Lockdown Birding Part 6
|Spotless Starling (Martin Kelsey)|
He looks as if he has been immersed in Brylcream, a right greaser, his breeding plumage shiny and jet. Not oily - it is hard to detect any colourful irridesence (apart from a bare suggestion of purple), but greasy. The feathers appear lank and matted, those on the crown and throat almost lacquered-erect and pointed. The feet are the tone of pink you will find in a roast, medium-rare. The bill is daffodill-yellow with the windswept-blue base of a male.
This Spotless Starling has become one of my favourite companions during my lockdown birding. He sometimes sings in view, perched on the telegraph post beside the house, bill wide open, prickly throat feathers spread out and entering bouts of excited wing-paddling. Usually he sings hidden from my view, on a perch behind the laurel tree in front of me. I am the only aware of his presence by his extraordinary vocalisation. His concoction bubbles away....a fizzy, gargling, sparkling, wheezing series of notes coming from deep in his syrinx, complete with growls and whistles. It has syncopation, an idiosyncratic beat and rushes orgasmically to finale. Starlings are famous for their mimicry. This individual does high-fidelity Great Spotted Cuckoo and Red-legged Partridge, and even Grey Heron. But these imitations are cast randomly into the song, throw-away improvisations. This is quite different from the way Calandra or Thekla Larks weave their mimicry seamlessly into their songs. They do classical, the Spotless Starling plays skiffle.
|Black Redstart (Martin Kelsey)|
Every day I am also watching a pair of Black Redstarts from the balcony. In our first few years here, this was a wintering species only in the garden. But more recently we see them in spring as well, with breeding in or close to the garden. The male rasps his hesitant, coarse notes from song perches on the roof. Robin-like, he descends to the area on the cobble-stone yard where I have been scraping weeds from the stonework. He stands, head-cocked, on the moss-covered granite seat beside the old well before dropping to the ground to feast on the invertebrates my work has revealed. The modest grey gentle-looking female is also bold enough to come close to the house to forage.
Since my post of 21st March, https://www.birdingextremadurablog.com/2020/03/lockdown-birding-part-3.html, where I listed 43 species of birds seen from the balcony since lockdown, I have now added another 12 species:
Swift sp (probably Pallid, but seen distantly in poor light and call not heard)
Pipit sp. (possibly Tree Pipit on passge, but not heard and seen only in flight).
The Nightingale arrived last night and I first heard a few, rather subdued sections of song this morning. As if to say. "I have arrived, I may stay here...watch this space!".