Explore the Lepelaarsplassen

The result of the reclamation of Zuidelijk Flevoland from the sea in 1968, the Lepelaarsplassen are a prime example of engineered landscapes. The nature reserve is centered around three lakes formed when sand excavations filled up with water. The sand was needed to build the Oostvaardersdijk dike between Lelystad and Almere. Together with the reed lands and wet sedge fields, the Lepelaarsplassen are a paradise for water and marsh birds.

Outside breeding season

IJsvogel
Lepelaarsplassen - Ellen van den Doel
Photo: Ellen van den Doel

Together with the Oostvaardersplassen lakes and Wilgenbos forest, the Lepelaarsplassen are vital to migratory birds. Large numbers of birds build their nests here and raise their young. The visitor center is called De Trekvogel or ‘the migratory bird’. 

Spoonbills, the birds to which the area owes its name (from the Dutch lepelaar) forage here on a regular basis. Most of them have left for the Wadden Islands, however, to find better nesting grounds. For other birds, such as great egrets, gray herons and bitterns, the Lepelaarsplassen are popular hunting grounds. You may also spot smaller bird species, such as the little grebe, spotted crake, and common kingfisher, in these wetlands. There are even beavers, whose traces left on trees are visible evidence of their presence. If you see tooth marks in the wood, it was most likely a beaver. 

Man’s intervention and laissez-aller

To make the area more attractive to marsh birds, shallow trenches were excavated and wide reed beds created. Regular intervention interspersed with periods of laissez-aller is how things are handled here.

Searching for the great cormorant colony

There is a colony of great cormorants in the region, which you can observe from the birdwatching huts along the unpaved paths. The great cormorant is a beautiful water bird that goes fishing in the nearby Markermeer lake. You can spot them on posts in or around the water, as well as in the trees. 

Cycling from hut to hut

The Lepelaarsplassen are best explored by bicycle. Along the road, you will encounter several observation huts that offer a beautiful view of the meadows with countless birds. If you are lucky, you may see a common kingfisher, secretive water rail, a pair of wild swans, or perhaps even an osprey.   

If you prefer to walk, you can do so outside breeding season. From March through July, the observation huts are accessible exclusively to bird-watchers and other interested parties. 

The thickest tree in the polder

If you follow the cycling path along the lakes, you will encounter a very thick tree. With its 3.75 meter trunk, this white willow is the thickest tree in the Flevopolder. It probably arose from willow stakes, which were used as markers or to make willow mats for building dikes – in this case the dike around Zuidelijk Flevoland.