Monday, November 17, 2008

Photo Friday- Autumn

Autumn would be hard to miss here in Nice as the trees outside our house gradually fill with European Starlings Sturnus vulgaris and the noise is unbelievable. Its like a scene from 'The Birds' by Alfred Hitchcock.

They start to appear by mid October -one or two at the beginning, then a dozen , then fifty , until it seems as if every branch of every tree in the street is covered with dark bird shapes.
The birds look almost black from a distance but close up they are speckled with white in winter plumage and have a greenish purple gloss and fewer speckles in summer

Here are a couple of the starlings sitting as if they were posing for a William Morris tapestry or wallpaper.

Starlings are very gregarious and roost in flocks of hundreds and even thousands of individuals [which is partly why they make so much noise].
Every year people park cars under the starling roost trees and come back to find the car is completely covered in guano which has a negative effect on the paintwork.
I suppose the unlucky car owners don't anticipate that hundreds of birds equals lots and lots of droppings.

Flocks of starlings make some amazing acrobatic and

I took this video today -it gives an idea of the noise and the number of starlings . The windows are all closed so imagine how loud it would be if the video hadn't been taken through glass.

Starlings are good mimics and can be taught to 'talk' like myna birds. William Shakespeare refers to the mimicry in Henry IV :

“I’ll have a starling shall be taught to speak
Nothing but ‘Mortimer,’ and give it him,
To keep his anger still in motion.”

Sadly , the birds were introduced to the US in the 19th century by the American Acclimatization Society who had the bizarre goal of releasing all 600 species of bird mentioned by Shakespeare.
Under 100 starlings were initially released in Central Park but now there are estimates of over 200 million starlings in the US.


Magpie Magic said...

Hi Alison,

The photo looks indeed like an Arts & Crafts wall paper. Would make a lovely pattern if slightly stylised.
The noise of the birds must be disconcerting especially early in the mornings, or do you get used to it after a while?

Alison Ashwell said...

Unfortunately you don't really get used to the noise because they leave the roost in the morning about 8am and come back around 5pm.
The street is very quiet just now but there will be thousands and thousands of starlings chattering away in about an hours time.

natural attrill said...

Blimey, how much did they charge for that pose!!!
Seriously, that is a fab photo.

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