Photographic Advent Calendar, Day 5: Starlings

Starlings have to be one of my favourite winter birds, and why not? They congregate into sometimes gargantuan flocks that murmurate into the tens of thousands. This has to be one of the greatest winter birding spectacles across the UK, and can occur at any local reed bed near you, although locations such as Ham Wall in Somerset and Brighton pier are particularly impressive sites. Watching a huge flock of Starlings flow through the air and change shape, shade and tone in a split second is an amazing experience, which I have not had the pleasure of seeing for many years, living on Bardsey where a very small wintering population persists. This charismatic species is unfortunately currently on the Red List for its population declines in the UK. Changes to agriculture over the last few decades are one of the major causes, as with many ‘common’ garden and farmland birds in this country. Sturnus vulgaris (the latter merely meaning ‘common’) is therefore a key target for trying to protect, before these spectacular sights become a past occurrence. Check out a ringing recovery map for this species in Europe here, courtesy of the BTO.

I used a slow shutter speed to create the movement of feathers in this image as the bird shook

Part of a larger flock coming in to roost at Marazion marsh, a few weeks ago

I love watching Starlings feed: never content, always squabbling amongst themselves, they each have their own personality and are always up for a scrap

Part of a 100,000 roost of birds at Ham Wall, Somerset

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