Starlings in the Spring
June 5, 2015


Hi Andrew here,

For several weeks now the garden has thrilled to the tuneful, joyful trills, the soaring notes of the blackbird. Perched in the cherry tree or on the apex of the roof above our conservatory in the evening, he pours out his blackbird soul, sings from the heart, sings of the joys of Spring. Now, though, this glorious, uplifting song has been superseded by another sound (I hesitate to call it a ‘song’ as you will see).

I became aware of this new sound yesterday when out in the garden moving some pots of fuchsias on the patio. From somewhere behind me came this rasping, raucous, squawking sound. On and on it went, so loud you could not avoid it. Looking round to find out what the fuss was, I could not miss the flurry of activity from a group of starlings perched on the top of the bird station.

Some were decked out in their smart, gleaming, iridescent feathers, while three others, a little plumper, sported a brown plumage. It was these three, which I realised were juvenile starlings, that were making all the noise as they gripped the metal work and opened wide their beaks. The adults moved busily up and down from feeding tray to perch, popping food into the gaping, insistent beaks.

This morning, my wife had hardly got back indoors after filling the feeders when down swooped a mass of starlings and a frenzy of feeding ensued. There was that same persistent, rough, grating sound again in the background. There, again, determined not to be ignored, determined to be fed (despite the food at their feet waiting just to be picked up) was a group of young starlings. They perched on the edge of the ground feeder, they stood in the middle, turned this way and that, all the time with gaping beaks. From time to time an adult would put something into the young mouth.

An adult obviously unable to cope with the chaos grabbed a pellet and went off to eat it at a quieter patch on the lawn. Meanwhile, one youngster watched another prodding the lawn and after a while decided it was something it should try and copied. Another pecked at some leaves by the pond – to what end I do not know! It did not take long for the ground feeder to be totally cleared – the blackbird could not get a look in – before they moved on to the tray on the bird station. Even when food supplies had been exhausted and the birds had moved on you could still hear the youngsters’ rough noise.

Later, when we walked to the shops we passed the green and there was a large gang of starlings milling about on the grass prodding and poking while the air was punctuated by that coarse sound. Now it may not have the finesse of the blackbird and it probably will not send your heart soaring but it does in its own way remind us of the renewal of Spring and that a species that has been in decline is fighting back. Long live the squawking!

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