Wildlife of Holland and France

At the end of my last post I said my next one would be about Nice, but I’ve decided to do the animal post next. I’m indecisive like that. There are a lot of pictures, so there will be little gabbing!

A sparrow outside the Paris catacombs.

While walking along the Seine, I spied these three adorable ducklings curling up to take a nap.

Nearby, their mother had her back to them and watched the river. It’s interesting she was more concerned about trouble coming from the water than from pedestrians; she must be pretty trustful of humans. Or maybe she was just admiring the big mud puddle called the Seine. She had no problem with me getting within six feet of her babies.

I realized I take a LOT of pictures of ducks. My first word was “duck” and I probably still sound like a 2-year-old when I shriek, “oooooh, duck!” whenever I see one, grabbing for my camera. This one was at the Rodin Museum. He was lined up with two other ducks and a group of Americans spent 10 minutes laughing about “getting their ducks in a row”, which they found to be a jolly good joke. Despite their repeated urging, I failed to get a picture of the ducks in a row.

One thing we noticed is there aren’t many bugs – at least flying insects – in France. I saw nary a screened window and you can bet I kept those gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows open at all times, yet there were no bugs in either of our hotel rooms. This is reason alone to move to France. I currently sport about 30 mosquito bites on my legs following about an hour of yardwork. Anyway, there ARE, of course, bees in France, pollinating all the beautiful flowers we saw. (Spring is a lovely time to travel!)

One of our favorite parts of the trip had nothing to do with where we were. The first time we approached Notre Dame, I was snapping pictures wildly when I noticed a figure ahead of us covered in pigeons. It was peculiar; I couldn’t imagine why this person had pigeons all over herself. I even wondered briefly if she needed help as at one point we saw her waving her arm as if to shoo them away. As we approached and passed her, though, we saw she had dried rice that she was feeding them, and Mark and I simultaneously said, “Ohhhh!”. She overheard us and motioned for us to come over. She didn’t utter a single word for the entire 10 minutes or so we spent with her, but she gestured for me to come forward and Mark to take my camera, then she plopped some rice on my head. And soon I was covered in pigeons myself! WHICH WAS AWESOME.

Then it was Mark’s turn and he loved it even more than I did.

This made a huge impression on Mark.

So then Mark decided he wanted to become a crazy pigeon person himself and bought a bag of rice. (By the way, eating dried rice does NOT cause birds to explode; I know someone is going to ask me.) After that we had to stop in every park and other pigeon-gathering area. (After that we also had a lot of rice all over our hotel room floors.)

So we saw a lot of this:

And this:

This little guy was hoping for his share of rice as well.

Now, this is not a good picture by any means, but I’m including it for the variety because it’s the only picture of a European lizard I have. It’s also another example of me stealing lighting from another photographer. We were making the long trek back to our hotel in Nice after an exhausting (but amazing) day; we were fatigued, poor Brad had just hiked a million rocky miles with a bad knee, and we’d just killed a few bottles of wine at dinner, so we were slowly but surely trudging back to the hotel to crash before heading back to Amsterdam the next day, when I saw another photographer examining a stone wall very closely. So I walked up next to him to examine it as well and found this lizard. The lighting in this picture came from his flash….I barely know how to turn my flash on. Also, I must be the most annoying person to go on vacation and/or hikes with. I stop every six seconds to take a picture; I’m sure it is very irritating, although I constantly tell people not to stop for me as I will catch up. I don’t think anyone bothered stopping this time!

This is another picture taken walking back to the hotel after dinner in Nice, on a different night. This gull suddenly swooped down and started fussing a bit at this window. I could hear him impatiently thinking, “KNOCK KNOCK! Anyone home?”

Back in Amsterdam, Brad and April set themselves up for another “walk” that would more properly be termed a “wait for Renae”. Although they live just a block from a metro and tram station in the suburb of Amstelveen and are close enough to bike into the city proper, they also live just a couple of blocks from a cow and sheep pasture, with a creek to boot. The best of both worlds! Because I see a heron every time I’m out, of course that’s the first thing I saw, and although this looks a lot like a great blue heron (which is what we have at home), Brad informed me it is actually a grey heron. They also have purple herons, but I didn’t see one. April said she sometimes sees grey herons sitting on cars. That must be a strange sight.

The promised cows.

Just before “charging” April’s toy poodle…


Why is it I always feel like sheep want to steal my soul? I don’t trust these two.

Brad and April are so lucky. Gorgeous apartment, a stone’s throw from Amsterdam, and THIS is their backyard:

Oooooh, ducks!!!!

Baby ducks!

I really wanted to steal this one.

So many ducks.

This isn’t the greatest picture, but I think it’s funny because I think they are gossiping. Silly gossiping ducks. One headless duck.

I learned that this is a coot.

Look how so-ugly-it’s-cute their babies are!


White swan.

Black swan!

The next day, Brad rustled up four bikes and I tried to remember how to ride a bike with pedal brakes (and promptly fell off the bike onto the handlebar, crushed beneath the weight of my backpack full of camera equipment, and bruised a rib – which I’m still dealing with…Brad thought it better after that incident if he carried my camera stuff while we biked), and we biked to Amstelpark, which boasts among other attractions a petting zoo. I’m opposed to zoos for ethical reasons, but I have to say, I was completely baffled by the petting zoo in the otherwise beautiful Amstelpark. It seemed to consist of three animals: a white peafowl, a wooly mammoth (or some other very wooly beast) standing in a bucket, and an albino kangaroo. Does that strike anyone else as completely bizarre? I think the albino kangaroo is praying, “please send me home to Australia!” in this picture.

A male peacock was perched on a nearby roof, looking into the petting zoo area, feeling “cocky”, no doubt, that he is able to fly and thus escape the fenced-in area containing the wooly beast in a bucket and the incongruous albino kangaroo.

I admit I stood and stared at the spectacle of the albino kangaroo for quite a while, dumbfounded, but finally the others were able to draw me away. We wandered along a path with Brad in the lead, when he suddenly stopped and whispered for me – I was, as usual, bringing up the rear – to quietly come up to where he was standing because there was a peahen sunbathing around the corner. She was magnificent, I tell you!

Then we arrived at a pond where I was completely overwhelmed by waterfowl, including the black swan above. I think I felt something akin to what an infant feels when they get sensory overload. I don’t even know what this is. (Do you? Let me know!)


Not all the animals I encountered were wildlife. This picture was taken in Nice and is titled “I miss Gomez”.

After Amstelpark we biked into the city. The restaurant we wanted to eat in (Ethiopian, yay!!!) wasn’t open yet so we stopped in a bar for a snack and some beers. I was super happy because the bar was playing nothing but the Rolling Stones and there was a very sleepy cat next to our table!

I missed Torticia too!

My favorite animal of the trip, though, was our faithful companion Carrie, who went everywhere with us in Nice and Amsterdam. Here she’s smoking a Cuban. (Mark insisted on buying a Cuban cigar “because he could” and ended up smoking it for about 30 seconds before deciding it was disgusting. Mark doesn’t like cigars. He just doesn’t like the government telling him he can’t BUY cigars. Carrie didn’t think much more of the Cuban than Mark did.)

Whew! Okay that is ENOUGH pictures for one post. There won’t be nearly as many next time, and there will even be FOOD. I even took pictures of dinner tonight – which involves purple cauliflower and garlic scapes – so I’m not lying about that.


  1. rhonda Said,

    May 30, 2012 @ 11:45 am

    Wonderful pictures! And you taught me something, too: I was concerned enough about the urban legend about feeding birds rice that I actually looked it up, and you’re right, there’s nothing to worry about: http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/birds/a/wedding_rice.htm

  2. Jes Said,

    May 31, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    I don’t even know where to start! Every picture is amazing, plus, a pigeon on your head! I totally missed out on the pigeon/rice thing at Notre Dame. For shame, that would have made an even funner birthday. And the cats of Europe–j’adore. And that poor albino kangaroo. He must be cold in Denmark! Oh, and the seagull picture–how much fun would it be to be inside the house looking at the seagull in your window? Perfect!

  3. Josiane Said,

    June 2, 2012 @ 12:17 am

    That picture of you with the pigeon is adorable! My gentleman friend has a thing for pigeons (his first book is even titled “Terre des pigeons”), so I think he’d have loved meeting this woman…

    How lovely that there’s a pasture so close to Amsterdam! If I’m not mistaken, you’d have had to go much farther away from Paris to see something like that. And the huge variety of waterfowl – wow!

  4. renae Said,

    June 4, 2012 @ 10:24 pm

    Josiane, if we ever meet up and both Mark and your gentleman friend are with us, we will certainly have to visit a park with a bag of dried rice and see how many pigeons we can attract! And when my French is a little (a lot) better, I’ll have to try to read your gentleman friend’s book!

  5. Josiane Said,

    June 5, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

    Oh, yes, I have a feeling our guys would get along as well as the two of us do! 🙂

    You’ve read novels in French, so I think you wouldn’t have trouble with Terre des pigeons and Feu blanc. Those are collections of tales, reflecting his work as a storyteller, so the stories are short and the audio versions are included (you can listen or download the audio version of one of those tales, Mauvais numéro, in the sidebar of the page linked above if you’d like). His novels, however, would be more challenging – he has a thing for ambitious and complex stories that end up having to be developped over several hundreds of pages… Anyway, when we finally meet up, I’ll have a book or two for you!

  6. Sarah Husband Said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 10:32 am

    I asked my birder friend Jacob about your mystery bird, and he said it looks like an Egyptian Goose, which is not native, but is common as a feral or escaped species throughout Europe.

  7. renae Said,

    June 15, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

    Thanks, Sarah! I looked at some pictures of Egyptian Goose and I think you may be right.

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