24 juli 2024

Experience nature – coastal birds

ISSUE On 15 June 2020, PostNL will publish the Experience nature – coastal birds issue: a sheet of ten stamps in ten different designs. These postage stamps will be marked ‘Nederland 1’, the denomination for items up to 20g in weight destined for the Netherlands. The stamp sheet is part of the Experience nature series, of which the first was published in 2018 and the second in 2019. In 2020, for the third series, PostNL will once again issue four stamp sheets containing forty stamps in total. The stamps contain species of birds that are having a particularly difficult time. Most of them are on the Dutch Red List of breeding birds in the Netherlands or on the Dutch Red List of migratory birds/winter visitors in the Netherlands. All of the photos on the stamps originate from Buiten-Beeld, the Dutch nature photography image bank.

Experience nature – coastal birds is the third stamp sheet in this third series. Earlier this year, PostNL published stamps featuring birds of prey (2 January) and farmland birds (24 February). The fourth and last stamp sheet featuring forest and heathland birds will be published later in the year (14 September). An individual Experience nature stamp sheet costs €9.10. The price for the full 2020 series is €36.40, including the storage folder.

SUBJECT A significant number of the birds that breed in the Netherlands nest in the dunes and coastal areas of our country. There, you will also find bird species that occur almost nowhere else in the Netherlands. Our country’s long coastline stretches from the dunes right along the sea, open dunes, salt marshes and marshes to shrubs and forests in the inner edge of the dunes. The agricultural landscape adjacent to these natural biotopes, such as the polders on the islands, is also part of the habitat of our dune and coastal birds. The coasts are amongst the most abundant bird habitats in our country, especially during periods of bird migration. Many birds follow the coastline to orientate themselves when they fly north or south. For many coastal birds, the Wadden area and the Zeeland delta are a crucial link in the East Atlantic migratory route, which runs from north-east Canada and Central Siberia to the very southern point of Africa. The coast is also a great area for foraging. Especially in shallow seas such as the Wadden Sea, which is partly dry at low tide, plenty of food is available. For the birdwatcher it is a challenging environment because the distance to the birds tends to be quite far. However, to recognise the various species it is often sufficient to know the bird’s silhouette or its behavioural pattern.

Bird description source: Herken de kustvogel (Lars Gejl and Ger Meesters, Veen Bosch & Keuning, 2014), sovon.nl, vogelbescherming.nl

The stamps feature the following coastal birds: little stern, Arctic skua, ruddy turnstone, snow bunting, black-legged kittiwake, great black-backed gull, shore lark, pied avocet, purple sandpiper and Kentish plover. Transparent images of seven of the ten birds have been incorporated into a separate graphic layer on the stamp sheet: the pied avocet, little stern, ruddy turnstone, great black-backed gull, Arctic skua, purple sandpiper and snow bunting.

Most of the birds on the stamps are on the Dutch Red List of breeding birds or migratory birds/winter visitors in the Netherlands. The Dutch Red List of breeding birds includes 87 bird species, or 44 percent of all species that breed in the Netherlands. The number of bird species in the danger zone increased by nine compared to the previous list from 2004. Ten species are seriously endangered, such as the short-eared owl and the little bittern.

DESIGN The Experience nature – coastal birds stamp sheet was designed by graphic designer Frank Janse from Gouda. On the sheet, the ten birds were each given their own stamp, and they are depicted in their natural environment. In some cases, the image or the background colour continues onto the adjacent stamp and onto the sheet edge.

The photos are captured in a graphic layer of overlapping circles of different sizes, which break through the boundaries of the perforations. The circle pattern returns as small droplets on the sheet edge and the tabs. There is a second graphic layer on top of the circles. It consists of transparent images of coastal birds. The images are almost abstract due to their monochrome shades.

TYPOGRAPHY For the typography, Janse used his own font, which he designed especially for the Experience nature series. The font, which consists of tiny circles, was given the name Fdot. The explanatory text on the sheet edge are set in the TT Milks Light and Demibold in capitals (2017, Ivan Gladkikh for Typetype). In the text, the designer creatively and humorously expresses his associations with the names, features and appearance of the depicted birds.

DESIGNER The design of the Experience nature – coastal birds stamp sheet is the work of graphic designer Frank Janse from Gouda. He built on the concept he developed for the Experience nature series from 2018 and 2019. His design focuses on the associative, sensory and sometimes mysterious experience of nature.

Vulnerable or endangered

The new Experience nature series is entirely dedicated to birds of the Netherlands. The starting point for the selection of the birds for the four stamp sheets was vulnerable and endangered bird species. “This gave the issue a new, substantive depth,” says Janse. “PostNL also supports the efforts of Vogelbescherming Nederland to protect all wild birds and their habitats as much as possible.


The subject of Experience nature is closely related to what nature lover Janse values in life. “For as long as I can remember, I have had a huge interest in nature. What goes on out there is absolutely fascinating. It’s a world in itself, with many layers. In the ground, on the earth, in the water And in the air, like these coastal birds. I’m fascinated by the elusiveness of nature.”

Bird guide

As a child, Janse carried an ANWB bird guide around with him. “The booklet contained pictures of birds, outlines and a description of the bird’s call. Then you had to try and spot the birds. That wasn’t as easy as it sounds in Zeeland, where I grew up. The soil was still saline because large areas of land were flooded between 1944 and 1945. As a result, there were few birds flying around.”

Great black-backed gull

Coastal birds can be divided into breeding birds, overwintering birds and passage birds, which visit our coasts during their annual migration. Janse used to see most of the coastal birds on the stamp sheet in his youth. “Except for the Arctic skua, at least I can’t remember ever seeing it. I have never seen the snow bunting either. The latter is an overwintering bird that comes from the far north and usually doesn’t get any further south than the Wadden area. In my youth the great black-backed gull was one of my favourites. It’s got this distinctive head and makes these typical whining noise. They’re huge animals and pretty impressive. During a school selection test, when I was twelve, I was asked which animal I wanted to be. I picked the great black-backed gull, because I knew it well as a big bird that was able to just hang in the air and face the gales of a great storm. And there was always a snack around, so I thought that’d definitely be something.”

Most endangered species

When it came to selecting the coastal birds for the stamps, the most endangered and vulnerable species were selected in consultation with Vogelbescherming Nederland. “For the visual material, we once again used the enormous image bank at Buiten-Beeld,” says Janse. “Out of the selected birds, relatively few can be seen flying around in the Netherlands. And yet there was plenty of photographic material to choose from. One of the most important criteria in selecting the images was creating variety in the position in which the birds were photographed. Standing, flying, shearing over the water, with close-ups and images from afar. I looked for photographs in which the birds are depicted as tangible as possible. This wasn’t always easy an easy task – the bird shape with elongated wings and protruding claws is not easy to fit onto a stamp. Birds also look very different when they’re in flight to when they’re on the ground.”

The only young bird in this series

In one of the earlier designs for Experience nature – coastal birds Janse had placed the great black-backed gull right in the middle of the stamp sheet. But the bird was crowding the other birds, so it had to move to the left. Janse: “That also gave me the opportunity to place it in such a way that a graphic circle reflects the round shape of the gull’s breast. This bird is a big solid lump of a bird. In contrast to another favourite of mine: the Kentish plover. I can still remember vividly how I marked it as ‘spotted’ in my bird book. And how happy I was! I thought it was a funny little bird. The same applies to the sandpiper. They come in different species. The ones I love the best run around in the surf in big groups when the waves aren’t too high. They run to and fro with every wave, looking for food. Their body stays still while their tails turn and their little legs work like crazy. Definitely a strange and beautiful sight. With its black and white markings and long, curved bill, the avocet is interesting from a graphical point of view. On the picture on the stamp it probably wants to impress another avocet, which is why its wings are raised so high. In the top left-hand corner I’ve put a young avocet in white. A juvenile, as it’s called in bird-watching slang. It is the only juvenile in the entire Experience nature series this year.”

Variation and balance

The great black-backed gull looks into the stamp sheet from the bottom left, while the black-legged kittiwake flies in from the top right. Between them, slightly right of the centre, is a transparent image of a great black-backed gull, with its head pointing right and its breast pointing left. This is characteristic of the way Janse combines variety with balance in his design. “That’s why I used both cut-outs and photographs of entire birds. I add excitement and dynamics where I can. Not just by allowing colours to run into each other, but also by connecting the birds to each other here and there. For example, the back of the purple sandpiper continues onto the stamp with the Kentish plover. And it looks like the ruddy turnstone appears from the head of the Arctic skua. The great black-backed gull looks to the right, and he’s so dominant that all four birds on the row below look to the left. Only two birds are depicted in flight: the kittiwake and the little tern. I thought it was better to depict the latter in flight because its tiny legs wouldn’t make much of an impression.”


Janse main tool for connecting the stamps was colour. The transparent images of the coastal birds also fulfil this role. “I might have spent most of my time on that. I didn’t want to manipulate the original colours of the photographs in order to make the backgrounds blend into each other – that was out of respect for both the photographer and for nature. This sheet of stamps will be published in summer, which is why the yellow of the beach and the dunes, the deep-blue skies and the golden colour of the summer sun dominate the picture. Janse: “I looked for pictures with these colours. I didn’t have to do anything with the colours, they were already there. The strong background colours contrast beautifully with the markings on the birds, which are mainly white, black and grey, with a few yellow and red accents on the shore lark and the snow bunting.”

About the designer

Frank Janse (1967) graduated as a graphic designer from the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam in 2001. Until 2019, he worked for various advertising and design agencies, including Room for IDs, and he also worked for himself as Frank Grafisch Ontwerp in Gouda. At the beginning of 2019, together with Leene Communicatie, he founded the new company Leene Visuele Communicatie, which designs communication tools focusing on content and information design. Frank Janse is a specialist in corporate identity, branding, infographics and communication campaigns. Leene Visuele Communicatie works for various educational institutions and both profit and non-profit clients. Their customers include PostNL, real estate specialist Fortierra, the Municipality of Rotterdam, Nuon/Vattenfall, Lagerwey Wind and the Dutch central government. On the instructions of PostNL, Frank Janse has previously designed various luxury storage systems and personal stamps, including the 2017 themed collection on bird species of the Netherlands. He also produced the designs for the first two Experience nature series in 2018 and 2019.

SALE/VALIDITY The stamps are available while stocks last at all PostNL sales outlets, the post office counter in Bruna shops and at www.postnl.nl/bijzondere-postzegels [in Dutch]. The stamps can also be ordered by phone from the Collect Club customer service on telephone number +31 (0)88 868 99 00. The validity period is indefinite.

VALUE The denomination on these stamps is ‘Nederland 1’, for standard letters weighing up to 20 grams sent to an address within the Netherlands.


  • Postage stamp dimensions 30 x 40 mm
  • Sheet size 170 x 122 mm
  • Paper normal with phosphor print
  • Glue self-adhesive
  • Printing technique offset
  • Printing colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black
  • Edition 315,000 sheets
  • Appearance sheet of 10 stamps in 10 different designs
  • Design Frank Janse, Gouda
  • Printing company Joh. Enschedé Security Print, Haarlem
  • Item number 400662


  • Issue: Experience nature – coastal birds
  • Issue date: 15 June 2020
  • Appearance: sheet of 10 stamps in 10 different designs
  • Item number: 400662
  • Design: Frank Janse, Gouda
  • Postage stamp dimensions 30 x 40 mm
  • Sheet size 170 x 122 mm
  • Paper normal with phosphor print
  • Glue self-adhesive
  • Printing technique offset
  • Printing colours cyan, magenta, yellow and black
  • Edition 315,000 sheets
  • Appearance sheet of 10 stamps in 10 different designs
  • Design Frank Janse, Gouda
  • Printing company Joh. Enschedé Security Print, Haarlem
  • Item number 400662

COPYRIGHT © 2020 Koninklijke PostNL BV

<strong>Title Here</strong>
Vogelbescherming Nederland is an independent national nature conservation organisation. The active association is supported by roughly 140,000 members, companies, funds, institutions and the Nationale Postcode Loterij (National Postcode Lottery). Vogelbescherming was founded in 1899 to protect all wild birds and their habitats. This is achieved through targeted protection programmes, intensive collaboration, political lobbying, legal action, clear information and effective campaigns.

Little tern
The little tern (Sternula albifrons) nests in colonies on barren to sparsely vegetated islands and beaches near wide shallow waters rich in fish. Little terns arrive in April and return to their wintering grounds off the coast in West Africa in September. While they’re breeding, they eat small fish such as young sprat and sand eel, but they also eat shrimp and insects. The little tern is small and sleek. In summer it has a black cap to just under the eye with a striking white spot on the forehead. When it flies, its wings beat very fast. Often hovers close to the water, diving screeching into the water like a rocket to catch small fish and shrimp. Call: a high chatter, rhythmic during breeding season. Breeding pairs: 850-925 (2016). Passage birds: small number.

Arctic skua
There are seven species of skua worldwide, four of which breed in the arctic north of Europe. They come in four sizes: great, medium, small (the Arctic skua) and smallest. The great skua has an imposing wingspan of 1.4 metres and can weigh 1.5 kg or more. The Arctic skua takes to the skies on a wingspan between 1.10 and 1.25 metres. Its weight can vary greatly, from less than 350 grams to just above 600 grams. Skuas combine the characteristics of birds of prey and gulls. Take their feet, for example: a combination of webbed toes and hooked claws, which is unique in the world of birds. They are formidable pirates and don’t shy away from taking prey from other birds. The Arctic skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) breeds from around the 55th parallel and northwards. It is a typical coastal bird, which usually nests within 10 km of the coast. However, in Iceland they also nest further inland. Food at the coast consists largely of fish, which the skuas mainly obtain by obnoxiously chasing sea birds until they drop their catch. Further inland, skuas also eat birds, small mammals, insects and berries. They are not averse to carrion either. The Arctic skua is the most common skua. Especially in the autumn, it can be spotted along the Dutch coast on passage. The bird’s plumage ranges from completely dark brown to light brown with a white breast and white cheeks with many colour variations in between. In its adult plumage, this dark, falcon-like seabird can be recognised by its slightly elongated pointed middle tail feathers. Young birds tend to be dark brown or much lighter, banded and warm brown. Call: nasal and gull-like during nesting season. Breeding pairs: none. Passage birds: a very small number.

Ruddy turnstone
The ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres) can be found everywhere in the northern hemisphere including North America. The Netherlands even gets visits from breeding birds from northern Canadian. Breeding birds from Scandinavia and northern Russia migrate to Africa along the west-European coast. Breeding birds from Greenland and northern Canada moult and overwinter in north-western Europe and the Iberian Peninsula. The ruddy turnstone forages in a distinct way, using its bill to turn over all kinds of material (shells, stones, seaweed) to check if there is something edible underneath. It mainly eats small crustaceans and molluscs. Along the Noord and Zuid Holland coasts, ruddy turnstones are mainly found on dykes and breakwaters. In the Wadden area and the Zeeland delta they also forage on mudflats with stones and especially on sandbanks. Unmistakable appearance thanks to the distinctive markings on head and chest, orange-brown with black upper parts, short orange legs and short bill. Call: rattling call and other sounds. Breeding pairs: none. A possible breeding case on the northern salt marshes in 1995. Overwinterers: max. 4600-5700 (2013-2015). Passage birds: an estimated maximum of 5000-9500 (2012-2017).

Snow bunting
In Scotland, the closest breeding ground of the snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), this bird is affectionately known as ‘snowflake’ or ‘snow fleck’. Very appropriate for a bird that also lives in the entire arctic zone around the North Pole. In fact, no other songbird breeds as far north as the snow bunting. It nests on tundra, treeless swamps and rocky coasts and mountains. Some snow buntings are resident birds and defy the Arctic winters. Others migrate south in the autumn. In the Netherlands it is a winter guest, especially in the coastal regions. The snow buntings that visit us come from both Iceland and Scandinavia. They often forage in groups on, for example, salt marshes or on beaches amongst material that has washed ashore. They mainly eat seeds, supplemented with insects during the breeding season. The largest groups are usually found in the eastern Wadden area. Their flight is distinctive, because the white spots on the wings immediately catch the eye. Males in breeding plumage are completely white with a black back, shoulder feathers, wing tips and inner tail, and a black beak. In summer, females have some brown markings on the head, the side of the neck and the back. Song: short, husky warble, reminiscent of a skylark. Breeding pairs: none. Passage birds: an estimated maximum of 500-2000 (2008-2012). Overwinterers: an estimated maximum of 800-3500 (2013-2015). The number of overwinterers tends to decrease in January.

Black-legged kittiwake
The black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) is a true sea bird that can be encountered in the Netherlands especially during heavy storms. You are most likely to see them over the six months of winter, because that is when the birds are most abundant. Juveniles are most distinctive, because they have a black ‘W’ on top of their wings. This kittiwake nests in colonies on steep cliffs, where they can make an awful racket. So you’d think it would be unlikely that it breeds in the Netherlands. However, from 2000, several dozens of pairs have been breeding on drilling platforms in the Dutch part of the North Sea, which means they are now actually a Dutch breeding bird. The black-legged kittiwake has a characteristic call, which is where it gets its name. Adult birds have black wing tips that look like they have been dipped ink, dark legs and a lighter patch on the outside of their wings. This means that they look very like common gulls in summer, although in winter they have an even grey ‘headphone’ and no barring on the head. Call: shrill kittee-wa-aaake, kitte-wa-aaake’ and ‘knha.’ Breeding pairs: 50-150 (2013-2015). Overwinterers: an estimated maximum of 1000-4000 (2013-2015). Passage birds: an estimated maximum of 50,000-200,000 (2008-2012).

Great black-backed gull
The great black-backed gull (Larus marinus) is a massive bird; in fact, it is the largest gull in the world. It is most common on the coasts of Iceland, Norway and the British Isles. In the Netherlands, this giant gull can also be seen on the coast, all year round but especially in autumn and winter. The species has been breeding annually in our country since 1993 in slowly increasing numbers (65-67 breeding pairs in 2018). Large gull with black wings and a powerful yellow beak. Bigger than the lesser black-backed gull in all respects: bigger head, heavier beak, thicker neck and wider wings. Also looks heavy and solid while flying. Call: deep, ‘laughing’ cry, ‘kaa-ga-ga.’ Breeding pairs: 65-67 (2018). Passage birds: an estimated maximum of 6700-9800 (2012-2017). Overwinterers: an estimated maximum of 5400-6500 (2013-2015).

Shore lark
The shore lark (Eremophila alpestris flava) is a migratory bird and winter guest in the Netherlands. Its numbers are largest in October and November. The number of overwinterers varies every year. These larks are mainly found in the northern coastal areas (Wadden islands and Friesian-Groningen coast.) Apart from the beach, where they forage for small seeds in the various materials washed ashore, they also look for food on salt marshes, dikes, fallow land and fields with remnants of crops. They mainly forage for insects in the breeding season and seeds in the winter season. During extreme wintry weather, these birds may also turn up surprisingly far inland. When you get a good look, you immediately notice the striking black-and-yellow markings on the face. Shore larks breed in the mountains above the tree line and on the Arctic tundra. They have brown bars on top and are pale and virtually unmarked underneath. The yellow face has black ‘tears’ and a black throat. Adult males have a black band across the forehead, with small horns at the end, on the side of the head. The markings are less contrasted in winter. Song: similar to that of a skylark, only thinner and rising. Breeding pairs: none. Winter visitors/passage birds: very small number.

Pied avocet
The pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) has distinctive black-and-white plumage, long legs and an upturned bill, which it uses to find small crustaceans, worms and shrimp. Breeds in colonies, mainly in saline areas on the coast, but also inland. Avocets with chicks pretend they are hurt when they are in danger. They will drop a wing and pretend to be lame to distract the attacker. Once the breeding season is over, avocets gather in large groups for moulting. They also fatten up so they have plenty of fuel for their trek south. Vigilance is always a must in such a group. A ground predator like a fox or a hunting peregrine falcon will cause panic and everyone will take off at once. Favourite places to visit at this time of year are the sheltered and muddy parts of the Wadden Sea coast and the Zeeland delta. In addition, large groups regularly dwell in the freshwater environment of the Oostvaardersplassen. The overwintering area of the birds extends from the coastal areas of France, Spain and Portugal to North Africa and the West African coast. When the winter is not too harsh, a small number will remain in the Netherlands. White with distinctive black markings. Upturned bill, long, light-blue legs. Also unmistakable in flight due to the black-and-white markings and long legs. Call: ‘kluit-kluit’ and a soft chatter. Breeding pairs: 5400-5700 (2016). Winter visitors: a small number overwinters, but only during mild winters. Passage birds: 12,400-22,800 (2012-2017).

Purple sandpiper
The purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima) is very characteristic with its yellow legs and dark purple-brown winter plumage. A coast-bound species, which can be found along the coasts of our country from autumn to April. You won’t find this sandpiper on the beach itself, but in stony coastal biotopes such as basalt blocks along dykes, piers, and breakwaters, where it forages for invertebrates amongst the stones. You will often find this species together with ruddy turnstones. Very distinctive dark plumage with a light belly. Yellow legs and base of the beak. Looks dark in flight, with distinctive white bars on the wings and white sides of the tail. Call: coarse and hard ‘weet,’ sometimes in chattering series. Breeding pairs: none. Winter visitors/passage birds: very small number (only a few hundred).

Kentish plover
The Kentish plover (Anarhynchus alexandrinus) is a rare coastal breeding bird, especially in the Zeeland delta, to a lesser extent in the Wadden area and sometimes in the IJsselmeer region. It is a so-called ‘pioneer species’ that frequents bare, sandy areas such as beaches and sandbanks. Environmental projects like the Marker Wadden offer new opportunities for species like these. Kentish plovers are much lighter than the common ringed plover. This bird, which hunts by sight, eats insects, crustaceans, spiders and other tiny animals. A small, light-coloured plover that runs long distances. Black bill and legs. No band across the breast but patches on the side of the breast. Male markings more striking than female markings, with a brown-yellow cap and a distinctive patch on the forehead. Call: short rattle and soft whistle. Breeding pairs: 125-135 (2018). Passage birds: no migration known from other countries. Overwintering: Kentish plovers overwinter along the western coasts of the Mediterranean, the coasts of the Gulf of Biscay, and in West Africa.

Source for description of individual birds: vogelbescherming.nl

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