Many of you enjoyed the European Starling photo and what I wrote about starlings in “Bird and Photograph Locally.” Here’s that late November photo again.
Ann, a VMD and blog follower, wrote: “I just had to tell you that I agree totally with you about the vilified starlings. They can be quite handsome birds especially this time of year when their ‘stars’ are so visible.” My response to her: “You’re always so encouraging, Ann. All God’s critters, including starlings, got a place in the choir.” I was thinking there of singer-songwriter Bill Staines and his song, “A Place in the Choir,” a song I used to sing to my kids. I was also thinking about what I’d read on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website about starlings serving as models for studying avian biology.
Many also appreciated the message about taking advantage of bird watching and photo opportunities close to home. Carol, an administrator of the Hampton Roads Wildlife enthusiasts Facebook page wrote: “I do almost all my birding right in my own neighborhood. I can go multiple times a day, and do it every day! It’s surprising how every day has something different to offer!” Andrea, a reader from the U.K., wrote: I generally walk my local area and it’s true you get a lot of satisfaction from knowing your local wildlife and seeing how it changes over the years. I’m sure I still haven’t seen half of the birds that gather in the trees and shrubs nearby but I have also seen birds I never thought I would see, like a kingfisher and a heron.” Others sent similar messages. Some mentioned the constraints of the pandemic. Speaking of the pandemic, here’s a photo I took back in May. We still think of and honor all our front-line workers.
Let’s pivot back to European Starlings. The species has come up a lot in these blogs. I wrote this as a photo tip in “Bird Photos and Photo Tips at Midyear“: “If nothing much is happening, capture starlings and dragonflies, or musicians and fishermen, instead.” I should have added signage to the list. You’ll have to read the blog, or at least glance at the photos, to appreciate what I meant.
I also wrote a piece entitled “Starlings on Prozac” and mentioned the species again in “Common Birds.” I mentioned them right after citing Andrew Garn’s article on photographing pigeons, another often-vilified species. I’ve also posted a number of photos of starlings, including several in the just-mentioned posts.
I can’t really explain my interest in starlings other than to say what I said in “Common Birds” and again in my last blog. All birds are birds, and all hold interest and fascinate. Also, all birds, but especially common ones, make great photographic targets. Just ask Mr. Garn. You don’t have to travel too far to capture starlings in flight or on the ground. And photographing them, and other common birds, is a great way to hone your skills. There’s this, too. Starlings, like Canada Geese, American and Fish Crows, and Rock Pigeons (common city pigeons) may be the only gateway to nature’s wonders that a city dweller has.
A Few More Photos
Here are a few more starling photos. I took this one toward the end of October. The birds were in the same spot and in the same decaying tree in Lakeside Park in Chesapeake, VA. My angle of approach was different.
I love this shot, too. What initially caught my eye was the way the birds were naturally framed. I also noticed the shape and texture of the branch and the way the birds were interacting. FYI, the bird on the left is a nonbreeding plumage adult, and the bird on the right is a begging and vocalizing immature. Notice its protruding chest, which indicates it’s producing sound. Notice also it’s posture.
This is the pair moments earlier. The immature isn’t vocalizing, the adult seems more aloof, and the photo isn’t quite as interesting.
By contrast, here’s a single European Starling in breeding plumage. Notice the darker, glossier feather coat (sans “stars”) and the yellow bill. I took the photo toward the end of May. The bird was building a nest in a natural cavity in that same tree. Here, it’s taking a break to check out the meddlesome photographer.
And This Just In
A while back, I wrote a tribute to Dr. Tom Cade, the man who was responsible for saving the Peregrine Falcon and founding the Peregrine Fund. It was widely read. The title of the piece was “There Were Giants.” We just lost another giant in the birding world: Ned Brinkley. I never had the opportunity to meet him but heard so much about him. Here are a few words from his obituary in the Virginian Pilot: “He was described as ‘an incredible friend, amazing leader and irreplaceable scholar. He took flight in Ecuador, while searching for the perfect bird. We love you.'” You’d do well to read the entire obit and to look at the Guest Book, as well.
Quip, Question, Quote
“Like all real treasures of the mind, perception can be split into infinitely small fractions without losing its quality. The weeds in a city lot convey the same lesson as the redwoods; the farmer may see in his cow pasture what may not be vouchsafed to the scientists adventuring in the South Seas.” Aldo Leopold
Let me rephrase part of that. The birds in a city lot convey the same lesson as the birds of paradise. They inspire the same sense of wonder, too.