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 Рtoo 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.

Robin

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.

Starling

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.

Parakeet

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.

Six on Saturday: 28 Nov 2020

I haven’t done much gardening this week, despite having had some lovely sunny days. There are still a few jobs to do, but there’s no sense of urgency now that the bulbs have all been planted, and I haven’t felt the urge to prune anything! I have been out taking photos though, and teaching myself a bit more about that. I may be getting a tripod for Christmas, and a book about digital photography, that might help.

Here are my Six on Saturday featuring wildlife, exotic and native, and a few plants of course. Join the tribe over at The Propagator’s blog to take part or just have a look.

1 Ring-necked Parakeets. Our exotic visitors are back. I have mixed feelings. They definitely add a splash of colour. However, they tend to hog the feeders, so that the little birds that come – tits, sparrows, finches, the robin – have to wait until they’ve gone. They are also very noisy and hang around in groups. Most importantly, they are a threat to indigenous birds, because they take over nesting and resting places. Back in 2014, there were 12,000 in Brussels. I imagine there are a lot more today. I will have to shoo them off.

2 Smaller native birds. This is more like it. Lots of blue tits and coal tits around, eating from the feeders and also nibbling some berries in the Viburnum bush. The bird bath is at their disposal in the glade, which is actually looking relatively pretty at this time of year.

3 Fern and Heuchera. Onto some plants. Most of the colour is fading out of the garden, but I quite like this toned-down combination of dying Ostrich fern leaf and resting Heuchera ‘Indian Summer Cranberry’. Both cope admirably with the dry conditions caused by the roots of the big trees nearby. I have another Heuchera, ‘Caramel’, in a pot, which would be nice planted out here.

4 Hakonechloa ‘All Gold’. I can never remember the name of this little tussocky grass, I had to look it up again. How on earth to pronounce it? It’s looking scruffy right now but I like the warm yellow colour and can’t get enough of it in my east-facing border, it brightens it up after the sun has gone. I want it to grow fast so I can divide it and add more in.

5 Miscanthus sinensis ‘Malepartus’. Still my favourite grass, with the seed heads now looking very fluffy. I only have one in a pot, I think I’ll have to divide this one too.

6 Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’. We haven’t had any proper frosts yet, but this Fatsia is nonetheless sporting a dapper ‘frosted look’. It’s in one of the Italian pots on the decking/terrace.

That’s it for this week, I hope we will all continue to find inspiration in our gardens and around us in nature to carry on blogging (or just carry on!). I intend to head out to the lakes at the edge of the forest with my camera to see what I can do.