Today’s post is a little different to normal. It’s not about Discovering Belgium but about Discovering Belgium’s Birds! During the weekend of February 2 and 3, 2013, birdwatchers across Belgium will be taking part in the annual census of garden birds. It’s organised by the Flemish nature conservation society Natuurpunt and its French-speaking equivalent Natagora, and the statistics gathered give a useful picture of the current status of garden birds in Belgium. For example, the information can help ecologists spot a declining species, and take the first steps to aid recovery.
If you want to take part, it’s simple; and it’s particularly fun for children. Simply record the highest number of each bird species seen at any one time. It can be in your garden or on your balcony, and either on the Saturday or Sunday, or both. You don’t have to spend all weekend staring out of your window; an hour is sufficient. The morning is the best time to look, when the birds are out and about, feeding after a cold winter’s night. But remember — you should note the maximum number you see at any one time. So if for example you see 5 chaffinches at nine o’clock on Saturday and 7 at ten o’clock on Sunday, you don’t write down 12, but 7.
You can download a form which you can fill in with your observations from Natuurpunt or Natagora, where you also send your results. If you are not sure how to tell a blue tit from a great tit, or a house sparrow from a tree sparrow (or what they are called in Dutch or French), don’t worry, you can also download a brochure from the same sites with colour photographs of the 24 birds you are most likely to see.
If you’ve been feeding the birds throughout the winter you probably already have regular visitors to your bird table. If not, it’s not too late to string up a bag of peanuts or a fat ball, or scatter some seeds, all of which can be obtained from your local supermarket or pet food supplies shop. I get my supplies from two sources: Ronsman, Kruisstraat 134, 3070 Kortenberg is a great shop packed full of all kinds of animal, bird and pet food and supplies. He says he has over 70 types of bird seed! I also buy online from Vivara — their black sunflower seeds are particularly appreciated by my blue, great, coal and crested tits, goldfinches and greenfinches.
Any questions – just drop me a line. And let me know how you get on.
P.S. For some ideas how to keep cats away from the birds, read Jacques’ comment.