Sunday, March 13, 2016

Almere & the Spoonbill Reserve

1 -> 2
Almere, Dutch planned community par excellence. The usual shopping plaza outside station. I ride through parks, a skateboard park, suburban blocks. Almere is a workaday place. Many blacks and Asians, not unlike De Bijlmer. It's a mere half hour by train to Amsterdam, closer than my childhood neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, is to Manhattan.
(original date of this entry: April 9, 2015)

2 -> 53
North of Almere, the route skirts the Noorderplassen, a community of modern apartments along the waterfront with docks. I followed the trekvogel trail and the ride immediately turned rural--a large "wetlands reserve." The Dutch are great conservationists--as they should be considering how little land they possess--so a swampy patch of reclaimed land becomes a "wetlands reserve."

I was just riding west between the Markermeer (a corner of the IJsselmeer) and Noorderplassen, lakes and swampland, which is played up as an important migratory bird zone. A road skirts the Markermeer, views of which are featureless--a sailboat somewhere in the distance. I stopped at kp 54 (where you may turn west to kp 8 to make a loop of the Lepelaarsplassen) and hiked through woods to a bird hide facing the Noorderplassen. A good day for it apparently: I shared the hut with a couple of birders with big-ass telephoto lenses. I observed egrets, coots and grebes floating calmly in the lake, plus a community of black cormorants on an isle of branches. One floater I did not recognize had a black tufted crest, gray hooked beak, gray plumage and a white belly making it look like a running shoe. I'm guessing it's a tufted duck (Aythya fuligula), kuifeend in Dutch.

I rode on to kp 55, location of the visitors center, open only Sat-Sun. The ride along the road is interspersed with pull-offs down to benches/observation points. All I see are a few ducks but I'm not looking too hard.

Nobody out here mid-week. Really feels like spring today. The warmth is so welcome, I embrace it and it embraces me.

55 -> 8 -> 54

Lepelaarsplassen: named for the spoonbill colony. Lovely ride, particularly the south edge of the reserve, along the north side of the Noorderplassen. Three bird hides up on rises overlooking the swamp-laced reserve, hemmed in on the north by the dike/highway along the Markermeer. The hides are built of packed pebbles within a metal mesh armature, with slits at different heights for birdwatchers. Quite a tableau of waterways amidst dry reeds. Many birds. The route gets even nicer further east, gently rolling through a wooded zone fringed by patches of meadow. Definitely a highlight of this fietstocht. 

Lepelaarsplassen (spoonbill reserve)
Then return to kp 55/visitors center and follow the dike/highway east, a lot of traffic and the empty reaches of the Markermeer. Could cut into the Wilgenbos here, some kinda forest. At kp 67,  I turn south off the road toward kp 97 but progress is stymied since the entrance to the Oostvaardersplass is shut, with a message about wild creatures that are to be left undisturbed. How to proceed? I head south toward Almere Buiten (outer Almere) paralleling the west edge of the reserve.

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