Coming home from the school run a few minutes ago we eased up the gentle hill on the west side of the village as the sun eased down behind us. You get a good view south just before you enter our village, on a clear day probably ten miles.
On winter afternoons such as this the skies above the housing estate that stretches south are dotted with micro-flocks of Common Starling, four perhaps five groups of between 10-20 individuals swirling and dipping around the roofs and aerials in a Legoland parody of the bigger roost flocks at sites such as Gretna.
Almost always they come back to the high point of the incline and gather in two tall trees that must give the best view south as they are the tallest feature at that end of the village. They'll sit for a while, chattering and preening, demonstrating why their name is used as a nickname for the mostly female Phillipino workers that gather either side of Star Ferry each weekend in Hong Kong, chattering and preening.
This routine has been going on on winter afternoons all of the twelve years I have lived here. Never more than fifty or sixty strong, it is a scene probably echoed in many towns and villages throughout the country. It has me wondering though whether the trees used are 'handed down' in some way. Are there always individuals from the previous winter who know they offer the best viewing points? Have those trees been used in this way continuously since they were tall enough to be useful? Or is it simpler, are they so obviously the highest point that new individuals would pick them out anyway without any 'guidance' from older birds?
I'm willing to bet that there may be one or two ex-village resident bloggers that can confirm that Starlings have been using those trees in this way for a lot longer than the twelve years I've noticed it.