The Netherlands is known for its excellent water management. The country is protected from storms and high sea levels by an impressive dike and a complex of sluices that keep everyone safe and people’s houses dry. But that doesn’t mean that floods cause no casualties.

For wildlife outside the main dike, every storm with the combination of spring tide is a struggle for life, especially on the salt marches in the Wadden Sea, an area in the north of the country. These salt marches surrounding the Wadden sea are flooded once in a while. This process helps them grow and keeps them in place by leaving clay particles behind. These floods usually occur during spring tide. Without a storm, it’s just a peaceful sea covering the land and giving animals all the time they need to make it to higher grounds and return when water levels drop.

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Silence before the storm

This picture shows you the way it looks without the sea covering it. The land is used for cattle during the summer and the round dike has a freshwater pool inside so animals have drinking water. The next photo shows the same dike surrounding the pool, only during a storm. A combination of northwestern wind and spring tide pushes the sea level up in the area, covering the entire salt marsh. Water comes with an enormous force and tempo, killing thousands of rodents.

Same area during the flood

You can see the hares sitting on the edge of the dike waiting for water levels to drop. These are the storms I have been trying to photograph over the past 7 years. Not an easy job being in the storm with cameras that don’t like salt, sand, and especially the combination of the two.

The edge of the salt marsh and the sea

Storm hits the coast

Water entering the salt marsh

Over all these years, I have seen some amazing things happening. My main “problem” in the storms has always been the same: where do I want to be during them? It’s difficult to move and photograph while the water is coming towards you. It moves with such speed that I usually have about 15 minutes to capture all the photographs I can. That’s also the main reason why one storm is not enough to get all the images I need.

The fox has made it to the fence and is now hanging on

Every storm has left me with a different story: a fox that made it to a fence but not the coast, leaving him to hang on to life for an hour; the unusual shot of a short-eared owl that had to leave the area slowly flying in the storm and then getting caught by a gull in midair! A very rare sight! Moments that you will encounter once in your lifetime.

A short-eared owl has to leave the area

Sadly, it gets caught in mid-air by a great black-backed gull