Country Corner - A murmur of approval to birds’ acrobatics

Starlings change from garden feeding to field foraging in the winter.
Starlings change from garden feeding to field foraging in the winter.

A letter has flooded in from ‘I Spy’ who has a great interest in his or her garden birds, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

I Spy had a couple of starlings in the garden recently and states they have not been about for months.

Truth is starlings in many areas switch from garden feeding to field foraging in winter.

This is when television nature and news programmes regularly feature “murmurations” of swirling starling flocks.

These shape shifting acrobatic displays are indeed a marvel of nature as the flock seems to act as one, like a single sinuous animal.

The effect is more reminiscent of a shoal of fish rather than a flock of birds.

What is happening is a coming together of flocks of fielding starlings into one giant flock at the day’s end.

These performances, involving thousands of birds, are played out above some safe night roost, perhaps a reed bed, conifer strip or building.

Seeing such a mass gathering of starlings moving as a single unit, it is hard to assimilate them with the fiercely territorial pairs which stake out our gardens and roofs in summer.

However, come spring they will be back in our towns and villages to nest as I Spy can testify.

I Spy also mourns the passing of the once common song thrush in our gardens.

Sadly our love of slug pellets has done for them.

There really are no chemicals I would trust to be harmless in gardens, or on farms for that matter.

Finally, I Spy wonders if the enormous increase in bird feeding and the mildness of recent winters may be upsetting nature’s routines?

I wouldn’t worry about the bird feeding but certainly the speed of climate change if worrying many naturalists.

How much that change is due to humans, I know not?