There was a quick AGM where Liz Harris and her successful team were appointed to continue to run the branch followed by the main event, a talk on Starlings.
What do you know about the behaviour of Starlings that create magnificent murmurations when in flight during the winter months? Some of these answers were given by Peter Reay, and then Phil Dean and John Walters when presenting a wonderful talk on ‘Starling Gazing in South Brent – And Beyond’.
Peter described how interest was stimulated in Starlings when large numbers of starlings were observed roosting in several of the nine clumps of bamboo growing around the village. Having reached numbers of 10,000 during the winter of 2012/2013, these went down to 500 last year. Peter talked about the uniqueness of each bird’s song with its many types of clicks and calls and their approximate dusk to dawn roosting period.
Phil relayed the findings from the Brent Bird Survey set up in South Brent village in 2014 and due to run for three years. The aim is to carry out a 1km square level survey to collect numbers of birds and wildlife and evidence of breeding in the 40 plus squares of the South Brent parish.
An old Pathe News clip showed numerous Starlings roosting in the fronds of a six metre bamboo plantation. Once considered a pest (and still considered so at some roost sites) they have declined dramatically as a UK breeding bird over the last 50 years.
After the break John captured the dynamic shapes of the murmurations on camera in several different areas including Okehampton Camp and Whiteworks.
Still, questions about Starling behaviour remain. Do they come together for safety and to communicate about feeding areas, and what makes them leave the bamboo early morning at varying times? With Starling numbers in sharp decline, any observations gained by the 20-30 volunteers in the village will continue to make up the bigger picture.
All three speakers presented a slick, professional and informative talk, which was much enjoyed.