Among the birds rounding out late winter’s crowd of Grackles on Little Crum Creek, European Starlings were the fewest. 

But their inconspicuousness was striking.

Starlings are often called a nuisance.  Blanketing habitat, outcompeting other birds, and nesting in the nooks & crannies of buildings, they can make quite a mess.

Autumn’s sudden murmurations of flying starling flocks make another impression.  The fluid black cloud shapes undulating in the sky can be mesmerizing.

In Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams describes her experience of them:

The symmetry of starling flocks takes my breath away; I lose track of time and space….They rise.  Hundreds of starlings.  They wheel and turn, twist and glide, with no apparent leader.  They are the collective.  A flight of frenzy.  They are black stars against a blue sky…expanding and contracting along the meridian of a winged universe. (57)

But here in February, a single starling like the one pictured can nearly escape notice.

Humbly shaking freezing rain from its feathers, it waits in the periphery to pick at a feeder full of Grackles, Cowbirds, & Red-winged Blackbirds. 

One among a flock of others, this European Starling seems to be simply biding its time.

February was full of Grackles.

Hundreds perched on bare tree limbs like raucous leaves.

Others scattered seeds of backyard feeders or splashed in Little Crum Creek.

Suddenly for a spell, few of winter’s usual birds were seen or heard amid the mobbing throng & din.

But a few, notorious for aggressively flocking with their respective species, found themselves almost indistinguishably at home when mingling with the Grackles.

More about them on Wednesday & Thursday.

For now, you might spot a Red-winged Blackbird bathing in the stream, flashing its orange & scarlet epaulettes in flight (at about 0:30).



Distinguishing themselves from common mobs


gathered noisily in autumn treetops,


several colorful grackles stand


for portraits in the sun.