Ever since we moved into our house two years ago, we’ve had uninvited house guests staying all year round. From the roof space about our bedroom comes the frequent scratching, squeaking, squabbling and, sometimes, beatboxing of a pair of starlings.
Our relationship with them swings from care and amusement to annoyance and, very occasionally, strong avicidal thoughts. They like to slide down the sloping sides of the loft floor and get into fights with their neighbours, they occasionally like to run around the loft itself (in the pitch blackness) and they sit in the tree opposite their nest hole impersonating all manner of other birds.
They also bring up their broods just above our sleeping space. Just as the chicks first hatch, we hear very faint squeaking, barely audible without straining to hear. However, after very few weeks this turns into loud and rowdy cacophony of harsh rasping from countless near-fledglings. For a week or so in June we are woken way before sunrise each day by the feathery idiots and their offspring starting their day like hyperactive gremlins.
When they eventually do leave us in peace and fly the nest, the chicks invade our garden, causing more general disturbance as they endlessly beg their parents for food and fight with each other and their other starling friends.
Once they have left the next they do leave behind a bit of a mess in the eaves of the house but we tolerate it for the entertainment they give us. However, thinking our human guests would not appreciate the same treatment we get, we decided to block up another hole above our spare room. We then installed a starling nest box just below the former entrance. So far they have completely ignored the luxury new home and, instead, the pair decided to start a turf war with our bedroom starlings before trying a new spot above my study.
This post wasn’t meant to be about our idiot lodgers but their foreign friends who visit the UK every year. I do like to seek out murmurations, where the starlings migrating to the country each winter form huge flocks and perform aerial ballets at dusk. We found one earlier this winter a few miles away near to Summer Leys Nature Reserve but haven’t really looked since.
Over the couple of weeks, however, when I’ve been out for a run after work I’ve been seeing growing numbers of starlings around the village. They started as small flocks but very recently they have turned into much larger congregations swirling over the houses. Last night, deciding against a run, we walked up the gradual hill in the village to seek the murmuration out and the video and photos below are the result…
I really can’t be cross with our house starlings when their cousins provide these spectaculars…but we might just be away on holiday this year at the peak of their rowdiness.