Vogelboulevard Hellegat-Ventjager through the eyes of Vera

I, Vera Willemsen (24) forest ranger with Staatsbosbeheer, would like to take you to one of my favorite places in the Netherlands: the vogelboulevard or ‘bird boulevard’ at the Hellegatsplaat and Ventjagersplaat on the island of Goeree-Overflakkee in South-Holland. This area is a part of NLDelta National Park. The bird boulevard consists of four bird hides and a watchtower. What is so special about it, is that the Hellegatsplaat and Ventjagersplaat are closed nature reserves so people cannot access them. The bird hides are an excellent example of how you can allow people to experience a closed area. The bird hides are at the edge of the area, giving you the opportunity to have a really good look around.

Zwartkopmeeuw
Photo: Vera Willemsen
lepelaar
Photo: Vera Willemsen

Novice nature lover

There aren’t many people around, I run into very few people here. Perhaps people think you need to be a kind of diehard bird fanatic but in my eyes, it is a very interesting spot for novice nature lovers. There are signs explaining which birds you can see, there is information about the nature reserve, and it is a beautiful spot for hiking.

Cycling tour to the bird hides

From the road parallel to the N59, the Haringvlietbrug (A9), the bird hides are easily reached by car, although the best way to see the nature reserve is by bicycle. It is a stunning route along the nature reserve and you can stop at every bird hide. My perfect cycling route starts at Vogelkijkhut De Kluut and continues to the Lepelaar, about a 15-minute ride.

If you continue on this route, you’ll reach a small car park where you can park your bicycle. From here, you can continue on foot to the other side of the reserve where you will find the Visarend, another bird hide with two floors, which is very cool. You can then continue by bicycle to the last bird hide, Zwartkopmeeuw, and the Ooltgensplaat watchtower. The bird hides are a few kilometers apart so it’s a really nice loop.

 

Vogelboulevard Hellegat-Ventjager: super diverse with a wide variety of animal species

Photo: Vera Willemsen

History

Another great aspect is that the area comes with its own special history. In the past the two areas (which consisted of mud flats and sand banks) used to be a single nature reserve but when the Philipsdam was built as part of the Delta Works, the Hellegatsplaat and Ventjagersplaat were reclaimed in 1987. Since that time, the area was allowed to develop naturally. Today, it features forest, reeds, grasslands grazed by fjord horses and heck cattle, and large lakes.

It is an incredibly diverse area with a great variety of animal species thanks to the fresh and saltwater vegetation. The salt from the sea is still in the soil, drawing a wide range of bird species to the area.

Photo: Helmut van Pelt

White-tailed eagle

I love seeing the white-tailed eagle in the sky every time. This season, it has been breeding in the reserve once again. Yesterday I saw a pair with their two eaglets. Standing there all by yourself, it’s a very special sight to enjoy. Other wonderful birds you can spot here are the Western marsh harrier, bluethroat, and Eurasian spoonbill.

Tip: Go to the Ooltgensplaat watchtower for the most beautiful view of the reserve. You can find it on Spuiweg in Ooltgensplaat.