Thursday 31 May 2018

Rose-coloured Starling influx

I am still searching for my 150th species in Wanstead. Trouble is, I think I am searching in the wrong place. Is Poland in Wanstead? What about Romania? Bulgaria? No absurd Brexit comments please. Still, although London patch birding is guaranteed to surprise, and something very very common elsewhere could become my milestone, for instance a wader of some sort of which the UK has thousands, it could equally be a rarity or scarcity. London has a huge list of birds, and whilst Wanstead lacks the habitat that might pull many of these in, the list of what has been seen here over the last few years speaks for itself. Great Grey Shrike, Ortolan Bunting. Blyth's Reed Warbler. Wryneck. Three more Wrynecks. Lapland Bunting. Slavonian Grebe. Most of those would have birders moving pretty quickly no matter where they lived. 

I've just returned from a trip to Bulgaria. Whilst there, the biggest flocks of birds that I saw were not waders or gulls. They were Rose-coloured Starlings. Thousands of them, in flocks hundreds strong. They are not breeding birds there per a local birder we spoke to, but they have just arrived in huge numbers. The story is seemingly encountered across Europe, including in the UK, albeit that the further west you go the flocks diminish in size. I saw a tweet from somewhere celebrating a flock of nine birds as being the biggest wherever it was had ever seen! All I can say is when you have seen 300 birds leave a moderately-sized cherry tree in one synchronised movement then a flock of nine will leave you underwhelmed. I would not twitch one here, but I would definitely be up for finding a flock. In Wanstead a satisfying flock number would be, umm, one. Yes that would do, a lone bird in amongst our regular Starling population would suit me just fine. They have already reached our shores, and local birders are out looking. I intend to join them as soon as I can. It may liven up June. Or it could be the most boring June we have ever had.

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