Sunday, January 29, 2012

Flue Jay or Darling Starling?

European Starling Watercolor    © 2012  Sally Della Wickham

The European Starling is an eye-catching bird.  When viewed from afar it is black but in the sunshine  glints with a metallic sheen of  purple or green.   In the winter and spring it is covered with a dazzling array of speckles that reminds me of stars in  the night sky.  Although they may have been named for their resemblance to a four pointed star when in flight, I prefer to think it is because of their resemblance to a starry starry night.  

Last summer, a  starling fell from the sky and into my flue.  That brave bird did not utter a single cry  for help but the  thumping/thrashing sound of numerous  attempts to  escape disturbed me while I sat drinking my coffee at the kitchen table.  I checked the wood stove.  Nothing there.  Then, I checked the clean out door and sure enough, the sounds came from directly behind the door.  After rescue, I snapped the bird’s  picture while it glared at me from a pair of  extra large leather gloves.   Later in the summer a group of five or six starlings perched on the utility wire near the vegetable garden.  I wondered if our rescue bird was among them while I enjoyed listening to their  lengthy repertoire.  

In the fall, conventions of starlings assemble in trees and their gathering is a noisy affair.  They  liven up the tree for a while with their raucous calls until a simultaneous decision is made to leave.  Then, silence-- except for the beating  of their  wings in the air as they take off in solidarity.  Their flight patterns amaze as they become one large shape shifter:   a funneling cloud that brings to mind  a tornado;  then swirling into a whirlwind like a desert sandstorm;  a string stretches out, then paisleys into a cloud-like form, separates and reunites --all the  birds  moving together as one great creature with one like mind in control. 

Now it is January of 2012.  The usual congregation of chickadees, finches and grosbeaks usually at my feeders have not appeared this year. Starlings are here every single day.  When spring arrives  and the bluebirds return, I may not have such a kind heart toward the starlings but for now,  I am grateful for their  company.  

Link to a visual of a murmuration:  

A large gathering of starlings is called a murmuration.