The Zoologist/4th series, vol 3 (1899)/Issue 694/Notes on the Birds of Belgium, Aplin
NOTES ON THE BIRDS OF BELGIUM.
ByO.V. Aplin, F.L.S.
I spent a few days in June, 1898 (2nd–10th), in the valley of the Meuse, staying at Dinant, and exploring the main valley from Houx up to Givet just over the French frontier, and parts of the beautiful valley of the Lesse up to Houyet. As the distribution of birds on the European continent has not been very minutely worked out for English readers, a list of those that I saw may be worth printing in 'The Zoologist.' The valley of the Meuse about Dinant and about as far up the river as Hastière is generally narrow. In places the river is closely hemmed in by high ground, rising sometimes so abruptly as to form towering cliffs inhabited by numerous Jackdaws. At other places the high ground falls back, and leaves space for meadows, a stately château, a farm, or a village. Where the slopes are gradual their sides are covered with scrub wood of hazel, beech, oak, and juniper; and box and other shrubs clothe the broken parts of the cliffs, which are further brightened, except on their smoothest faces, by trailing ivy, yellow lotus, viper's bugloss, campion, marjoram, wallflower, hawkweed, and rock-rose. Fine plants of blue columbine form an attractive feature on stony banks, while the stinking bear's-foot (Helleborus fœtidus), only a doubtful native with us, grows in profusion. Above the valley stretches a rolling, rather bleak arable country, with some resemblance to parts of the Berkshire downs, save that it is ruled here and there with long lines of roadside poplars and pines. Villages nestling among orchards and paddocks are frequent, and the country waved with rye and corn, and was sweet with sainfoin and trefoil. Above Hastière the heights sink away, and the valley spreads out into rich wide meadows, corn fields and orchards, varied by some wooded rising ground. This part of the district is very favourable for many kinds of small birds; at that season it was looking its best, the hawthorns and some late apples in bloom, and the flowery meadows more sweet with the scent of clover than any I had ever noticed elsewhere. Winding valleys leading from the main one penetrate the high-lying land, their sides thickly clothed with woods of oak, elm, ash, and hazel, with alder in the bottoms by the streams, and varied by birch, rowan, beam, and the lines of spruce firs where the roads cut through the woods. The wild and winding valley of the Lesse, with its rapid river now flowing under spreading branches at the foot of wooded slopes, dashing over boulders or washing the base of some cliff, like that on which the Château Walzin is perched; now passing more peacefully through little meadows where the high ground falls back and leaves space for farms and orchards of apple, walnut, and cherry, is not easy to get about in; like all the wooded valleys and scrub-clothed heights, it abounds in Nightingales. I went to Houyet in order to walk through the Royal Forest of Ardenne (now, I believe, turned into a game preserve for the inhabitants of the hotel, once a royal palace) by the glorious road which winds with bold sweeps to the high ground at Sanzinne (about 260 metres). The forest is of oak, birch, hazel, some beech, a kind of elm, ash, and some patches of spruce. Very fine spruces line the road; the undergrowth is very thick, and there is a fair number of large trees. The forest clothes the sides of a valley rising rather steeply from a tiny stream. Where the stream widens out into ornamental water near Houyet, swarms of Edible Frogs (Rana esculenta) were holding high carnival; and on the stony banks of the road, as elsewhere, Lizards were not uncommon on the side which caught the sun. I caught one in another part of Belgium, which appeared to be a brown form of Lacerta muralis. It escaped in my garden here; and I turned up another (the green form), bought in London, to keep it company.
Some of the birds which I did not see in the district are worth remarking upon; for although I may have overlooked some of them, others are, from their habits in early June, so conspicuous, that I do not think I could have failed to detect them had they been present, or present in any but very small numbers. I failed to see the Missel-Thrush, Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat, Longtailed Tit, Nuthatch, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting, Rook, and Kestrel. The Missel-Thrush might have been present, for at that season, with young flown, it is rather a quiet bird. The Nuthatch also becomes much quieter at that season than it is in the spring; I have seen it in October in the woods about La Roche, some thirty miles to the eastward. And the Long-tailed Tit is not usually numerous enough for one to make sure of seeing it during a search of only ten days' duration. The Rook seems to be anything but generally distributed on the Continent. The Kestrel certainly could not have been otherwise than scarce; I expected it would be common about the cliffs. But I hardly think I could have overlooked the other six species. The conspicuous Pied Flycatcher, which to all appearance would have been exactly suited by the hanging woods coming down to a dashing river and orchards in the Lesse valley, is so local in its distribution that one must never wonder at not finding it. But I was astonished not to see the familiar grey friend of our gardens. Gardens there were in abundance, but I did not see a single Spotted Flycatcher in the district; at all events it must have been rare, for its ways make it conspicuous. When staying a few days at Mechelen, later on, I found it in the Botanic Garden there. The Common Redstart would not easily be overlooked, but I did not see it in Belgium; though R. titys was common. The Goldfinch—conspicuous alike in plumage, song, and call-note—I did not meet with; and the Corn Bunting—which one would at first expect to find enlivening the high-lying, open arable land with its skirling song—remained true to its character of a curiously local bird by shunning the land. But, on considering the matter, I remember that there is an absence of low hedges and walls, as of tall thistle and dock, on this well-cultivated field, so that the Corn Bunting would have no suitable perch whereon to alight after one of those wobbling flights which it delights to take, with its legs dangling. Woodpeckers were scarce. I never saw either the Spotted or Barred (the former I saw once at La Roche in October); and though I occasionally heard a Gecinus, I could not even decide for certain upon the species. The Ring Dove and Stock Dove were both scarce; the former curiously so.
Turdus musicus.—Here, as in some other parts of the Continent, a shy forest or woodland species. Three were singing in the upper part of the Forest of Ardenne; and another on the wooded slope of the valley of the Molignée about Montaigle.
T. merula.—Its haunts are similar to those in this country; common.
Saxicola œnanthe.—A pair on high, open ground, near Sanzinne (about 800 feet), perched several times in young walnut trees and an apple tree in an orchard. I saw a female about a marble quarry close to the Meuse below Dinant.
Pratincola rubetra.—Numerous in the meadows along the Meuse, some way above Dinant.
P. rubicola.—Quite common along the Meuse above Dinant; perhaps drawn away from the bushy hillsides and cliffs by the railway and telegraph wires. Also seen in a bushed gorge leading up from Bouvigne.
Ruticilla titys.—Common, and generally distributed in suitable localities. It is quite a house-bird, frequenting even considerable towns; and during this visit to Belgium I only twice saw it away from buildings. In one case an old male sat on a projecting rock on the cliff face a long way from any houses; in the other, a male was perched on a dead branch of a low bush in the middle of the refuse bank at a marble quarry. In Givet three were singing; one of them from the steeply-pitched roof of the church in the middle of the town. At Hastière one sang from the roof of the old inn; and another from the new brewery chimney. At Hermeton-sur-Meuse, a farm—with its odoriferous cowhouses and yard deep in manure, which it loves so well—had its pair, for each pair seems to have its allotted location, and does not, in the country at least, often admit of very near neighbours. When dwelling in a town amid a waste of steep roofs of all sizes and pitched at all angles, they are rather less exclusive. Stately château, vile modern villa, and humble white-walled cottage are alike favoured by this most domestic bird. It dearly loves one of those typical Ardenne villages like Houyet; or long, straight, one-streeted Sommière, where the cowhouse can hardly be distinguished from the owner's green-shuttered dwelling, and the doors of each are alike and side by side, while a rude ladder conducts the hens to a hole in the wall; almost every house is provided with a midden-place in lieu of a front garden, the manure neatly supported by a low wall or a wattle fence. All this results from the almost universal plan of house-feeding the cows, and is to the advantage of the Black Redstart, for flies and other insects swarm. The male occasionally, when flying from one spot to another, finishes its flight with wings thrown up and tail somewhat spread. Seen thus against a dark background it is a pretty object, the red tail being very conspicuous. Although more than one male was located within easy earshot of my bedroom window in Dinant, it was only in the very early hours of the day—before the dog-carts and trolleys and long, narrow country carts began their frightful rattle and din on the sharp-edged rough stones with which the streets are so vilely paved—that I could hear the song well. But if you are awake at dawn, while it is yet too dark to see the birds, you can hear the song to perfection. The song of one bird, written down there, was sometimes "chy wy wy wy wy (quickly) chee e eo," or "chich wich wich tich (quickly) itchyty (confused and internal) cheeo weo dee" (clear and sweet). It is, perhaps, the crystal clearness and brightness of the song, with its rather shrill tone, which makes this pure, sweet song carry so far. And it is this characteristic purity and clearness which constitutes its individuality. It is probable that two broods of young may be reared by some pairs. On June 4th full-fledged young sat with quivering, hardly fullygrown tails, on a heap of ancient stones piled up in an angle between the Norman church and the wall in the neglected churchyard at Hastière.
Erithacus rubecula.—A good many seen and heard in the woods; also some in the gardens at the back of the Casino at Dinant, which include a piece of the steep wooded rocky hillside.
Daulias luscinia.—Could be heard from the hotel at night and early in the morning; haunted the Casino gardens and the rest of the wooded cliffs at the back of Dinant, and all possible localities. In the woods it was abundant, and really rather a nuisance sometimes when one was trying to listen to other birds. I listened in one wood to a babel of sound produced by three Nightingales, a Garden Warbler, a Robin, a Chiffchaff, and a Chaffinch, all singing at once, and not far apart. Some young birds were probably hatched by the 3rd, as I heard the sharp "whit" and the croak from one anxious pair, and the croak from others. Nightingales could often be seen on the roadsides, and were wonderfully tame.
Sylvia cinerea.—Not very common.
S. atricapilla.—In the woods and Casino gardens, &c. The song of some birds seemed exceptionally fine and powerful.
S. hortensis.—Common in the woods, and noticed on the wooded slopes. In fine rich song.
Regulus cristatus.—Appeared to be tolerably common in spruce firs.
R. ignicapillus.—I had a good view of a bright male in a spruce by the side of the road passing through the Forest of Ardenne. It looks rather a longer bird than the last, and is very quick in its ways.
Phylloscopus rufus.—Common in woods, gardens, and wooded cliffs.
P. trochilus.—On the 3rd I noticed several in song in a wooded part of Lesse valley near Walzin; but it was not observed elsewhere.
P. sibilatrix.—In the Forest of Ardenne there were two or three about some oak trees, and I listened for some time to the curious " chit-it-tit-titereeeeeee," beginning rather slowly and going into a trill. There was another in song in a little oak wood by the Lesse at Houyet.
P. bonellii.—I had a long interview with a pair of Bonelli's Warblers in the Bois de Roquet, near Dinant. The male sang often. The song is a quick, rapid outburst, louder and fuller than a Wood Wren's, but shorter, and with no preliminary slower syllables. It might be lettered "chititereee"—a short outburst, shorter and more rapid than the Lesser Whitethroat's, which it somewhat resembles, but than which it is less loud and metallic. A call-note (that of the male) I noted down on this occasion as a kind of "creech creech creech," followed by one or two sharp little notes, only sometimes heard. I first became acquainted with this curious note in the high-lying cork and oak forest on the spurs of the Atlas in western Tunisia. It puzzled me greatly at first; but finally I shot a male in the act of uttering it. I find that at that time I noted it down as the call of the male, consisting of five notes, and rendered it thus: "aych aych aych chit chit." The pair I saw near Dinant frequented some oak trees, and came low down, so that I got good views of them. Bonelli's Warbler is a coldly-coloured little bird when seen against fresh, young green leaves, and at a little distance shows no yellow tints. The range of this little bird in Central Europe does not appear to be fully worked out at present.
Hypolais icterina.—I met with about half a dozen birds in wooded places, a wood, and a garden. The song is marvellously varied, and the variations seem endless; short phrases are tried over three or four times sometimes, long ones only once: the song is a running one to this extent. It is a very remarkable and striking song, but I do not think it is a fine one, the notes being usually very harsh, and wanting in mellowness and melody. In the space of a quarter of an hour, during which the bird sang continually, I could detect no mocking of other birds. There is a characteristic sound about the song of this bird (shared in some degree by at least two others of the genus Hypolais) by which you can recognise it at once; but the bird is sometimes easy to see when you have once made out its greenish-yellow tints against the foliage, and you can note its orange mouth and throbbing throat. Here are some phrases I took down from the song of the bird just mentioned:—"ts'quairk (grating and twangy) tisk tisk; sik sik sik, kik kik kik (high and shrill); tsairk (low and quavering like the cry of young hawks) poo-it poo-it; pit-it pit-it pit-it; tip tip tip; ti-op ti-op; pitch-it pitch-it; kip kip kip care; it-care it-care; ik-waya ik-waya; too-ay, too-ay too-ay; it-tay it-tay it-tay it-tay; wik wik zay" (three times over).
Acrocephalus streperus.—Two or three at some pools near Givet (see below); and one singing in a willow bush on the banks of the Meuse at Houx.
A. turdoides.—Just below Givet, in some flat grassy waste land, there are some large pools, perhaps partly formed by digging material for banking in the river (which is locked). The pools are partly grown up with thick beds of reeds, flags, and other water plants, and thickets of willows of two or three species,—some bushes eight or ten feet high. As I approached the pools, and was still at a considerable distance from them, I was attracted by some notes of a peculiarly guttural song, and as I drew nearer I had no doubt that here was one of the birds I was hoping to meet with. Here I found these great Warblers in some numbers, and listened to perhaps half a score or more in the limited space I explored. The place was a veritable stronghold for the birds, as, in the absence of a boat, one could not hope to reach a nest, or indeed get very close to the birds. But the loud croaking song could be listened to easily, and could be heard from afar. Not much less conspicuous were the birds themselves, with their dull brown upper parts, reddish-brown tail, and whitish under parts (the contrast between the colours of the head and back and the tail is not very obvious in dried skins, but it is remarkable in the living bird), for they often perched on an upper willow twig, quite high up, or on a flag or reed stem in an open spot. The Great Reed Warbler sits, when singing, in a very upright position, with the point of its bill raised, the bill open as it sings, and the throat throbbing and swelled so that the small feathers part, showing their dusky bases, and the bird appears almost to possess a dusky gular spot. It is a restless, bold, and noisy bird at this season, and often takes flight from bush to bush. The song is very remarkable. The likeness of some notes in it, in character, to those of a Frog is very striking, although they do not exactly resemble those of any kind of Frog with which I am acquainted. The bird's notes are chiefly grating, and often have a guttural tone. These are some notes and phrases which I wrote down:—"Gurk gurk gurk; gurruck gurruck gurruck; ick ick ick ick; gik gik gik (shrill and squeaky); ajik ajik ajik; jirp jirp jirp ik ik; garra garra geek (last note high, and the g hard); gak gak karry karry (the last two notes high). Two or three Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus streperus) sang in their leisurely way in some of the thicker willows. Edible Frogs (Rana esculenta) in great numbers croaked their loud harsh grating cries, or splashed noisily into the water from spots where they had been sunning themselves. On the grassy land between the pools and the Meuse several Blue-headed Wagtails ran after insects, or rose with their plaintive "wich-ooo" or "wich-eee" as I passed. Sedge Warblers, haunting the ditch below the river bank, contributed their hurried song, and a few Sky-Larks and Whinchats made up the bird-life in evidence, although visions of small species of the genus Porzana and some more secret Warblers made me long for a boat and a week's search of the reed-beds and lush vegetation of the pools, over which a small species of dragonfly darted and hovered in numbers. I did not find the Great Reed Warbler in any other locality in the Dinant district, but met with it near Mechelen.
A. phragmitis.—Pretty common along the Meuse, especially above Hastière. Often to be seen singing on the wing, flying up high into the air also and then descending singing into a low tree or bush. I could not detect the Aquatic Warbler.
Accentor modularis.—I only saw two; one near the railway at Agimont, the other singing from the top of a roadside spruce in the Forest of Ardenne. Here, as in Switzerland, it does not seem to be the familiar garden bird it is with us. Later on I met with it, however, in the Botanic Garden at Mechelen.
Parus major.—This widely distributed species was on the whole the commonest Titmouse; there were fully fledged young at Houx on the 9th.
P. ater.—I met with some in the Forest of Ardenne, and a pair in the valley of the Lesse near Walzin.
P. palustris.—Seen in the same localities, and in about the same numbers as the last named species.
P. cæruleus.—Frequently seen; almost as common as the Greater Tit.
Troglodytes parvulus.—Frequently seen; Forest of Ardenne, Casino gardens, &c.
Certhia familiaris.—Seen once.
Motacilla alba.—Common. Young broods were on the wing, and, as I could only see these and old males (at least I could not see a bird which looked like a female), I imagine the females were sitting on second clutches. White Wagtails were especially common by the Meuse below Hastière; they often flew about half-way across the river with a dancing flight, about a foot above the surface of the water, to catch flies, and then returned to sit on the road, the low stone posts, or the iron protecting rail.
M. flava.—There were many Blue-headed Wagtails all down the Meuse from Givet, but they were commonest in the wide meadows above Hastière. Some hawked flies over the river, returning to perch near the spot they started from; they usually hawked higher in the air than the White Wagtails. These Wagtails perched habitually in the willows and the young fruit trees planted along the path by the river. A male without a tail had a most extraordinary appearance.
Anthus trivialis.—Fairly common; about the edges of woods, &c.
Oriolus galbula.—I heard the note of this bird in the Bois de Roquet.
Lanius collurio.—I saw four males and one female. A male flew past one day with a cockchafer in his bill. Having settled on a bare branch, he put the chafer under foot and devoured it piecemeal, giving two or three harsh notes of satisfaction at the finish.
Hirundo rustica.—Not very numerous, and far less so than the next species.
Chelidon urbica.—Abundant. All up the Meuse from Namur, as we approached Dinant on a wet evening, the House Martins were conspicuous over the river, and they were numerous at Dinant, and about a large farm in the Lesse valley. In Givet they were in some numbers, and bred unmolested in the corners of windows, as well as under the eaves. In these towns there are not the swarms of Sparrows that we have. A crowd of Martins were collecting mud at a small pond at Sanzinne, and the same day we found them swarming in Houyet, a typical Ardenne village devoted to cows. It is quite a pleasure to see any number of Martins, for it is some years since I have seen a building well decorated with nests in England.
Cotile riparia.—A small colony in a shallow sand-pit near Agimont. As they were common over the Meuse about Dinant, I supposed that some bred in holes between the stones of the built-up river banks, and other supporting walls where roads had been cut out, for I saw no sandy places in the immediate neighbourhood. Yet all day they skimmed low over the water, and they haunted the river more than either Swallows or House Martins.
Ligurinus chloris.—Seen occasionally.
Passer domesticus.—Did not swarm as with us.
P. montanus.—Seen about young apple trees at Agimont; a pair near Houyet, and others in a garden there. The Tree Sparrow appears to be rather a common bird in Belgium.
Fringilla cœlebs.—Common; in the roadside trees in the Forest of Ardenne, for instance. Many are kept caged in towns and villages, and sing very loudly; all that I examined were blind. The Chaffinch here sings a long and good strain. The first part is long, although usually rather sibilant; the second part is loud and full. The fact that the song of the Chaffinch differs (more or less) in different districts was remarked upon long ago by Humboldt, who, writing of the Canary of Montana Clara, says:—"The note of these birds varies with their flocks, like that of our Chaffinches, which often differs in two neighbouring districts" ('Personal Narrative,' vol. i. p. 39).
Linota cannabina.—Common about bushy cliffs and box-clad gorge, as well as by the river.
Pyrrhula europæa.—I met with a pair in a wood bearing the curious name of Bois de Froide Veau (so in the map), and another in the valley of the Molignée.
Emberiza citrinella.—Seen about the arable land, and bushed gorge above Bouvigne.
E. schœniclus.—One by the Meuse.
Sturnus vulgaris.—A few near Dinant.
Garrulus glandarius.—Two in the Forest of Ardenne, one of which was making a queer attempt to sing, or rather to chant.
Pica rustica.—Occasionally seen.
Corvus monedula.—Numerous; they haunt, among other places, the cliff under the Chateau Walzin, various bare cliffs along the Meuse, the old Norman church at Hastiere, and the ruins of the Chateau Montaigle, on an isolated rock rising straight from the Molignée.
C. corone.—Seen about the cliffs and wooded heights along the river, and in the Forest of Ardenne.
Alauda arvensis.—Fairly common on the open arable land, and some near Givet.
Cypselus apus.—A fair number about Dinant, and Swifts were to be seen about high cliffs here and there between that place and Givet. In Givet the Swift was the ruling species, and abundant.
Iynx torquilla.—Heard twice in the distance.
Gecinus——?.—I heard several times the note of a Green Woodpecker in the woods and forest, but never saw the bird. On some occasions the laugh seemed deep in tone, as if it proceeded from G. canus, but this is uncertain.
Alcedo ispida.—One crossed the Meuse with a silvery fish crosswise in its bill.
Cuculus canorus.—Common. On one occasion three in close company crossed a road leading through a wood.
Syrnium aluco.—The remains of one lay by the roadside in a wood.
Athene noctua.—On two occasions I heard what I believe was the note of this bird, in woods.
Buteo vulgaris.—In the Forest of Ardenne I watched one soar up out of sight; saw another mobbed by Crows, and heard the wailing cry on two occasions.
Columba palumbus.—Strangely scarce; two only seen flying along wooded heights across the river.
C. cenas.—One in the distance flying along a wooded slope at Houyet.
C. livia.—I saw a bird exactly resembling a wild Kock Dove about some river cliffs far from any (visible) house.
Turtur communis.—Several in woods.
Phasianus colchicus.—Heard several times in the Bois du Seminaire and the Forest of Ardenne.
Perdix cinerea.—I saw birds twice, once on the high ground at the back of Dinant, and again near Sommiere.
Coturnix communis.—I heard a Quail calling from a field gay and sweet with sainfoin and yellow trefoil on the high-lying arable land above Bouvigne.
Ægialitis hiaticula?.—I saw a bird flying in the distance over the pools at Givet, which appeared to be a Hinged Plover.
From the 10th to the 14th of June I was at Mechelen, in the flat rich Flemish country. I made a list of the birds I saw, and it may be worth giving shortly. Those species marked with an asterisk were not met with about Dinant. The sandy land around Mechelen is very highly cultivated, and corn-fields, varied by many acres devoted to the cultivation of asparagus and other vegetables for the great marché of Mechelen, stretch away as far as the eye can see. But the country is well wooded with lines of poplars and plantations. There are grass marshes along the tidal, embanked Dyle and elsewhere, and willow and alder along the drains. But the country is densely populated, and a few hours' drive over the paved roads takes you past numerous little villages and scattered houses, cheerfully adorned with red roofs, white walls, and green shutters. It was not therefore surprising to find that resident birds were scarce. The numerous population of small cultivators may account for the scarcity, as well as for the fact that you may probably see in Mechelen more carts drawn by dogs than in any other town.
Turdus merula.—In the Botanical Garden.
Pratincola rubetra.—Some in the grass marshes.
P. rubicola.—A pair carrying food on the bushed banks of a fortification.
Ruticilla titys.—Several seen in Mechelen (49,000 inhabitants), on the houses; one in the Grande Place.
Daulias luscinia.—Heard in all the small plantations., and about country houses; I saw and heard several in the Botanical Garden.
Sylvia cinerea.—Fairly common.
S. atricapilla.—Plantations and Botanical Garden, where it was in very fine song.
S. hortensis.—Appeared to be common in plantations.
Hypolais icterina.—One heard to the north of the town; another haunted the Botanical Garden. I heard a few rather good notes from this bird, and a regular screech once or twice; but I had no opportunity of listening to it well on account of a brass band and a crowd of people interfering on one occasion, and a cold grey morning on another.
*Acrocephalus palustris?.—A bird singing, but out of sight, in a patch of tall rye bounded by a wet ditch and garden ground, was probably a Marsh Warbler. I heard imitations of the notes of Swallow, Whinchat, and Stonechat, with Nightingale-like notes and low chattering notes.
A. turdoides.—I heard the grating notes from some reeds and willows some way off on the other side of the Dyle. At a fortification to the north of the town there was a moat, of which I could get an occasional glimpse from the road. There I heard two or three of these Warblers, and caught sight of one. I did not think it desirable to poke about the place much with glasses and note-book!
Accentor modularis.—Seen once or twice in the Botanical Garden.
Parus major and P. cæruleus.—Occasionally seen.
Troglodytes parvulus.—About gardens, several times.
Motacilla alba.—Saw a few. In the Botanical Garden was the only adult female, so far as I could judge, that I saw in Belgium. It had the crown sooty mixed with grey.
*M. melanope.—To my great surprise, I saw a black-throated Grey Wagtail sitting on a bare twig over a piece of water in the Botanical Garden. A tidal creek, or branch of the Dyle, bounds the garden on one side.
Anthus trivialis.—Seemed fairly common about wayside poplars.
Oriolus galbula.—I heard the note in a wood near the Château Rubens. One bird (and I think another also) was singing in the thickest parts of the tall trees which stand round the Botanical Garden. I moved it more than once, and at last got the glass on a male as it flew out. It is far from a conspicuous bird when seen against a background of fresh green, and moreover it is loth to leave the thick foliage. Its sweet rich "lit-a-vool" or "lit-avool-ee" was, I think, followed by some low chattering notes, heard only on two occasions, when I was just under the place where I thought the bird was sitting; but I could never see it when it was perched.
Lanius collurio.—One male.
*Muscicapa grisola.—Several about the Botanical Garden.
Hirundo rustica.—In fair numbers.
Chelidon urbica.—A few only compared with some places.
Passer domesticus.—Not conspicuously abundant.
P. montanus.—Saw a good many. Some seen about pollard trees, and several times dusting by the roadside. Apparently rather a common bird in Belgium.
Fringilla cœlebs.—About gardens and wayside trees.
Emberiza citrinella.—Fairly common by the roadsides. Some males were very bright, as at Dinant also.
E. shœniclus.—Several along the high banks of the tidal Dyle; also about reeds in the grass marshes, and along a canal.
Sturnus vulgaris.—Common about grass marshes, &c. Some were in flocks; others inhabited St. Rombaut's great tower. Seen in Antwerp.
Pica rustica.—Several times seen by the wayside.
Corvus monedula.—Inhabited St. Rombaut's Tower and the Botanical Garden. In the Zoological Gardens at Antwerp I saw a pair of white Daws with pink legs and bill, and white (ordinary?) irides.
C. corone.—Two or three seen.
Alauda arvensis.—A few seen one day.
*A. cristata.—On a large open bare sandy piece of ground outside Mechelen I saw a Crested Lark (very much the colour of the soil), which was beating some prey against the ground. When this Lark is alarmed its long crest stands up. I was glad to hear again its call-note "sweet-a-weet,"or "weeta," or "seeeweetweet." Another bird was singing, flying about in a desultory way, going a little way, and then pausing to sing its very sweet song (with a variation of the call-note) with beating wings; then dropping away down wind, to bear up again presently, and repeat the performance. So the song is often interrupted by flights. The big bill of the Crested Lark is conspicuous, as also is the light, bright brown in the tail when the bird flies up.
Cypselus apus.—Swarmed in great numbers round the huge cathedral tower (St. Kombaut's, 324 ft.). They could be heard from our windows screaming faintly, apparently at a vast height, after 9 p.m., when it was almost dark. In the evenings they swarmed in the air round the tower, and also about a large building looking like a factory; there were fair numbers all about the town and in the vicinity. In few other towns have I seen Swifts in such numbers.
Gecinus ——?.—A Green Woodpecker (apparently G. viridis) heard in a plantation.
Columba palumbus.—Several about plantations.
Turtur communis.—Several about plantations.
- S. hortensis is the western Orphean warbler. It is questionable whether this species is meant. (Wikisource contributor note)