When I was a child growing up in Essex, our most common garden birds were sparrows, starlings and blackbirds. The sparrows were endearing and cute, the blackbirds elegant. The starlings - well, they were basically the comic relief. With a comical gait and a repertoire of whistles, squeaks and squawks; squabbling so much over scraps left out for them that the cheeky sparrows would often sidle in unnoticed and grab the prize, starlings were amusing but mostly ignored by us in favour of more exotic garden visitors like blue tits and pied wagtails.
Since moving here to Wales I rarely see starlings any more, except in the winter when they sometimes appear in groups for an afternoon, and then disappear again.
Today has been damp and misty all day - not really a day for birdwatching! Yet just now as I fed the chickens their afternoon treat of mixed corn, I witnessed a truly extraordinary sight. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a huge flock of starlings appeared and settled like a great cloud in the two biggest trees near the house. Hundreds of them filled the air with their chattering, whistling, squawking. The cats were still and silent, the chickens muttered in amazement, awe-struck by this display of bird-power.
I stood transfixed myself for several minutes, until just as suddenly as they'd come, at some invisible signal, they rose into the air with a huge rush of wings. Wheeling and swirling in the air like a whirling duststorm for a moment, they flew off into the mist and still and silence returned.
How could I ever have thought starlings dull?
Here is a video clip from Youtube which gives you some idea of the grace and beauty of a flock of starlings getting ready to roost.