Belgium may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of bird watching tours. But despite the fact that this charming little country has much stronger associations with its medieval history and its production of delicious chocolate, it also has a fascinating array of avian life that makes bird watching tours to Belgium an excellent choice.
Birds of the Belgium Coast
The coastal area of Belgium is perhaps one of the best places to spot the migratory birds that come here in winter. The flat plains that border Holland, known as the Uitkerke Polders, coupled with the Zwin Nature Reserve, provide ideal conditions for the 30,000 Pink-Footed Geese, as well as the Great White-Fronted Geese that come to winter here. Interestingly, the Zwin Nature Reserve once connected the North Sea with Bruges, and it was only when a storm broke through the Flemish coast in 1134 that the current tidal channel was formed.
This tidal channel opened up a host of trading opportunities for Bruges and, as a result, the city flourished. Today it is unusable, however, because of the silting that has dammed up the waterway, but it is still a haven for birds, including Red-breasted Geese, Hen Harriers and Short-eared Owls in particular, and plenty of beautiful salt resistant flora as well.
Outside the wetland area, in the surrounding low-lying fields and meadows, sightings of Snow Buntings and Lapland Buntings both make an interesting addition to bird watching tours.
Birding in the South
The southern part of Belgium, the Ardennes, offers the birding enthusiast even more opportunities to get the binoculars out in the hopes of sighting some of the more unusual avian species. The stunning countryside of the south contrasts dramatically with the more industrial north, and those who visit are greeted with beautiful undulating hillsides, forests, and lush valleys that are conducive to the habitation of many species.
Bird watching tours often take in some of the lovely rivers and streams in the area, including the Ourthe and the Semois; here birders may expect to be graced by the presence of Raven, Black Storks and Dippers.
The Ardennes opens up a whole world of exciting nature watching opportunities, and the woodlands are home to Woodpeckers and the elusive Eagle Owl that can often be sighted here. Ever heard the unique call of the Grey-headed Woodpecker? In Hertogenwald visitors may be treated to an instance of the magical call before continuing on to Hautes Fagnes, an area of large open moorlands regularly interspersed with spruce forests. Birders can expect sightings of the Crested Tit, the Nutcracker and perhaps even the Black Grouse here.
Bird watching tours in Belgium offer so many opportunities for the avid birdwatcher; they can also spend time exploring the wonderful city of Bruges, a highlight on a trip to the country.