Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Is it springing yet?

We had our first true Spring day here yesterday and it was wonderful. After a horribly cold three months yesterday was warm and sunny. I went into the centre of Amsterdam to run some errands, and put on my big coat, scarf and beanie as usual. By the time I got the the tram stop my coat was unzipped and my scarf was in my bag. By the time I had exited the first store in the Kalverstraat mall, my heavy coat was off and slung over my arm. It was such a freedom to be outside without so many layers! It also gave me a chance to look around once more at the beautiful city that I live in, seeing as my head no longer had to be down and buried in my scarf.

Today it is grey and miserable again, and I have heard rumours that it will snow once more on Monday. I refuse to look up the weather forecast and check for myself as I want all of my positive energy to be directed towards warm weather! If it does snow, however, it will be the last cold snap of the season and we will be fully into Spring before long.

Around the neighbourhood there isn’t much evidence of the changing season. The trees are still very bare - no buds to be seen - and although some hopeful neighbours have planted bulbs in the narrow beds that border the footpaths, no natural ones have popped up yet. When they do it is really marvelous; tulips, daffodils and jonquils bloom in the most ordinary of places all by themselves. My favourite is the daffodils that cover a giant roundabout right next to the Heineken brewery.

I have noticed some more bird behaviour around my apartment building too. Out the back there is a lovely pair of blackbirds that have been collecting twigs for their nest. I hadn’t seen a blackbird before - they really are quite lovely. I had imagined them before as mini crows, but they are much better looking than that! They also don’t look quite as mean!  We also have crows here, and a lot of pigeons too (both the common and the wood pigeon). These birds congregate twice a week on garbage day, and are very good at separating food scraps from their black bin bags! Needless to say, garbage day here can get very messy. The pigeons can be a real problem for those of us with balconies as they are indiscriminate about where they poop. There is one balcony that can be seen from ours that is covered with a veritable carpet of pigeon dung. My Dutchman and I both can’t stand it, and are almost at the point of knocking on that particular neighbour’s door and offering to clean it up ourselves! Many people hang nets over their balconies to keep the pigeons out, but this can be quite risky as birds can get caught in them. I don’t know what I would do if I came home to find a pigeon hanging by its foot from our netting. At the moment the birds fly away when they see our cat, Little Girl, but I’m also going to try another method to deter them. I read an article about the many benefits of WD40, and one said that if it is sprayed on balconies that pigeons keep far away as they hate the smell. Worth a try!

Little fact: voted the Netherland's favourite bird call
See here for more information

Today I noticed a new type of bird and I had to look it up on the computer to identify it. It was really tiny, the size of a finch, and had dusky blue wings and a pale yellow chest. Another one nearby was the same colour, only duller. I did some research and discovered that we might have a pair of Blue Tits in our trees out the front. How lovely! Again, this is a bird that I have read about in Enid Blyton books but never actually seen in real life. They are really pretty, and have a really nice chirp.

Blue Tit
Little fact: The average lifespan of the Blue Tit is 1.5
years, however one in the Czech Republic had a recorded
age of 11 years and 7 months! 

The last bird that is a constant presence in the seagull. This surprised me a lot, because although I know that there are many canals in Amsterdam and that the whole country was once a bog, I tend to associate seagulls with rivers and beaches. We have a large canal about eighty metres from our house, across a small park, and the seagulls own the bank immediately next to it. It’s very strange, however, that they will not pick at the garbage like the crows and pigeons do unless it is on their bank. It must be a territorial thing. I can constantly hear the seagulls from my house, but none will ever come close to it as this is crow territory. They literally have drawn lines and will not cross the street to get to the other side! The other thing about the seagulls here are that they are huge. Very, very big - about twice the size of the ones back home. 

Well, that’s my little update from my part of the world. It is very nice to be able to sit and reflect on the new environment I am in, and also nice to take time to watch the birds. Actually, I think I might make myself a cup of tea now and do some bird watching from the balcony. It gets the afternoon sun.

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