Netherlands

Wild Goose Chase!

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

Limosa's winter birdwatching tour to Holland is a true classic, for 2020 marks the 30th year for our famous Dutch 'Wild Goose Chase'. It's a trip that’s packed with great winter birding - from rare geese and raptors to roosting Black Woodpeckers and Long-eared Owls... and just about everything in between! Oh, and not forgetting our trademark cafe stops for warming hot chocolate and Dutch apple pie, too. Based at a fine contemporary hotel in the forests near Harderwijk, this single-centre, small group birding tour to The Netherlands is led as ever by our own resident Dutch birding expert, the inimitable Arnoud van den Berg.

Tour Dates & Prices

Thu 26th November 2020

Mon 30th November 2020

  • Booking Closed

Thu 25th November 2021

Mon 29th November 2021

  • Booking Closed

Tour Cost: 5 Days from £1245 inc return flights from London Gatwick

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £195Land Only: £1145Group Size: 7Leaders:  Arnoud van den Berg
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What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Return flights - London Gatwick to Amsterdam, with British Airways (Heathrow and regional departures also possible)
  • 4 nights accommodation in Holland, staying at an excellent 4-star hotel outside Harderwijk
  • All main meals - plus the occasional treat of traditional hot chocolate and Dutch apple pie!
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips & taxes
  • Map and Limosa checklist of birds for the tour

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

Regional departures: Amsterdam is well served by flights from the UK and it is usually possible for us to arrange alternative flights from Heathrow and various UK regional airports direct to Amsterdam. Please ask our office for details and flight supplement at time of booking. • The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights.

Tour Cost: 5 Days from £1245* inc return flights from London Gatwick

Deposit: £300Single Supp: £195*Land Only: £1145*Group Size: 7Leaders:  Arnoud van den Berg
Join the Wait List

* 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our 2021 tour TBA (available summer 2020)

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • Return flights - London Gatwick to Amsterdam, with British Airways (Heathrow and regional departures also possible)
  • 4 nights accommodation in Holland, staying at an excellent 4-star hotel outside Harderwijk
  • All main meals - plus the occasional treat of traditional hot chocolate and Dutch apple pie!
  • Minibus transport
  • All excursions, entry fees, permits
  • All tour-based tips & taxes
  • Map and Limosa checklist of birds for the tour

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks, airport/in-flight meals and snacks & other items of a personal nature.

View or Download Tour Info Pack

Notes

Regional departures: Amsterdam is well served by flights from the UK and it is usually possible for us to arrange alternative flights from Heathrow and various UK regional airports direct to Amsterdam. Please ask our office for details and flight supplement at time of booking. • The Land Only cost is the price you will pay if you choose to arrange your own flights.

Tour Highlights

  • The Netherlands in winter - it's one of Europe's top birding spots!
  • Small group tour that's simply crammed with exceptional winter birding
  • Impressive flocks of geese - we’ve seen all of Europe’s species here over the years
  • White-tailed Eagle, Rough-legged Buzzard, Great Egret, Smew, Great Grey Shrike and Hawfinch present most years
  • Daytime visits to winter roost sites to see Long-eared Owl and Black Woodpecker
  • 2019 tour highlights included Hooded Merganser, and Red-breasted & 21 Lesser White-fronted Geese
  • Based at a comfortable, contemporary hotel - with Black Woodpecker, Firecrest and Crested Tit nearby
  • ... And all within one hour’s flying time of home!
  • Led by Limosa’s own English-speaking Dutch birding expert, Arnoud van den Berg

Outline Itinerary

  • Morning flight from London Gatwick-Amsterdam. We wend our way through the Dutch countryside to our hotel, birding as we go. Night Harderwijk

  • Harderwijk is the perfect location for winter birding in the Netherlands, giving easy access to the provinces of Flevoland, Friesland, Zeeland and/or Zuid-Holland - wherever the birds happen to be wintering this year! Three further nights Harderwijk

  • The North Sea coast. Early evening flight Amsterdam-London Gatwick

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
Trip Reports
23349-Tundra-Bean-Geese-Wieringermeer-Holland-Arnoud-van-den-Berg-Jan-2009-2706.jpg
Lift off for a flock of Tundra Bean Geese at Wieringermeer, on our Dutch Wild Goose Chase © Arnoud van den Berg, Limosa

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

Our last autumn tour (November 2019) returned 120 species, including a Red-breasted Goose, 3 Black Brants and 21 Lesser White-fronted Geese, 50 Red-crested Pochard, 3 Long-tailed Ducks, 19 White Storks, dozens of Great Egrets, 3 Cattle Egrets, 4 White-tailed Eagles, 2 Caspian Gulls, no fewer than 51 day-roosting Long-eared Owls (plus a day-roosting Tawny Owl), Merlin, Great Grey Shrike - and a cracking drake Hooded Merganser displaying with Tufted Ducks! 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 Tundra 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 usually a few Smew amidst masses of more familiar species.

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

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!

Limosa's 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 recently 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 marks 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?

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This Spotted Nutcracker got our 2018 tour off to a flying start! What will we see this year? © Arnoud van den Berg, Limosa

Day 1
TO AMSTERDAM & HARDERWIJK
To make the most of the short winter days, our Dutch Wild Goose Chase begins with the 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 feeding at this time.

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 (twice now), Great Grey Shrike, Waxwing and Desert Wheatear are among ‘first day species’ to have come our way over the years!

Our destination this evening is an excellent contemporary 4-star 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 Reedling 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-fronteds, 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 variety of wintering raptors in Holland often comes as a surprise to visiting British birders and we have excellent chances of seeing one or two of the scarcer species: Rough-legged Buzzard, Peregrine and the immense White-tailed Eagle have all been regularly present in recent years.

Waterfowl are abundant here in winter, notably Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Goldeneye. Greater Scaup and the four ‘smaller’ grebe are frequent visitors, too - and we usually see all three sawbills: Goosander, Red-breasted Merganser and Smew.

On our travels 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 the shy 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 in 30 years of Dutch Wild Goose Chasing!

During our stay, one longer day trip out may well take us north to Friesland, for some of the best winter birding in all Holland. Amidst a classic Dutch landscape of grazing meadows and pretty villages dotted with windmills old and new, noisy gatherings of White-fronted, Tundra Bean and Barnacle Geese can run into the 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, in recent years, Great Egrets have become a daily sight, with up to 100 birds being seen some days. 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 nine tours have all been successful, finding between one and 22 of these beautiful little Ansers. Several Red-breasted Geese, Black Brants and an adult Ross’s Goose have also come our way here over the years, not to mention surprises such as Bufflehead - and in 2017 and again in 2019, a superb 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, Dark-bellied Brent Goose and Common Eider are regularly present along The Netherlands’ North Sea shore and, depending on what birds 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. And 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!

Note: the above 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.

long-eared owl holland arnoud vd berg card 1.jpg
Long-eared Owls at their day roost in Dasselaarweg (Flevoland), on our November 2019 Wild Goose Chase © Arnoud van den Berg, Limosa

WHAT TO EXPECT
Limosa's birdwatching tour to Holland is a true classic, for 2020 will mark the 30th year for our famous Dutch 'Wild Goose Chase'.

It's a trip that’s simply packed with great winter birding - from rare geese and raptors to roosting Black Woodpeckers and Long-eared Owls... and just about everything in between! Oh, and not forgetting our trademark cafe stops for warming hot chocolate and Dutch apple pie, too.

Based at a fine contemporary hotel in the forests near Harderwijk, this single-centre, small group birding tour to Holland is led 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 in Holland, where we are based at an excellent, contemporary 4-star hotel set in the Veluwe forest near Harderwijk. The hotel is comfortable, warm and welcoming, with good food, 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 29 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 from London Gatwick to Amsterdam with British Airways.

** 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

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Small flocks of Red-crested Pochard are another highlight of our November Wild Goose Chase © Arnoud van den Berg, Limosa

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