Monday, 27 December 2010

Apple of the eye

“Stay away! This is my apple!” What a plain beauty is this ♀ Blackbird (Turdus merula/Merel). One month from now the ♂♂ start to sing at dusk with a few hesitating strophes. The concert is for free, and it is the most beautiful sound you can imagine.

Friday, 24 December 2010

X’mas tits

No, it is not what you think, I mean the birds of course! Again heavy snowfall today (we have more than 20 cm now). I did the X’mas shoppings already yesterday evening, so I had the entire day to ‘play’ outside. Robins (Erithacus rubecula/Roodborst), Blue Tits (Parus caeruleus/Pimpelmees) and Great Tits (Parus major/Koolmees) were happy to join me.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Freezing sunset

Last weekend winter set-in, with heavy snowfall. At the same time my dad celebrated his 70-th birthday, so I was not able to go out. Therefore, I decided to take this day off. Surfing the Internet learned me that 2 Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus/Pestvogels) were reported yesterday near Boxmeer (about 35 km from the village where I live).
I could not find the Waxwings, but I enjoyed the crispy freezing cold in the “Maasheggen”. At the end of the afternoon patches of fog emerged above the white hedge-bordered fields near the river. I spent quite some time photographing a snow-covered bare corn field (I like bare corn fields!), but I also want to share with you a tree silhouette in the astonishing soft colors that sometimes appear just after sunset. The air echoed with the high-pitched calls of V-shaped formations White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons/Kolgans) migrating to their sleeping places. When I was back in the car the display indicated an outside temperature of -11°C.
I hope the fresh molehill doesn’t disturb the serene scenery too much (of course I also have a photo without the black dot :-).

Friday, 10 December 2010

Elusive Jacky

Who doesn’t want to discover elusive and secret things? I don’t know about you, but I do! So, on this damp, cold and grey winter day, I was for a moment the happiest man on earth when I found this hidden Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus/Bokje). I still don’t know how I broke its superb camouflage, it must have been pure luck.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Right time, right place

This is my first bird photo taken during a snow flurry. Many thanx to this ♂ Great-spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major/Grote Bonte Specht) who showed-up at the right time, at the right place.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Salthouse, England

Day-hunting Barn Owls (Tyto alba/Kerkuil) were the other goal of this short trip to the UK. Nigel Blake drove us around all day long in the Norfolk country side, checking all best-known places.
However, the typical English weather was a killjoy; rain and a fierce wind kept the owls from going out. Luckily we found some cooperative Teals (Anas crecca/Wintertaling) dabbling around in a pebble pool.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Donna Nook, England

The salt marsh of Donna Nook on the north-eastern coast of Lincolnshire is, besides a bombing range for the RAF, a seal watchers’ paradise. It boasts one of the largest and most accessible breeding colonies of Grey Seals (Halichoerus grypus/Grijze Zeehond) in the UK. Grey seals are Britain’s biggest land mammal – adult ♂♂ males are two metres in length and weigh in at a massive 300 kilograms, roughly the weight of two Sumo wrestlers.
When autumn turns into winter hundreds of Grey Seals start hauling themselves onto the sand banks. Together with Marijn Heuts, I spent two days in the Donna Nook Grey Seal colony. The bulls mostly laze around all day, sleeping, huffing and groaning and arguing with the other bulls, the adolescents are practicing their fighting skills in the surf, and a few ♀♀ had already give birth to their pups.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Stay or go?

This morning I was in doubt what to do. Drive a long way to the coast and try to find a group of Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus/Pestvogel)? There is a major invasion going on in The Netherlands. Or stay close to home and inspect a new feeding station? Since I hate the massive friday-afternoon traffic jams, I decided the latter. About 25 Tree Sparrows (Passer montanus/Ringmus) were already present on the spot. This beauty was willing to pose. I tried to get some autumn colors in the background.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Slimy stinky stuff

This Saturday I went with some like-minded members of the nature photography association Eindhoven (that I recently joined) to an old forest near Arnhem to look for toadstools. Despite the fact that the mushroom season is over the top I found some fresh ‘wanted’ species. Here are 2 of them:

  • The well-known Stinkhorn (Phallus impudicus/Grote Stinkzwam). The latin name needs no further explanation. This mushroom belongs to the fungal order Phallales and is known for its foul smelling sticky spore mass, or gleba, borne on the end of stalks called the receptaculum. The spore mass attracts flies to help disperse the spores. All species of the Phallaceae family begin their development as oval or round structures known as ‘devil eggs’.
  • A yellowish slime mold, very aptly named Scrambled Egg Slime (Fuligo septica/Heksenboter). The literal translation of the Dutch name is “witch butter”, also well chosen. Formerly they were classified as fungi, but today they are no longer considered part of this kingdom.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Who's afraid of Yellow and Green?

The first bird that appeared this morning in front of a new hide was this Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea/Grote Gele Kwikstaart) in winter plumage. He (or she) walked straight to the spot where I wanted the bird to be, i.e., so that it was all surrounded by gold-tainted water (caused by the sunlit reed beds at the opposing shore).
After a couple of minutes it was scared off by a Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus/Witgatje), and flew away. Somewhat later a second Green Sandpiper appeared at the scene. Both birds stayed for more than 2 hours and I watched them washing, doing their feather care, feeding, and resting. Just before taking a bath they performed a very rapid zig-zag flight low over the water. Does anybody know the meaning of this strange behavior?
Green Sandpiper is very much a bird of freshwater, and is often found in sites too restricted for other waders, which tend to like a clear all-round view.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Mushroom variety

The summer of 2010 was very wet, but … it is an exceptional good year for mushrooms! Fungi species that have been thought to be extinct suddenly re-appear in the Dutch forests. Every drawback has its gain, to quote the well-known motto of Holland’s most famous football player, Johan Cruyff.
The large variety of shapes and colours keeps inspiring me. Here are some (rather common) toadstools that I found in one of my local forest patches, “Refelingse Heide” in Nuenen.
  • Angel’s Bonnet (Mycena arcangeliana/Bundelmycena) – A tiny one, densely and disorderly stacked into a goblin pension.
  • Pearly Webcap (Cortinarius alboviolaceus/Lila Gordijnzwam) – A fibrous gilled mushroom that I have never seen before.
  • False Death Cap (Amanita citrina/Gele Knolamaniet) – The less familiar akin of the Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria/Vliegenzwam), see also my previous upload.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Psychedelic mushroom, or insecticide?

Thank God, not only that there are Fly Agarics (Amanita muscaria/Vliegenzwam), but also that they are very common. Every autumn these photogenic fungi can be found just ‘around the corner’. The light rain made the mosses appear fresh and vivid.
By the way, did you know that:
  • The name of this mushroom in many European languages is thought to have been derived from the fact that it was used as an insecticide, when sprinkled in milk.
  • Fly Agarics were used for its hallucinogenic properties (with its main psychoactive constituent being the compound muscimol) by the peoples of Siberia, and has a religious significance in these cultures.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Silly walks

Juvenile Greenshank (Tringa nebularia/Groenpootruiter) chasing small fish around sunset. It was fun to watch this; the ‘silly walks’ on long stilts reminded me of John Cleese in his role of chaotic hotel owner in the TV-series “Fawlty Towers”. What a unsurpassed humour, it’s an indelible part of my education.
Vague in the background there is a group of noisy adolescent Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus/Kievit).

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Zipper web

This morning circumstances for taking pictures of dew-covered insects or other invertebrates were perfect (if you find them :-). After a heavy late-afternoon shower yesterday, the sky cleared up, and with almost no wind the temperature dropped overnight to slightly below 10°C. In early morning I went to my local patch, and pretty soon I found this Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi/Tijgerspin); this dangerous looking tiger lady was waiting immobilized for better times to come. I place the characteristic white zig-zag right line of her web right in the middle, like a big zipper running from top to bottom.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Hogwarts marsh

The above photo was taken half an hour after sunset at the “Mosbulten”. Every summer the water level in this restored marshland (‘compensation nature’ for the A50 highway between Eindhoven and Nijmegen) drops, creating alternate patches of land and water.
It was pretty scary alone in this marshland with the fast upcoming fog, the set in of darkness, and a calling Little Owl (Athena noctua/Steenuil) in the distance. I looked around carefully, but I did not see Harry Potter or one of his fellow wizards.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Butterfly sex

Butterfly sex is not easy. Once you and your partner have found a more or less stable position on a stem of a Great Burnet flower (Sanguisorba officinalis/Grote Pimpernel), number 3 turns up and wants to join the party. Now things really get difficult ...
Ooh, I almost forgot to mention; these nice little ones are the rare Scarce Large Blues (Maculinea teleius/Pimpernelblauwtje), a red-list species.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


This morning the alarm-clock went-off 1½ hour earlier. Before work, I went to the Leijgraaf, a small brooklet, near Uden to search for insects. Soon I found this emerging dragonfly. Experts told me that it is a Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum/Bruinrode Heidelibel). Unfortunelately (my damned sense of duty), I could not wait for her first flight. But there was plenty of time to make both a macro and a wide-angle version. Which one do you like better?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Vosges butterflies

However, I also spent a few early mornings on scrutinizing a small mountain pasture close to our chalet. Here are my best results: Pearly Heath (Coenonympha arcania/Tweekleurig Hooibeestje), Heath Fritillary (Melitaea athalia/Bosparelmoervlinder), and some Marbled Whites (Melanargia galathea/Dambordje). The latter is very appropriately coined “checkerboard” in Dutch.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Winding staircase

From July 3rd to July 17th, I was on summer holiday in the Vosges, France. It was sunny and hot. I very much enjoyed reading “The Cosmic Landscape” of Leonard Suskin, with deepened my understanding of both quantum mechanics and cosmology. It enlarged my insight in these difficult subjects much more than when I studied physics at university.
In this region, especially along the heavily channeled Moselotte stream, there are many old abandoned textile factories. The rusty winding staircase attracted my attention somehow.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Soccer, heat, and a nightjar

What a day! Today the Dutch football team beat Brazil with 2-1, and went on to the semi-finals. Not only the match was ‘hot’, the temperature raised above 35°C. A big heath-fire on the “Strabrechtsche Heide” was hard to control. The fire-brigade was busy till after midnight, using helicopters to transport water taken from the local canals. In the village Nuenen, where I live, you could see and smell the smoke. Not far from there I was waiting (sweating like hell; it was still well over 30°C at 20h30 PM when this photo was taken!) under my camo-burka for this breeding Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus/Nachtzwaluw).

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

See you again Finland!

Despite miles and miles of marshland and conifer forest it is not easy to capture the atmosphere of the damp Finnish taiga. This is my best attempt; photo is taken near Kaamanen. The pine tree on the foreground is probably deformed in the far past by a heavy snowload. In the future I will certainly try to improve this, see you again Finland!

Monday, 7 June 2010


Hornøya island, a sanctuary with impressive seabird colonies near Vardø. They bring you there by boat. The sea was rough, it was a shaky ride :-(. You can stay several hours on the island, till the last boat comes to pick you up. Meanwile there is lot to see, hear, and smell. I made many photographs; I still have to sort out and process 10Gb of raw material. It is almost impossible to be original with auk photos, here are 2 head studies of Razorbill (Alca torda/Alk) and Puffin (Fratercula arctica/Papegaaiduiker), as well as a landing pose.
I also added a confiding Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus/Velduil) that we spotted on our way from Vestre Jakobselv to Vardø.

Sunday, 6 June 2010


A memorable day on the bare tundra of Kongsfjordfjellet. With a strong breeze, snow showers, and temperatures just above 0°C it felt like being back in winter. Nevertheless spring was in full swing here. Some impressions: Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax/Kemphaan) and Temminck’s Stints (Calidris temminckii/Temmincks Strandloper) were displaying, Lapland Buntings (Calcarius lapponicus/IJsgors) and Arctic Redpolls (Carduelis hornemanni/Witstuitbarmsijs) were singing in willow bushes that just started to flower, Long-tailed Skuas (Stercorarius longicaudus/Kleinste Jager) were hunting above the snow fields, Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis/IJseend) were present in pairs on small pools of melting water and Red-necked Phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus/Grauwe Franjepoot) in summer plumage were searching for food on icy ridges.


Guess, what is this? Let me give you a hint: Note the perfect five-fold symmetry! Yes of course (remember your biology lessons?), it is the inner skeleton of a Sea Urchin (Echinoidea/Zeeëgel), left by the gulls at the Nesseby coast in the Varangerfjord. The name “urchin” is an old name for the round spiny hedgehogs that Sea Urchins resemble. It has the shape of a perfect hemisphere with a radius of approximately 5cm. The diffuse light conditions of this morning were perfect for abstract macro work.
Despite overexposure in the field, I had to add an additional ⅔ stop in Adobe Lightroom.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Wolf island & crazy clouds

It feels good to be back in the Varanger. It is windy and raining cats and dogs in this Norwegian coastal area. Today we went to the little town of Vardø (the old norse form of the name was Vargøy; the first element is vargr which means “wolf” and the last element is øy which means “island”) on the eastern tip of the fjord, where I photographed this Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla/Drieteenmeuw) in a grey-toned setting, in front of the island Reinøya. Two Glaucous Gulls (Larus hyperboreus/Grote Burgemeester) and a Brünnich’s Guillemot (Uria lomvia/Kortbekzeekoet) passed by, but they were too fast for my camera. From there we drove all the way up to Hammingberg, through an extremely rough, hostile and almost surrealistic landscape.
In the late afternoon the rain finally stopped, but the wind freshened into a gale. And at the same time bizarre lens-shaped clouds (altocumulus lenticularis) appeared. Despite the strong wind they held a more or less fixed position in the sky. I postponed diner to record this phenomenon with the stockfish scaffoldings of Vestre Jakobselv as a décor.

Thursday, 3 June 2010


Today a long drive further north, from Kuusamo to Inari (450km). Near Kemijärvi we crossed the Arctic Circle, Napapiiri in Finnish. We ended up in youth hostel Vasatokka. I spent the evening at the garden of the YH looking over the magic Mutusjärvi lake and enjoying the Goldeneyes (Bucephala glancula/Brilduiker) in the mist. The Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus/Koekoek) was a lucky ‘catch’.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


From 1 to 9 June I joined as partipant and bus driver the Birding Breaks tour to Finnish Lapland and the Varanger fjord.
We started in the lake district near Kuusamo, Finland. To hear ‘our’ winter birds like Redwing (Turdus iliacus/Koperwiek) and Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris/Kramsvogel) sing and defend their nest against obtrusive Hooded Crows (Corvus cornix/Bonte Kraai) is an amazing experience. It somehow closes the circle. Despite intensive efforts we didn’t see any owls. But we did see several singing Red-flanked Bluetails (Tarsiger cyanurus/Blauwstaart) at the well-known hills of Valtavaara. Other personal highlights were Velvet Scoters (Melanitta fusca/Grote Zeeëend) and Little Gulls (Larus minutus/Dwergmeeuw) in full summer plumage.
Another colorful surprise was the beautiful Calypso Orchid (Calypso bulbosa/Bosnimf). They are only to be found in undisturbed northern forests, such as those in Oulanka National Park, close to the Russian border. It is the only species classified in the genus Calypso, which takes its name from the Greek signifying concealment, as they tend to favor sheltered areas on conifer forest floors.
With respect to photography I had to make compromises, but all in all this was more than compensated by traveling with a diverse group of experts. On my own I probably overlooked these tiny shadow-lovers.