A Taste of Texel

Filed in Places Of Interest, Wildlife, Workshops on May.05, 2011

The bird paradise of Texel in Holland became our home over the last four days during our annual yearly photo trip there.  This picturesque island on the north tip of the Dutch mainland is a heaven for wildlife, at around 25 miles long and seven miles wide the island is the largest of the Wadden Islands.

It’s a haven and paradise for thousands of waders and waterfowl during the spring/summer months where they choose this picturesque island to play out their courtship routines and breed, feed their young all quiet close to you, presenting some of this best chances to photograph Avocets, Spoonbills, Caspian and Black Terns, Oystercatchers, Kentish Plovers, and many more waders.

When we arrived after the over night ferry relaxed and far less stressed than if you travel by plane, we headed to a site on the mainland first where a family of Foxes are living wild among a woodland environment, twinned with paths and humans walking around.  Even through the foxes were wild it was plain to see they had become use to human actively, and after my own ongoing Fox project at home which has become so testing at times, it was refreshing to see these wonderful animals up so close, going about their lives around us, very endearing moment for me and the group.

We all shared some lovely moments before heading to Texel and settling into our lovely hotel accommodation on the island, where all your meals are of the highest standard, comfortable place in which to use as our base during our time on Texel.  In the morning we all heading out at around 05.30am for the morning light and to visit the places where the Avocets feed and other waders. The weather during the whole trip was warm, sunny but windy, this hampered a few of the birds we all had on our wish lists, but all in all many wonderful moments were all captured by the group during their time on Texel and the mainland.

Amazing light on offer each morning but that wind just made the going a little tough for the wildlife, right place right time is one of those key elements in wildlife photography and again we all managed to be there while witnessing a very beautiful piece of behaviour from a pair of Oystercatchers in the morning light. These birds by their very nature are very loud, their call travelling for miles, a single, high pitched note this can be your first indication that these birds are around.

We watched having been drawn to a certain pair due to the vocal calls, they were following each other in straight lines, mimicking each others movement then setting off again traveling behind each other always calling, how wonderful nature is.

Then in a flash the male would jump up onto of the female, calling constantly, steadying himself by flapping his wings really fast to keep himself up right, wonderful to see this action that really only lasted seconds before the male jumped off and started cleaning himself up.

We spent quite a lot of time photographing the Common, Arctic, Little, Sandwich Tern colonies that Texel supports in good numbers, most if not all are inland, dotted around this small islands pools, with the ever present noise and smell’s these busy little communities give off.  For me the Tern family is a beautiful bird, on one hand really hardy, tough, on the other so gentle and elegant with such a graceful appearance.  I watched as one parent sat on the nest as the other flew in and passed over the sandeels they had just caught, all while hovering for a split second, so beautiful to watch, I was able to capture the sequence with the image below.

The birds are so fast and fly in, you only have a few seconds and trust me there were hundreds of  attempts that ended in nothing but blurred images, but you only need one image to convey the moment. Great displays of affection between the birds were witnessed showing real care for each other which was very nice to see.

Among the vast colonies of Terns there were good numbers of a bird often over looked in the presence of other birds, the Black headed Gull, strikingly beautiful in their summer plumage.  They are a common colonial breeder, nesting among reedbeds and marshland, their dark brown hood often mistaken for black is stunning in the light and with matching leg and beak colour they are a match for most colourful birds.  The noise from these birds though can be earsplitting a real loud call they use to communicate with each often.

I captured them building their nest, the male would fly in and drop off the twigs to the female who chose to start their home on a grassy embankment covered in small colourful flowers. Great fun to watch and again above their noise really comical to watch.

The routine most days was the same an early start to see the island awaken,capture those beautiful encounters with our cameras, then head back for our wonderful self service hot and cold breakfast, then head back out for the whole day. Driving to the different sites and always on the look out for a shot, in this case it was the handsome Spoonbill. A large bird with wonderful markings on their bills and plumage, we managed to capture this guy feeding and having a good clean up, disembarking the vehicle slowly and moving very quietly and slowly to get a close up of this wonderful looking bird that’s very rare in the UK.

Here I captured him having a good old stretch or was he exercising in the morning who knows but a funny image where I was laughing as I took it as nature does afford you so much fun at times.  After three amazing days on the island of Texel we caught the early morning ferry on the Monday and like last years trip we headed to the mainland to photograph the stunning and beautiful Black Necked Grebe. On the way stopping off at another Grebe site, this time the Great Crested Grebe a site Jeroen knew really well.

Another stunning bird from the same family, here she had chicks with her perched on her back. Mum would swim around while dad would fish to feed them. Then unannounced the male would turn up with a fish in his beak and offer this up to the young chicks on mum’s back.  I watched as the young chick would reach round to take the fish, sometimes falling into the water, in the end though the parents where amazingly attentive to their offspring.

And here I under exposed a lot to get this effect, where the Grebe had swam into a darker area with the light still shining on her, making for a lovely image and a style I really look to produce in my work.

We travelled for about two hours until we reached the area in which the Black Necked grebes nest, where you can get some beautiful close up’s of this striking bird. We found a small spot,where we lay down and watched the Grebes feed at some distance away,over time they came closer into land, all the time feeding and on some occasions displaying to each other.

And the light was really changeable, so here I tired a hi key image over exposing to gain this effect in camera, adding a different feel to the image.

The group had some lovely encounters with these amazing birds before moving onto another site then heading to the port for our over night ferry crossing to Harwich. It was a really good trip, lovely clients all of which were great company so thank you all. I hope you got alot from the trip and I hope to have helped you in some regard with wildlife photography, how you can capture a subject within its environment, fieldcraft etc.  Thanks to Jeroen Stel for your time and effort in this amazing photo trip. Next years trip dates are up and for those that wanted to book this year but could’nt join us because we were full I’ll send you the dates on my monthly newsletter. For more info click here .

  1. Dave Kitson said:

    Just returned from the Texel trip with Craig and Jeroen,two great photographers who are passionate about wildlife and photography and only too ready to pass on from their huge wealth of experience.
    Great work guys and thank you.
    We stayed in a great Hotel,cracking food,and very comfortable after a long day in the field.
    All in all, it ticked all the box`s for me,highly recommended.

  2. Charles Sargent said:

    Some very nice pictures in this blog Craig. Particularly like the Avocets and Grebes. Hope you are well.

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