Thursday, 28 January 2010

Starlings

There has been an upsurge of interest in starlings of late. A great deal of coverage both in the press and on the TV of the shortages of the feathery creatures and the wonderment of the huge flocks of them which reside in some parts of the country.

There is no doubt that it is indeed an awesome sight to see thousands of these birds flocking together, swirling in a dark mass in the skies over our heads. I also have to agree that when the light catches them right they are indeed a beautiful sight, their plumage a myriad of iridescent colours, nature at it's best, an optical delight.

That however, is where it ends. My wonderment of starlings is extremely short lived.

They are gregarious, greedy little critters. In my mind they are equivalant to rats with wings.

The recent cold spell has seen the starlings singling out Shep's garden, due to a soft spot somewhere the bird feeders have been kept full - or at least were until the starlings arrived.

Quite a sight I guess to see them fighting and squabbling amongst themselves to guzzle on as much food as possible before being knocked off the podium as another takes up the quest.

They can't turn up one at a time, oh no, safety in numbers is the answer and so they turn up in a drove, or ought that to be a flock? They show no patience even though there are many of them, it is still a matter of survival of the fittest. Fighting and bickering like badly behaved children they cause a raucous mayhem in the garden, much to the dismay of the other feathery visitors who find competing with these bullies too much for them, they sit around patiently hoping to clear up some crumbs once the beasts have had their fill and fled.

All fearful of the gregarious starling, except that is, for one feathery visitor which has once again decided to grace Shep's garden. There is one whom has the starling in a flap, unfortunately it has all the others in a flap too - the Sparrow Hawk.

Away back when the days were longer and the weather warmer I found myself rooted to the spot whilst picking redcurrants in the garden. The noise of wing beats, many of them and fast and furious, drew my attention as a flock of starlings skimmed over my head and narrowly missed the shed roof, some taking shelter in bushes around me. A silent form banged into a bush no more than 10 feet away and after squealing and leaf shaking it dropped to the ground. Just feet infront of me I was able to take in the sight of a Sparrow Hawk, starling in its talons and wings embracing it's catch. I hardly dared breathe and found myself gasping when it took to the air - both in wonderment and lack of breath!

Undoubtedly I would complain if the Robins, Tits, finches etc., found themselves at the mercy of this hunter, there is no doubt some of them will find themselves in this perilous position. I can, however, only applaud the hawk when it's hunting instinct finds itself latched onto a starling, there are plenty around to feed it for a week or two and oh, how I wish.....

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