Starlings are little darlings
HOW on earth are the noisy starlings that land on my bird table the same birds that swish and swoosh in murmurations in the skies above the north west?
How can those skilled fliers, avoiding each other in an astonishing flying carpet, be the same birds that literally elbow each other off feeders hanging from the tree?
Last month we bought a new bird table and knocked the top off the old one to provide another platform for food. What a lovely, busy noisy meeting place for starlings it now is.
Starlings tend to make up a large percentage of the birds in most gardens. Sparrows hang about outside the starling frenzy waiting for any extra food that is left behind. They are like wannabe starlings and they do make a lot of noise in the bush behind our back alley.
The regional bird atlas says the average number of starlings is around 300,000 with numbers rising to 500,000 at times.
Recent winters have seen counts of a million in the north west, this will include many winter visitors coming over from Scandinavia.
And yet, overall, starling numbers have declined in northern Europe with the British Trust for Ornithology reporting a drop of 66 per cent since the mid-1970s. It is now a bird on the Red List of Conservation Concern.
That decline has mainly been in the countryside where food, like worms and insects, are less common because the ground is drier and harder to penetrate with yellow bills.
I love the shiny feathers on a starling, offering up greens, blues and purples in the oily blackness. In winter they go all spotty, which is also delightful. Young starlings should be losing their dark browny grey colour now and looking a bit more like the adults.
I spend a lot of time in the home baking aisle at my local store filling my basket to ensure my starlings and blackbirds get their fair share of fruit.
Starling murmurations have lessened in number over the years but they are still great to see.
As winter closes in and if you fancy a trip to the seaside, look out for thousands of the birds at the North Pier in Blackpool - or at our Brockholes nature reserve in Preston. I think it’s better than the illuminations and it lasts all winter.
To become a member of the Trust go to the website at www.lancswt.org.uk or call 01772 324129. For more information about Cheshire Wildlife Trust call: 01948 820728 or go to cheshirewildlifetrust.org. uk.
Starlings are great birds to watch over winter