White-throated Robin  needle in a haystack

In the spring of 1995, I turned 17 and had a great time birding. I saw my first Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris (Medemblik, 14 April), Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca (Terneuzen, 22 and 30 April, Goedbloed 1997), Black Kites Milvus migrans (Sluis, 22 April; and Barneveld, 3 May), Lesser Scaup A affinis (Veere, 22 and 30 April, Goedbloed & Sponselee 1996), Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax (Veere, 30 April), Daurian Jackdaw Corvus dauuricus (Katwijk, 5 May, Meijer 1996), Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla (Katwijk, 5 May), subalpine warblers Sylvia inornata/cantillans/subalpina (Bergen and Velsen, 6 May; treated as one species back then, Wassink & CDNA 2014), Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator (Den Helder, 13 May), Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba (Velsen, 27 May) and Collared Pratincoles Glareola pratincola (Stede Broec, 30 May; two individuals together), all of which had first been seen by others. I am still thankful to my local birding friends Karel Boonstra, Hans Groot, Ferdy Hieselaar and Pieter Thomas, for taking me to all these ‘exotic’ places.

On Friday 2 June 1995 around 07:00, Jaap Dijkhuizen discovered a first-summer female White-throated Robin Irania gutturalis at Berkheide near Wassenaar, representing only the second record for the Netherlands (Dijkhuizen & Meijer 1997). Its rather large size (slightly bigger than Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos), orange flank and dark tail were most striking. From the nearby Hotel Duinoord Jaap called René van Rossum to spread the news and then – reluctantly – continued his bike ride to work. To help other birders relocate the skulking robin, Jaap had left a paper note in the patch of sea-buckthorn where he had seen it. Still it took a while, before Bas van der Burg and Arjan van Egmond were the first to catch up with the robin.

That afternoon, Ferdy offered me a ride to Berkheide, which I immediately accepted. The last part of the journey consisted of a two km walk through the dunes. With many birders present, finding the location was easy. Connecting with the robin, however, required patience. We thus sat down on top of a dune, overlooking its favourite bushes, and waited quietly for it to show. Gradually, I started to realise what an exceptional discovery Jaap had made. Such a rare and secretive bird hidden in a sea of thorny bushes really is like a needle in a haystack! 

White-throated Robin intobirding.com

A page from my notebook.

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Published 16 March 2018