While I have visited a few birding sites around the Netherlands during the course of my Bachelor studies, I did not go birding a lot around the city where I lived, Maastricht. This makes sense as the area is not that interesting for birding, but I also was not aware of some of the opportunities for a while, or always had to many other things going on.
This winter, I was back in Maastricht to work at the university as a tutor. On the bird recording site Waarneming, I saw that a Great Northern Diver (Common Loon) was found on a lake just south of the city. I wanted to check out the site since the bird would be a lifer, but work always got in the way. I feared the diver would eventually disappear but when I finally found some time two weeks later, it had still been reported the day before.

I got to the northern shores of the lake but scanning with a scope remained fruitless. After continuing to cycle to the southern edge, I finally picked out the Great Northern Diver after a long search. Checking afterwards, I realized it was 800 meters away in foggy weather, probably one of the more challenging birds I’ve located so far (although of course this would have been way more impressive had the bird been self-found). I did not have good views at all, although after a long time observing I had managed to pick up all the ID features, and enjoyed watching its different hunting behaviour compared to the plentiful Great Cormorants.

I was very happy about this lifer as I had been hoping to see this species in autumn during my stay on Heligoland. I nonetheless proceeded to check the waterbirds in the nearer vicinity, realising that getting close-up sightings also has its advantages. A suprising find that made this visit even more worth it was a Greater Scaup, which I had only seen once before in the UK.

Greater Scaup

The female was rather shy, but I was happy to compare it to the many Tufted Ducks that were around as well. In addition, other typical species around included Eurasian Coot, Common Merganser, Mallard, and Great Crested Grebe and Little Grebe. A Water Rail was hidden, calling from the reeds. Terrestrial species did not show themselves in the drizzle, but a group of Eurasian Siskins provided a nice distraction.

Tufted Duck
Eurasian Siskin

Despite the horrible dark, drizzly weather, this short outing was thus remarkably rewarding – and I realized that I shouldv’e been out birding more frequently over the last three years. Something special can always turn up!

Written by Luca
Family holidays to nature reserves and the abundance of nature books including bird guides at home paved the way for Luca Feuerriegel to be a committed birder by the time he was in his early teens. Growing up in Namibia, South Africa, and Sri Lanka provided the perfect setting for this interest. Luca recently completed his BSc in the Netherlands and currently spends his time working (and birding!) before starting his MSc.