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Peter B's Second Big Year 2023


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Sounds great and definitely something to look forward to!

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Sounds fun. Enjoy the anticipation.

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Dave Williams

8 hours direct flight is very appealing! No point in hanging on to the money too long, I say enjoy it while you can, who knows where the world is going right now.

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Thanks for taking us on such lovely birding walks, despite the weather! 


You're also forcing me to dust off my really rusty and very basic Dutch - or should it be Flemish in your case? Your mus is our mossie, and your slobeend is our slopeend! 







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Thanks @PeterHG@Galana , @Dave Williams@michael-ibkand especially @Kalaharikindfor your kind reactions to my safari plans for December ; your Dutch may be rusty , my Afrikaans is limited to the double denial  ‘ek sal nie wegloop nie’, ‘dit maak nie saak nie’. :D

In the meantime until August and my first safari to Kenya  I am , weather permitting , continuing my birding walks and that's were I have been unlucky recently to say the least : but last Monday before visiting my mother I went to the Gavers were I was already on the 2nd of March and the day started sunny but before noon I was surprised by hail and even sleet showers !











And then I saw what looked like Canada geese but it was the one in the front that caught my attention


And zooming in I discovered what's called an African goose , a breed of domestic goose derived from the wild swan goose (Anser cygnoides). Despite the name African goose, they are not actually from Africa but are descended from the Chinese goose ; I am hesitant to add it to my collection for now and will leave this to the wisdom of those who are the guardian angels of the rules  :lol:


On Tuesday I suddenly decided to broaden my horizon and this may well have been the best thing I did until now in my short career as a birder ; when I was recently in 

my favorite Vogelenzangreserve I met a birder and ornithologist who had been recently to "Groot Broek " , 64 hectare of restored freshwater tidal area on the River Durme in Waasmunster and spoke almost lyrical about it showing me some pictures he had taken there ; so early in the morning with a frost and a bitterly cold wind I drove to that place and parked my car next to restaurant De Koolputten  ...






The Sigmaplan of the Flemish Government intends to return Groot Broek and Klein Broek (Great Marsh and Lesser Marsh),originally swampy areas to the river Durme so that it has a little more breathing room. In fact for the moment only Groot Broek is accessible to the public (and the birders) and next year works will start there as well !

The mud flats and salt marshes attracts a lot of birds. Birds that you could see here , depending on the season , are Common Shelduck, Garganey, Little Grebe, Snipe, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Great Cormorant, Spoonbill, Bluethroat, European Stonechat and Reed Bunting.


The first thing I noticed were the large number of pheasants , literally all over the place and not shy at all !! 




I met two very friendly ladies with their caddy and photogear ( see below) and they immediately proposed to help me find my way and started to install their tripods , impressive and expensive cameras ( noticed a Sony A1 ) and even more impressive lenses : my RX 10 IV looked tiny compared to theirs and they waved to another birder standing a bit further with even more impressive materials: his name was Mark , he spoke with a local accent and can you believe it was present every day on location

( except when it rains heavily he told me or when doing wedding photography ) .


I suddenly heard the sound of the Cetti's Warbler again which I remembered hearing at the parking and told him that I would love to have a photo of that bird but he smiled and told me it took him more than four years to do so : you hear them but you can't see them he said , so I wisely decided not to think about that anymore ...

I went for a walk on my own to find some waterbirds 












And found a new one for this year : 

79° Euroasian Spoonbill ( Platalea leucorodia - Lepelaar ) Groot Broek Waasmunster 28th of March 2023 : 






I went back to my companions happy with one trophy but  heard that sound again a few yards behind me , slowly returned and there he was : 

80° Cetti's Warbler ( Cettia cetti- Cetti's Zanger) Groot Broek Waasmunster 28th of March 2023  




A bit further and five minutes later this local speciality : 

81° Bluethroat ( Luscinia svecica - Blauwborst ) Groot Broek Waasmunster 28th of March 2023 : 






Mark and the two ladies wouldn't believe me until  I showed them the photos : I stayed on the same spot where Mark had put his tripod for the next two hours hoping for some more luck ...




Plenty of Goldfinch around but also ...

82° Common Stonechat ( Saxicola rubicola- Roodborsttapuit ) Groot Broek Waasmunster 28th of March 2023 : 




And my second Cetti's and Bluethroat of the day !




And just before leaving this one not clear at all and a mystery for me so advice would be appreciated ;)


Needless to say I will go back ...

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Wow! Well done. Have never seen a blue throat and have never photographed a Cetti’s :ph34r:

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Dave Williams

The last shot is a Bluethroat.

I saw a Cetti's out in the open last Saturday, it stayed on the branch for about 1 second before vanishing again. I didn't have time to even lift my camera. Well done for getting an image!


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Lovely Bluethroat. Always tough getting a Cetti´s, well done!

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Thanks a lot Michael ;  the light was favorable for the Bluethroat just at the right moment ! 

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I have taken thousands of pictures already this year and kept most of them ; glad I did because having a look at this one taken in Vogelenzang early February even if the light was very bad and the picture as well , the bird is recognizable which is a conditio sine qua non to be accepted : 


83° Siskin ( Carduelis spinus - Sijs ) Vogelenzangbeek Anderlecht  5th of February 2023 : 


And then yesterday I went back to Vogelenzang and looked at the pictures thinking initially that I had nothing special or new as I had taken a lot of them in bad light again 

or showing only the back like this Chiffchaff :



Or this one which is without doubt a : 

84° Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla - Zwartkop) Vogelenzangbeek Anderlecht 29th of March 2023: 



I will try to have a front view soon :D

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Well done on the Bluethroat and Cettis. Right place, right time will always rule,  whatever lens you are looking through.

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Well done with the Bluethroat and the Cetti’s.

You are getting a good return for the effort you are making

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Thanks a lot Fred and Tony ; today I stayed at home and made some time to post on safaritalk  because my back is starting to feel the effects of the recent efforts :D

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Some good rewards for your visit to the area! I know the Bluethroats have returned to our local area, but I haven’t seen one yet ( mainly due to wind and rain). I’ve heard the Cetti’s but, of course, no photo, so wel done on that!

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Thanks Peter ; rain is keeping me away again from the birds as you have noticed but if I may believe the forecast there is hope on the horizon 😉


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As rain is keeping me home for the third day in a row , I looked into my collection from the last three months of birds and landscape photos and started with the walk on Wednesday the 29th in Vogelenzang to find only my second sighting this year of the Green Woodpecker , still hoping to find that Lesser Spotted that I would love to add to

my collection :rolleyes:





The day before I did that fantastic walk in Groot Broek Waasmunster and was still hoping to show you a picture of the Reed Bunting , another local speciality which I thought I had seen but alas not for the moment ; but I found something else I had at first mistakenly taken for a Black-headed Gull , as he was amongst them which he often is and he is a permanent resident in Broek as well ( light green )and breeds in the Antwerp harbour area , close-by ( dark green ) as the map below shows




85° Mediterranean Gull ( Larus melanocephalus - Zwartkopmeeuw)  Groot Broek Waasmunster 28th of March 2023 :the one in the middle ...


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Monday is Momday and before I went to visit her ,  I had a quick stop at the Gavers ; it was a glorious day and you never know what you could see in early spring :



They say that one swallow does not make spring but what about two :D

86° Barn Swallow( Hirundo rustica- Boerenzwaluw) Gavers Geraardsbergen 3th of April 2023 : 






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On Tuesday the 4th of April , a glorious day with a perfect blue sky , I left Dilbeek early at 7 15 : I had another hint from a birder in Vogelenzang Anderlecht on Sunday to visit the " Blankaart " a  freshwater marsh with reeds, willows, lots of canals and shallow open water creating perfect habitat full of lowland marshland bird species in all seasons. It is situated along the road from Diksmuide to Ieper and easily found when you look for the park with large trees when you exit the village of Woumen on your right. 

I took me an hour and 15 minutes to get there by the E40 and I was lucky because there was congestion on the other side of the highway 



Lots of herons in the heronry in summer, including the Spoonbill and most summers Great Bittern. But it is the reedbed birds that are the real prices here: Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Savi's Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Bluethroat, Bearded Tit, Marsh Harrier all breed here. Lots of ducks and shorebirds, including one of the last strongholds of Black-tailed Godwit and Eurasian Curlew can be seen displaying. The area also holds Common Quail, Spotted Crake and Water Rail and in wet years sometimes Corn Crake can be heard! The park and scattered Poplar stands still hold Golden Oriole and lots of warbler species as well.








Recently a new gateway to the best places is being build and new watch towers are already in place and there are a few hides ; only problem was that recent heavy rains had made the access to a large part of the area nearly impossible and even with boots ( which I hadn't put on) it was hazardous to say the least so I immediately realized this would be a first visit to get the taste of things ...





The nature reserve is located in the lowest part of the Yzer valley at 2,6 meters above sea level and consists of 50 ha shallow pond, 20 ha reed marsh and 300 ha hayfields and meadows : Blankaart means " to be covered with water" 


The first bird I saw was this "Long-tailed Tit" but I noticed the head was almost but not completely white , so probably it was not the Aegithalos caudatus caudatus 

(Northern Group) that stays over sometimes in winter but anyway it was different than those I have seen until now .




I went into a hide and watch tower already there since 2001 :




First I was on my own but later a whole family with children came in as in Belgium the Flemish have a two week Eastern Holidays since Monday ; the sound of the Cetti's Warbler was everywhere just in the bushes below me and I tried to see one but instead I found the inevitable Chiffchaff : 


But also this Eurasian Blackcap much better in view than in Vogelenzang on the 29th of March 


And his partner with the chestnut cap : 


And then a bird I had narrowly missed last week in Groot Broek

87° Reed Bunting( Emberiza schoeniclus- Rietgors) Blankaart 4th of April 2023 : 




Not easy to spot waterbirds even with a 600mm lens from where I was sitting ..




But at least I could capture this lovely scene :


Looking to the right I saw this bird of prey flying in 


88° Marsh Harrier ( Circus aeruginosus- Bruine Kiekendief ) Blankaart 4th of April 2023 : 






After leaving the hide I continued walking but was then stopped by the terrain conditions and wisely decided to return and stay on firm ground for the rest of the morning 


Blackcap everywhere , male and female 






And yesterday in Ganshoren Marsh I saw him again just in front of me 





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That certainly looks like a rewarding area!

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I envy you the number of good birdy places a short drive away.

Your LTT is northern caudatus but intermediates also occur..

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Thanks Peter and Fred @PeterHG& @Galanaand as I am again forced to stay inside by heavy April showers , I thought it was about time to enlighten the method I am using since the start of my second BY


First of all even if those long walks are time consuming , sometimes hard and difficult and even frustrating when you don't find what you are looking for it is in my opinion at least , a very rewarding activity and you can't compare it with photographing birds sometimes in their hundreds from the "comfort" of your safari vehicle unless you are seeing them on foot of course when the adrenaline of being out in the bush surrounded by wild animals adds to the occasion ! 


Secondly even if this topic is about the sheer numbers , communicate and inform others about the background of the sightings is for me essential , especially at home because on safari you'll have most of the time a TR to give more details ; moreover it will serve as  a memory aid in the future when you are looking back to those marvelous walks and remember seeing birds for the first time :rolleyes:


Finally I started with the intention only to visit the main birdingplaces in Brussels and surroundings apart from de Wolfsputten and the Thaborberg in Dilbeek ; until now I visited Wilderbos in Berchem ,Domaine des Silex , only open on Saturday , in Watermaal-Bosvoorde in miserable conditions , Rood Klooster at the edge of the Sonian Forest  in Oudergem several times with those Mandarine Ducks , the large Tervuren Park , Neerpede and Vogelenzang in Anderlecht close to Dilbeek that I can call almost my second home  , the  Ganshoren Marsh a few times and probably more in spring , Plateau Engeland with that Crested Tit near the Ukkel Cemetery , the lovely Tenbosch Park in Elsene with the smallest of them all the Firecrest and Goldcrest .

There were two other Parks I visited briefly but didn't talk about until now and I had my reasons : the hilly Brugmann Park in Elsene is the only Park in Brussels where dogs can run freely from 8 to 10 in the morning and the noise made it impossible to take decent pictures when I was there and in the areas between the university campuses of ULB or VUB ( my old university ) in Etterbeek  I was suddenly halted by a guard that I was on private property and there were children present , so photographing birds was forbidden :(


After visiting Rietbeemd the Gavers and Raspaillebos close to my mothers I started to broaden my horizon : Liedekerke Hertigem Forest followed by Wellemeersen reserve and that long walk in the Central Dender Valley ; the long weekend in Zeeland with Waterdunen and the Blikken and lastly Groot Broek with the Bluethroat and Cetti's and Blankaart but the to do list is endless as you see below so more is yet to come ..



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5 hours ago, BRACQUENE said:

there were children present , so photographing birds was forbidden :(

what a very sad reflection of the world we now live in.


Thanks for your comprehensive explanation of your modus operandi.

And don't mind the April showers. Just keep on looking  for the Bluebird and listening to his song.



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Unexpectedly I returned this morning to Groot Broek Waasmunster as my son Willem was interested to see the place ; no traffic early Saturday so not even an hour to arrive and again the sound of the Cetti's Warbler welcomed us on the parking Koolputten as despite the overcast weather spring was definitely in the air ...:)




And after spotting the female Reed Bunting in the Blankaart I had a nice sighting of the male : 




And the female Stonechat ...






And of course the glorious Bluethroat : 




But also by far my best view of the Cetti's until now ; they are literally everywhere in Groot Broek to Willem's delight  !!





Happy Eastern to everybody !

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