Stellar Starlings!

Its that time of year again, the Starlings are up to something! It’s almost as if they know something we don’t, sweeping by in a pulsing black cloud or chattering frantically from their perches in trees and on power lines.

Inside the cloud

Jon (a Full Time Volunteer) and I were teased by one such flock of Common Starlings down at Carnewas, the National Trust property overlooking Bedruthan Steps. With the task of mowing the grass in the car park we were also on the lookout for a classic photo of a starling flock, but they were definitely playing hard to get, only launching skyward whenever we put our cameras away.

While being a common garden bird and appearing in huge numbers when they flock together, Common Starlings are actually a Red Status bird according to the British Trust for Ornithology. This means that they are a high conservation priority as they have actually declined by 66% since the mid 1970s, with the cause generally unknown.

Despite all of this, the dark clouds formed by flocks of starlings are one of the great wildlife spectacles. Starlings will gather together for a number of reasons; to protect themselves from greedy predators such as the peregrine falcon, to keep warm and for a good old chinwag about the best feeding areas.

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The best time to see these aerial displays also known as ‘murmurations’ is early evening in autumn and winter, just before they choose their roosts in trees, reedbeds and old industrial sites. The flocks will be largest during winter when they are boosted by visitors from mainland Europe.

If you’ve been out on National Trust land and have managed to get a good photo of starling flocks doing their thing, send it to me at tom.sparkes@nationaltrust.org.uk and I’ll post it on this blog for others to enjoy.

Tom – North Cornwall Ranger

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