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Wallcreeper  pure magic

By the age of 11, I was already hooked on birding. With my four years older brother Marcel, who was also an enthusiastic birdwatcher, I saw lots of species for the first time. At the weekends we made excursions around our home town, Haarlem, often together with the more experienced Berry van der Hoorn, Richard Joosten and Michiel and Paulo van Breugel. I believe it was one of them who informed us about a Wallcreeper, which had been discovered by Jos van de Staaij in Amsterdam on 13 November 1989 (van de Staaij & Fokker 1991). A few days later, our mum drove us to see this awesome bird.

Although I must admit that we did not get the close-up views we had hoped for, the whole event made a deep impression on me. Wallcreeper was a species I knew from photographs and descriptions only; a greyish passerine with beautiful butterfly-like, largely crimson and black wings. Being almost restricted to cliff faces high up in the Alps, Pyrenees and other mountain ranges, I could only dream of ever seeing one. Of all places, this bird had chosen tall buildings in Amsterdam to spend the winter. It frequently roosted on the 16-storey main building of the VU University, behind large pink neon letters reading ‘Vrije Universiteit’. At the end of the day, we joined the large crowd and waited for the bird to appear. When it finally did, a contagious mixture of joy and admiration took over. It was pure magic and I wanted more.

I can only wonder how Jos must have felt, when he first saw this bird and realized how many people from all over the country and even from abroad would come and try to see it too. Discovering a rarity as beautiful as a Wallcreeper, on a Monday morning at the office – in birding, anything is possible!

Wallcreeper intobirding.com

The famous Wallcreeper spent two winters in Amsterdam. It was last seen on 5 April 1991.


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Published 6 March 2018