I did not feel as though penning something last week was appropriate – for reasons, I hope, are obvious – so it is nice to be back in the saddle. Summer has started to really kick in now (together unfortunately with the required need for gardening work for those of us lucky enough to have a substantial garden to enjoy). Our garden is looking reasonably good after some effort (although nothing can save the lawn; grass is now a minority species in its expanse I fear in between the clover, moss and various other miscellaneous species that have crept in). The birds are at their most active and charming as they go through the breeding season and my devotion to the bird feeder is paying off with a wide range of engaging species from Goldfinches to a Greater Spotted Woodpecker but one species has been exceptional this year.
My garden has been taken over by Starlings.
It started innocently enough. A handle of adult starlings arrived, presumably migrants. They in particular took to suet balls and dried meal worms (the latter in particular, but then this is spot on food for that species). Starlings are beautiful little birds as adults once you look at them clearly and they have suffered a major decline in recent years so it was lovely to see them.
A couple of weeks ago, they turned up with an additional five birds, dull brown juveniles. It looked very much that the first place they went after fledging was our feeder and they have been there more or less constantly since then. This week more juveniles turned up so at peak visiting that’s 15 to 20 individuals.
Our garden is decently sized but not huge. I am beginning to slightly worry about complaints from the neighbours.
Starlings are terribly entertaining in large groups, but they are extremely noisy. They bicker constantly even as adults and when you add in the youngsters calling to still be fed that is quite a racket in an otherwise quiet road. Then again, are they any noisier than the multiple small families that live in our road and the regular high pitched squealing, shrieking and occasional ‘I hate you!’ utterances between their sibling charges? Probably not. The Starlings are probably less violent as well, although they do bicker constantly, with the adults regularly taking to the air for brief skirmishes before dropping once more to the food as the notice a third individual sneaking in for a snack while they are otherwise occupied. The juveniles usually just sit next to each other and occasionally peck each other in the head. So again, not much different from human children (well, siblings at least).
They are eating me out of house and home though – they will demolish a fat ball in a few seconds, their little beaks acting as little pile drivers and shattering it apart. The mealworms last even less time before they are swallowed or shoved down the throats of their offspring. Also they would keep eating all day if I kept putting more out.
But I think it is worth it. Echoing the dulcet tones of Phil Daniels it ‘gives me an enormous sense of wellbeing’ and they are a species that needs a hand – after all most reasons for their decline are our responsibility as well. However, thankfully they should be off at the end of the summer otherwise we might have to increase the mortgage to keep pace with their never ending feasting requirements.