In the 1970s he was almost dead in our country. Now you almost trip over the storks and their nests: no less than 1550 breeding pairs are now counted. How the baby deliverer took flight again in the Netherlands (and why that is not all good news).
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At least forty storks live in the polder between Baarn and Bunschoten. Until a few years ago it had been a mirage, last weekend it was really to behold. Much to the delight of Arda van der Lee of Stichting Ooievaars Research en Knowhow (Stork, also English for ‘stork’)
“This year was a difficult breeding season,” she says. “The spring was wet and soggy. Newborn youngsters left behind in a wet meadow became hypothermic as a result. This was followed by extreme drought, which resulted in a lack of food.”
Nevertheless, the stork is doing well. Marieke Dijksman of Bird Protection also knows this. “In the 1970s, the stork was almost extinct in the Netherlands. The number of breeding pairs could be counted on one hand. The fact that we now count about 1550 breeding pairs again is a sign that the protection program is bearing fruit.”
In recent years, for example, stork stations were established, where storks were bred, and there was more attention for the living environment of the animals. Special poles were also placed to provide storks with a place to build nests.
Storks settle in a nesting pole in Eembrugge. Photo: Caspar Huurdeman
These nesting poles are no longer needed everywhere, says Van der Lee. “The stork in the Netherlands can stand on its own two feet again.” She therefore thinks that the stork population will self-regulate in the coming years. “Storks cannot live everywhere in the Netherlands, but there may be a few more where they can. If there is insufficient food for the number of storks, the growth will automatically decrease.”
However, the animal is still a protected species. “But that applies to almost all native birds in the Netherlands. It ensures, for example, that people are not allowed to hunt them,” says Dijksman. It is therefore important that this also applies to the stork, she says. “Otherwise, nature always loses out. Moreover, 1550 breeding pairs are not much at all compared to other bird species. For example, we know from the buzzard that the Netherlands has at least 20,000 breeding pairs.”
Stork possibly a danger to meadow birds
However, not everyone is happy with the advance of the stork. The animal could pose a danger to meadow birds. “A stork eats everything in its path. If there is an egg from a meadow bird in between, it will also eat it,” says Wilhelm Bos, secretary of the Collective Eemland from Bunschoten. It unites Eemland farmers who are involved in nature management for the benefit of meadow birds.
Bos therefore argues in favor of not simply placing nesting posts on or around meadows. “The fact that the stork is doing better is of course very good in itself. But the population of meadow birds, on the other hand, decreases by about 5 percent annually. So let’s not make it too easy for storks in areas where many meadow birds breed.”
The exact threat posed by storks to meadow birds is not clear. Although, according to Van der Lee, there are much more serious threats. “I have never seen a stork running after a meadow bird. They are not hunters, but opportunists. They like to walk in freshly mowed fields because there is a lot of food there, such as worms or snails. of a meadow bird, they may eat it, but they don’t hunt it like foxes do.”