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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 hereΒ and here (only in Dutch).

We also saw a fox, and this robin who came to greet us πŸ™‚

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!

Rietputten

Rietputten

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 toΒ CafΓ©-Restaurant ‘t Oeverbos
(Maassluissedijk 201-203,Β 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.

Looking back: February 2018

Looking back: February 2018

I can’t believe how much happened in February! It’s been a crazy month…

Very early in February we went to see a beautiful house in Arkel. With this view… At first we decided that Arkel was too small (it’s a village of about 3000 people) for us, and too “middle of nowhere”. The house and the view were so nice though, that we started to reconsider. Tomorrow we’re having a second viewing of this house, so stay tuned πŸ˜‰

The International Film Festival Rotterdam was coming to and end, but first I worked a couple of shifts in this really old-fashioned cinema. About the opposite of bright, modern LantarenVenster (my favourite), but with tons of character – I loved it!

The highlight of the festival (for me) was a very special screening of Phantom Thread by Paul Thomas Anderson (who made my favourite movie EVER – Magnolia!). The score was played live, by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and both Paul Thomas Anderson and the main actress Vicky Krieps were present. In the photo below they are talking to the director of IFFR. The film is fantastic, and the experience was just amazing πŸ™‚

On the last day of the festival I went to see a film with Michiel, and afterwards we tried Poke Bowl for lunch. I loved the decoration of this small restaurant πŸ™‚ The food is very expensive though, and my bowl was so full of sharp wasabi that it was uncomfortable, while Michiel’s bowl was extremely salty. Oh well!

On the first Monday in February, I had a job interview at InfoPlaza, who by coincidence have just moved to Houten, where Michiel works as well. They were looking for a part-time meteorologist, and it’s shift work but no night shifts. I got a really great impression of the company at the day of my interview, and was really happy when I found out that evening that they would love to hire me!

The next day I had to take my car to the garage for its first Dutch APK (MOT). I cycled back via de Kralingse Plas. It was a cold but sunny morning and I really enjoyed myself. I took lots of photos, and wrote a blog about it here.

I assumed I could just pick up my trusty Subaru in the afternoon, but to my surprise I found out it had not gone through πŸ™ The garage owner showed me how much rust was underneath the car – it was about to fall apart! Fixing it was really expensive, and I decided not to spend that much money on repairing a 15 year old car. But since I had just accepted a job which required driving, I needed a car! So after reading pages and pages of advice, and lists of the most reliable second-hand cars and the most fuel-efficient cars I had shortlisted two car types, and I went to test drive both of them that weekend. I fell completely in love with this Honda Jazz, with huge panoramic windows and sunroof! It’s an automatic, and a hybrid and I loooooooove it πŸ˜€

I was asked if I could start my new job already on the 15th of February, which was fine with me, but it meant I really had to hurry with the paper review I was still working on. So I made long days and nights finishing the review and the revised manuscript. Sometimes I took a break though, and once I went back to the Kralingse Plas to see how the snowdrops were doing.

I found even more signs of spring, which made me very happy!

The second weekend of February we painted our bedroom. We had painted the three test squares on the wall behind the bed ages ago, and now we finally painted that wall in the lightest colour. We also painted all the others walls (and the ceiling) white (they really needed a fresh coat of paint). See below for the before-and-after photo – I’m really happy with the result! The next step is to replace the worn carpet with a laminate flooring, but that will have to wait until another weekend.

On the 15th of February I had my first day at my new job! I’m still in training, but I already published my first forecast after 2 hours at work – of course for Scandinavia πŸ˜‰

I’m going to work part-time, so luckily it was no problem to take the next day off, as I had already planned to join a meteorology excursion to Friesland (a province in the north of the Netherlands). The first stop was aΒ steam-powered pumping station (the largest still operating in the world!), calledΒ Ir.D.F. Woudagemaal. This is the very modern visitor center next to it.

And this is the group in front of the pumping station, on a beautiful day!

The second stop of the excursion was the ice stadium ThialfΒ in Heerenveen. You could sign up for a one hour skating lesson, which I took. I hadn’t skated in quite some years, and I really enjoyed the lesson. Afterwards we got a tour of the building, and also got to see some of the professionals who were training, they are SO fast!

That evening I drove to Arkel, I was staying with Sharon and Renier for the night. The next morning Sharon and I went on a photo workshop by the Betuwefotograaf. We were meeting him at 7 in the morning! Unfortunately we were a bit unlucky with the weather this morning, it was very grey. We enjoyed his workshop though, and we got to see a lot of really great photo locations, like this one…

The area has a lot of scenic small roads lined by trees. I really love this part of the Netherlands! Later that day Michiel also came to Arkel and we spent the day helping to cut wood into small pieces for the wood stove. At night we went for dinner in Gorinchem, a nearby town. Actually, it was that weekend that made me realize how much I love this area, and I learned that Gorinchem is quite a decent town and only 5 km away.

The next week I was back at work, and I was able to carpool with Michiel – that’s really nice! One evening we drove to Haarlem after work for another cosy dinner with my family πŸ™‚

We returned to Haarlem on Saturday, to celebrate my niece Mare’s 10th birthday! She’s getting so big! The cakes were delicious and very filling πŸ˜‰

Up til then, I had been working on the paper review like crazy. I finally finished it, and only had to wait for Dagrun (my co-author) to read through everything. So I decided to use a couple of free hours to finally get outside in the beautiful frosty (but sunny!) weather. I drove to the nature area Rietputten, near Vlaardingen. It’s a nature area surrounded by industry, like you can see in the photo below…

But to my surprise I was lucky enough to see a couple of bearded reedlings (baardmannetjes) who willingly posted for pictures. They are soooo cute! (Can you tell I’m slowly turning into a birdwatcher? I must be getting old πŸ˜€ ). I hope to share some more photos of that walk on my blog soon!

Later that day I submitted our revised paper, which is now being checked by the editor and we’ll soon find out if it’s accepted. It was such a relief to be done with it, as starting a new job while having to work on the review in the evenings and weekends was not much fun.

Last Monday we drove to Amsterdam after work. It was REALLY cold, but you can’t really tell that from the very sunny photo of the Skinny Bridge below πŸ˜‰

We shared a drink with my aunt in her local pub, then enjoyed some delicious sushi… and then we got to see Clouseau (a Belgian band) in concert. My first ever cd was by Clouseau, I had their posters hanging above my bed as a teenager, and I know the lyrics to every single song. They’ve been around for THIRTY years now and that’s why they did a special anniversary tour. I LOVED it. We had very good places and they gave a great show πŸ™‚

At work, it has been an interesting week because of the really cold weather (temperatures stayed below freezing for several days, and with strong easterly winds the wind chill is close to -20C!). We also had some tiny snow showers passing over the country, like this one…

Whenever it’s cold like this in the Netherlands, the “skating fever” comes up, and everybody gets so excited about skating. I haven’t had a chance to go skating myself, but I noticed people were skating on a frozen canal next to the church close to where we live. Beautiful πŸ™‚

What a month!! It’s been insanely busy with everything that happened: submitting the revised paper, changing my dear Subaru for a lovely Honda Jazz, an unexpected job interview, getting hired and starting 10 days later… πŸ˜€ Life is good!