Spring is, of course, the season when we can once again enjoy everything that disappeared or was hidden in autumn and winter. The bulbs are in bloom, there are buds on the trees and the days are getting longer. I enjoy spring not only with my eyes, but also with my ears. Because every year, the birds in The Hague give beautiful live concerts, free of charge.
The Hague greenery and birds
Thanks to the many green areas we have in The Hague, there are also many birds. The Hague is also called the bird city of the Netherlands. Our birds fall into three groups. There are birds that are here all year round and build their nests, breed and raise their young. There are birds that come here in the spring and leave again after the summer. These migratory birds often travel long distances to come to the Netherlands from the south. This also applies to the third group: these are migratory birds that may stop in The Hague before moving even further north. The Hague is situated in the middle of one of the most important migration routes along the coast of Western Europe.
Sounds of spring
Every spring, I have to refresh my knowledge of bird sounds. As long as there are not many leaves on the trees yet, I manage, when I hear a sound, to see the corresponding bird and to confirm it as indeed being the species that I think I recognise. I built up my repertoire of bird sounds by joining educational excursions of the ‘Haagse Vogelbescherming’ (The Hague Society for the Protection of Birds ).
As early as 1899, an association for the protection of birds was founded in the Netherlands: ‘Vogelbescherming Nederland’ (Bird Protection of the Netherlands). In those days, women wore large, decorated hats. Not only bird feathers, but also whole birds were used for these decorations. Protests arose against this cruelty to birds. Soon, the association also focused on other subjects, such as hunting, agriculture and the value of birds in nature.
In 1925, a local branch of Vogelbescherming Nederland was formed. Wouter Tolsma, an enthusiastic birdwatcher and nature conservationist from The Hague, thought that the policy of the Netherlands Society for the Protection of Birds was too soft. He found six supporters and together they founded the ‘Vereeniging voor Vogelbescherming ‘s-Gravenhage en Omstreken “. This association, commonly known as the ‘Haagse Vogelbescherming’ (HVB), has been looking after the interests of our birds in The Hague for more than 95 years.
The active members of The Hague Bird Protection are engaged in various activities. As already mentioned, they organise excursions and also offer interesting lectures and a course in recognising birds. This way, you can learn more about birds.
Maintaining and preferably improving the bird population is, of course, an important goal of the association. Because birds thrive best in an environment without disturbance, 11 bird resting areas have been established in The Hague and its surroundings. They are specially designed and planted to offer breeding opportunities and food for as many bird species as possible. hese areas are also protected with fences and water features, to keep dogs and cats out.
Individual birds that get into trouble are given care at “De Wulp”, better known as the wild bird rescue facility in Meer en Bos.
And if a piece of The Hague’s green space is threatened, de Haagse Vogelbescherming mobilises to prevent that from happening.
To know is to measure
It is important to know where birds breed in The Hague and to monitor how their numbers change over time. That is why the bird watchers of de Haagse Vogelbescherming count the number of breeding birds in various areas. They take a special course for this, in which they learn to recognise bird sounds (better), among other things. For this job, you need to be well motivated and not be a“night owl”. Most birds sing before or around sunrise; in May and June that is very early in the morning!
How to become a member
If you love nature in general and birds in particular, I would recommend becoming a member of the Haagse Vogelbescherming. Four times a year, the society sends you its beautiful quarterly magazine. You will not only be helping the birds, but also yourself, because an active bird protection society keeps The Hague green!
More information www.haagsevogels.nl
Pictures: Ineke van der Veen