Talking Dutch: One flew over the stork’s nest

Summary

The recent freak hailstorm didn’t just plague Flanders’ humans and cars; it has changed the life of a few animals forever

Derek Blyth on weird wildlife

When hailstones the size of golfballs fall out of the sky, you know there are going to be problems. The violent storm that passed over Flanders earlier this month left a trail of shattered window panes and dented car roofs. But no one expected it to leave behind mourning storks and giant tropical butterflies.

The headline didn’t make a lot of sense when I read it at first – Lokeren ontfermt zich over treurende ooievaar – Lokeren takes pity on lamenting stork. The stork, nesting in the Buylaers nature area, was apparently lamenting because he had lost his partner – Het vrouwtje werd op het nest dood gehageld toen ze haar jongen probeerde te beschermen – the female was killed by hailstones trying to protect her young. The little storks survived, but they were getting hungry.  

The father stork wasn’t feeding them. It turns out that storks are terribly romantic creatures. Als een van de volwassen vogels sterft, de ander beseft dat hij het niet alleen aankan – if one of the adult birds dies, the other realises that it can’t carry on alone, an expert explained.

Treurt dit mannetje echt om het verlies – this little guy is really suffering from the loss. Hij maakt zachte kleppergeluiden en zit aangeslagen op het nest – he’s making gentle rattling noises and sitting in the nest looking defeated. Ooievaars zijn partners voor het leven – storks partner for life.

Volunteers from a wildlife organisation are now leaving out food to make it easy on him, but they aren’t sure if the father will stay around to look after his brood. De kans bestaat dat het mannetje het nest nog verlaat – it is possible that the male might still abandon the nest.

Over in Antwerp, residents are more puzzled than sad. De inwoners van de stationsbuurt van Antwerpen moeten niet vreemd opkijken als ze zeldzame tropische vlinders in hun tuin zien opduiken – residents in Antwerp’s station quarter shouldn’t be too surprised if rare tropical butterflies turn up in their gardens.

De hagelstorm van zondagnacht sloeg grote gaten in het koepeldak van de Vlindertuin in de Zoo – the hailstorm on Sunday night smashed gaping holes in the dome of the zoo’s Butterfly Garden. You can guess the rest: waardoor een tiental vlinders kon ontsnappen – and about 10 butterflies escaped.

Geert Van Damme was walking along a street near the zoo when he saw a strange sight. “Er fladderde plots een blauwe Morpho voor mij” – I suddenly saw a blue Morpho fluttering past, he told Het Nieuwsblad. (He recognised this huge tropical butterfly from a trip to Suriname). “Ik heb nog geprobeerd om het dier te vangen, maar het was me te snel af” – I tried to catch the creature, but it quickly flew off.

We now live in a country made stranger by sad, single storks and giant blue butterflies. All because of a sudden hailstorm.

photo: The happy couple at home in Lokeren last April
©Christophe Hillaert/vzwDurme