2011 had probably the best spring in history, but a lot of species were already seen in earlier years and the real new species were hard to twitch. There were no less than 4 species of rare buntings to see (all would be new for me!). The first was a Rock Bunting Emberiza cia on 3 April on Schiermonnikoog (only the 2nd record for the Netherlands), but the news became known only at midnight and the next day it was gone. I would have missed it anyway as I was in Morocco searching (and finding!) Andalusian Hemipodes Turnix sylvaticus.
The second rare bunting was a Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus which was seen on 4 May at Westkapelle allmost all day, but I failed to see that (I turned back home when I heard it was most probably a Yellowhammer E cirlus).
The Cirl Bunting was quickly followed by rare bunting no 3, a Black-faced Bunting Emberiza spodocephala. This bird was trapped two times on 7 and 9 May at the Zwanenwater in an area restricted to the general public (the 4th record for the Netherlands).
The fourth rare bunting was a Cretschmar's Bunting Emberiza caesia found on Rottumerplaat, an inaccessible island in the Netherlands, and stayed for three days between 13 and 15 May (the third record for the Netherlands).
Also a would-be-new for me was a Lesser Spotted Eagle Aquila pomarina that was seen at Wassenaar and Katwijk on 23 April, but it was not twitchable (I also failed to connect with the 1984 and 2005 birds). A Ross' Gull stayed several days at Numansdorp between 22 and 25 April and attracted lots of observers, as always is the case with this beautiful gull. The most beautiful bird was a male Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus discovered on the island Texel on 27 April. It stayed till 28 April.
Also in May were several records of Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra, with one found on Texel on 6th May and also on 6 May and the next day on Vlieland by a few lucky observers. On 18 May one flew over a migration spot and was seen by a single observer. Another seemed to be twitchable, but this particular bird was identified by others as a Sky Lark...
On 30 July however, my first new species appeared, a long-awaited Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius was discovered at Rilland and it stayed long enough! Autumn had some interesting birds, but no new species. During my stay on Vlieland, we found a Blyth's Reed Warbler Acrocephalus dumetorum on 1 October and two Two-barred Crossbills Loxia leucoptera on 5 October, while on Texel a Daurian Shrike Lanius isabellinus gave a good appearance. Two rare species, a Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum on 14 October on Texel and a Paddyfield Warbler Acrocephalus agricola on 15 October at Hoek van Holland were seen, but only identified after the photograph was published. Not so rare anymore where at records of at least two Red-flanked Bluetails, one at Castricum NH and one at Schiermonnikoog Fr, with the bird being long-stayer and could be seen by everybody! The last days of October a Gyr Falcon Falco rusticolus was present at the border between the Netherlands and Belgium, making birders in both countries happy!
Finally on 31 Oktober, a beautiful first-winter Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach and the whole autumn was saved!

Birders at the Hoogerwaardpolder, observing the third Spotted Sandpiper for the Netherlands (photo by © Wil Schep).

Spotted Sandpiper
Long-tailed Shrike

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