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 autumn tour (November 2018) returned a remarkable 133 species, including an adult Red-breasted and 7 Lesser White-fronted Geese, 14 Red-crested Pochard, a female Ferruginous Duck, two White Storks, four species of grebe, dozens of Great Egrets, Cattle Egret, 30 Caspian Gulls, 19 day-roosting Long-eared Owls and 3 day-roosting Tawny Owls, two Great Grey Shrikes - and an extremely confiding 'Siberian' Nutcracker! Add the likes of Goshawk, Black Woodpecker, 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 - and to which (in 2018) we have now added a second!
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 2020 tour will mark 30 years for Limosa's Dutch Wild Goose Chase - although we've now operated more than 30 such trips 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?