For the third time within a month, I am returning to the Migration birds trail. Today I am hiking from Het Schouw to Schellingwoude in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
Margrita in Waterland
Some hike it was! I pass through small towns with sweet little houses in the Waterland region, I have an unpleasant encounter with a goose, the weather is going all over the place, the birds sound like music to my ears and the journey takes a little longer than expected. In short, a great adventure. The comparison with a fairytale is easily made…
Early in the morning, I get off the bus at the viaduct in Het Schouw. I don’t have to look for the trail, just get down the viaduct and I’m there. Here I have the possibility of doing an alternative trail. The choice is already clear to me. The original trail takes me along a so called boot path (you need boots) through Varkensland, but this part is not accessible during the nesting season (15 March to 1 July) which started just today. Also, I do not have waterproof shoes for this path through the fields, so I am glad there is an alternative trail.
My trail now goes along the Broekervaart. This is a long canal that leads to the town of Broek in Waterland. There are many houseboats in this canal, but they are all on the other side of the water and there is no road behind them. So how do you get to your houseboat? With your own little ferry!
I already read about this in the trail booklet and now I see it with my own eyes. Each houseboat does indeed have its own ferry. Some look a little sturdier than others, in relation to the state of the houseboat.
To the right at the Broekermeerdijk are other beautiful homes and occasionally I have a view of the fields behind them. I see dozens of Egyptian geese there. You usually see pairs of those birds in the city, often from a tree or on a roof making a lot of noise. Now, there are lots of them and they make the same noise here.
On my left, Broek ik Waterland comes into view on the other side of the Havenrak lake. What a beautiful town!
I am almost at the end of the dike when I see two geese standing at the roadside. A white one (let’s call him Martin, from the fairytale Nils Holgersson) and a combination of white and grey. I approach the geese, but Martin doesn’t like this. He starts hissing! But I have to pass them anyway, so I go forward a few steps. Martin puts his head forward threateningly and starts storming at me. I take a short sprint back. Martin stops and watches me closely. And I don’t know what to do. I can’t go back either, there’s no other way to pass. I take a few steps forward again, but Martin doesn’t want to have it and sticks his head out at me again, threatening and hissing. Some cyclists and cars pass, but Martin doesn’t care about them. He really has it in for me. I guess I look very threatening with my black coat and pink scarf…
I’m slightly freaking out, what am I going to do now! But Martin and his friend are about to enter the water. I wait until both geese are completely in the water and then I can finally continue.
In retrospect, I can laugh about it, but at the time it wasn’t so funny. Still very upset, I turn right and cross a drawbridge. A scooter drives too close to me and I shout all sorts of curses at his head. Not that he can hear me, but I just had to get it off my chest.
Broek in Waterland
I have arrived in Broek in Waterland and have cooled off a bit. The trail goes under a tunnel on the right, but I turn left first because there are the sweet little houses and streets that I saw in the distance earlier. Most of the houses are a pastel blue or light grey colour and have beautiful facades. I walk along the waterfront along the Havenrak and in the distance I see Martin and the other goose still swimming. Luckily, they are far away now.
At the church on the church square, it is time for a break. I quietly drink the coffee I brought with me with a view at the beautiful houses.
After my break, I walk back via a slightly different way. I go via the tunnel to the other side of the street. Then I cross a small white drawbridge. After that, I walk through some nice cobblestone streets with more cute pastel blue houses.
On the edge of Broek in Waterland, on my left, I can see some more modern versions of the houses. These have brighter colours of blue and turquoise.
I walk along the cycle path past fields and reed beds. I hear an utto-utto sound. They must be black-tailed godwits and what a beautiful, tinkling sound! The birds are busy with a courtship flight and fly gracefully past each other. I also hear lapwings and oystercatchers around me.
The black-tailed godwit is the national pride and joy in the Netherlands, in 2015 it was voted the national bird by the Dutch public. The bird is a brown, slender wader with a long, straight, orange beak. The male sometimes has a chestnut brown breast. The black-tailed godwit is a so-called onomatopoeia: it sings its own name or rather it is named after its sound (in Dutch of course).
Despite the fact that these birds breed in large numbers in the Netherlands, the numbers are decreasing every year. This is mainly due to the intensification of agriculture. Fortunately, there are more and more initiatives to counteract this decline. For example, fields are being transformed into wetlands, where the black-tailed godwit can forage in the water with its long legs. Mowing is also done less often or later in the year, so that nests are spared.
Source (in Dutch): Vogelbescherming
Further on, the town of Zuiderwoude comes into view with a cute little church. Just before Zuiderwoude, at a picnic bench, I take another break. Next to me is a nature reserve full of reeds. There is a sign with access prohibited. From the reeds, I hear a cacophony of bird sounds, but the birds are well hidden.
Although I do not see the birds in the reeds, I have come across many birds along the way. In the checklist below you can see which ones.
|Birds seen between Het Schouw en Schellingwoude, Amsterdam|
|✔ Barnacle goose||✔ Common wood pigeon||✔ Egyptian goose||✔ Mute swan|
|✔ Black-headed gull||✔ Cormorant||✔ Gadwall||✔ Northern lapwing|
|✔ Black-tailed godwit||✔ Eurasian blue tit||✔ Greater white-fronted goose||✔ Red-breasted goose|
|✔ Carrion crow||✔ Eurasian collared dove||✔ Great crested grebe||✔ Rose-ringed parakeet|
|✔ Common blackbird||✔ Eurasian coot||✔ Grey heron||✔ Snow goose|
|✔ Common kestrel||✔ Eurasian magpie||✔ Greylag goose||✔ Stock dove|
|✔ Common moorhen||✔ Eurasian oystercatcher||✔ House sparrow||✔ Western jackdaw|
|✔ Common pheasant||✔ Eurasian wigeon||✔ Lesser black-backed gull||✔ Western great egret|
|✔ Common starling||✔ European herring gull||✔ Mallard||✔ White wagtail|
I walk into Zuiderwoude with, on the right-hand side, a small lake called Kerk Ae. In this town the houses have a pastel green colour. It’s funny that the houses in Broek in Waterland are mainly blue and grey and that here in Zuiderwoude they are green.
At the church square I turn right and cross a drawbridge. I have already left Zuiderwoude and walk through the polder again. After another turn to the right there is a long polder road. If you read my blogs often, you know that this is not my favourite place to hike, especially with a strong headwind. After a few kilometres, however, there is a bend in the road with a rather weather-beaten drawbridge.
A little further on, the Aandammergouw road becomes the Poppendammergouw road. The name does sound fairy-tale like, but apart from a Halloween themed garden, there is nothing fairy-tale like about it. Another long polder road follows. I like the black-tailed godwits foraging in the distance. I finally recognise them too.
To make it less boring, you could choose an alternative trail here, towards the town of Holysloot. However, this trail is only accessible when the ferry crosses Holyslooter Die lake. That is only in the summer months (from July 1 I believe). This trail goes through (muddy) fields and over high, white bridges, but if you take this trail you will skip Ransdorp. It seems like a nice change, so I decide to go back at the right time and with the right shoes.
After the long polder roads, it is time for another break. I sit down on a bench at the edge of a nature park near Zunderdorp. The wind is very strong, so the break doesn’t last long. In the distance, I can see the church of Ransdorp. I’m done hiking at this point and decide to take the bus there. I set off again for the last part, or so I thought. Once in Ransdorp, I see at the bus stop that the bus is on order only and that you have to make a reservation at least an hour in advance. That’s not very convenient, so I go on anyway. The next town up is Durgerdam, where I probably can catch a bus.
Ransdorp has a beautiful church with a stubby tower in the middle of the town. Here are also pastel-coloured houses, no specific colour I think. I walk past a primary school where it is just break time and then I am out of Ransdorp again.
Now through the polder again, towards the Uitdammerdijk. I pass another bus stop and here I also have to make a reservation. It begins to sink in that it is not much different in Durgerdam. In the fields, I see a large group of barnacle geese. At the end of the road, I turn right over the dike.
Not much later, I’m at Durgerdam with those pastel-coloured houses again. This time in all sorts of colours. It seems wonderful to live here, with a view at the Buiten-IJ lake. It also starts to rain. And indeed, at the bus stop, I have to make a reservation as well. I look on Google maps to see where I can catch a bus and that is a bit further along the trail, on the outskirts of Amsterdam. There is nothing else to do but go there on foot.
I walk past a cute little pastel yellow church. Of course, I have to take a photo of it. Too bad it is raining, I could have spent more time on the photos.
After the church, there is a bend to the left. After this, the official trail goes to the right, but again not accessible because of the nesting season, so I take the alternative trail straight on. A good reason to return one day.
Further on, there is another bend to the right and after a little straight ahead I can turn left to go under the A10 highway. I am in Amsterdam. Just after the highway, I go to the right across a parking lot and past some allotments, and further on, at the roundabout, I finally reach a bus stop (bus stop de Liergouw). I don’t need to make a reservation here, in fact there is a bus every 10 minutes.
What a hike! The encounter with the goose was obviously not fun, but I enjoyed the rest of the trail. The houses in this region are really beautiful. I am also very curious about the alternative trails (or the ‘real’ trail for that matter), so I will definitely go back.
A small flaw was the long polder road between Zuiderwoude and Ransdorp, but because the rest of the trail was very beautiful I give it a 4.5 star rating. With the other trail options, I am sure it will be 5 stars!
Where: from Het Schouw to Schellingwoude, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.
No. of km: +/- 21 km
Hiking date: 15 March 2021
Materials used in illustrations: coloured pencils for the map and watercolour paints for the other illustrations
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