Friday, 15 February 2008

Starling hordes


Something I've never seen before today - I had just restocked the bird feeders in the garden and was watching from indoors. The birds are all showing signs of preoccupation with spring and the breeding season - two chaffinches were having a fierce and fluttery spat on the ground - and, as usual at this time of year, the starlings have reappeared at the feeders, having been absent for much of the winter. While I was watching, a starling which was standing on the bird table reached down towards a sparrow on the fatball feeder, grabbed it by the scruff of its neck and pulled it off, shaking it backwards and forwards in the air before dropping it. The sparrow flew off apparently unfazed, but I was full of indignation on its behalf.

I'm very fond of "our" sparrows, and enjoy watching them in the hawthorn hedge, where they each sit in their own little hollow, safely out of the eye of hawks and cats, waiting for the bird food to arrive. They are great characters, travelling in a little flock round the garden, cleaning insects from around the wheel-arches of the cars, clearing up after the chicken run has been moved on and generally carrying out their noisy lives in the full glare of public scrutiny, a sort of extended family appearance on reality TV. The starlings, on the other hand, are raucous and greedy: a fat slab disappears within hours of being put out. In summer whole families bicker over worms on the lawn and, every now and again, an entire flock descends for a day, and the air is full of noise. The beauty of the oily sheen on their feathers is, I admit, under-rated, but I cannot welcome them wholeheartedly.

Tomorrow I will take a little time to groom Senior Dog, who will provide copious clumps of soft brown fluff; these will roll around the garden like balls of tumbleweed, until it has all been collected by uxorious sparrows. The dogs regard the birdtable regulars with a benevolent eye, and SD will not begrudge it.

5 comments:

Table Talk said...

We have so many magpies around here that other birds tend to get scared off. Just occasionally though at this time of year we do get a pair of greenfinches and very very occasionally we get a spectacular pair of jays. That is a red letter day.

elizabethm said...

Our bird table is full of chaffinches, blue tit, great tits and my favourite nuthatches just now. I am not a fan of starlings but we get very few here, do however get jays and magpies, beautiful but rascals.

GeraniumCat said...

TT, I think jays are so spectacular! I see them in Devon, where there are also ravens, but not here.

Elizabeth, I envy you (and my mother) nuthatches. My stepfather calls it "the upsidedown bird" - but I love my garden birds, so I musn't complain (even the starlings can be amusing to watch).

Table Talk said...

I saw the jays for the first time this year, this morning.

Hannah Velten said...

Totally agree with you about the starlings - we have a pair visiting at the moment and they do seem to bully our usual assortment of tits, robins and sparrows. But never seen them actually attack. Today we had a beautiful thrush join the throng...