Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Starling - A shebby of delight...

Some recent Blogs with quick links:- 

Crossbills (chicks in late December etc)

A beautiful irridescent plumaged bird - The Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
(Photo: Thanks to Ron Blackburn)

and why not listen to this magical mimickry of the Starling by clicking on the left arrow
below and see if you can hear: The Blackbird, song and alarm, Sedge Warbler, Mallard Ducks,
Jay, Car Alarm, Pigs squealing, and lots more things as well..........

Although we still get Starling breeding through our area, the numbers are nothing like what they used to be with nowadays only small pockets seen throughout the summer months. Yet come winter we get lots of continental birds which may well have come from Iceland, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, the Baltics even as far away as Russia. They cross over the North Sea and start to join us from the beginning of October, their arrival peaking somewhere around the third week of October.  They come in and feed in the local fields and further away towards Kirby Lonsdale and even further.  These birds return from their feeding grounds just before the edge of dark to roost over at Leighton Moss in the reedbeds or sometimes they will chose to go to Silverdale Moss.  The numbers in these murmurations have been known to exceed 100,000 birds and it is expected that you would at least get 50,000 birds on any given night (November to February).  

"About three thirty the sky got dirty
 with parties and scores of Shebbies (Starlings),
 straight through they went,
Without being bent, 
to a dropping down sun in their West".

My copy for the December 2018 issue of BURTON NEWS  compiled around November 20th 2018 

It’s not all about migration, but there again maybe it is indirectly!  But I can honestly say whilst having the pleasure during the early mornings of watching the many different species of birds fly high over our village, it’s also been incredible in its own right to watch the thousands of Starlings come through heading East in a morning, after leaving their communal roost which at the moment is over at Silverdale Moss.
Up until this last few days (today 20th November 2018) I have had some average counts of between 2 to 5 thousand birds come almost on a daily basis, but there have been some really special mornings when I have had approx 18000 over (Friday 26th October) and another count of approx 18000 at 0712hrs on Thursday 1st November, and again approx. 15000 over on Saturday 10th November, and the final up to date big one was approx 17000 on the 14th November, I guess there will be many more mornings to come when we will get good counts if we are prepared to get up early to witness the fantastic Starling activity.
On these high number mornings in particular, the sky is just full of Starlings coming through in big balls or sometimes they take on a different approach and are in a “linear” thick horizontal wave which is several metres deep and extends as far as over Holme Park Fell/Farleton to the north side and continuous all the way to Dalton Hall on the south side. The structure of the passage changes all in accordance to the wind on the day and if the wind is of a moderate south west (eg blowing in the face of the birds) it will usually make them travel through low down, although if it is not a windy day the birds can be so high up that you might even have a job to see them, although the activity is still going on and you would need to look high up into the skies with binoculars to see them.
I just wish I could “bottle it” and share it, because it is so fantastic to witness these spectacles although they only last for several minutes at best.
Some mornings they give me such an inner lift that I get an inspiration to want to write a little verse or two whilst having just witnessed and in some cases felt (the draught) from them going past me within inches.

“Hello darlings – Starlings!
I felt a draught to my ears and heard a clear
“Wush” as you all passed by in a flicker of a wing,
In only a split second of our time,
Also was held to a super-still stance,
Could have reached out and touched you
My iridescent early morning friends.

When they start to join us from September onwards more and more are coming into our area on a daily basis throughout September, October and even as late as November, but generally peak around the third week in October, they will come in their squadrons and shaped like lots of little bullets shooting past you!  And their squadrons can be anything from half a dozen up to over 100 and they always come from the East direction having travelled over the North Sea from places far away like the Baltics and Netherlands.  Most of the birds we get around here will complete their journey by the time they reach their communal roost sites at Leighton Moss or Silverdale Moss, occasionally small roost sites may become established in more localised areas of Burton In Kendal using trees close to Tanpits. Here they will spend their winters and go out every morning in search of food in the surrounding countryside.

One of the recent mornings whilst vismigging or counting Chaffinch moving through I had a cracking Starling morning although the Chaffinch numbers were well down, so I wrote a a little “ditty”….

“Nowt about today,
 once the reet dollop of shebbies,
 had passed to the East,
18000 of the 100000 o’er my head,
 and nah a got a thumping headache”

(Shebbies is a sort of slang word used to describe Starlings and used throughout Lancashire)

Anyone wishing to view the Starlings leaving can get good views from the top of Vicarage Lane, but if you are viewing from there do not chose an ENE wind or you may well be disappointed by the numbers you will get!

If you want to enjoy a great spectacle watching them on their daily return, obviously the best place will be at their roost sites (Silverdale Moss from approx.1600 hours onwards) were you may well be lucky and treated to the “murmurations”.  If you just want to watch hundreds of Starlings come back in at night I like to watch them from the area just past the Storth Engineering Works and under the railway bridge and there you can usually see them whilst they cross over the mosses (at the moment it’s about 1545 hours onwards)

Diary notes from October 31st 2018 - INTERESTING STARLING FACTS 

This beautiful red sky is what the Starlings will have witnessed at approx 0706hrs on the morning of Wed 31st October 2018 (Halloween). I am stood at my watchpoint at Taylors Field (named Greenslet) which is Off Vicarage Lane, Burton In Kendal). The photo depicts the areas to my North East and East.  The large wooded area you can see in the photo is “Pickles Wood” and Lancelot Clark Storth (CWT) which lie to the west flank of the Hutton Roof complex.
This photo captures the situation on just how the sky looked towards the horizon (east) at the time of the incident, although if you were looking to a more south east direction from my watchpoint, then the sky would have been more colour intense as shown in the “actual” photo below which was taken at the time of the incident.

Approx 2,000 Starling came through in one wave (after leaving their roost which is about 5 miles to my West at Silverdale Moss) and would expect them to reach me about 3-4 minutes after they have left their roost site. Normally they would fly over me and continue East to their feeding grounds around Kirkby Lonsdale and all areas in the localities.
Just as they passed me and at a height of approx 50ft, they unexpectedly all tumbled down quickly to the nearest tree (eg: The Ash tree shown in the first photo toward the bottom of the lane, with most of the overspill of birds going into the trees of Pickles Wood (to the right hand of the Ash tree) which lies to the base of Hutton Roof to take cover. There they all started chattering with an enormous collective sound just like you would normally hear if you went along to their evening roost site. (Click on left hand arrow on sonogram below to experience that very sound of collective Starlings)

 It’s quite obvious the birds were agitated.
When the red skies on their horizon had almost subsided perhaps 20 minutes later the birds then started to leave the temporary holding area in small parties of 50 or more at a time, the evacuation lasted for some 20 minutes.  I can only think that perhaps the sight of that red sky had "spooked" them! or maybe they were showing that they wanted to get into the "Halloween" mood (spooky)......

A beautiful photo showing Starling irridescence
Thanks to Ronald Blackburn for sharing with us