Beautiful birds part 1

Starlings

So last weekend we had some of our lovely friends visit and as we always do when people come here we had our obligatory trip to the beach. While some were throwing stones in the sea and others were wrapped up under a blanket on the beach a large flock of starlings flew past.

Much excitement followed and we all headed for the West Pier as we realised it’s the perfect time of year to see a murmuration of starlings, which is basically an enormous flock all flying in unison as they rise and dive in the sky. They fly like this in large groups for safety. It is also thought that they gather together for warmth at night and to swap information on good feeding spots. Brighton’s slowly decaying West Pier is a well known location for starlings to roost. We were luckily there just before dusk, which is the perfect time to view this spectacle.

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If you want to see murmurations of starlings then the following information will help:

  • Head out before dusk to a spot where they are known to roost (some of the best places in the UK to spot them are listed here).
  • Go from November onwards. They can be seen as early as September but November is the usual time, and they increase in numbers as the weeks go on so this time of year is perfect viewing time!
  • Calm and clear conditions are the best (it was a really still evening when we saw ours).

Although you can see starlings all year more arrive in the Autumn from colder climates to spend their winters here. However do not be fooled into thinking that because you can see large groups that their populations are flourishing. There has actually been a large decline in numbers since the 1980s and they are currently ‘red-listed’ (high conservation concern).

 

Robins

The UK’s national favourite since 1960 these bold little fellows can be seen all year but we tend to see them more and associate them with winter. We have one in the tree outside our flat that we have seen a lot recently and so I have been finding out robin facts to tell the kids.

They look so sweet but are actually quite aggressive birds. This is because they hold their territories all year and so have to work hard to keep others away. One way they do this is to sing (aggressively?!). They also keep look out and can often been seen perching up high. Therefore the well used image on Christmas cards of a robin on a garden spade on is actually something they do. Robins also try to be higher than other robins to show off their red breast.

In quite a few bird species the male and female birds look different (they are sexually dimorphic, think mallard ducks and blackbirds) but this is not the case with robins. So the males and females look the same, however the young robins don’t have a red breast. They are brown with golden spots instead, which comes in use when you have overly territorial parents as it means that the young don’t get mistaken for another grown up robin and accidentally get involved in any disputes.

We totally cheated and bought a bird feeder but if you want to make one to attract robins and other birds over the winter the RSPB has some simple ones to make here, here and here. Take your pick!

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