Discovering Belgium: Birdwatching in Erps-Kwerps
Have you ever seen an "exaltation of skylarks” or a “charm of goldfinches"? Here is your chance.
I love the name “Erps-Kwerps.” It’s just a great name for a village. I used to live in the Netherlands near a village called “Ohé en Laak”, which was also memorable. But nothing beats Erps-Kwerps for sheer absurdity. As you can probably imagine, Erps-Kwerps was formed through a unification of two villages, Erps and Kwerps, although each still has its own church, village center, bakers and cafés. And knowing Flanders, each probably has its own dialect too. And it wouldn’t surprise me to discover that people from Erps don’t talk to the folk from Kwerps!
Anyway, for those of you who know Erps-Kwerps, you may be surprised to see I am writing about birdwatching in this area, the countryside of which basically consists of fairly intensively farmed agricultural land. However, the farmland to the north of Erps-Kwerps – locally known as the Dorenvelden – is one of my most frequented local sites for birdwatching, and I never cease to be amazed at what turns up there.
For example, birds of prey I have seen there include hen harriers, marsh harriers, red kites, buzzards, goshawks, sparrowhawks and kestrels. A couple of weeks ago a great white egret was in residence.
At this time of year the fields are welcome stopping places for migrating birds, particularly skylarks, meadow pipits, fieldfares and redwings and the occasional wheatear, reed bunting or golden plover. Skylarks in particular are numerous at the moment, with small flocks of 20-30 continually rising up unexpectedly from the stubble. They are joined by smaller groups of finches such as goldfinches and linnets. I love the collective nouns of some of these birds: an “exaltation of skylarks”, and a “charm of goldfinches”. Very appropriate for these delightful birds.
Other rarities that have been seen recently but which I haven’t actually spotted myself include peregrine falcons, short-eared owls and dotterel.
So where can these birds be spotted? The whole area lies between Humelgem, Erps-Kwerps, Nederokkerzeel and Berg. My favorite starting place is Humelgem. I then walk directly east down Wijnegaardstraat and follow the footpath across the fields and onto Curegemstraat and into Erps-Kwerps village. Here you can stop off at the Café Central for a coffee, or pick up a snack from Krantenwinkel De Zavel or the local Delhaize before heading north along Dorenbaan and back into the Dorenvelden. From here there are multiple footpaths and cycle paths going back to Humelgem, further east into Nederokkerzeel, or north into Berg.
Here’s some photos of some of the sights in this area.
Discovering Belgium focuses on places that are “off the beaten track”. Every location has been personally visited by Denzil Walton, a freelance writer who's lived in Belgium for 25 years ... and who is constantly amazed at how much there is still to see and visit in this fascinating country.
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