kingsday tour

On 27 April it’s Kingsday in the Netherlands (for foreigners: no, not anymore on 30 April). On this day, we celebrate the birthday of our King Willem-Alexander. Usually this means many people dress up in orange (or red, white and blue), party on the streets, sell/buy useless stuff on flea markets and get drunk way too early. This year was different, for obvious reasons, so a friend and I decided to go on a bike tour to some nature reserves just south of our hometown.

Birch tree in the Balloerveld

Spring is late this year, so many trees had this gorgeous fresh green coat of new leaves on. With that, we were searching for some of the typical early spring animals and birds. At the first stop we had a Tree Pipit showing off with his characteristic parachute display flight, while we heard and saw our first Cuckoo of the season.

Tree Pipit

Next was a walk through the Balloerveld itself. This took way longer as we both expected, but there was lots to see! Not too many bird species, we hoped for a Red Kite, but he didn’t show up, but there were other animals to look for. One of the species the Balloerveld is known for is the Northern Viper, the only venomous snake of the Netherlands. In early season, they need to sunbath to get warm enough to become active, which is a relatively easy moment to find them, if you know where to look. I managed to find a few, but not really individuals who wanted to pose nicely for the camera.

Holly Blue

But we did find some nice insects, especially some of the early butterflies. We found several Peacocks (the butterfly, not the bird) and even some Holly Blues. For me a nice opportunity to test the macro-capabilities of my new Canon RF 100-500mm lens. Not bad, I must say as you can see in the picture above. A real highlight (but no decent picture) for me was the Large Red Damsel that we found near a small pond: my first species of dragonfly for the season!! The season has started now!

Northern Viper

We now had spent much more time as expected in this area, so the other areas on the list were cancelled or reduced to a very quick visit. At least, if we would leave now. When we were close to the parking lot that had our bikes, we saw something disappear underneath the boardwalk: another Viper. And quite a large one! We waited a little and it came back out, to find a nice resting spot underneath a tree. Here it laid down for a while, not really bothered by passerby’s, not even when they had a dog with them. After a while, he went for a little crawl over/under the grasses next to the boardwalk. It didn’t seem to be bothered too much by our presence. After a while it even glided on the boardwalk and made its way back to the tree where he had been resting before. We could follow him (or her) for at least 10 minutes, before he disappeared behind some grass clumps. For us, a great way to end our visit to the Balloerveld and a good moment to get on our bikes to make our way home again.

Not the Kings Day we’re used to, but it wasn’t too bad either.

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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