For years starlings have been roosting just down the road from my house in a large clump of bamboo during the winter. It’s in the front garden of a block of flats in a busy residential road. If you happen to walk past at dusk you will see a couple of hundred starlings gathering in the sky. However, I should really say “could see” because in January (between our two coldest bits of weather) it was cut down. I was so angry and upset that it’s taken me until now to tell their story.
The brown bit (next to the telegraph pole) is where the bamboo used to stand
Starlings can feed up to 10 miles away from their roost during the day but at dusk the family group will always return to the safety and warmth of their roost. As it starts to get darker the numbers increase and what looks like a giant swarm of bees dances around in the sky before plunging into their roost like little torpedos.
Luckily on the 12 of January I’d taken my camera and filmed the starlings as they came in to roost. The film is 4 mins long (longer than my normal films – sorry) and shows the shape-shifting starlings zooming around above the houses. The sound track is actually the sound of them in the roost. I placed my camera near to the roost and walked a few steps back – but I thought it was an apt backing track for the film!
Vodpod videos no longer available.
So why did it happen? why was the roost cut down? and why was it done in such a cold patch of weather? Well I’ve heard from another resident that the next door neighbour wasn’t a fan of the starlings and had asked that they be “moved on” because they were noisy and dirty. They didn’t seem to make a lot of mess as they came in (but maybe I’m wrong) and yes they were noisy for a few minutes when they arrived, but that soon died down to total silence. However the timing of the bamboo being cut does seem to show a real lack of understands of how fine a line these birds are walking at this time of year – if they had only left it until the warmer weather came (mid-March) the birds would have found it a lot easier to survive, instead of being left in sub-zero temperatures with no home!
I rang the RSPB to ask their advice (this was before the roost was destroyed) and contacted Dorset Wildlife Trust. Both told me that although starlings (and all birds) and their nest sites are protected, their roosts aren’t. Both organisations were sorry that they couldn’t help more. However, this seems to suggest that if you want to make hundreds of starlings homeless at the coldest time of the year… go ahead… you aren’t breaking the law. It seems mad to me. Starling numbers have dropped by a massive 66% since the 1970’s and they are now a “red list species” but when they come into conflict with man (or woman) – then they must go… with no thought to their welfare.
I feel frustrated and angry that I couldn’t protect wildlife that was practically on my doorstep but if this post is read by just ONE person who’s thinking of cutting a roost down, then maybe, just maybe it will have done some good.