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Flora & Fauna

Flora & Fauna

Den Helder has rich flora & fauna. Aside from many bird species, the nature areas around De Helderse Vallei -De Helderse Duinen- accommodate lots of mammals such as rabbits, hares, fox and mustelids such as the pine marten. In the Mariendal nature reserve and the Grafelijkheidsduinen, Scottish Highlanders and Konik horses provide grazing, creating a wide variety of vegetation. Rare orchids such as the Platanthera bifolia can be found here. The purple rietorchis is a successful species, particularly in Mariendal.

Dunes and beach

The dunes and beach are a resting place for many migratory birds, but many species breed here too. The wheatear, a species on the Red List that is highly dependent on our dune areas, breeds in deserted rabbit holes. Not only the wheatear but stock doves, sheldducks and sometimes jackdaws also like to breed in an old hole. The clever fox, who has learned to dig open rabbit holes, is a threat to these birds. Aside from birds, fox also eat rabbits. This magnificent animal can be found in the early morning hours or in the evening at dusk. During the day you have the opportunity to see rabbits. Hares are more common in the low polders behind the dunes. Hares have black hanging ears that make them easy to recognise.

The mudflats

The Wadden area along the Den Helder coast is an important place for migratory birds. For many birds from the north, the Wadden Sea is the first assembly point in their flight of up to 5000 kilometres. The birds arrive here with a single goal: to eat! During low tide, birds such as the red knot, dunlin, bar-tailed godwit, oystercatcher and spoonbill seek food. When the water is high, they depend on high water refuge areas such as the marshes of Balgzand, ‘De Razende Bol’, as well as the Balgzand polder and Mariendal. A quiet hiker is likely to see these magnificent birds here. If you are looking for that one beautiful image of these mudflat birds, book the photo hut in the Balgzand polder. You can also take a mudflat walk with volunteers from ‘t Kuitje nature information centre from the Wadden Sea Society and the Landscape North Holland Foundation. During the walk you will learn more about the food of the birds in the silty mudflats, such as clams, lugworms and smews. You can also view the special plants of the seabed, such as sea lavender and marsh samphire. 

The woodlands

Walking through the Donkere Duinen you may notice that these woodlands mainly consist of black pines. These pines do not look very viable, especially on the seafront of the woodlands. The salty sea breeze affects the trees. Slowly but surely, dead pines are replaced by deciduous trees. The first pine marten was seen in these woodlands in 2013. The chance of encountering this animal is small. They are shy and timid and inhabit a large territory. As early as February, a large group of herons start building their nests at various places in the woods. The birds can easily be seen but mainly heard from the trails. A good view of this colony of birds can be acquired especially in the trees surrounding the entrance to the Hengstepad on the northern side of the woods. Once the winter is over, low deposits and sunken buckets can be found on the roadside next to the woods (and further on along the dunes). The toads, awakened by the heat, leave their hibernation site in the dunes and woods for the Mariendal wetlands. Voluntary Working Group Landscape Management Den Helder monitors the buckets every morning and provides a safe crossing for natterjack toads, among others. Every spring, De Helderse Vallei organises an activity in which children can help with this crossing. Please consult our calendar for details! Text on the calendar is provided in Dutch since all our activities are offered in Dutch. 

De Helderse Vallei

You can also meet all sorts of animals at De Helderse Vallei! You can pet various animals at the children’s farm. 'Wild' animals can also be found on the grounds of De Helderse Vallei, where special spots have been designated:

  • There is a Wild Flower Garden with plants that attract butterflies.
  • There is a bird garden where birds and other animals find a resting place. The bird garden has a swallow nesting box and a hallow tree in which a bee colony lives. There are various feeding places and a hillock specially equipped for hedgehogs. The bird garden can be viewed from a hill on the property.
  • Insect hotels can be found next to the Wild Flower Garden and in the bird garden. The insect hotels shelter small animals such as solitary wasps from the wind and rain.
  • Scattered around the grounds are various nesting boxes that are suspended for birds and bats. There is an oystercatcher that has been building its nest on the moss roof of the Visitors’ Centre since the opening.
  • The Visitors’ Centre has a sighting board where you can record the last special sighting. It is also possible to look up a personal, unknown sighting in the books at our library. 
  • Would you like to head out into nature and birdwatch? Borrow a pair of binoculars at our reception desk. Click here for more information. 

More information can also be found at 

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De Helderse Vallei has been realized thanks to the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe invests in rural areas.