The last few weeks, I have mainly been under the spell of the blossom, which did not always run smoothly. It is now the end of May (2021) and once again I am going bird watching on the Migration birds trail in the Netherlands. In this part, I hike from the Gaasperzoom park in Amsterdam to Weesp, then I continue to the edge of the Naardermeer nature reserve.
Gein and Gaasp river
I walk from metro station Gein in Amsterdam to Gaasperzoom park. I cross a wildlife grid and then turn right. I look around me carefully to see if I can spot any special birds, or perhaps Galloway or Highland cattle. I don’t see anything more than a great tit, blackbird and wood pigeon. I find it a boring park and walk through it quickly. I haven’t seen any cattle either.
At the edge of the Gaasperzoom park, I take a short coffee break and look out over flowery fields. I do find this beautiful at the edge of Amsterdam-Zuidoost. In the distance, the churches of Abcoude are visible. Next to me, a flock of geese with young is rushing into the water.
I turn left and leave the Gaasperzoom park behind me. In the field I see a large, black bird. It looks like a very big black crow, but it might be a raven or a rook. The bird is too far away for me to recognise it. Binoculars are no luxury now… On the other side of the road in the water, swims a pair of birds that I do recognise: Mute Swans.
I am now walking along the Ruwelswal towards the small river Gein. Near the river is a group of farms where barn swallows fly gracefully through the air.
And then the Gein river comes into view, familiar to me already. I used to live not far from here and have cycled past it several times with my parents. I have not been to this part before, to my knowledge. I walk on the left-hand side of the river and have beautiful views of the houses on the other side. A rowing boat along the side makes it a picturesque scene. It is not surprising that famous painters have dedicated their paintings to this spot.
In the reeds, a lot of birds are singing, but it is still difficult to spot them in the dense vegetation. Nevertheless, I see a small brown bird. I can’t decide what species it is, a sedge warbler or a reed warbler. The bird does have a sort of crest. The website of the Vogelbescherming offers a solution. I recognise the sedge warbler by the sound!
In appearance, the sedge warbler is not very special, but in its singing all the more so. Like many birds, it is small and brown. It has a light brow stripe and a kind of crest. The males are very visible in the reeds during the spring. The song is very busy and he imitates many other birds, with two or three times of the same sound in a row.
The sedge warbler mainly lives in the reeds. The nest is also built low to the ground in the reeds. The eggs are light brown to moss green with a kind of marble effect.
Source (in Dutch): Vogelbescherming
I pass a small chapel and more beautiful farms. I quickly reach Driemond. The small town owes its name to three little rivers that come together here. First of all, Gein, which I just passed. Secondly, the Gaasp, which I pass after crossing the road. And Smal Weesp, which I will pass later on in the direction of Weesp. Gaasp and Smal Weesp are abruptly crossed by the Amsterdam-Rijn Canal.
But first, I walk along the Gaasp river to the Gaasper Bridge. At the little square, there is a row of pretty houses, but I have trouble taking a photo of them. All sorts of things are in front of them: cars, trees, a hedge, etc.
At the lovely little houses, I follow the bend in the road to the right and arrive at the Weesper bridge over the Amsterdam-Rijn Canal. This bridge is a lot bigger and via a staircase and a narrow footpath I quickly reach the other side.
(Smal) Weesp and Vecht river
On the other side of the bridge, there are a few houses in a bend. There are beautiful purple strings of flowers hanging over the fence. Wisteria I think (I actually thought purple rain and had already made a link to the song, but it turns out it isn’t).
I continue walking along the Smal Weesp canal, with first a number of shipyards and then, on the right, a view of lower lying fields and a pumping station.
Not much later, I am on the outskirts of Weesp. At first, there are some less attractive residential areas, but soon the historical centre comes into view. On the other side of the canal is a lovely, pastel-yellow, windmill called ‘t Haantje (translates to Little Rooster).
The St. Laurentius Church is visible on the other side of the water and I pass more wonderful historical buildings and houses. Today is also the traffic exam for children on bicycles. A procession of children wearing orange vests passes by. I have to wait to cross the street and I can continue.
Weesp is a fortified town and is part of both the Old and New Dutch Waterline defense system and both lines have their own long-distance trails. The markings of the Old Dutch Waterline trail are red-white-blue and the markings of the Waterline trail (including Stelling van Amsterdam) from Wandelnet are red-white, just like the Trekvogelpad. I have to be careful which markings I follow. This time it goes well and I end up at the place where the river Smal Weesp flows into the Vecht.
The drawbridge is going up just as I arrive, so I have to wait a bit. Meanwhile, I take photos of the townhouses and facades behind me.
I cross the bridge and reach the tower fort at Ossenmarkt. Of course, this one I photograph from all sides.
At the Ossenmarkt, I turn right. This is where several long-distance trails meet: the Waterline trail (Long distance trail 17), which I mentioned earlier, but also the Westerbork trail (Long distance trail 15) and the Floris V trail (Long distance trail 1.3). Some of the trails go in the same direction, and others take a different direction. I have to look carefully in the booklet, but luckily I manage. Here and there, the name of the trial is also mentioned on the markings.
Other trail guide about the same region
I walk for a while along the Vecht with its marina. After the railway tunnel, the view of the Vecht is obscured by houseboats with nice little gardens. One garden even has a tree house.
At a certain point, the trail turns right through the fields, just over a paved road. This is a very boring part of the trail and hardly see any birds either. I am already looking at where it would be best to stop. It is at Hakkelaarsbrug, a little outside the trail, but a handy place to start next time. So, on we go to Hakkelaarsbrug.
I go through a railway tunnel once again and immediately have deja vu. I have hiked here before when I was following a Green Heart trail (the Muiderberg trail, see the extensive blog about the trail booklet). I was going in the direction of Weesp, when I should have been going in the other direction. For once I am not going the wrong way now, but I still recognise the place where I did before 😂. I also recognise the Zandhazen bridge in the distance from that trail.
At the edge of the Naardermeer nature reserve
Just before the dull road starts to get really boring, I see a sign from Natuurmonumenten: I am at the Naardermeer nature reserve! Not only the lake itself, but also the marshlands, woodlands and grasslands surrounding the lake belong to the nature reserve.
A small gate leads me to an unpaved path. To the left is the Migration birds trail and to the right the Floris V trail. I am glad I do not have to turn right, because the path is very muddy and fortunately, there is a paved road next to ‘my’ trail!
Meanwhile, I hear all sorts of birds in the reeds again. And I even see a special bird that I recognise immediately: a reed bunting! Another bird checked off my list.
The male reed bunting is particularly distinctive in spring and summer. Then they are clearly visible in the reeds. The male has brown plumage similar to that of a house sparrow. He has a black head and throat and a white collar and beard stripe. The females and young have a brown head. In the autumn and winter, the male also has a brown head.
The nest of the reed bunting often lies on a clump of grass hidden between plant stems and is made of grass, reeds and leaves. The reed bunting has 1 to 2 nests a year with 4 to 5 eggs each time. The eggs are light grey or beige in colour with a hint of green and pink and with dark swirls.
Source (in Dutch): Vogelbescherming
These are all the birds I encountered on this hike:
|Birds seen between Gaasperzoom, Amsterdam and Naardermeer|
|✔ Barn swallow||✔ Egyptian goose||✔ House sparrow|
|✔ Black-headed gull||✔ Eurasian collared dove||✔ Mallard|
|✔ Carrion crow||✔ Eurasian coot||✔ Meadow pipit|
|✔ Common blackbird||✔ Eurasian magpie||✔ Mute swan|
|✔ Common chaffinch||✔ Eurasian oystercatcher||✔ Northern lapwing|
|✔ Common chiffchaff||✔ Eurasian reed warbler||✔ Reed bunting|
|✔ Common cuckoo||✔ European herring gull||✔ Rose-ringed parakeet|
|✔ Common moorhen||✔ Great crested grebe||✔ Sedge warbler|
|✔ Common starling||✔ Great tit||✔ Western jackdaw|
|✔ Common wood pigeon||✔ Greylag goose||✔ White wagtail|
|✔ Cormorant||✔ Grey heron|
An advantage of boring parts of a trail is that you can move on quicker, but now i’m not so fast anymore. At every bird’s sound, I stand still and search through the reeds. After at least half an hour of walking 500 metres, I reach a drawbridge and also the road to the left to walk in the direction of the Hakkelaarsbrug. I can make the trail more interesting by walking over a unpaved path, but I can already see Galloway cattle in the distance. I’ll take the paved path next to it anyway. Who knows, maybe I’ll dare to go through next time.
This was a fine hike on the Migration birds trail. Not very special, but worthwhile. I especially liked the Gein river, the centre of Weesp and the marshlands at the Naardermeer nature reserve. But the trail also had some boring parts, like the Gaasperzoom park and the polders just after Weesp.
I am very curious about the next part where I will see more of the Naardermeer area.
More info:Trail: Section 7 Long distance trail 2: Migration birds trail
Where: from Gein, Amsterdam to Naardermeer, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.
No. of km: +/- 14 km
Hiking date: 28 May 2021
Materials used in illustrations: coloured pencils for the map and watercolour paints for the other illustrations
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