Tuesday, 30 December 2008


An excursion to the “Oostvaardersplassen” was on my wish list for the winter holiday. A little bit of natural history first: The polder it exists in only became dry in 1968. Before 1968 it was part of the IJsselmeer (sometimes translated as Lake IJssel). The IJsselmeer on its turn was created in 1932 when an inland sea, the Zuiderzee, was closed by a 32 km dam, the “Afsluitdijk”. The original destination of this new land reclaimed from the sea was a large industrial area. However, because of the economic recension of that time plans were postponed, and nature took its chance. Within a few years a wetland of international importance came about.
This day the “Oostvaardersplassen” offered classical Dutch winter scenery, all inland coastal lakes were frozen, and everywhere people were skating along the reed beds. As far as nature is concerned I want to share 2 photos.
Smews (Mergus albellus/Nonnetje), fishing in a dense flock on the IJsselmeer took wings after disturbance of a low-flying helicopter. Such large groups are rare today. A Buzzard (Buteo buteo/Buizerd) looking for prey, using the top an elder as a post. Note the intense green color of these bushes.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Tiny beauties of the wood

Today I joined Marijn Heuts, an excellent nature photographer known for his artistic view, to a feeding station in one of the conifer woods near Eindhoven. It was cold, around –5°C, but sunny. These little tits (no joke, that’s how they are really called!) were eager for food. These woodland-dwellers are not shy, nevertheless it was hard work because they are restless and moving very fast. Therefore, I was very happy that after a half-day photo session I ended up with a few sharp shots of both Crested Tit (Parus cristatus/Kuifmees) and Coal Tit (Parus ater/Zwarte Mees).

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Tree silhouettes

The dark days before X’mas, the sun was not strong enough to resolve the fog. Ideal circumstances to immortalize tree silhouettes.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Drakes on the water

I like ducks so much in winter, the males have beautiful colors. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos/Wilde Eend) drakes (♂♂) are probably the archetype of dabbling ducks, because they are widespread around the globe and most recognizable. This picture clearly demonstrates the greenish specular reflection of their heads.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Van Gogh woodpecker

My Santa Claus present: A ♂ (see the red nape!) Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major/Grote Bonte Specht) in a typical grey-brown gloomy winter setting. This photo was taken in my home village Nuenen, at exactly the same spot where Vincent van Gogh painted (125 year ago), in his dark period, his poor “Weaver” series, and within a stone’s throw from the location where he created his famous “Potato Eaters” work.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Escape from traffic jam

This morning I got stuck in a horrifying traffic jam. After sitting in my car for more than 20 minutes I was still within a 1-kilometer range from my house. Outside it was a few degrees below zero. The sun just came up and I saw that the sky was clear and that there were plenty left-over patches from last Sunday’s heavy snowfall. Suddenly I was thinking: “What the hack am I doing here?” I took the next turn and went home. Since I had no work appointments this morning, I could easily take half a day off (lucky me, yes I know).
Again, I went to the “Strabrechtse Heide” and enjoyed the landscape and the light.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Fair Fieldfare

Another digital souvenir from Terschelling was this proud Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris/Kramsvogel). As all thrushes, Fieldfares are alert and rather shy, however, this 1-st year bird could be approached with a car, serving as a mobile hide.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Toys on the beach

This week I stayed a few days on Terschelling; a good place to forget about all the things that kept me so busy lately, to refresh my mind, and to get new inspiration.
In winter, Sanderlings (Calidris alba/Drieteenstrandloper) are always present on the beach on the north-side of the island. Usually they run like mechanical clockwork toys along the water-line, parrying waves and picking up small animals thrown up by the sea. But sometimes they need a short rest break. They seem to sleep, but one bird kept a keen eye on me (who is that bloke crawling to us?).

Friday, 7 November 2008

Invasion of the Nutcrackers

Nutcrackers (Nucifraga caryocatactes/Notenkraker) occur in areas with spruce forest, for nesting and rich supply of arolla pines (or hazel) for winter food stores. Nuts and seeds are cached in the ground layer during late summer, and nut depots are memorized in detail and can be re-found in winter with great accuracy (without a GPS :-), even beneath thick snow cover.
Central European breeders (race caryocatactes), which are vigilant and shy, are mainly residents. In some years, when arolla pines are in short supply in the far northeast, large flocks of the slender-billed race (macrorhynchos) migrate in autumn from Russia and Siberia all the way to West Europe. These birds are often remarkably tame. This bird stayed near Horst, Limburg for 2 weeks could be approached to less than 5 meter, and seems to be part of the 2008 invasion.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Master of camouflage

An earnest wish came true. Today I photographed Snipes (Gallinago gallinago/Watersnip) at close range. This master of camouflage decorated the last 100 Dutch guilder banknote (before the introduction of the euro on January 1, 2002); by the way the most beautiful design of paper money I have ever seen.
Snipes might look a bit stocky and slow, but this is certainly not the case. They are exremely fast and have an unprecedented catapulting and erratic zig-zag flight.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Who's afraid of yellow?

Autumn provides loads of colors and an abundance of interesting subjects to photograph. I took this picture in the early morning along the road to which I cycle to my work.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Secret light

The secret light just before sunrise on a ordinary autumn day. This photo shows “Het Starven” on the “Strabrechtse Heide”.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Birdpix weekend 2008

The tradional “Birdpix” photo event is held in the first weekend of October on Terschelling, one of the Dutch islands in the Wadden Sea. Birdpix (http://www.birdpix.nl/) is an Internet community for bird photography.
This year the weather was rough and stormy, sometimes resulting in bizarre skies. On the first photo you see heavy clouds in all shades of gray above the Wadden Sea, with just a touch of sunlight. The next photo demonstrates the process of early natural dune formation. As for bird photography, I want to show the ‘reptilian’ head of a Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo/Aalscholver) and a delicat vagrant of the Siberian taiga, viz. Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus/Bladkoning). The latter was photographed in the rain.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Moisty misty morning

This month I spent many off-duty hours wandering over the "Strabrechtse Heide" looking for colourful sunsets, friendly mackerel skies, or dark clouds loaded with heavy showers. This morning circumstances where different. It was cold, misty, calm, and silent. Weather that perfectly fits the change-over to autumn. Here you see “Het Beuven”, the largest lake of this moorland, on a moisty misty morning.
The second photo showing Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo/Aalscholver) in milky light in a bush in the middle of “Het Beuven” was taken the next morning

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Sweeping the sky

This photo was taken on the “Strabrechtse Heide”, a large heath area in the south of The Netherlands. With a bit of imagination it looks like the little tree is sweeping the sky.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Darter time again

As a true “Kempenaar” I really wanted the Marsh Darter (Sympetrum depressiusculum/Kempense Heidelibel) in my portfolio. It is a highly localized species that only occurs in the “Kempen” (region crossing the border between The Netherlands and Belgium) and appears quite late in the summer season. In previous years I only managed to take some record shots. Luckily, today this male was highly cooperative. The dewdrops are a welcome decoration, getting up early always pays off.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Unexpected encounter

At first sight there was not much to see on my regular evening tour at the marshy fields near the place where I live ... until I saw a soaring Swallowtail (Papilio machaon/Koninginnepage). He (or she) was clearly searching for a suitable place to stay overnight. Swallowtails are rather scarce in The Netherlands, although in the last few years, due to global warming, they turn-up more often in the southern provinces. I dedicate this photo to my dear grandmother who died last spring and would have been celebrated her 98-th birthday today.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Swiss Alps

In the summer holiday my wife and I stayed in the Swiss Alps (Belalp, Oberwallis) for one week. Yes I know, far too short! We hired a small chalet at 1700m altitude. The open forest and the alpine grasslands are a paradise for butterflies. The first photo shows the view from the Belalp on a clear sunny morning with the Mischabel Gruppe (with the Dom 4545m as the highest peak) in the far background. Species that I liked to photograph were Alpine Heath (Coenonympha gardetta/Alpenhooibeestje) and Purple-edged Copper (Lycaena hippothoe/Rode Vuurvlinder). This is by far the most intense red I ever saw; it really looks like the upperwings shine (instead of reflect). Note that the high-altitude form is devoid of the purple reflections.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Beautiful Demoiselle

On our way to the Swiss Alps we stayed a few days in the Vosges, eastern France. In the deep forest of Darney, close to a small stream, I saw hunderds of Beautiful Demoiselles (Calopteryx virgo/Bosbeekjuffer). This is the largest and darkest Calopteryx, with almost entirely metallic cobalt wings in ♂♂.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Quatorze Juillet

The first day of my vacation. I got up very early and drove to the “Oostvaardersplassen”. It was an amazing day with 3 photos that I want to share. On the first picture taken in the morning you see a juvenile Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia/Lepelaar) sweeping through the water, searching for aquatic invertabrates with its sensitive bill. The afternoon supplied me with a nice shot of the colourful Kingfisher. And I ended this long day with a curious Little Owl juvenile (Athena noctua/Steenuil) in a backlit setting.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Darter time

Darters are rather small dragonflies (libellulids). They spend most of their time on a prominent perch, from which short sorties are undertaken to chase prey or rivals. this young male Black Darter (Sympetrum danae/Zwarte Heidelibel) is illuminated by the last sun-rays of this day.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Compensation nature

In recent years the lakes of the “Mosbulten” in Nuenen, The Netherlands, are restored as ‘compensation nature’ for the new A50 highway between Eindhoven and Nijmegen. This is how it looks today; just after a shower and with a glimpse of sun. The yellow teint comes from abundant flowering Marsh St. John's Wort (Hypericum elodes/Moerashertshooi).

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Flower power

Two close-up of orchids that can be found near the place where I live, that is Nuenen, close to the city of Eindhoven in the southern part of The Netherlands. Above: Heath-spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata/Gevlekte Orchis). Below: Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia/Welriekende Nachtorchis).

Sunday, 8 June 2008


On this warm summer evening I visit the Dutch nature reserve "Zouweboezem" which is famous among photographers as it is probably the best place in the world to take photographs of Purple Herons (Ardea purpurea/Purperreiger) in flight. From a dike you have a good view on these magnificent birds and the extended reed beds in which they breed; here's one that is about to land.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

AF challenge

Black Terns (Chlidonias niger/Zwarte Stern) return from end April into May. In The Netherlands they breed colonially in well-vegetated lowland lakes, e.g. cut-off branches of the big rivers. They have a light jaunty flight, hunting insects over the water surface like a big leisurely Swallow. The AF of my Canon EOS 40D camera had a hard time to capture this foraging behaviour. First of all shutter time must be 1/800s of faster to avoid motion blur (with a 500mm tele). The best strategy is to use the central AF point, set the camera in servo high-speed mode, dismount any converters and try to keep the bird in the middle of the viewfinder. The composition can be made later on in Photoshop by cropping. During postprocessing I also flipped this image horizontally, so that the birds flies to the right. This makes the picture easier ‘to read’. The blurry circles in the background are flowering Yellow Waterlily (Nuphar lutea/Gele Plomp).

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Delicious beetle

A summer ♂ Stonechat (Saxicola torquata/Roodborsttapuit) is of course more attractive to show, because of his black head, contrasting orange throat and breast, and white patches on the sides of its neck. However, I choose for this picture of a ‘duller’ ♀ because of the caught beetle which is about to be fed to her nestlings.
This small passerine bird breed in heathland, coastal dunes and rough grassland with scattered small shrubs, open gorse, tussocks or heather. The ♂ has a clicking call like stones knocking together, for which it was named.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Birth of a dragon

Dragonfly life cycle in short. Eggs are laid in water or on vegetation near water, and hatch to produce pro-nymphs which live off the nutrients that were in the egg. They then develop into instars with approximately 9-14 molts that are voracious predators on other aquatic organisms, including small fishes. After some time (varies from a few months to several years, depending on the species), the nymphs crawl out of the water for their last molt, usually in dusk or dawn, into the flying teneral immature adults. The photo above is a snapshot of that process. Here the wings are still tiny and flabby. Within an hour or so they are pumped up and gradually become transparent and stiff. These insects soon transform into reproductive adults.
By the way, this is a Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva/Bruine Korenbout).

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Little devil

Lying on a small pier I managed to take this photo. Shooting from a low-position, being at the same height as this Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis/Geoorde Fuut), creates much more intimacy. The bird scrutinizes the water surface for aquatic life as prey. With their black head, red eye and yellow ear plumes, they look like little devils.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Goodbye Varanger

This photo pictures the Varanger may be best, dark blue water bordered by a white mountain-ridge. The old house in a state of dilapidation, perfectly symbolizes its desolate and remote location.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Skallelv, Norway

Spring at 70 degrees north latitude. Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis/Sneeuwgors) sing and frozen rivers start to break. The light was fragile, almost secret.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Between Vadsø and Ekkerøy, Norway

While driving along the coast of the Varanger fjord it is wise to keep one eye on the open water (and the other eye on the road of course). Dense groups of Steller's Eiders (polysticta stelleri/Stellers Eider) can turn up everywhere. Often they are far out in the sea, but sometimes with a bit of luck, you see them quite close to the shore in a characteristic circular communal fishing formation.
Purple Sandpipers (Calidris maritima/Paarse Strandloper) are common residents in the Varanger fjord. In this picture I especially like the natural habitat, i.e. rocks covered with acorn-shells and green slippery seaweed.
Have you ever laid down on an icy-floor between a group of 500+ Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis/Sneeuwgors)? No? I did! A wonderful experience. The birds were very hungry, and eagerly returned to those few places in the field were the thaw revealed some grass. The white blobs in the background are also Snow Buntings.

Vestre-Jacobselv, Norway

Stockfish up for drying, another characteristic element of the ice-free waters of this fjord. As long as temperatures are below zero, various wooden scaffoldings along the indented shore are loaded with frozen stockfish; a fridge is not necessary here.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Speechless in Vardø, Norway

Vardø is situated at the northeast point of the Varanger peninsula. Here, the sparsely populated land extends out from the continent towards the icy waters of the Barents Sea. Standing besides the master of the ‘birds-in-flight’ shots (Arie) I tried to photograph Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla/Drieteenmeeuw) that were passing by. The temperature was –5ºC, but because of the wind chill it felt below –20ºC. This is my best result, after 1½ hour of hard work. Note that the reflecting snow on the ground lights up the underparts. We were both speechless … not only because of the spectacular scenery, but also simply because we could not move our jaws. On our way back to Vestre-Jacobselv we ended up in a blizzard. Thank God, that we had a rental car with spike tires and a seat heating system.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

From taiga to tundra

Today was a transfer day, a long drive (400km) along the Arctic highway (E75) all the way up to the Vestre-Jacobselv in the center of the Varanger fjord.
I enjoyed the views very much, an endless white taiga landscape, with numerous frozen lakes and rivers that just start to melt, gradually changes for the open tundra. On the picture you see frozen melting water, near Utsjoki, close to the Norwegian border.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Feeding station Kaamanen, Finland

In the second half of April, I went together with Arie Ouwerkerk on an early spring birdwatching and photography trip to the most northern tip of Europe. A big adventure, I entered a completely unknown, empty and white world well above the Arctic Circle. Weather conditions were still wintery, although the daylight lasted already for 20 hours. Our tour started at Ivalo in Finnish Lapland, amidst wonderful taiga forests with lakes that were still frozen and covered with a 1m thick layer of snow.
The first day we visit a feeding station in Kaamanen, an experience that I would never forget. The ‘stars’ were definitely Siberian Tit (Parus Cinctus/Bruinkopmees) and Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator/Haakbek). Other ‘lifers’ of today were Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus/Taiga Gaai) and Arctic Redpoll (Carduelis hornemanni/Witstuitbarmsijs).