Sunday, November 6, 2011

Autumn Passage

Every autumn, there are large flocks of starlings gathering around my place in Kyomachi. This year was no exception. Most of them are the abundant White-cheeked Starlings (Sturnus cineraceus) with some smaller and more colourful Chestnut-cheeked Starlings (Sturnus philippensis). Last year I also found a few Red-billed Starlings (Sturnus sericeus) mixing in the flocks as well. This year, due to the bad weather and timing, I couldn't go out and check the flocks until the second week of October, which is considerably late for Red-billed and Chestnut-cheeked Starlings. So, as a result, I could only find a few Chestnut-cheekeds, no Red-billed, and lots and lots of White-cheeked Starlings.
Migrating flock of White-cheeked Starlings (Sturnus cineraceus)

The birds normally start gathering around 5:30pm. Flocks of about 10 birds usually come flying in from the west and perch together on the wires above the river near my dorm. After they can gather up to around 50 birds, they begin to fly down to the river and bathe. As it gets darker, more and more birds join the flock until there are several hundreds birds. It's quite a spectacular phenomenon and attracts a lot of attention from the locals. Sometimes in a negative way too. When these birds gather together in a large number on the electrical wires, their droppings drop like rain. It's become really challenging for the pedestrians to walk across the road without getting the birds' poops on their heads. However, all of them will fly out to the tall Beppu Tower as it gets almost completely dark and roost there all through the night.
Male Chestnut-cheeked Starling (Sturnus philippensis)
Immature male Chestnut-cheeked Starling (Sturnus philippensis)

White-cheeked Starlings (Sturnus cineraceus)
Note the amount of white on their head

Can you spot the Chestnut-cheeked Starling in these photos?

Female Chestnut-cheeked Starling (Sturnus philippensis)
Juvenile White-cheeked Starling (Sturnus cineraceus)


Mei Ling said...

Amazing phenomenon, both the birds and their poops!

Friend of HK said...

Wow! A spectacular phenomenon!

Russell said...

Amazing photos. I saw a swarm of starlings on the outskirts of Nagaoka last week. They looked like a school of fish turning and weaving. I don't know what starlings they were though. I've seen negative reactions to them settling around Nagaoka Station too.

Phil said...

Super shots especially the ones against the evening sky. It's not easy to get such shots when the light is fading either.