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APRIL 2018

Keukenhof, Holland

Tulip spectacular

After an uneventful, easy journey by Eurostar from St Pancras to Amsterdam, Schipol, I checked into my first Citizen M hotel for a couple of nights.  It's an interesting experience!  Google it if you're interested.

The bus from Schipol to Keukenhof is easy to find but the queues build from about an hour before the first bus is due to depart.  By the time my bus got to Keukenhof the light was already quite harsh and the crowds were building.  It took me a while to get my photography-eye into gear.  It's one of those places where the possibilities are absolutely endless and so it's quite challenging to begin because somehow nothing seems quite right through the viewfinder.  I did what I have learnt to do in those circumstances.  I put away the 'big' camera and potter around with my iphone taking snaps of things that catch my eye until eventually my creatvity begins to return and the frustration has left.   If I go to Keukenhof again one day, I'll probably focus on the abstract possibilities.  I think my favourite images from my tulip experience are the celebrations of colour.

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I became a regular tourist for the day!  I went on a boat ride around the tulip fields and found the commentary fascinating, I went up the windmill and walked around the viewing platform, I visited the glass houses and their spectacular displays.  I found out about the bulb industry and bulb farming.  Thanks to my good friend Dick's recommendation, I hired a lovely Dutch bike and cycled around the bulb fields in Lisse.  It's hard to imagine the sheer scale of the whole tulip spectacular in Holland unless you've seen it.  It's truly breathtaking ... and I found it damn difficult to photograph during 'tourist hours'.  You  know what?  I think I'm tulip-ed out now!

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Having rendezvoued successfully with Dick, we travelled together to Texel and spent the next five nights with Elly and Izaak at de Cocksdorp again... like last year.  There's something very lovely about going to the same place with the same friends.  Not everything was the same though.  The Lancaster Dyke road was closed for maintenance work and this meant that we couldn't access the scrapes and pools along the side of that road.  It was disappointing not to be able to access these areas but it forced us to look at new areas and find new possibilities!  Favourite places included Ottersaat, Waal en Burg and ... for other reasons, Oudeschild and de Cocksdorp.  To be honest, I never mind what happens when I'm away!  It is what it is!  Wildlife and weather and human activity usually throw in some interesting challenges!

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Thank goodness for Godwits!  Bless them they were the stars of our couple of days on Texel!  They have a very particular call and this sound has given them their Dutch name of Grutto.  You have to imagine the scene... Dick sits in the front of the car and I sit in the back practicing how to say Grutto in Dutch.  Dick laughs at my attempts that don't seem to get any closer to Dutch pronounciation.  Grutto.  Grutto.  Grutto.  I keep trying.  Dick keeps laughing!  I'm not improving.

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I think my Texel highlight this year was being able to watch a pair of Great Crested Grebes going nest building and then eventually mating.  What a privilige to be able to see them.  We visited them each morning and each evening and all the while were very careful to make sure that we were not disturbing the Grebes in any way.  

Back in London, although I know where to find or watch Great Crested Grebes, trying to see or photograph mating or any nesting behaviour is quite a challenge.  At my local nature reserve, the Grebes tend to be hidden from view behind a wide band of reeds.  

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Texel hares are a treat!  Wonderful creatures.  I don't think we saw as many as last year but I'm quite sure that we missed loads as we drove past looking.  Every now and then we'd see a pair of ears sticking up in a field and stop and take the time to sit and wait and watch.  Watching a hare having a wash and brush up was a great deal of fun.

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Spoonbills breed on Texel but they're quite difficult to see.  Every now and then we'd see a Spoonbill by the side of a field or in a ditch but as soon as we got into camera range, the bird would take off and fly away.  Very frustrating.  In the evenings we'd go to the same place and hope to find the Spoonbills fly over our heads.  It never ceased to amaze me how such big birds seemed to have the capacity to creep up like stealth bombers and catch us out by suddenly appearing over our heads.  

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And then there's all the other stuff... Avocets, Whimbrel, Oystercatchers, Redshanks galore, skeins of geese, the Marsh harriers that persist in staying just out of range, Ruff, Pipits and a whole range of little woodland, reedbed and wetland birds. 

Texel is a wonderful place to visit.  Lovely friends.  Lovely food and fabulous hospitaility.  It's really quite hard to make beautiful photographs and I hope that these pictures give you a bit of Texel flavour.  It takes  lots of luck and good light as well as lots of local knowledge of course but for me a fantastic trip is so much more than just photographs.  It's great to spend time with friends, to have a few local beers, to eat at the local restaurants, visit the Texel wool factory and the cheese factory and to have fun