In Praise of Starlings

One of the few joys of this otherwise joyless winter has been the number of starlings. I’ve never seen so many. Even Cilycwm has its resident murmuration, and a slice of them descended on the garden last month. Starlings always look busy, and this is partly because of the way they use their beaks to force things apart. I vividly remember having an orphan starling baby when I was about 10. A house in our village (Ogbourne St. George in Wiltshire) was being re-thatched and the starlings’ nests in the old thatch were being thrown out. We rescued one nestling and when it became a fledgling, it would sit on my hand and prize my fingers apart. 

Most of the starlings we see in winter are migrants from continental Europe, our resident numbers being much lower. I was lucky to catch one of the big flocks in Somerset. It was at Ham Wall near Glastonbury and I arrived at the roost site with only minutes to spare before the big black stain in the reeds exploded into the air and resolved itself into a few thousand starlings who then performed their wonderful aerial ballet before flying silently off to their feeding grounds. 

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