Back in Holland again

Subject: Back in Holland again
From: "Wim Vader" <>
Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2004 09:10:00 +0200

        From Ascension Day to Whitsunday i had a short holidays in Holland
with Riet, and during much of this time we once more borrowed the house of
Riet's holidaying brother Danker in Krabbendijke, the village in Zeeland
where we both grew up; Riet's son Iman, now a fully fledged birder and
photographer, was with us there. As I have reported from that area already
twice before, I shall this time only write a little about the changes in
birdlife in and around krabbendijke since my youth thethere, and rather
tella little about odijk, where riet lives now, and about a for us new area
not all that far from Odijk, that turned out to be a little bird paradise.

                                                        Wim Vader

                                        A VILLAGE WALK IN ODIJK IN SPRING

Odijk is the village where Riet lives. It is close to Utrecht, almost in
the geographic centre of the Netherlands, and is mostly a sleeping town
for people working elsewhere. As most places in Holland, it is a green
village, especially now in the middle of glorious spring. The many
chestnut trees along the streets are already past their prime, and the
sidewalks are full of their fallen blossoms. In the gardens lilacs bloom
and smell sweetly, and the lawns are green and often freshly mown. There
are enormous numbers of Eur. Blackbirds around here: every little garden
seems to have its nesting pair, and on the lawns there is constant
bickering. During my walk, in the middle of the first day of this week
long holidays in Holland, and in weather which the Dutch call 'terribly
cold', but which for my N.Norwegian feelings is quite nice (maybe 15*C, a
brisk wind, and now and then some light showers), the Blackbirds are
mostly foraging, but mornings and evenings there is a wonderful concerto
by all these gloriously accomplished alto singers: always there are many
within earshot at the same time.

Now, during the day, the dominant voices are the incessant 'go goo go'' of
the Collared Doves, and the positive statements of the Chaffinches, while
here and there a Song Thrush calls out his messages of spring, and
Woodpigeons murmur. Odijk is moreover a village of Jackdaws, as much as a
village of Blackbirds: pairs of thses cozy small crows are always around,
sit on the roofs and forage on the lawns. They sound as cozy as they look
and they are very much an integral part of the atmosphere here. Even in
the village centre itself, one hears now and then other bird voices: Great
Tits saw, a Dunnock jingle or the shrill fanfare of the Winter Wren float
from a garden. and a Chiffchaff sounds its metronome from a street tree.
Not all that many birds overhead, apart from the ubiquitous Jackdaws, and
the Starlings bringing food to their young; during this entire walk I saw
only two Swallows and no Swifts at all!

Odijk lies along an old branch of the river Rhine, the Kromme Rijn, many
centuries ago an important river , now not much more than a tame little
creek. There are many waterbirds here in winter, but few now: a few
Mallards loaf, and two pairs of Coots sollicitously take care of their
small red-headed young, which each of the parents  apparently having
responsibility for half of the young. There are large freshly mowed fields
along the river, and these attract many birds: mainly again pairs of
Jackdaws, but also flocks of newly fledged Starlings, some  Wood Pigeons,
a few Carrion Crows and Black-headed Gulls, and even a Grey Heron stalking
along on long legs: clearly there must be voles here.

There is a path along the river, and that leads i.a. to a small area which
earlier must have been part of some stately house, I suppose (the ground
cover still has much Vinca and lots of Arum italicum, both originally
garden plants here), but which now is squeezed between the river and the
6-lane motorway, that delivers a constant loud sound decor in much of
Odijk. But here there are still lots of trees left, and no park service
tidies up, so that there are also dead tree-trunks lying about. There is a
nice ash grove, and still a number of enormous oaks and beeches, and along
the water Hawthorns and Sambucus are in full flower, while the river banks
are white with  Cow Parsley Anthriscus vulgaris, and a few small and sandy
fields often have playing rabbits. Here there are many more birds. The
area, with all its dead wood lying around, is clearly ideal for the Winter
Wren, but there are also many more members in the impressive bird chorus
here. Blackbirds of course, a Song Thrush, Chaffinches and Chiffchaffs,
but also the melancholy strophes of the Willow Warbler, the beautiful full
fluty tones of the Blackcap, and the incessant stream of music of the
Garden Warbler. A Green Woodpecker flees from me, but a whole family of
droll Long-tailed Tits remains close-by and apparently completely
unafraid. A magnificent Weeping Willow is full of the cozy mutterings of
Goldfinches, and a Eur. Robin sings its silvery cadences in the
background. And all this almost within the village!

I continue along the river, in a more open area with small bushes, where a
Common Whitethoat warbles its abrupt enthousiastic message, and along a
large field, where in March the mad hares were cavorting in numbers. Now
also this field is freshly mowed and I find only a single European Hare. I
return to Riet's house via the soccer fields, and there, in the bushes
behind the field, an Icterine Warbler, possibly still on migration, is
pouring out its amazing medley of sharp but melodious tones. The walk ends
with another surprise, a Garden Warbler that shows itself, in the garden
of Riet's neighbour! It is amazing how many birds there are even within
these very pedestrian villages (mostly with rows of houses and smallish
gardens along the route I walked). I notice that especially when I have
freshly arrived from Tromsoe, and now in May more than ever, as at home in
Tromsoe spring is just starting, while here it is full spring. But also,
the bird density here is at least five times as high as in Tromsoe.

                                                        Wim Vader, Tromsø
                                                        9037 Tromsø, Norway

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