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Ackerdijkse Plassen: winter birds excursion

Ackerdijkse Plassen: winter birds excursion

Last Saturday I joined a winter bird excursion by Natuurmonumenten at Ackerdijkse Plassen. This area is usually closed, but once a month you can join an excursion. I had cycled past the nature reserve several times, and was really curious to see more!

The night before it has snowed quite a lot, which made for beautiful white landscapes. The excursion started at an old farm building which can be hired for meetings etc.

We started with coffee and tea and a welcome talk, then they split the group in two and each group went for a walk in a different direction. It was a grey day, but I loved the pristine white snow…

After a while we came to a frozen lake, where we could see a big group of Western Great Egrets (Grote Zilverreiger) at their sleeping place. There were so many!

This is a zoomed in version of the photo above, to show how the egrets huddle together against the cold! Natuurmonumenten really liked these photos and they shared them in lots of news items about this quite special sight. See for example here and here (only in Dutch).

We also saw a fox, and this robin who came to greet us 🙂

Not all trees had survived the two big storms in January, and this meant we got to see the nesting hole of a woodpecker in a fallen down tree. It was really big!

Geese in flight…

Eurasian Siskins (Sijsjes) hanging upside down to get some food.

The group returning to the farm. From their we started another loop, and switched with the other group.

Most of the lakes were frozen, but wherever there was some open water there were lats of birds. This is a large group of Eurasian Wigeons (Smienten) flying up…

Finally a windmill in the distance, in the snowy fields…

It was the first time I joined an excursion by Natuurmonumenten, but definitely not the last time – I really loved it!



Last Sunday I needed a break from working on a paper, and I decided to go for a walk in a nearby nature reserve: Rietputten in Vlaardingen. I found it through the NatuurRoutes app by Natuurmonumenten, which shows you walking routes (or biking, or even canoe) nearby. The route I took can also be found here.

It was a very sunny day, and although it was freezing cold, there were signs of spring to be found 🙂 that always makes me happy!

The lakes were partly frozen, but there were large areas of open water. Sometimes with beautiful (but tiny) works of art made of ice!

Another artwork…

In other areas the ice cover was thicker, with very pretty air bubbles trapped in the ice…

Rietputten is not a very large nature reserve, and it’s surrounded by industry on all sides. This was on a Sunday, so no work was being done, but I imagine on weekdays this brings some noise as well!

I knew this area was famous place for seeing bearded reedlings (baardmannetje in Dutch), a very cute bird that I had never seen before. When I started my walk, I saw a lot of people with big lenses and telescopes, obviously looking for birds. Most of them were going home by the time I started my walk, and at some point I felt like I had the place to myself. I didn’t see any birds besides ducks and a robin though. Until I suddenly saw some movement in the reed, and saw a bearded reedling on a reed cigar – such a pretty sight! I was so lucky with how close I could come, and the blue sky behind the bird, and I’m so happy with the photos I came home with 🙂

The bird was busy getting seeds from the reed cigar, and was covered in fluff that flew around everywhere.

I soon discovered a female bearded reedling closeby, and at some point they sat down on the same reed cigar. What a beautiful couple!!

This is the lake where I found the bearded reedlings, and some beautiful clouds in the background 🙂

I went home happy to have enjoyed some sunshine and getting so lucky seeing these beautiful birds!

If you’re also interested in visiting this area, it’s easiest to navigate to Café-Restaurant ‘t Oeverbos
(Maassluissedijk 201-203, 3133 KA Vlaardingen, the Netherlands), where you can park your car. Rietputten is located on the other side of the road. It can be very muddy so it’s best to wear wellies or waterproof boots. The route I walked can be downloaded here, unfortunately only in Dutch – but it’s a very small area and you can easily make up your own route.



Last week Michiel was here, and on Friday afternoon we drove to Fjällbacka and spent the night there. On Saturday we went for a short walk. I didn’t take that many photos, as I had taken so many the week before, but here are some photos from my mobile phone of our walk through Kungsklyftan (the gorge)…

Entering Kungsklyftan

Michiel looking small beneath the hanging rocks…

Michiel and the hanging rocks

Descending the stairs back to the town…

Descending back to the town

And a view of Fjällbacka from the (mostly deserted) marina. It was a lot warmer than the week before, and we even enjoyed a coffee outside by the water, without wearing coats. Lovely! 🙂

Fjällbacka marina - quite empty this time of year

After our walk, we drove 2 hours towards Skara. We were staying in this beautiful B&B:

Our B&B near Hornborga Lake

The reason we came here was to see the spring migration of thousands of common cranes (they counted over 16.000 of them while we were there!) on the shore of Lake Hornborga (or Hornborgasjön in Swedish). Marie had told me about it, and I’m so glad we went. The viewpoint for the cranes was about 7 km from our B&B, so after we checked in we went there. So impressive to see (& hear!!) so many cranes.

The cranes! More than 16.000 of them!

I bought a new zoomlens just before this trip, so this was a nice opportunity to try it out…

Practicing my new lens on birds flying overhead

Greylag geese in for landing…

Greylag geese in for landing

And the oh so elegant cranes, I love these birds! I saw them for the first time in Fairbanks, Alaska, where they also gathered in large numbers – such a magical sight.

Two common cranes in flight

SO many of them…

Impressive to see so many cranes in one place!

Lovely view from the viewpoint. Here three cranes are crossing the creek.

Three cranes crossing the creek

Afterwards we drove a bit further around the lake to go for a walk to a watch tower. We started the walk amongst those yellow fields near the lakeshore…

Starting our walk between the fields

A boat in the reeds…

Reeds and a boat

And a lone tree in beautiful yellow evening light.

Beautiful tree!

Nearing the end of our walk. While there were many people at the cranes viewpoint, we didn’t meet anybody all evening while on this walk.

Walking in golden evening light

At the end of the trail there was this cute little cottage next to the watch tower.

A cute (and a bit abandoned) cottage at the end of the path

View back to the cottage, from the watch tower.

The trail ended at a watch tower, this is the view from the top looking back at the cottage

And over the lake…

View over the lake from the tower

Here we didn’t see that many cranes, but we saw lots of swans and other birds.

LOTS of swans, and if you look carefully, even more smaller birds on the lake

A group of swans at sunset…

Sunset view over the lake, with Castle Dagsnäs in the background

The sunset was really beautiful, especially reflected in the calm lake.

Sunset over Lake Hornborga - beautiful!

With some spectacular pink colors!

Some very pink clouds reflected in the lake

We were walking away from the sunset, but kept looking back…

Sunset views on the way back to the car

The next morning it was nice and sunny again. The garden of the B&B was full of these lovely snowdrops…

Snowdrops in the garden of the B&B the next morning

Our first stop that morning was Naturum, the information centre of Hornborga Lake. What a fantastic building! They had really nice bird art made of driftwood inside, and lots of information about birds.

Naturum, the information centre of Hornborga Lake - fantastic building!

And upstairs you had this great view over the boardwalks and bird hides (on the left).

View from Naturum over the boardwalks and bird hides

Loved the yellow colours everywhere…

Reeds & boardwalk, lovely place

A black-headed gull seen from one of the hides.

Black-headed gull

And a northern lapwing – they remind me of home (the Netherlands).

Northern lapwing

Enjoying the beautiful sunshine, although the wind that day made it feel a bit chilly. I did get a bit sunburnt!

Enjoying the sunshine!

We went for another nature walk, this time on the shore of the lake between these beautiful old oak trees.

Going for a walk among old oak trees on the shore of the lake

Loved this trail! It was close to the cranes, so we could hear them chatter in the distance at all times.

Beautiful hiking trail

A blue tit chatting away in a nearby tree… against a very blue sky!

A blue tit calling out

Blue tit and blue sky

We had a quick lunch in Skara, and then we drove to Fredrikstad. Marie and Pål had invited us for dinner, a perfect stop on the long drive back to Oslo. We arrived a bit early and decided to walk around Fredrikstad at sunset.

Fredrikstad in soft evening light

I found crocuses!

I found crocuses in bloom!

A last photo of Fredrikstad at sunset…

Fredrikstad at sunset

It was a lovely trip, and a first taste of spring weather, which made me very happy!