Monday, 16 December 2013

Northern Hawk Owl in the Netherlands

Taking the opportunity to join Steve Ashton on his second visit to the Netherlands for the Northern Hawk Owl I quickly arranged time off work and at just after 1.00am on Friday 13th I was on my way to pick up Adam Faiers and Alan Ashdown before meeting Steve at his house where we all piled into his car for the long journey to come. It wasn’t long before the Eurotunnel train had deposited us in Calais and we were traveling through four countries to see a bird that, other than Steve, would be new to us all and this would be my first “Twitch” outside the UK. On the journey up it soon became clear that the land was covered in a thick fog and views of this, and any other bird may be hampered but at least we had the option of an overnight stay just in case the weather was bad or, that the Pygmy Owl that was a mere 25 minutes away from the Hawk Owl may still be around and we could then twitch that. We were traveling in a very slow part of the journey just into the Belgian side of the trip where a couple of motorways merge and looking out of the passenger window we spotted an immature White-tailed Eagle sitting on a metal gate looking all shabby and bedraggled in the damp foggy morning, a massive beast it was too. Nearing our destination we pulled in for some fuel and as we left the filling station 2 Ravens passed low over us and with news that there was meant be sun at Zwolle, Adam kindly spent 45 pence on an internet weather search, our hopes were raised although looking through the window it didn’t seem that way. On our final approach at about 7 kilometres it seemed as if the fog was lifting and looking up clouds could be seen with patches of blue and even shadows from the other vehicles cast on the road as we past. As we approached the electricity sub-station where the Owl had taken up residence the sun broke through and we could see the Owl on a pylon before we had even pulled up in the parking area nearby. At first the Owl spent some time on a distant(ish) girder before flying to an earthing cable nearer to us before alighting atop a closer girder upright.
Northern Hawk Owl when first encountered
Northern Hawk Owl when first encountered

Northern Hawk Owl when first encountered

We had some fantastic views of it before it flew into the trees behind us and then across the road to a football/rugby field where it spent a short time on the climbing pegs of a floodlight pole watching carefully as a Sparrowhawk passed over, sidling up close to the pole. 
Northern Hawk Owl in the playing fields

Northern Hawk Owl in the playing fields

Next it dropped of the pole and into some low trees where it gave absolutely stunning views just a few yards away and at just above head height, all the while totally ignoring the throng of long lenses pointed at it but stared intently at the ground for the movement of prey items.
Northern Hawk Owl in low trees beside the playing fields

Northern Hawk Owl in low trees beside the playing fields

Northern Hawk Owl in low trees beside the playing fields

Northern Hawk Owl in low trees beside the playing fields

Northern Hawk Owl in low trees beside the playing fields

Northern Hawk Owl in low trees beside the playing fields

Northern Hawk Owl in low trees beside the playing fields

Northern Hawk Owl in low trees beside the playing fields

It then moved back across the road and spent a long time back in the sub-station which is where we left it a decided to take a casual drive back home.
Northern Hawk Owl back by the substation with prey

Northern Hawk Owl back on the substation where we left it

With the sun shining on us all the while we were with the Owl and as we drove home we were able to see other birds en route back to the tunnel. We never managed to see another Eagle that day but t least 15 Common Buzzards were encountered as well as 7 Great-white Egrets, 3 pairs of Egyptian Geese, 2 White Storks, several Barnacle Geese, Pink-footed Geese and White-fronted Geese as well as Wigeon, Lapwing a couple of Kestrels, a Grey Heron or two and many Crows and Jackdaws amongst a few other species. A big thanks to Steve for allowing me to join him and for arranging and driving the whole trip and a big thanks to Adam and Alan for the excellent company. Thanks alos have to go to the Dutch who released the news of the Hawk Owl and their very friendly nature whilst we were there and thanks to the Belgian for their great food as , we stopped at a “motorway cafĂ©” on the way back where we all had steak and chips, a sweet and a large glass off Red all for just 10 euros, bloody fantastic…..

4 comments:

  1. Really nice report Martyn and great pics, sounds and looks well worth the effort :-)

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  2. Sounds like a great, if long, day out Martyn with many super photos for us to enjoy.

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  3. A great write up Martyn with some cracking images. I forgot about the Gypo Geese and also the 2 Storks.

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  4. Great read Martyn, you must be pleased, super bird lovely images.

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