Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

February 13, 2012

A Day at the Dunes

The “Amsterdamse Waterleiding Duinen”, in short AWD certainly belongs to my favorite Dutch areas for photography. Not only because of the abundant foxes and fallow deer, although I must admit they are the most spectacular inhabitants of this nature reserve, but also because of the magnificent landscapes and the many birds. The AWD has got it all; dunes, forests, water in the form of numerous canals, (AWD provides drinking water for the city of Amsterdam) vast heather and grass fields.

When I entered the reserve last week a thick fog rose from the many canals. The Swans, ducks and geese where hardly visible, but what an atmosphere. Beautiful! Soon the fog blanket evaporated and the area bathed in golden morning light. Can’t help myself but everytime I’m there, I feel happy. The area is so beautiful there is a surprise around every corner, however small sometimes.

It was still very cold, around -10 to -12 C and the AWD was covered in snow. After an hour or so we decided to sit down alongside one of the canals and get some of the tea we brought with us. But as always, when you sit still, nature finds you! The tea was soon forgotten when we discovered dozens of snipes, fouraging on the banks so what other choice did we have than go down in the snow and shoot our heart out! 🙂 Actually, we were so busy crawling up to the Snipes that we hadn’t noticed another visitor who was checking us out from behind a couple of reed stems.. Fox!! And we weren’t at all close to the area where the foxes are known to be approachable. The snow covered bank of the canal made for a perfect setting for this beauty and while the teacup was melting a hole in the snow down we went again on our stomachs. Funny how you don’t feel the cold at such moments at all!

She didn’t stay long but allowed us quite a few shots before she went. When afterwards we turned around to save the meanwhile stonecold tea, we were in for another surprise. Apparently her young was checking on mom what she was up to and meanwhile ‘guarded’ our gear that was, in the haste, scattered all around. Wow.. two foxes in our first hour in the dunes!!

The young fox was quite skittish and didn’t come close which was actually good so I could use the 500mm, a lens I prefer because of the nice blurry backgrounds. Also this one didn’t stay very long but I think I got some wonderful shots, especially with the snowy banks as background.

When the adrenaline of the fox encounters had worn off a bit we got on our way again. Like I said, around every corner there are little surprises. Woodcocks flying off when you practically stand on them (never time enough to capture them!), a Bittern and Whooper Swans flying over, Mergansers, Tufted Ducks, and Kingfishers on the canals.

After another hour we again sat down for the next attempt to get some tea down and yes, you guessed it; another fox paid us a visit 🙂 When some other photographers discovered us, soon she went on her way again but not without our memory cards still buffering!!

Later that day we saw two more foxes but in our hearts we knew that we never would get the setting there like we had had earlier. Sure we shot but the winning photographs of the day were the three earlier foxes! What a glorious day!!

When we slowly made our way back, it’s always quite a hike, we encounter yet one other female fox, an older one. I remember I saw here only once before last year. She completed the score of 6 foxes in one day! Can you imagine that the first couple of times I went to the AWD I couldn’t find even one, despite the 20-odd km I walked, cris-crossing the reserve.

We walked back along the canals with fallow deer as company. A Swan couple swam towards us, like two proud flagships, silently floating by. Can you imagine that I left the reserve with a big smile on my face?!


  1. Jemig wat een dag heb je daar gehad! Ik heb daar al eens naar vossen gezocht (had van iemand gehoord waar ik moest zijn) en niet gevonden, ik was zo teleurgesteld! Later ben ik weer een keer heen geweest en toen heb ik er één gevonden, ja, maar 6 op een dag, wow. Het was wel zo dat deze heel lang bleef, dus ik was in staat om heel veel foto’s te maken. Ik geloof dat ik maar eens met jou mee moet gaan, want volgens mij trek jij het gewoon aan!
    Hhmm, ik krijg helemaal zin om a.s. weekend weer eens heen te gaan, ja laat ik dat maar doen.
    Laatst ben ik met iemand van IVN daar geweest, dan denk je dat je al best veel van vogels weet, nou niet dus, die hoorde echt aan ieder piepje wat of er in de buurt was. Ik heb toen zoveel meer gezien dan anders dat was echt een openbaring.
    Je foto’s zijn weer prachtig, vooral die twee zwanen staan er prachtig en vooral statig op.

    Comment by Mirjam Pouw — February 13, 2012 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

  2. Prachtige serie Henny en mooi beschreven hoe zo’n dag kan zijn. Ook ik zwerf regelmatig in natuurgebieden en heel af en toe in de AWD. Ik kom wel eens en vos tegen (geen foto’s om over naar huis te schrijven) maar ik ben nog nooit met sneeuw in de AWD geweest. Dat geeft toch een heel bijzonder licht. Ik zal het onthouden voor volgend jaar.
    Met groeten,
    Rien van Zuijlen

    Comment by Rien van Zuijlen — March 27, 2012 @ 7:28 pm | Reply

  3. Mooie serie Henny!. En ook goed beschreven hoe je zo’n dag beleefd heb. Ik struin regelmatig in m’n eentje door de natuur en kom af en toe ook in de AWD. Een mooie plaat van een vos heb ik helaas nog niet kunnen maken. Het is inderdaad een goed idee om tijdens een sneeuw/vorst periode daar naartoe te gaan. Het licht is dan heel bijzonder door de reflectie van onderaf. Ik zal het onthouden voor komende winter. (duurt helaas nog even).

    Comment by Rien van Zuijlen — March 27, 2012 @ 7:34 pm | Reply

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