Sunday, 27 October 2013

Kinderdijk

This is Kinderdijk in the Netherlands, visited during a wonderful European river cruise that I enjoyed this summer.  If you ever get the chance to visit Kinderdijk on a sunny day you should certainly take it. I have seldom enjoyed a wander more. This is both an engineering marvel and an amateur ornithologist's paradise.

To begin with the engineering, the dry land here is three big steps down from the River Lek (Rhine). There is a canal and reservoir system through which the mills lift the water to the height of the river. All of the mills are driving pumps; none of them are milling corn. The area around the mills, and  one of the mills itself, can be visited, but the land that they are actually draining is in use for agriculture.
There is a saying apparently "God made the world but the Dutch made the Netherlands" and this is one of the polder areas where this is true. We were approaching the former Zuyder Zee, an arm of the North Sea which is now much reduced in size and has become a freshwater lake. If the mills stopped pumping it would take about three months for the polder to flood completely.

Now because of the canals and reservoirs and reed beds you have a little natural wonderland. The first thing I spotted was a cormorant; then a hovering marsh harrier (a first for me) then coots and grebes and geese and ducks of several varieties. I could happily have stayed there much longer and I do wish I had been warned to carry my 400mm lens. This is old and so heavy that I tend to use it just from wherever my base at the time happens to be, but it would have been worth lumping it around for this opportunity.

Fortunately I was carrying my 300mm zoom, so this great crested grebe is an example of the sort of photographs that were possible there.  The grebe was unconcerned about the visitors, most of whom in fact had eyes only for windmills (understandably) and perhaps did not even notice him.  Since it was relatively early in the day, the grebe's mind was still on finding some breakfast.