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 Tichodroma muraria,
which had been discovered by Jos van de Staaij in
Amsterdam on 13 November 1989 (van de Staaij & Fokker 1991). A
days later, our mum drove us to see this awesome bird.
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
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
can only wonder how Jos must have felt, when he first saw this bird and
realised 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!