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.
Very good initiative, but be aware for your neighbours’ cat.
By us it’s almost impossible to feed the birds, or they become the food.
I just looked to the website from Natuurpunt and their advice is as follows:
If you do not have cats:
Span one or several (clothesline) threads 10 to 30 cm above your fences. Cats can not walk over and can difficult climb over. This way you can repel cats from your garden.
Make your garden inaccessible or uncomfortable for cats. Example by prickly May and Firethorn to plant in places where cats from entering your property, by prickly prunings (or hazelnut shells) between the plants lay or dense groundcover to plant, so that the bottom closing up.
If you have cats in your garden:
Provide dense and thorny bushes in your garden, which provides protection and also birds nesting.
Perform an open, uncluttered space, so that the birds are aware of the cat coming. Place any mesh to the feeding place, this gives them extra time to fly away.
Enjoy your bird watching,
Excellent advice Jacques, thanks! I too have trouble with cats. I’ve also had to buy cages to put my seed and nut feeders in, to prevent the parakeets from monopolizing them and eating everything.
Hi Denzil, I’ve sent the details to my sister who lives in Ixelles so that she can put my nephew on counting duty. I think they have a bit of a parakeet issue sometimes too. The presence of their large dog means that they do not however have a cat issue ……
I like the shot of the robin, and the first photo looks like kids, looking in a candy store window.