A Moment of Reflection.

Past ignoring the initially-subtle hints that the back lawn needs cutting (and it does!) I am engaged in my usual battle with blunt mower blades, long grass and a mental resistance to following a machine backwards and forwards across shortened grass. The new-brewed cup of coffee sits on the table outside. Tempting.The mower keeps getting blocked and, while stooping to clear the soggy lumps within I become aware of the starlings. A couple of dozen or thereabouts. They wheel tightly in and around, alighting on our ridge tiles and next doors TV aerial. Four darker adults; the rest juveniles, differing shades of pale brown/grey with prominent eye-stripes and shorter tails. They put me in mind of a squadron of inexperienced  First World war fighter pilots. Landing, then squabbling, changing places on the landing strip: a lot of empty bravado. They hop about, preen, heads constantly on the move. Somehow, their shape perhaps, I always see starlings as part woodpecker. I have known them to nest in vacant holes in trees – and that bill. Some part of arrested/changed evolution maybe. But there is no doubt starlings are successful in the niche they fill. And gorgeous with it, stunning iridescent adult plumage in summer and autumn.

Are they looking at me? Some trophy revealed by my mowing? Searching for the place where ants will burst from underground nests? Such curiosity and intelligence and sometimes downright cheeky behaviour!

Up above them in the wider blue a couple of swifts patrol lazily and higher still, silver flashes betray the presence of a holiday bound airliner.

The No-to-the-Mow patch (planted ambitiously long before this became a sloganized – and worthwhile –  campaign) is looking unkempt, more grass species than wildflower, but I am hoping it serves a genuine purpose for wildlife. This morning there are no bees yet, but the now-four-legged and awkwardly tailed froglets in the pond jerk about at any approach and a meadow brown butterfly shows up occasionally. And there are signs of a hedgehog in the garden.

I sit gently to watch the starlings. Not wanting to put them to flight. They seem to be taking the sun. On another roof perches a ubiquitous woodpigeon. My plot neighbour reckons the increase in woodpigeon numbers is linked to the oil seed rape being grown by local farmers.

“Pigeons don’t eat rape,” he explained, “ so the farmers don’t need to shoot ‘em like they did when they were growing corn.”  I have to admit it does make a certain kind of sense. This specimen looks fat and happy to just rest its bulk in the sunlight.

How many broods of starlings is this? I wonder. Are the mature ones tasked with showing them the ropes? Are these birds the mothers of the youngsters? Where are the rest of the mob?

At the end of the line one screeches, loudly. If it was any kind of a message the others ignore it.

Then, suddenly a magpie flaps up. Lands on the ridge. The nearest starlings shuffle away. But some of them take to the air. That’s it! They all exit with a whir of efficient wings.

More training needed.                    

The second half of the lawn to mow;  the coffee is cold now.


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