Saturday, 30 October 2010

The Birds

Yesterday afternoon, we were treated to a spectacle of almost Biblical proportions.  In a scene reminiscent of a Daphne Du Maurier story and Hitchcock film, a flock of Starlings (Sternus vulgaris) decided to descend upon our front garden, the grass verges opposite our house and, most particularly, the fat-ball feeder in our tree.  This picture is a composite of two taken side-by-side and joined together.  The second photo was taken, just as the flock took to the air.
I have counted over 400 birds in this picture and as they all took flight and headed for our rooftop the skies darkened with their wings - a fabulous sight.  We were glad they didn't all decide to land on our tree at once as it would never have stood up to them.  Starlings are such well known birds, it is easy to overlook just how beautiful they are.
The glossy greens and purples of their plumage is really only seen at close range and in good light, but what a joy it is to see.
At this time of year, adult Starlings are dressed in their new, Winter plumage and are bedecked with white spots, crisp and clean-looking before they begin to fade as the Winter months pass.
Still very common despite a 66% drop in numbers since the 1970's, they form large, noisy flocks especially late in the day when looking for a communal roost.  Many thousands have been witnessed in one whirling, sinuous constantly-moving group.  The largest flock ever reported was one of a staggering 72,000,000 individuals in a Swiss forest during the Winter of 1952/3.  Makes our flock of a few hundred seem insignificant, but I wouldn't want to provide fat-balls for 72 million!
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