Belgian Garden Birdwatch: 06-07 Feb 2021

While we wait with great anticipation for spring, the birds seem to be a step ahead, and are singing away as if they can already feel the soft rays of sunshine and the surge of new growth. These photos were taken before today’s snow. I did try to take some snowy pics but they turned out grainy – too much noise due to a high ISO to make up for poor light. Still got a lot to learn.

This weekend is Belgium’s annual garden birdwatch, which we have participated in for a few years now. Organised by the wildlife charity Natagora, anyone in Belgium can take part: there’s more info on their website. Here are a few of our regular avian visitors:

1 Blue tits: little colonies scamper energetically around the feeders, flitting in and out at great speed. Catching them on camera can be tricky!

Blue tit
Blue tit

2 Robin: as lovely for the red breast (or orange breast really?) as for his piercing and melodic song. These fellows have a reputation for aggressively guarding their territory.


3 Starling: hanging around in boistrous, noisy groups of four to six, these remind me of a pack of adolescent youths, sauntering around like they own the place, yet awkward and definitely spotty too. We have a pair that usually nest in the eves.


4 Blackbird: the female here looks a bit like a song thrush, but has more indistinct spots on the breast. There are a couple of males around too, possibly vying for her attention, though in this photo she doesn’t look too happy about it. It’s good to see them around, given that their numbers were in serious decline due to the Usutu virus.

Female blackbird

5 Wood pigeon: their cooing in the trees around here is a frequent and soothing background sound. I think they have a lovely plummage.

Wood pigeon

6 Rose-ringed parakeet: they are back and up to their usual tricks! Looks like this one dropped his sunflower seed in the water. The legend goes that a zoo-keeper in Brussels set them free to make this sometimes grey city more colourful. They have bred very successfully, and there are several garrulous flocks of them around the place. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are responsible for eating the buds on my apple tree.


7 Greater spotted Woodpecker. A tap-tap-tapping usually alerts me to his presence up in the mature trees that overhang the garden. It’s always a real treat to see him.

Apart from the above, we had flocks of chaffinches, greenfinches and a dunnock today. All in all, a good year for birds, with higher numbers than the previous two.

10 thoughts on “Belgian Garden Birdwatch: 06-07 Feb 2021

  1. So, also snow in Brussels 🙂 If you feel insecure about photographing in difficult situations, you can still use the automatic mode for the time being to take the photo a second time if necessary. Then you can see the difference (and if desired compare the settings in the EXIF file ​​of the photo).
    Nice that you participated in the bird count. I saw the parakeets in Meise. The Brussels parks are full of it 🙂
    Keep it warm and safe and have a nice evening.

    1. Thanks Rudi, I was feeling a bit sad about the birds in the snow photos. The problem is I need to be on Shutter priority mode, because the birds move so fast, otherwise they will come out blurred. But of course Shutter speed affects aperture, so I had to compensate with the highest ISO available on my (old) camera (6,400). If I set the camera to ISO auto fixed range, the photo came out black. If I just went to the full Auto mode, the birds would come out blurred with their movement. I guess a better camera will deal with ‘noise’ from high ISO levels better. It was a challenging session!

  2. What a lovely variety, Sel! We have the Starlings too (not sure what country doesn’t lol), but your others are different from their U.S. cousins. Your Robin is so cute and adorable, ours is fierce-looking and darker colors. The Blue Tits’ coloring is stunning!

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