Learning to be a starling

Bug Woman - Adventures in London


Dear Readers, I have mentioned before that my garden is inundated with fledgling starlings every year. To start with it’s just one or two but by the end of May every bough is bending under the weight of squawling youngsters. When I look up, I see adult starlings with their offspring in hot pursuit. It’s a difficult few weeks for starling parents, to be sure. To start with, the youngsters are completely clueless, standing ankle-deep in food without knowing what it is.


Somehow the adults seem to know which ‘child’ is theirs, and they only ever feed their own offspring, regardless of the pitiful cries of other youngsters. I wonder if they know by the tone of voice, or by some subtle visual signal? The little ones all look the same to me. Most starling parents seem to have two fledglings on average, though some exhausted parents have managed three…

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Another Year

Bug Woman - Adventures in London

Fledgling starling

Dear Readers , it seems impossible that I was writing about the new cohort of fledgling starlings a whole year ago, but here we are again. A couple of weekends ago we were woken at stupid o’clock by the insistent, wheezy calls of young starlings, fresh out of the nest and eager to be fed. The sky was alive with parent birds flying fast and low, hotly pursued by their ravenous offspring. I have noted before how the parents ‘park’ their freshly emerged youngsters in a tree, or on the ground, and then fly off to gather food for them. Left to their own devices, even briefly, the youngsters get into all kinds of mischief, and every year there’s something new. For example, I had never seen a starling sunning itself before. This one looked as if s/he was enjoying being able to stretch her wings. Maybe it…

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At Walthamstow Wetlands (Again)

Bug Woman - Adventures in London

Dear Readers, there is a condition known as pareidolia, in which we see faces in inanimate objects. But, really, how could one resist this little fellow, who is actually an old meter, set into the wall of the Engine House cafe in Walthamstow Wetlands? I almost offered him a bite of scone. But soon it was time to walk out amongst the reservoirs, and so I had to leave him behind.

The air was zipping with house martins feeding on the gnats that were rising from the water. Soon, the birds will be heading off to Africa, so I hope that they got a decent number of calories. Dragonflies were patrolling the paths too. I felt sorry for the prey insects as they were picked off, but I suspect there are many more that passed unharmed. You really do get a feeling for the importance of invertebrates as the basis…

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The Nimble Musicians of the Air (Isaak Walton)

Bug Woman - Adventures in London

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

Dear Readers, I am currently reading Joe Harkness’s ‘Bird Therapy’, which describes how the author found birdwatching to be a solace following a breakdown. I am finding it inspirational, because it not only tells the author’s story (which is fascinating), but is also full of lots of practical advice. Harkness has structured the book around the ‘five ways to wellbeing’ which have been endorsed by the mental health charity MInd. They are: to connect, to take notice, to give, to keep learning and to be active. The author points out that these five things are intrinsic to birdwatching, and it also felt like a helpful way for me to think about my relationship to my blog.

I have long thought that contact with nature is deeply healing: one problem with the way that most of us live these days is that we are lonely…

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What binocular brand(s) do you use?

SzimiStyle Birding

Leica Noctivid 10×42

For a forthcoming project on binoculars, I have been running a single question survey aiming to see what binocular brands are birdwatchers and wildlife lovers are using. The results will be used for the projects and will widely be published online.

Your input and sharing this post would be greatly appreciated.

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Flitting flutters: a landfall of Yellow-browed Warblers

SzimiStyle Birding

Many of my birding friends have been saying the very same phrase: “Spurn never disappoints!” Following my second ever visit to Spurn, I cannot agree more with this. The unique coastal habitat complex with a stunning geographic feature makes the Spurn National Nature Reserve one of the most exciting migration watching destinations Western Palearctic. Together with the tidal zone of the Humber Estuary, Spurn offers a variety of habitats for birds and makes birders flocking in the area in the peak migrations season but most probably through the year.

Wonderful sunset over the North Sea. © Gyorgy Szimuly

YWT Spurn Discovery Centre in morning lights. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Failed to fall asleep, I left home in the middle of the night, and two coffees later I arrived at Spurn at 5 AM. Short snooze in the care and off I went for searching Yellow-browed Warblers. Fourteen were seen on the…

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The Red-eyed Vireo dip

SzimiStyle Birding

Just after I left Spurn two weeks ago, another incredible American rarity turned up in the nearby Easington village on 12 October. It was one of the multiple Red-eyed Vireos in Great Britain this autumn.

The Sporn Red-eyed Vireo was well seen by many birders while stayed in Easington. This photo was kindly offered by Brian Martin. All rights reserved by the photographer.

I got to Spurn early, and with the first lights and I headed to the Spurn Point where the bird was seen multiple times in the previous days. Several birders tried to find the bird what was reportedly seen briefly at dawn, but no specific location has been given.

Drizzle clouds over the North Sea early in the morning. © Gyorgy Szimuly

After more than 4 hours zigzagging in the shrub and already 7 miles in my feet, I started my long and exhausting walk back…

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New Year, New Paragraph… Old Traditions

SzimiStyle Birding

So we kicked off a new year and a new decade with the traditional ‘First Day of the Year Birding‘ with mixed emotions and a little bit of confusion. What this new decade will bring, we will only know in 10 years time? Anyway, birding never disappoints in distracting my disturbed mind and giving it a little peace. It always works for me, although I don’t get enough of it.

Today I visited the closest coastal birding destination to my home, Norfolk, for multiple reasons. Several good birds have been reported from Norfolk in the past few weeks, but without any speciality, I always enjoy watching shorebirds at the beach or the wintering geese in the adjacent fields or just sitting at the dunes for sea-watching.

The Titchwell RSPB Reserve is always an exciting place to start the birding day in Norfolk. My first bird of the year…

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A last-minute lifer of 2019

SzimiStyle Birding

After a ridiculous realisation that the recently discovered Black-throated Thrush at the Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire would be a life bird, I finally had a chance to have a ‘family’ day out.

The bird has been seen daily since it was first photographed on 11 December, but I only checked my life list a few days ago and got immediately excited to go. Today even the weather supported my plans. By noon the bird has already reported on BirdGuides, so there was no reason not to give it a go.

Black-throated Thrush at the Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom. This excellent photo was taken by Steve Liptrot and posted here with the photographer’s consent and permission as per Flickr mail. Please check out his work by clicking on his name.

At my arrival, the bird showed up relatively quickly, and I enjoyed watching the feather details from a close distance…

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