The Starlings

It’s only when you observe something, anything, that you begin to become aware of its complexities and subtleties, even in the simpler lifeforms (or apparently so). It’s easy to assume there is no real communication or community other than perhaps in primates, or in pack animals in their instinctive way. But it’s not that simple.

I’ve observed birds for years, not in an academic kind of way, or an anorak kind of way, but as interesting creatures I felt I could somehow relate to. The bird itself has varied, but that doesn’t matter now. I know from having observed it that the Starlings in Brighton arrive from all over Sussex to meet and fly around the skeleton pier every single day at dusk that they can be remarkably organised and consistant creatures. That they are capable of living in a civilised and consistant society (I use these terms somewhat loosely since I don’t think we have that ourselves).

But here where I now live they behave differently. They aren’t here at all in the summer. I haven’t been here long enough to know how connected the beginnings of their arrival are linked to the date or the weather, but gradually in autumn they begin to arrive. At dusk, or usually a little before it here, they flock and fly over my house. Right now it’s just a pleasing sight, catching them as they fly to wherever it is they bed down. But as the year draws on and they become greater in number the flock is massive, extraordinary. Last winter you could hear them coming, the whooshing of wings, the spectacle and sound as they passed over, a massive flock that flew by for what seemed like ages.

They go where the food is you might say, and you would be right. But the society and community of Starlings here is more nomadic and diverse than the ones in Brighton. Their culture and behaviour is quite different though the weather and conditions don’t vary to any great degree.

My point? That we underestimate the complexity of the societies of other creatures and seriously overegg the importance of our own. See here below a few of the Starlings here, mingling with other birds with different natures again. I’ll try and get video of them flocking in winter if I can but it’s not easy to catch.


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