WHAT WE’VE LEARNED this is­sue 1949

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Welcome -

The year that a flock of star­lings stopped the hands of Big Ben

As shop­pers browse the stalls at Cam­den Mar­ket, some of Lon­don’s win­ter­ing star­lings swoop down to snap up morsels of food dropped in the street. “I no­ticed that they would ar­rive at lunchtime each day, as if they knew there’d be rich pick­ings,” says pho­tog­ra­pher To­mos Brang­wyn. Sadly star­lings are much scarcer in the cap­i­tal – and other Bri­tish cities – than in the past, mir­ror­ing the species’ na­tion­wide decline in ru­ral ar­eas. “On win­ter af­ter­noons in the 1950s and 60s my fa­ther used to gaze out of his of­fice win­dow and watch tens of thou­sands of star­lings wheel­ing over St James’s Park,” says To­mos. “I still know of a few thou­sand birds that roost on the iron­work of Bat­tersea Bridge, and West­min­ster Bridge and County Hall have about 50 birds each. But the vast city-cen­tre mur­mu­ra­tions have gone.” It’s a far cry from 1949, when the weight of roost­ing star­lings stopped the hands of Big Ben for two hours.

Take part in the UK Star­ling Roost Sur­vey at http://so­ci­ety­of­bi­ol­ogy. org/star­ling­sur­vey and fol­low Twit­ter up­dates us­ing #Star­ling­Sur­vey.

Pho­to­graph by To­mos Brang­wyn

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