This weekend I will be counting birds. NO, not the two-legged kind, but the feathered.
I've been doing this for years, at the request of our national bird protection society. Every year, somewhere in January, they kindly ask everyone who wants to, to count the birds they spot in their garden.
What I see here in the suburbs of Hellevoetsluis is the common garden variety, nothing spectacular. The photo above this blog is a good example. The feeder is full of what we call 'Groenlingen', or Carduelis chloris (Greenfinch). We don't see that many of them, really, so it is always an event when they arrive.
As much as I would like to see something like this (photo above), I know I will not. My chances of seeing an owl in my garden are approx. as good as winning the lottery.
But: when I am patient (and I am), there's a good chance I will see at least 10 species.
Our largest group of house guests (my husband has built them some cosy bungalows)are the blue tits and great tits (love that name, much more exciting than koolmees and pimpelmees), Parus caeruleus and Parus major. They brighten up my days, with their busy-busy behaviour and funny song.
And then we have our sparrows, both ordinary (Passer domesticus)and the ones with the white ring around their neck (Passer montanus), making them very distinguished, and the hedge-sparrows (Prunella modularis). They used to be far more numerous, they are struggling these days because of all those idiots who put their entire garden full of paving stones surrounded by a wooden fence. Not to mention what that does to the hedgehogs...so I won't.
Of course we have the robin (Erithacus rubecula, much smaller than the American species), the wren (Troglodytes troglodytes - wonderful name!) and the blackbird (Turdus merula). And the thrush (what peculiar names the British have given their birds!) Turdus philomelos.
When we are really lucky we see the redwing (Turdus iliacus) and fieldfare (Turdus pilaris), but they only visit when it turns very cold in Scandinavia.
My absolute favourites are those tiny long-tailed tits (Aegithalos caudatus), which we rank under the "mezen", but they aren't called Parus, so that makes it bloody confusing in my opinion. They always travel in loud groups, like my pupils at school, natter natter natter, and let's all go together to visit the caff.
And we get the somewhat larger birds as well like the cheeky magpie (Pica pica), the feisty jay (Garrulus glandarius) and the ordinary crow (Corvus corone corone) and many many jackdaws (Corvus monedula)who think nothing of using our ghost birch as a meeting place before they take wing in their hundreds.
But once in a while we are extremely lucky and we see the green woodpecker (Picus viridis). We have a friend who is so very keen on birds, and every time we have this woodpecker in the garden our friend misses it...And so far we haven't managed to photograph it. We get the smaller red and white variety as well (Dendrocopos minor).
Right, have you been keeping count?
I will be sitting in my window seat, cup of tea and notebook close at hand, at dawn this weekend. Wish me well.
Oh..okay...just for fun then...