Observations Wrapped

Last week is was time for the annual Spotify Wrapped to be released. Some hate it, some love it. I’m rather neutral. I think its fun, and it doesn’t mean a lot to me. However it inspired me to wrap up the observations I made in 2023.
Disclaimer: this wrap up can change because the year isn’t over yet!

My memory has a terrible low capacity. So I am glad to use the Dutch version of Observation.org to register the birds, mammals, insects, plants and fungi I see. Looking at the 2023 data it’s clear I went birding in local areas, except for 2 holidays. In former (COVID) years I traveled to other parts of the country. I’m planning to going to change that in 2024!

I registered 1689 sightings: 1630 of birds, 28 of mammals and 31 of others (butterflies, bugs etc). A sighting can contain more than 1 individual. In total the sightings involved at least 3353 individuals.

Every sighting is dear to me. I enjoy seeing a common great tit in the garden, or a grey heron near the water. I enjoy seeing species for the first time and seeing rather rare species.

To wrap up the year I would like to share 5 sightings (#TopObs2023) that a dear to me because of the story accompanying the sighting and/or the stunning photos I was able to make.

Wrestling juvenile Eurasian Goshawk

I went with my daughter to the gym. On the way, we saw a raptor on a grassy field eating its prey. we stayed to watch for a while but didn’t have binoculars or camera with us so we went to the gym anyway.

On the way back, the raptor was still there. We then quickly got the gear to observe and identify the bird. It turned out to be a young Eurasian Goshawk that had grabbed a Eurasian Coot. After a few hours of plodding and plucking, the Goshawk went to rest by the prey.

First time meeting a Barred Grass Snake

The list of observations does not reflect the change I noticed this year. In the summer months it is usually pretty quite bird-wise. So I spend more time observing other living creatures. During my weekly walk in the local woods I found an old snake skin. It took some patience and time before I found out there was a nest of Barred Grass Snakes (one of three species living in the Netherlands) near the path. I visited the place several times, but the snakes are very alert and hide quickly. But one time I was lucky one of the snakes crossed my path at a distance of 3 feet, climbed up a tree log and looked in my direction. A WOW moment!

Common Kingfisher up close

What’s in a name. There is nothing common with the Common Kingfisher. It is a beautiful native bird and I spotted/heard it 15 times in past 4 years. The only downside with these birds: they are very fast. I mostly see them passing by at high speed…. as an orange/blue arrow.

Early spring a kingfisher visited our garden (faces water), sitting on a fence to overlook the water. We hoped it would nest near our house, but unfortunately it didn’t come back. Of course this was cool. But still the moment to observe was brief and from a distance.

in July, I visited a public bird watching hut and nearby was a pair of kingfishers hunting. 1 of them went hunting from a branch close to the hut. Fantastic to see and photograph it so close.

Twitching a Eurasian Hoopoe

The Pokemon Go player in birdwatching land is the ‘Twitcher’.

A twitcher is someone who goes to great lengths to view new bird species. Whereas most bird watchers will be content with spotting birds on their local patch or anything they come across while out in the field or on their travels, twitchers actively hunt down birds, usually to add to their life list.

” – Birdspot.co.uk

I am not a twitcher. That being said, I do check sightings in the Netherlands now and then to see whether there are sightings of rare birds in the neigbourhood. And 2 or 3 times a year I decide to visit the sighting spot. Partly because I didn’t know that spot anyway, so I take to opportunity to explore the area.   

In September there was a Eurasian Hoopoe (pretty rare here) in the middle of a village 30 minutes away from home. So on my day off I went to look for it. On arriving it was clear more people had the same idea. A group of 30 bird watchers, photographers and twitchers (overlapping groups) were walking around to spot the bird.

In the end the bird was seen on a lawn in the middle of rows of elderly homes. So the birders were in turn being watched by the residents. Quite a surreal picture. It was great to see the Hoopoe and experience a twitchers gathering, but I think I prefer the casual unplanned meetings.

Playful stoat

Talking about an unplanned meeting. I was checking out an area new to me. It was a beautiful warm and sunny day. I spotted some birds I don’t see often so It was a good day. I wandered around the area, and stopped to rest at a wooden gate on top of a dyke.

Behind the gate a Stoat was playful hopping around, and to my surprise it ran towards the gate. Obviously it did not notice me standing there, until the last moment of us looking at each other surprised and curious. After the click of my photo camera it disappeared.