Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

July 4, 2011

On safari in Holland

Last week at the National Park ‘De Veluwezoom’ was fantastic. You know, I’ve heard so often that to see ‘real’ wildlife, you have to go to Africa, or Antarctica, or the Galapagos. But close to home, often you can see so much wildlife that it’s dazzling. But maybe we don’t find it exotic enough. For me, seeing a Roe Deer or a Wild Boar is just as exciting as seeing an Impala or a Warthog. Especially when you’ve waited days to get a clean shot of one of them it’s equally rewarding as being on safari in Africa. Well, at least, almost as rewarding.. 🙂

The last couple of days have been awesome. I love, really love, being out there at the crack of dawn, nobody else, no joggers, no moutain bikers and especially no ‘tour-de-france-wannabees’ yet. (I could fill an entire blog page with my experiences with that group!). Totally quiet. The fun is approaching the animals without disturbing them. I’m getting quite good at that. My poor car is not enjoying rolling down a hill, motor off, heading with a speed of 5 miles/hour, but it works!! But to see the sun creep up the hills, setting the flowering heather ablaze with golden light is fantastic.

The Roe Deer don’t get disturbed but just continue fouraging, the Wild Boar let their young frolick around without heading off, the Doe shows her Fawn without totally panicking. I’ve seen Fox on several occasions but wasn’t able to get a clean shot. But I will, I’m sure.

Yesterday, the Roe Deer Foe who, by now, doesn’t seem to get alarmed by my presence anymore, let me approach her, by now only one, fawn pretty close. Imagine that up until this year I’ve only seen a fawn once, although I’ve been surrounded by Roe Deer all my life! All of a sudden I seem to know how to look, and where to look. Where I used to drive on after seeing a Deer Foe on her own, I now stop the car and wait patiently. Because a Doe on her own in June is likely to have hidden her Fawns somewhere. I can’t help it, but each time I see the head go up when she starts to call with soft high pitched sounds, I secretely smile. Patience gets rewarded every time!

There were two absolute highlights last week. First on monday, to see the Honey Buzzard. It’s a very rare bird of prey in Holland and there aren’t that many photographers that have a shot in their collection. I’ve seen one a couple of times before but had never been able to capture it right.
But this day was different. Although I had woken up an hour too late I still went but indeed all of the wildlife already seemed to have gone in hiding. Until I turned the corner, entering a road that’s overlooking a vast heather field. The light was harsh and shone directly in my face when I saw a shape sitting on a portruding branch. Hawk! I thought by the looks of the grey head and the bright yellow eyes. Exciting as I don’t have a good shot of those birds yet. Yes, dozens of in-flight shots when it’s flying over the meadow behind our house to it’s nest in the corner of the forest, but no ground shots. So I switched off the engine and let the car creep forward, rolling silently down the hill. Just when I was about in ‘shooting’-range, it flew off. Even before I could get a clear shot. Disappointed I sat back, until a shadow fell over the heather; it returned!! Be it one little branch further away. I started shooting although it was quite far away. Much to my surprise, it flew up only to land on top of a shrub closer by!! The harsh light I dreaded worked in my advantage as it shone beautifully through the stretched out wings from behind. When it finally took off altogether, I sat back, and ‘chimped’ through the images on my display and I suddenly realized I was looking, not at a Hawk, but at a beautiful male Honey Buzzard! So I waited around to see if it would be coming back but no such luck. Tried several times during the next days, but I’ve never seen it again (yet). Guess oversleeping made it my lucky day as chances are that I normally would have been out of the park already by that time.

Another highlight occured yesterday, which was my birthday. When I drove my usual circle I saw mom Wild Boar high up the hill. I’ve seen her there before (see upper photo) and I know she has little piglets. But the heather there is really high and usually all you get to see of the little piggies are the tops of their backs, shooting through the heather. But still, you never know, so I stopped and just waited. It took the good part of an hour but the little piglets came closer and closer!! When they were about halfway I suddenly remembered that my camera has a film mode, so I started taping some of the frolicks of the babies. I’m not good at filming but have a look at the video at the bottom of this blog entry. I think it gives a good idea of what I felt, watching those little piglets. Wait for the little white one to come racing through the frame! 🙂

While mom was still foraging, the babies came closer and closer until they were right next to the car! What a wonderful sight!! They started digging for food like tiny little shovels and it was realy too cute to watch them! Hard to imagine that one day these cute little babies will have grown into huge impressive Wild Boars 🙂

I don’t think I could have gotten a better birthday present as spending an hour or so with these little cuties!!

     
 
 

 

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