Monday, 30 December 2013

An étourneau-shing sight...

Starling [Sturnus vulgaris] Étourneau sansonnet
Yesterday morning we had a flight of at least four thousand to five thousand Starlings [Sturnus vulgaris] Étourneau sansonnet over the house...
now we understand why they are a nuisible in France...
it was one of those "Wow!!" moments.

I was looking out of the kitchen window when they started coming past...
and, as they kept coming, I became a little hypnotised by the movement of the birds.
They were flying straight down the Aigronne Valley...
East to West!

What it looked like... but this was from later and not so close!

When I'd pulled myself together...
after a couple of minutes, I might add...
I called upstairs to Pauline...
 mainly because she hadn't "informed" me of the flypast...
so I knew she hadn't, at that point, spotted them.

They continued flying past for about another minute...
and as the tail-end left my view point I dashed to the "front" door...
grabbing a camera off the table en-route...

They were this close to the house... but travelling East to West!!
It was only then that I realised that they had over-flown the house...
and not just in front of the kitchen window...
they were still passing on the other side of the longére!!
But only for a few seconds...

So...
I didn't get any pictures at that point...
but...
looking over toward Grandmont and La Jarrie a couple of hours later...
Pauline spotted another well known starling "sight"...
a "murmuration"....
this can take place at a roost in the evening...
or if there is a raptor about...
quite often below the flock...
waiting to pick one off as they settle into a tree...
or onto the ground.
As we saw our "murmuration" around mid-morning...
'twas probably the latter.

The starlings stretch from the top of the picture to the bottom...
view large by clicking on these pictures for the full effect.
There were probably around a thousand in this flock...
really tiny... when compared with the two U-Tube videos below.

Here they are spiralling up and down...
While Pauline has seen this type of display at a roost of many thousands near York...
this is the first time I have seen it "live"...
"as seen on TV" wildlife action being my only viewings up to yesterday!!

They are off the top of this picture and linked by some birds to the two "blobs" at the bottom...
...these two blobs!!

The flock Pauline spotted, broke up and about half flew towards us and directly overhead...
and as the camera was in hand, I could at least show you what the sky looked like in the morning...
albeit from the wrong direction...
they are the two flight shots at the start!.

So... here's a couple of U-Bend videos of these wonderful displays...
starting with one filmed at the RSPB's Otmoor Reserve, just outside Oxford...
which has a very good commentary...


I recommend watching this one full screen...

This second one is at Gretna Green...
and there is a single falcon around, near the roost...
another favourite place for a raptor to lie in wait!!



And "Tweet of the Day" on Radio Four this morning was.....
The Starling
 presented by David Attenborough!!

8 comments:

Susan said...

I've seen a flock of a thousand or so at RSPB Rainham Marshes -- a murmuration being hunted by a hobby. Very interesting to watch it split the flock again and again to try to single out a bird. I didn't realise this was a relatively rare sight (huge flocks I knew were rare, but I've seen murmurations a number of times where they were big enough to be impressive with the shifting shape). We used to live overlooking RSPB Rainham Marshes.

Pollygarter said...

A raptor will try to keep them in the air until one of them gets tired enough to go for the ground. Then they all descend while the weakest one is finished off. It's fun watching a murmuration with 20 supposedly grown-up RSPB members making Battle of Britain noises as the raptor goes in. We didn't see a raptor with this murmuration but I bet there was one. There's a peregrine around.

Niall & Antoinette said...

we saw our 1st live one recently just by the T junction where the chemin to our house branches left. It was sizeable but not huge. Reading this, have to assume a raptor was involved as it was during the day(didn't know about it being anti-raptor behaviour); they did touch down only to lift off again a second or two later.

Happy Hogmanay!

Tim said...

I remember you telling us that...
There must be a roost in the valley somewhere...
given the time of day, and direction of travel of the vast flight...
it is either somewhere between us...
or beyond you, even?!
If we can find it, we'll get some great evening entertainment!!

&&&&&&&&&&&&

Hippo Hogswatch to you two, too!
May the haggis crawl quietly into the pot!!
Or microwave...
if that is your chosen method...
there are Haggis rescue homes available for the faint hearted!!

afrenchgarden said...

Is not nature amazing!! Thanks for this post. In a few places in the world where I have lived I have seen large flocks of starlings - never counted them. In my home town a long avenue of several miles was bordered by old plane trees and in spring and summer the noise of the roosting starlings virtually deadened the heavy traffic. They always reminded me of Hitchcock's "The Birds" movie. Awesome!
But I never understood why of all the birds that I love, I like starlings the least!

Tim said...

They are marvellous when they behave like this Amelia...
but, having seen the havoc caused by a mass of them...
and the associated noise I can quite understand why people find them an "unlovely" bird.
My Dad used to call them his little helpers...
a squad of them working a lawn creates more aeration than he could with the hollow tine fork.
And I think that breeding adults are possibly one of the most decorative of birds...
but part of the reason I was longer in calling Pauline's attention to the initial squadrons that came past...
was due to an induced state of awe!!

Jean said...

We saw one of these yesterday on the tops between Neuilly and Descartes. It was fairly spectacular.

We felt very lucky to see it at all as a few moments before we were nearly wiped out by a nutter in a green car hurtling round the bend towards us on our side of the road. How we didn't crash or both end up in the ditch is a wonder.

Tim said...

Jean,
If you were on the road between Neuilly and Descartes...
then the idiot travelling the other way must have...
"known that no one else ever uses that road!!"
It is only a back road after all... not!
Glad you are still with us!!