Thursday, 25 February 2010

A close shave

Was heading into Ponteland last night for a bottle of brain relaxant when I noticed a flock of 750-1000 Starlings flying in the other direction so I turned the car around and started to follow them. Over the last ten years this daily local migration has been common sight in winter months with birds from roosts at Brunswick and West Denton heading out to feed near Stamfordham and returning each night. I suspected this was the West Denton crowd so headed back toward town. As I approached the airport roundabout a passenger plane took off causing the Starling flock to bunch tight and swirl just 100m short of the end of the runway. If they had been a little earlier it could have been a huge bird strike which doesn't bear thinking about, either for birds or passengers.
I eventually caught them up half way between the airport and the A1 roundabout where they were flying in an extended formation about 1/4 mile wide. Headed off through Westerhope to an estate just west of Jolleyes store where the birds had congregated last year and there they, and many more were, flying in four to six groups of 500 to 1500 birds probably totalling 3000 plus birds. The flocks occasionally combined but they ever grouped and swirled so much as just circled for half an hour before birds started to peel off and plummet into various clumps of conifer trees in private gardens. A great sight although the locals weren't too impressed as every time they passed overhead it rained guano!
These are photographs of a congregation at Whittle Dene I photographed in 2001. This event was quite spectacular and by griding up the photographs for counting I estimated 100,000 birds. Never easy to get an accurate figure as the Brunswick roost proved. The top photograph taken in the grey last night contains 500 birds although you wouldn't think it. Maybe if we get some decent weather the birds will oblige with a display although the flock will break up for breeding soon.

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