Friday, 15 November 2013

Thursday 14 November Starlings and Bittern

Feeding along the edge (c) Tezzer

Building a platform (c) Tezzer

Starlings all pics (c) Bark
I thought that I would take my own advice and go down to see the roost on a weekday evening. Although windy it was dry and bright.
In the event it was not the Starlings that made the evening but a Bittern that stole the show.
Paul Greenaway had seen a Bittern earlier in the day feeding in the open along the northern edge of the far lagoon. It had subsequently disappeared but when arrived at the second screen at about two thirty it was working its way along the margin and giving superb views in the sunshine. I have not had such a sustained view of a Bittern for a long time and it was demonstrating some interesting feeding strategies. It seemed to be picking food out of the reedy detritus left as the water levels on the lagoon have dropped. It also spent time with the tip of its bill in the water waiting to snatch small fry.
Another novelty for me was watching it construct a platform to stand on. After climbing up some reed stems about a metre high it proceeded to hook in vertical reeds with its bill and construct a more solid reed platform where it stood sheltered from the wind and indulged it some serious feather maintenance. It did not remain there to roost as later we saw it heading down to roost in the southern reedbed.
The starlings when they came were quite numerous, but perhaps due to the wind,  came in low and fast and dived straight into the reeds. There was a spectacular moment when a large number were flushed by a Hen Harrier and a Sparrowhawk, but almost immediately settled again. We estimated the numbers coming at about fifteen thousand. It does seem that for an aerial spectacular to happen calm weather is needed but equally I am sure I can remember seeing great displays on grey and windy days. As an afterthought does the word "murmeration" refer to the sound they make in the reedbed once settled or to the flock flying and displaying?

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