Starlings and a Yellowlegs

This is starling season on the Somerset levels, as extraordinary numbers of starlings roost in the Avalon marshes. As I was about to take Jen to the airport early on Monday morning, three flocks flew straight over the Vicarage. I therefore decided to head out to Ham Wall this morning to see their dawn departure.

I arrived before sunrise and waited with one other birder. We could hear the starlings chattering, so we knew their departure was imminent. Then there was an extraordinary sound, like that of distant thunder – an aerial stampede as thousands upon thousands of pairs of wings took to flight, as the starlings rose over the reedbed.

The starlings emerge over the reedbed at Ham Wall

The starlings emerge over the reedbed at Ham Wall

A dense cloud of starlings

A dense cloud of starlings

They didn’t do much in the way of a murmuration but they were a spectacular sight nonetheless. After they departed, I continued to wander round the reserve, and my eye caught a couple of cormorants and a heron, which were doing their early morning ablutions.

Cormorants and a heron at sunrise

Cormorants and a heron at sunrise

A couple of weeks back an American wader, a Lesser Yellowlegs, spent a few days residing at Cheddar Reservoir. Every year a small number (perhaps 5 to 10) cross the Atlantic, perhaps having been blown off course on their autumn migration. The one at Cheddar conveniently remained close to the outer edge of the reservoir where it was easy to see and photograph.

Lesser Yellowlegs at Cheddar Reservoir

Lesser Yellowlegs at Cheddar Reservoir

Lesser Yellowlegs, feeding at Cheddar Reservoir

Lesser Yellowlegs, feeding at Cheddar Reservoir

It had stayed long enough that I was sure it was going to remain for the winter (they occasionally do) – but it left about ten days’ ago and hasn’t been seen since. It begs a couple of questions… Did it know roughly where it was – the wrong side of a very large herring pond? Did it try to head back across the Atlantic, or has it settled somewhere else, undetected?

2 thoughts on “Starlings and a Yellowlegs

    • I don’t think so, but it would be a good research project as satellite tags are I think small enough to fit on these birds. I might ask an organisation like BTO if anything like this has been done.

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