After seeing Martin Casemore's images of the Siberian Rubythroat in Hoogwoud, a small village about 50 kilometres north of Amsterdam, plans were made for another foray into Dutch territory on a "twitch". Remembering back to two years ago and how good our last Dutch twitch was for the Northern Hawk Owl at Zwolle, our hopes were dashed when the weather put paid to any plans to go and were left simmering on the back burner. A window for last Tuesday and Wednesday (2nd and 3rd ) looked a possibility, the forecast not great but certainly a little better than the preceding week. A check Monday on Waarnemings.nl, a Dutch Birdguides/RBA type of web site, told us the bird was still present so train tickets were booked and three of us, Steve Ray, Alan Ashdown and myself, Martyn Wilson unfortunately having work commitments, left Folkestone on the 01.27 am train English time arriving in Hoogwoud at first light, about 07.30 am Dutch time (a four and a half hour drive from Calais). A grey and dull morning but luckily no rain as we set about finding the alley that hopefully would reveal the Rubythroat. Two Dutch birders already on site gave the location away and 10 minutes after arrival, I clapped eyes on my first Siberian Rubythroat. A bird high on my "really want to see" list, as is I am sure a lot of people's. The first image I got was at 07.29am, f4, iso 2000 giving me a super fast shutter speed of 1/160. Not that the conditions improved for much of the morning really.
It was not long before a few more birders/photographers arrived and the top of the alley soon became congested but soon after one of the two Dutch guys got out of his small portable chair, explaining that he was a birder and could see the bird easily from the back. He then gave me his seat, right at the front and much to the bemusement of Steve and Alan. (it's not what you know, it's who you know lol) The bird skulked about in the undergrowth, similiar behaviour to a Dunnock but was periodically tempted out from the undergrowth and onto a log baited with a few hidden meal worms. Whilst out in the open we had our chance to get a few images.
We carried on with the bird for 3 to 4 hours, the light slowly getting a little better, (a very small little) and we all agreed what a stunning looking bird we had in front of us and a worthwhile journey undertaken. We also knew there were reports of a Bufflehead and Lesser Scaup a few miles north of Hoogwoud, so we drove up, easily finding the two pools where the Scaup had previously been seen but although reported that day we could not find it. The same was for the Bufflehead which was reported in a large marina type complex just north of the two Scaup (or should I say non Scaup) pools, the strong wind driving the ducks to cover in the reed edged waters and away from our gaze. We did see several pairs of Goldeneye, Smew and Goosander's but they kept their distance. The only birds that were close were the Cormorants and there were plenty of them.
Our rather swish hotel and comes highly recommended.
The next morning after checking out of the hotel at 7.00 am, Steve the navigator decided to take us on a tour of Holland, eventually stumbling on the road back to Hoogwoud but I think, more by luck than judgement. A cup of coffee in a garage on the outskirts of town, (the spicy sausages were lovely Alan) and then we were back with the Rubythroat. The light was better and we actually had a little bit of sunshine but I am not too sure this helped, the alley now cast in shadows. At one stage the Rubythroat flew into a tree and just a metre away from a cat, but as the cat edged nearer to the bird, a Dutch guy intervened and unceremoniously got shot of the cat.
On the odd occasion the Rubythroat would fly into a nearby bush and start singing, even I could hear it. It was only a matter of a few feet in front of us, very close and we were able to get some close up shots of the bird
There were other birds that took advantage of the meal worms. Several Great and Blue Tits were seen, a Robin that only ever wanted to scrap with the Rubythroat, Blackbirds and a Song Thrush. I took a couple of shots of the Song Thrush, a bird I do not see as much as in the past.
We left Hoogwoud just before noon (Dutch time) for home, the only hold up, an accident in the Kennedy tunnel around the Antwerp ring road, but that only took 20 minutes to get through. We encountered some heavy rain on the way but arrived in Calais in plenty of time for our train back to blighty. The only hiccup of the whole trip was at the tunnel with bureaucracy, but big companies do seem to attract knob heads to run them, a fact of life.
Thanks to Steve and Alan for.............................well thanks, and also to Martin Casemore for info gleaned from his trip to see the Rubythroat the preceding week.
A few more images from the Hoogwoud Siberian Rubythroat, a star bird.