booking hotels in Amsterdam, check online at: http://www.seat61.com/Netherlands.htm

Ground Transport  By minibus

Long eared Owls HOL AB 20091129 3731

We’ll check a couple of favourite sites for roosting Long-eared Owls (above)... Black Woodpeckers, too! © Arnoud van den Berg, Arnoud van den Berg

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1 DW, Holland tour This was a superb trip for both organisation and birds. The Hawk Owl twitch was just the froth on the top - totally unexpected. The paced selection of other owls was lovely (Long-eared, Little, Tawny) and the substitution of Beech Marten for Barn Owl a lot of fun. Goose / Lapwing / Golden Plover numbers just mind-blowing. Lesser White-front, Ferruginous Duck on cue. Brilliant trip! ... [empty string]
2 GN, Holland tour ... Arnoud was excellent in all respects. The fact that the [hotel] restaurant was full of locals indicates how good the food was. Great trip... [empty string]
3 ET, Holland tour ... Arnoud was as always brilliant, informative & entertaining... [empty string]
4 S&VC, Holland tour ... Arnoud was enthusiastic and informative. He ensured we all got great sightings - a superb tour leader!... [empty string]
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