Saturday 7 January 2012

Starling Hunt

OK, I wasn't really hunting Starlings. I didn't have a rifle, catapult or even a pea shooter as I set off on what ended up being my longest run for a fair old while. I just had my eyes, and an ancient mp3 player with rubbish sports headphones that keep falling off my ears.

London Road lake, plenty of male tufted duck in their neat plumage, the solitary grebe, blackheaded gulls and the usual coots and moorhens. The baby moorhens are growing up. They were born late, but the winter has so far been a mild one.

Now that I've written that, I'm sure I'll be frozen to death while cycling to work, miserable, cursing, at 6am in the next few days.

I ran the whole muddy length of Clay Lane, proper cross country running that, but too twilight to see much, r indeed anything, before I headed across Beacon Hill estate and through Beacon Hill reserve; not much to be seen here either - note to self, start your runs earlier.

But on the industrial estate, things were rather more fun. The Starlings were in their "murmurations" (blame Autumnwatch if that is not a proper word...) - lots of them.

The first group, about 200 birds or so, was up by X2 Connect on Brunel Drive, there was a flock here yesterday as well. But as opposed to yesterday, when I was a bit earlier, these birds were not gradually coming up and gradually merging into one flock, these birds were commencing their first tentative dives down into the trees and bushes in which they roost.

Another flock, the largest, which absorbed a smaller flock as I ran past, was bigger, and was at the other end of Brunel Drive where it meets the main road by KFC. Turning towards town, another small flock of 100 birds was about 200 metres further down the road, and over the Winthorpe Road estate another flock was making these strange, flowing, punctuation marks in the sky.

A fifth flock - this sounds like the narrator of HG Wells' War of the Worlds meeting the dying martians in their fighting machines in Dead London - was operating over the Mace store and post office apart half way towards the bridge, and as I looked towards town in the distance, there was another flock over the new Co-Op, I reckoned.

But as I arrived a couple of minutes later, the light fading to grey, a darker grey, they had gone. They had decided enough was enough, and settled for the night! And as I looked back, the other flocks were down as well.

All the Starlings asleep for the night! Their flying, commas and full stops and brackets upon the sky, was over, so much easier for them than if I bought one of those gliders I admire so much on Brunel Drive whenever I run by.

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