For Ecologist Camilla Dreef, exploring nature close to home includes inviting the whole of the Netherlands along for the journey.
As a passionate advocate and communicator on behalf of birds and nature, Camilla has succeeded in raising awareness for birds through storytelling that targets a variety of audiences. In addition to being an ambassador for BirdLife Netherlands, actively posting about birds on social media, and appearing on TV shows she has also published a book of non-fiction stories for children entitled “kwie-kwie-kwie-kwie-kwie.”
Camilla believes that in addition to comprehensive research, the key to conservation is inviting the public to share her enthusiasm for birds and nature.
When not spreading the word for her feathered friends, Camilla works as a field ecologist focusing on the colonization by birds at the recently created Marker Wadden Archipelago in the Markermeer, a lake in her native Netherlands. This restoration project of one of western Europe’s largest lakes includes the creation of islands, consisting of marshes and mudflats. These islands are based on ring dikes, filled with sediments from the Markermeer.
“The islands were immediately colonized by many pioneer species, such as Pied Avocet,” says Camilla. “Now nearly 7% of the entire Dutch population of this bird breeds on these new islands. It’s been fascinating to observe how this new marsh area with mudflats and shallow waters provides new habitat for so many species.”
Pied Avocets, Common Terns and Spoonbills are the focuses of her work in this newly revitalized environment. Since 2021, this also includes following these species with GPS-trackers in order to better understand how the Marker Wadden Archipelago and its surrounding areas are connected. Where do the different bird species move, breed or forage?
Though she currently spends most of her time on the Marker Wadden Archipelago, her local patch is the Schinkelbos, an extension of the Amsterdamse Bos (Forest of Amsterdam). It’s an urban park with a combination of dryer areas, young forest, small lakes and canals, as well as open spaces with shrubbery.
“The combination of all these habitats makes it interesting for many birds,” says Camilla in describing her patch, which is home to a variety of ducks, geese and waterfowl in addition to other common Western European birds and seasonal migrants. “My most memorable sighting so far was two Eurasian Bitterns flying up from the reedbeds.”
Located at the southwestern edge of the city, it offers Camilla peace-of-mind when not working in the field. The dawn chorus of Eurasian Robins, Blackbirds, Eurasian Wrens, and Song Thrushes provide welcome respite. And it is also the place where she hears the first cuckoo call every year.
Camilla has always been passionate about nature. From an early age, she searched for fossils with her father and looked up typical garden species in the family field guide to birds.
“I just didn’t know that you could be a birder,” says Camilla, who now devotes her professional life to researching and communicating on their behalf.
She got her first pair of binoculars after doing her bachelor’s degree on Lesser Black-Backed Gulls. Slowly, she began birding with other biology students and, while doing fieldwork on Eurasian Spoonbills, she “fell in love with fieldwork and with birding.”
Just three years later, in 2015, she purchased her first pair of SWAROVSKI OPTIK EL 10x42 binoculars.
“If you’re passionate about birds, you want to have a clear view that makes you forget that you’re watching through binoculars,” says Camilla. “SWAROVSKI OPTIK provide that experience.”
Camilla has had so many memorable moments in nature since that time. While doing research for her master’s degree on Schiermonnikoog, one of the West Frisian Islands in the northern Netherlands, she and her colleagues would often visit the territory of a Short-Eared Owl.
Drawn to nature from an early age, Camilla Dreef is an ecologist, passionate advocate for birds, author, TV presenter, and ambassador for BirdLife Netherlands. She believes that storytelling is key to communicating about nature to the public.
She works as a freelance ecologist, currently e.g. in the Marker Wadden Archipelago, where she researches Pied Avocets and Common Terns.
Camilla has also published a non-fiction book about birds for kids called “kwie-kwie-kwie-kwie-kwie.”
When not birding, posting on social media, researching, or thinking about birds, she loves going to concerts and is passionate about music.
Photo (c) Lars Soerink