Late November last year, a Spotted Nutcracker turned up in an urban area in the middle of the Netherlands (Wageningen). As it is a rare bird in the Netherlands, not even seen each year, it attracted quite a crowd of admirers. Besides being seldom seen in the Netherlands it is a stunner, especially when seen up close – as sometimes they can be very tame.
After the first images appeared online it turned out that for the Dutch bird ‘being tame’ would be an understatement – we had ourselves a super confiding Nutcracker! Probably straight from the Siberian taiga where human contact is non-existent as it showed no fear for humans whatsoever. More and more people went and even many more images appeared of the bird sitting on telescopes surrounded by birdwatchers and eventually it was even sitting on people’s heads – so it had a better view to watch his food supply as lots of people brought walnuts to the scene which he took eagerly – even straight from the hand!
I had to see that for myself of course but around the initial days when it was found and seen, I was abroad, and, like twitching a rarity, the moment you don’t drop everything and go straight away it is difficult to fit it in the daily chorus later. The thinking going like: the bird is still there so might be as well tomorrow/next week, etc… until of course one day it is gone…
Until last week this was exactly what was happening with the now very famous Dutch Nutcracker… always things to do, maybe tomorrow/next week… until…. the weather forecast showed snow! That was an opportunity not to be missed (as snow in the Netherlands these days is as rare as a Spotted Nutcracker) and together with AGAMI partner Roy de Haas I made the pilgrimage to the street it stayed most of his days now. Our mission: we wanted a Nutcracker in the snow with a Walnut in its beak!
With walnuts in our pockets we walked up to the bird’s favorite garden and right on cue the bird was sitting on a bird feeder in front of the window, gulping nuts down his throat. The bird flew back the next garden and we walk around to find it back and Roy almost tripped over the Nutcracker walking on the ground next to parked cars. It used a communal green area of just several square meters of low scrub to hide his nuts.
We dropped on our knees, put a walnut on the ground and within seconds I was staring face to face with a Nutcracker, almost ripping the walnut from my fingers. Time to get the smartphone out! As I like these weird wide-angle shots you can make with the little camera when using.
Using binoculars was not necessary however, but I found another great use for my trusty Leica Noctivid as you can see in the pictures.
The next hours we followed the Nutcracker around the gardens where it picked up nuts from the bird feeders and flew of to hide them nearby. Even using roof gutters to hide his nuts for a rainy day. Awesome to be able to spend some time with the bird, and, because we were 2 months after the discovery, were almost always alone. Waiting does pay of ☺.
And the snow?
Well. We arrived in the morning and it started snowing around midday. The moment it started to snow heavily, that was the cue for the Nutcracker to hide in a big dense conifer tree never to be seen again – his belly full of nuts no doubt. We decided to drive home before the worst of the traffic jams started – a wise decision as we just beat the worst traffic jams in the history of the Netherlands – ever. 2100 km of standing cars doing nothing on the Dutch highways – that would be the equivalent of driving back and forth from Amsterdam to the Alps to see Nutcrackers there. People are nuts.