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Zwanenwater - BirdForum Opus



A large and shallow lake with extensive reedbeds, the Zwanenwater is situated among dunes close to the coast of the Netherlands.

As well as the lakes and dunes there are marshes and small patches of pine woodland. The area is a Nature Reserve (owned by the private conservation organisation Natuurmonumenten), Special Protection Area and Ramsar Site. Most famous for its Eurasian Spoonbill colony, which can be viewed from a distance (the view is somewhat disturbed by a nuclear research centre), the Zwanenwater has a good selection of breeding birds and often interesting passage visitors, particularly waders.


Notable Species

In addition to its small number of breeding Eurasian Spoonbill, Kentish Plover and Pied Avocet also nest here and Great Bittern, Garganey, Common Tern and Spotted Crake are all present in summer.

The reedbeds have breeding Reed Warbler and Marsh Warbler, Long-eared Owl and Goldcrest occur in the pines. Northern Hobby and Marsh Harrier breed and can often be seen hunting over the water. Common Rosefinch may occur in some years.

The area attracts various gulls, terns and waders on passage. From July to August, birders flock to the flooded bulb fields in the vicinity (between Putten and Den Helder) which attract numerous waders and a few dozen Gull-billed Terns. Birding these fields at this time of year is more rewarding than visiting the reserve.


Birds you can see here include:

Little Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Great Cormorant, Great Bittern, Grey Heron, Eurasian Spoonbill, Greylag Goose, Common Shelduck, Mallard, Garganey, Marsh Harrier, Common Kestrel, Northern Hobby, Water Rail, Spotted Crake, Moorhen, Pied Avocet, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Woodcock, Red Knot, Sanderling, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew rare in Su, Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Common Tern, Black Tern, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Green Woodpecker, Barn Swallow, Eurasian Robin, Nightingale, White-spotted Bluethroat, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blackbird, Savi's Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Reed Warbler, Goldcrest, Bearded Tit, Common Starling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Common Rosefinch, Reed Bunting

Other Wildlife

Its flora is typical of the calcium poor “white dunes” in the Northern Netherlands, with e.g. heath and crowberry. It holds a few rarities, like Lesser Butterfly Orchid and Moonwort in the wetter areas.

Site Information

History and Use

It is an old dune lake, formed during the reclamation process that connected the north of the Noord-Holland province to the rest of the province. Its name (Swans Water) notes its former use as a swan breeding centre. It is now threatened by lowered water levels, because of drainage for the aforementioned bulb fields.

Areas of Interest

The main attraction for birders would be the spoonbill colony, which is in the southern part of the reserve.

Access and Facilities

The Zwanenwater is conveniently situated just south of Den Helder and can be worked on the way to or from Texel. It is easily reached by road or public transport (bus from Schagen or Den Helder), as it is just south of the village of Callantsoog. Although this is a reserve much can be seen from the surrounding dunes and the area is easily explored on broad paths. An access fee is required, except for members of Dutch conservation organisations Natuurmonumenten or the Landschap Noord­-Holland.

External Links

http://www.natuurmonumenten.nl/natmm-internet/natmm/natuurgebieden.jsp?n=35994 (in Dutch)

Content and images originally posted by Steve