We took the overnight crossing from Hull to Rotterdam, leaving the Humber around 8.30pm to arrive the other side of the North Sea at 7.30am the next morning.People had boarded 3-4 hours before departure and so had already consumed enough alcohol to float the ship on, so a quiet, relaxing evening was not expected.
Pride Of Rotterdam ferry
Luckily for me, the ferry crossing coincided with Liverpool's Champions League football match(which they won 5-0) so we were able to spend a couple of hours of Valentine's evening in the bar watching the game.How romantic am I?
It at least meant I went to bed a bit happier than usual :) Staying in an outside cabin near the Stern of the ship meant we had the luxury of really feeling the not so calming swells of the North Sea.This was made apparent at around 2.30am when I was virtually thrown from my bed as if the ship had hit a brick wall.Needless to say from then til the screaming tannoy at 6am announcing "Breakfast was now available!", we didn't get much sleep.
Our corridor made us feel like we were in Stephen King's "The Shining"
Arriving at the Europort in Rotterdam on time, gave me a chance to get out the binoculars.While waiting to alight the ferry, Black-headed and Herring Gulls glided passed the windows.Below in the water, a bevy of Mute Swans and a Little Grebe were seen and a lone Oystercatcher patrolled the shoreline.
The following 90 minutes on the coach from Rotterdam to Amsterdam turned out to be the most exciting part of the day.I saw the usual array of Corvids, Pigeons, Coots, Moorhen, Mallards and Gadwall within 10 minutes of leaving the port.On the journey North up the A4 the landscape changed to the traditional Dutch fields, interspersed with windmills and drainage ditches.
The Dutch landscape(not my photo)
These fields were a haven for bird life,Corvids, Gulls, Greylag and Canada Geese, Coots, Little Egrets and Grey Herons were all in attendance.Waterfowl such as Pintail, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Shovelers and Teal all taking advantage of this ideal habitat.Most excitingly was the sight of 4 Great White Egrets(I've only seen 4 previously in my life) and my first ever wild White Storks, 2 of them among the Egrets.Unfortunately any chance of a passing photo was made impossible by our coach driver's emulation of a Formula 1 driver.
White Stork (photo of captive one I saw in Norfolk previously)
We arrived in Amsterdam.After prying our fingers from the seat arm-rests, we disembarked the coach outside the Basilica of St.Nicholas and got told we had 5 hours before the last coach back to port.
Basilica of St.Nicholas
We began our wander of the main canal ring with no idea where we were going.The first thing we noticed were the shops.In the UK it would be your average corner shop/newsagents, but here the shop windows had one theme......Cannabis.I've seen pictures of them before but it was strange standing in front of such a window filled with Cannabis lollipops, brownies, cookies and other related paraphernalia.
We walked over canal bridges and down narrow alleyways before we realised we had inadvertently wandered into the Red Light District area.
I hadn't noticed the barely clothed ladies in the windows until avoiding people walking towards us, we moved closer to the buildings and a glass fronted door opened with a woman beckoning us inside.This was repeated down the alleys if anyone moved too close to the doors.It reminded me of Trapdoor Spiders waiting for prey to stray too near their burrows.We tried to walk more down the centre of the lanes after that.
Back to Birding :) Coots, and Great Crested Grebes were obviously thriving on the canals.Coots actually seemed to be more numerous in the Red Light District than people and the Great Crested Grebes were so used to the constant foot traffic that you could stand and watch them from a few feet away.It was great to watch the Grebes at such close quarters without having to be sat in a hide.I watched as they dived for food among the colourful reflections of the resplendent architecture.
Great Crested Grebes
A few photos of the amazing architecture in Amsterdam.
Popping into a shopping centre for a coffee we came across the Elephant Parade store.The charity founded by father and son, Mike and Marc Spits after being inspired by meeting an Elephant named Mosha, that had lost her leg after stepping on a landmine.We couldn't leave without buying something.
I really wanted to explore Vondelpark but with where we were and my Arthritic problems, we deemed it too far to walk.Instead I checked the phone map and found the nearest green space and headed for that.
It was called Weteringplantsoen and was just a small park area alongside one of the canals.Despite the park's size I spotted a Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Egyptian Geese and a noisy squadron of Parakeets.Twenty or so Coots were here too that just ambled around my feet like hungry Pigeons.
Weteringplantsoen(photos by Majella Fox)
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Speaking of Pigeons, they were most numerous in Dam Square.A man was walking around with a large bag of bird seed, offering some to people so they could join in the fun of feeding our feathered friends and find out what it feels like to be one of the statues in the square, covered in birds.It was great to see children laughing and connecting with urban Wildlife.
Wandering the Amsterdam Canal Ring with my partner Majella.
The rain finally ceased and the Sun arrived just in time to see us catch our bus back to Rotterdam.Taking nearly twice as long as the one into Amsterdam at 2hrs 45minutes, it was not nearly as enjoyable.This included a pit stop in a layby to allow the engine to cool down before continuing on to the Europort.
The North Sea crossing back was thankfully much calmer than the original one, arriving at Sunrise in Hull and ending our first international (Birding) trip.
31 bird species were seen in total with the White Storks, the stars of the trip.
Many thanks for reading the blog and viewing the photos.Hopefully it won't be as long til the next blogpost :)
Take care and get out and enjoy Nature :)