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Birding in Belgium on December?

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Old Saturday 27th September 2008, 09:43   #1
stefano t63
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Smile Birding in Belgium on December?

I am going to spend a few days in Machelen at the beginning of December to visit some friends of mine.
I will rent a car and I would like to reserve one or two days for birding, is anyone giving some informations about sites worth of a visit on the Nordsee coast?
I know only Het Zwin but I've been there in summer and I don't know what species could be present there in winter (a part form feral birds of course).
What about Zeebrugge harbour? Is it an accessible site? Are there other tydal areas or estuaries with some wintering birds?
Thanks in advance.
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Old Thursday 16th October 2008, 18:58   #2
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There are 2 Machelens I know of, one near Brussels, the other near Ghent (Deinze area).
There is only 1 smallish estuary in Belgium in Nieuwpoort, although the Zwin is also a similar environment. So for big estuaries the south shore of the Westerschelde (in the Netherlands) is closest, or you can make a complete daytrip around de Dutch Delta area, a popular place for Belgian birders in the winter.
Uitkerkse polders is also a good place in the winter.
http://www.uitkerkse-polder.be/startpagina.html
The Zeebrugge harbour has limited access in theory, but birders are usually tolerated in the not yet developped area's, just carry a big scope as proof.

Are there any specific species you are looking for?

Also keep an eye on
http://waarnemingen.be/index.php which is the new brother of the established
http://waarneming.nl/index.php
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Old Thursday 16th October 2008, 22:27   #3
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Thanks Erwin for your reply. I'll stay in Machelen close to Brussels.
I would be very interested in waders in general, and nordic passerines like snow bunting, lapland bunting, and twite. Sometimes they use to winter in harbours that's why I'm thinking about Zeebrugge, but I am not sure they are regular there on december.
I would like to take some pictures also, therefore places where it's possible to get sufficiently close to birds would be better.
Stefano
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Old Tuesday 21st October 2008, 20:38   #4
erwin
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All three of these nordic passerines are, while regular, scarce and good finds in Belgium. Lapland bunting is more a migrant in october, less a winter visitor. Snow bunting is easier to find then Twite for me, not because of numbers, but because they are more predictable (sea side of dikes, thin vegetation or debris between stone or concrete pavements), and they are a lot easier to recognize then twite .
Since your starting point is near Brussels, I would still consider the Dutch delta, the south east part is actually closer then the Belgian coast.
There is also a wealth of info for birding in the Netherlands, Belgium still has some catching up to do in that regard.
For exemple distribution maps of snow bunting and twite:
http://waarneming.nl/soort/maps/329
http://waarneming.nl/soort/maps/249

Back to Belgium, other interesting places near a harbour, Antwerp in this case, is the following string of recent "harbour compensation" nature reserves:
http://www.natuurpuntwal.be/natuurgebieden/index.htm
These are my personal favorites in this list:
http://waarnemingen.be/gebied/info/28704
http://waarnemingen.be/gebied/info/29908 (follow Haandorpweg left to the dock)
http://waarnemingen.be/gebied/info/29902 (perhaps better in spring)
Not a reserve, but while you are in the neighborhood:
http://waarnemingen.be/gebied/info/29880 (follow the dirt track to the dock)

Waders are still around in good numbers, but less species then during migration. Ducks and geese are normally the highlight in winter, and are easier to photograph. For photography, the northermost hide of Uitkerkse polders can be good (best light in morning, backlight in evening)
This reserve has a good hide:
http://waarnemingen.be/gebied/info/29934 (southwest corner, follow the dirt track parallel to the main road, best light in afternoon)

The south shore of the Westerschelde is a long time favorite of mine, it was only a half hour away where I used to live. The area I visit most is between Hoofdplaat and the harbour of Terneuzen. Had snow bunting there last year. There is a road along the dike, if you climb on the dike every few km you get a good overview, it's easy to find the good spots that way.
The Braakman nature reserve is nearby, and worth a visit. This part of the reserve has a hiding wall on the shore, with photo opportunities:
http://waarneming.nl/gebied/info/18398

Hope you enjoy it, birders tend to be pretty actieve in the winter here, lots to see.

Erwin
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Old Wednesday 22nd October 2008, 21:19   #5
stefano t63
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Thank you Erwin for your precious information, it was very kind of you.
Hope now to find a decent weather, will report on BF about my trip.
Stefano
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Old Monday 1st December 2008, 18:08   #6
fbeeldens
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Hello Stefano,

In case you're interested: there's currently a long legged buzzard hanging out in the Harbor of Antwerpen (not too far from some of the compensation reserves).

cheers,

filip
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Old Thursday 4th December 2008, 20:03   #7
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Thanks Filip, one day I'll visit the Antwerpen sorroundings and the Westerschelde and another day I'll try the snowy owl in Uitkerke...hope there is not too much fog on the road.
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