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Old 14th Feb 2008, 9:42   #1
ono no komachi
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Default The Nature Thread

Well, we have a Food thread, and a Weather thread! I thought it might be nice to have somewhere to note our encounters with the natural world, especially after bak's waxing lyrical about the birds and the bees yesterday.

Despite having lived in fair proximity to the Severn Estuary for more years than I care to remember, I'd never been witness to the now-famous clouds of starlings, that is, until this morning.

As we approached the Severn Bridge, there was a swell of starlings over to the right, then as we got closer it was clear there was a ribbon of flocking birds coming all the way over from the opposite bank of the river (which is about a mile wide at that point). They were billowing up and over the pylons of the bridge, except that at one point, the flock split and large numbers decided to plummet downwards, evidently choosing the under-bridge route to the Welsh side.

I'm sure I've barely conveyed the smallest sense of what it was like, but it was amazing. What a way to start the day.
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Old 14th Feb 2008, 10:27   #2
John Self
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Default Re: The Nature Thread

I think it's impossible to convey the sense of wonder that flocks of starlings instil, either in words, pictures or video. You really have to be there to appreciate the immensity and control of how they look.

In Belfast they congregate over the Albert Bridge, presumably at dawn and dusk, though I've never been there at dawn so only ever see them as the day begins to end. Is it a water thing, hence the Severn attracting them too?

Oddly enough Mrs Self and I commented on them as we were coming home last Saturday and passed beneath them, then when I was at the launch of David Park's The Truth Commissioner on Tuesday night one of the speakers talked about them. Apparently how they navigate is that each starling always have seven others in its line of sight; it moves as they move.

Here are some pics and a video of the Belfast mob. The patterns are at their best after the 2:00 min mark.

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Old 14th Feb 2008, 10:34   #3
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Default Re: The Nature Thread

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In Belfast they congregate over the Albert Bridge, presumably at dawn and dusk, though I've never been there at dawn so only ever see them as the day begins to end. Is it a water thing, hence the Severn attracting them too?
It may well be. I think in more rural areas they often roost in reed beds.
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Old 14th Feb 2008, 10:48   #4
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Default Re: The Nature Thread

They are a spectacular sight. Up to about 30 years ago, Birmingham used to have enormous flocks of Starlings in the early evening, attracted apparently by the city centre's slightly higher night time temperature. It was often reported that there were up to a million birds in these flocks, I don't know if that was an exaggeration but they did fill the sky and block out a lot of light as they wheeled overhead. But, they were considered a nuisance and the council hung lights in the trees which, along with property owners netting or otherwise protecting their window ledges, dispersed the birds and now sadly, a flock of 30 Starlings is a big one in Brum.
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Old 14th Feb 2008, 10:57   #5
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Default Re: The Nature Thread

Looking into this further, apparently in Belfast they roost under the Albert Bridge at night - bit of a shock for anyone on a boat tour at the time, I'd have thought. The Belfast one is relatively small compared to BiNS' old Brum one, 30-50,000 birds, though how they count them is anyone's guess.
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Old 14th Feb 2008, 18:31   #6
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Default Re: The Nature Thread

That reminds me of visits to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico when I was younger. They have an amphitheater where you can sit in the evenings and watch the bats as they leave for their nocturnal feedings. At first they trickle out a few at a time but soon there is a solid column that blocks out the sky. According to this site, the exodus can take up to 2.5 hours and I've read elsewhere that there are estimated to be several hundred thousand bats living there.
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Old 14th Feb 2008, 20:04   #7
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This caught my eye yesterday. Shame about the English one mentioned in the article, it seems that nothing is sacred, let's hope there really is a curse on anyone killing such a rarity.
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Old 15th Feb 2008, 12:48   #8
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Default Re: The Nature Thread

Saw a kingfisher from the bus this morning. A flash of brilliant blue down and then gone. Beautiful.
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Old 15th Feb 2008, 12:51   #9
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Saw a kingfisher from the bus this morning. A flash of brilliant blue down and then gone. Beautiful.
Oh, fab. I've only seen a kingfisher 'live' once, but it was truly memorable.
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Old 15th Feb 2008, 12:53   #10
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Default Re: The Nature Thread

I have seen one once before, by the canal. Again only saw it for an instant but that was enough to make me feel great all day.
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