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Bird Island Texel

  1. Location and arrival
  2. The bird island
  3. Wagejot
  4. De Petten
  5. De Geul and Horsmeertjes
  6. De Slufter
  7. The equipment
  8. Conclusion
  9. Download maps Texel

Location and arrival

The Dutch island of Texel belongs to the province of North Holland and is at the same time the largest of all West Frisian Islands in the North Sea. In a north-south direction, the island has a length of just under 24 km and in width, the island measures up to a maximum of 9.6 km.

Overview map location of Texel
For better orientation, I am providing an overview map on the left with the location of the island (for more details, please click on the map on the left). By car, there are basically two ways to get there. If you are coming from the south, you will choose the route through the Amsterdam metropolitan area to the departure port of Den Helder. If you are coming from the east, you should choose the route over the toll-free dam of the IJsselmeer, as the traffic on this route is significantly lower than the route via Amsterdam.
The ferry from Den Helder to the island of Texel operates hourly. As the exact departure times vary depending on the season, it is best to check the current schedule directly on the Teso ferry service website. As the distance between Den Helder and Texel is only about 4 km, the crossing takes only about 20 minutes.
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The bird island

The island of Texel is a classic holiday destination, and its approximately 13,000 residents have adapted well to tourism. There are plenty of accommodations available at all price levels. However, it is recommended to book in advance during the high season. For nature photographers, the island offers a variety of birds, and Texel is particularly popular among bird enthusiasts in the spring. The flight distances of the birds are generally shorter than usual.
The west coast facing the North Sea is characterized by a long sandy beach that stretches from north to south. The sandy beach is bordered by partially wooded dunes of varying sizes. The east coast is largely built up with a dike, and behind the dike facing the Wadden Sea, there is a smaller sandy or pebble beach.
On the island of Texel, there are several nature reserves that I would like to introduce in more detail below. I do not claim to provide a comprehensive list, but rather focus on the areas that I have become more familiar with.
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the Wagejot on Texel
Wagejot is probably Texel's classic spot for nature photography, as there is a wide variety of birds that can be found here, and the flight distances are sometimes very short. You can find Wagejot on the east side of Texel directly on the dike near the town of Oosterend. You can park on the side of the road at Wagejot and carry your equipment just a few meters to the location. As the birds at Wagejot are used to people, no additional camouflage is necessary. It is usually sufficient to behave quietly and wait for the birds to slowly approach. On the mudflats, you can find breeding black-headed gulls, terns, and some waders, especially dunlins, redshanks, oystercatchers, and avocets, which are bird species that are very common here.
click for larger view
The embankment of Wagejot is slightly elevated, and I recommend taking photos lying down to get the best perspective. In addition, flight scenes offer good opportunities for photography while sitting or standing. The best time of day for photography at Wagejot is early morning, but you have to wait until the sun comes over the dike if you want to have the mudflats in the sun. In the late afternoon and evening, you will have strong backlight at Wagejot, and the last rays of sunshine are not easy to use in this location.
If you follow Wagejot further south towards Oudeschild, you will come to another brackish water lake, which is also located at the edge of the dike. Here, you will mainly find terns and gulls, but you cannot get as close to the action as a water trench prevents direct access.
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De Petten

De Petten is located north of the "Mokbaai" bay (see map). The photographic opportunities at this location are very limited, as the area is completely fenced and therefore the photographic distances are too great.
The distances only suffice for overview shots of the common terns that gather there by the hundreds. Additionally, on clear weather, one can witness a beautiful sunrise at De Petten.
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De Geul and Horsmeertjes

the Geul on Texel
In the south of the island is the dune area De Geul. From a small observation platform, you have a view of a larger body of water where a colony of spoonbills is often present. The photographic distances here are too great to capture individual spoonbills in the water. However, this area is used by the spoonbills as a sleeping place, and so in the morning when the birds leave the sleeping place and the light is behind you, it is possible to capture good flight shots of spoonbills. On the opposite side of De Geul is the bay "Mokbaai". The bay is characterized by a large reed belt where marsh harriers often breed. In the evenings, the best light is at Mokbaai, and with some patience, it is possible to capture good flight shots of marsh harriers at this location.
bluethroat at Horsmeetjes
Shortly after De Geul, to the south, is the nature reserve "Horsmeertjes". Horsmeertjes consists of two lakes in the dunes, which can be explored on foot all around. This area is known for its high population of Bluethroats. Especially in April, when the Bluethroats are searching for territories, there are good chances to photograph these birds. In good weather, the Bluethroats like to sit on the tops of bushes and defend their territory loudly. It takes a bit of luck to be in the right place at the right time, because after the territory is established, the birds often disappear into the undergrowth. Usually, it is enough to lie in wait with a camouflage net and wait quietly until a Bluethroat has settled on the popular perches, which should be scouted out beforehand.
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De Slufter

overview map of De Slufter
In the north, on the west beach of Texel, is the area "De Slufter". De Slufter is a mostly wooded dune area that can be explored on foot. However, there are some restrictions in the northern part of the area, as some areas are closed or can only be visited with a guide at certain times of the year. There are parking facilities at Slufterweg and Krimweg (see map). At Slufterweg, a long staircase leads to an observation platform. Although the entire area is only partially suitable for bird photography, one has a good chance of getting a good shot of birds of prey from the platform. On my first visit, I saw a kestrel hovering only a few meters away from the platform. Unfortunately, I climbed the stairs to the platform without a camera ;-), but apparently these encounters are more common because the kestrels have become accustomed to the people there.
North of De Slufter is the dune area "Eierlandsche Duinen", which stretches from De Slufter to the lighthouse in the north. Here you have good opportunities for photographs of pheasants, harriers, and some songbirds such as black redstart, common redstart, pied wagtail, or meadow pipit. The area "Eierlandsche Duinen" can also only be explored on foot or by bike.
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The equipment

As is often the case with bird photography, a lot of focal length is needed on Texel. Focal lengths of 500-600mm, which can be extended with converters if necessary, are very helpful. Only at Wagejot, one can sometimes get by with slightly less focal length (400mm). A beach trolley for transporting equipment can also be useful. For those who want to do landscape photography, smaller focal lengths should of course also be included. Many people prefer a seat (especially at Wagejot), but I personally prefer a sleeping mat, as I prefer the perspective of lying down.
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Texel is definitely worth a visit. The bird diversity is already very high and the flight distances are also shorter than what is known in many parts of Germany. Especially the entire spring is very suitable for photography. While in April you can witness courtship behavior and territory occupation, in June there is already a lot of offspring to photograph. The island offers many facets and it will probably take many visits for me to get to know the whole island well enough.

Download maps of Texel

You can download maps of Texel here. To view and print them, you will need an Acrobat Reader. The maps are intended for rough orientation only. I also recommend purchasing a larger map, which can be obtained at many locations on the island.

 maps of Texel

written: May 2010, (author: Olaf Juergens)

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