The streets of our subdivision are lined with ornamental pear trees. In spring, each tree is so completely covered with white blossoms that it resembles a giant wad of cotton candy on a stick. These blossoms aren’t sterile, however; the fruit they produce is very small – about the size of a marble – but there are a LOT of them, hundreds (if not thousands) on each tree. Nearly all of the neighborhood streets in our quadrant of the city are lined with ornamental pear trees, hundreds (if not thousands) of them. That is a heck of a lot of fruit, even if they are small.
Monstrous murmurations of starlings (isn’t that a great collective noun?) gather on our side of town during the fall migration, drawn, I am convinced, by the bounty of fruit available to them here. They fill the sky from horizon to horizon at dusk as they begin to settle in for the night, wheeling and swirling like a great host of large, black leaves caught in a whirlwind. It’s dazzling to watch and quite mesmerizing. The din is very impressive, too, though not quite deafening. Starlings are sophisticated vocalizers (mynas are a species of starling) and have been known to include sounds such as human speech patterns and car alarms in their repertoire. The cacophony of thousands (if not millions) of them whistling, tweeting, chirping, squawking, and trilling at once is enough to leave one speechless with amazement.
I bring all this up because a smaller sub-murmuration (consisting merely of a few thousand birds) has landed in my neighborhood this morning. The pear trees, most of which still have their leaves, are a-quiver with the dark, fluttering forms of feeding birds. The branches of the shade trees, most of which have lost their leaves, hold rank upon rank of black silhouettes, preening and visiting with neighbors. All of them seem to be chattering, and it was the commotion of their conversations that first alerted me to their presence.
I’m glad they’re here; I find them immensely cheerful and entertaining. I do confess, however, to having some Alfred Hitchcock flashbacks. I’ll probably stay inside until they move on to the next neighborhood, just to be on the safe side.
(Many thanks to John Tittle, of Red Wing Nature Notes, who so graciously gave permission for the use of his photo.)