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The Annual 'Moot Camp'

An Article by Mike Stentiford, MBE


DESPITE an international decline in numbers, the ubiquitous starling still manages to up its seasonal credibility doesn’t it?

This active persona is not the sole copyright of individual birds, of course, but in the spectacularly mega-gatherings known as moots,now taking to the evening skies at all points of the British compass.

Starlings, it has to be said, are often regarded as birds of the lower classes, fluttering forth with scant finesse by way of personal hygiene or table manners.  Even in appearance they often beg for a major makeover although, during springtime, copious amounts of masculine self-respect seem to dominate, star-spangled plumage, custard-yellow bill, that sort of thing!  But there, I guess that when you’re a testosterone-filled young buck with a glint in the eye for the ladies, looking spruced up and sharply attired becomes pretty important, even for a starling!

Regarded, then, as a sometime designer-suited bundle of feathers but with a total disregard for politeness at the bird-table, the species could so easily be dismissed as a bird with no past, a non-plus present, and an uninteresting future.

Well, not a bit of it actually as there’s far more to the bouncy common or garden little character that we might at first imagine, especially here in the Channel Islands.

To begin with, way back in the 1880s, the only time starlings were ever seen in Jersey was during the cold grey months of winter.  In fact, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that a few pairs were discovered nesting; a situation that naturalists at the time were absolutely cock-a-hoop over.  These days, the species is regarded as being locally abundant which means that, in an average summer, the Island plays host to well over 1,000 breeding pairs.

Come winter, however, these same birds join the nomadic flocks that investigate the bird-tables in Britain and northern and eastern Europe.

One little individual, caught and ringed here in Jersey in February 2005, turned up two months later in a place called Pavlovskoe in Russia! Quite a feat for a generally regarded scruffy little urchin of low status don’t you think?

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