Stamford, Lincolnshire: A dead starling chick appears on the ground outside, almost fledged. I’m upset to see it
Scratchings rattle above an upstairs lintel in early April and I think little of it. That nest that’s been occupied for four consecutive years is being renovated, that’s all. The shadows of birds firing from gable to gable over the street, air alive with busy chatter. “But the nest has gone,” my wife says. “Those builders, last year.”
I stand over the street and watch with binoculars. A sharp-edged bird swoops in, then disappears beneath my roofline through what I see now is a hole. Starlings. Brash, boisterous, bully-birds – and colonising our loft.
I keep watch. I see them coming and going. Sometimes they watch me watching them, from an aerial perch, silhouetted against the sky with a wariness I can feel.
The starling is a striking bird. With a sharp yellow bullet for a beak and plumage of dark iridescence, they are exotic-looking, and shimmer in petrol-peacock blues and greens and purples when caught in light. Yet we see them as hooligans. Even the Latin name of the European starling, Sturnus vulgaris, suggests so. Starlings absorb the sounds of their surroundings into their song – car alarms, speech, infant cries. And now, moving in. The human-bird.
I hear them dig in their roost, then nothing for a while, then suddenly the thin mewling of chicks, at the same time loud and delicate in a way that makes you fearfully parental. The days pass and the cries strengthen; I hear scuttlings, then nothing. A dead chick appears on the ground outside, almost fledged, already oiled with that mercury look. I’m upset to see it.