When we bought our house nine years ago, we noticed that a previous owner had landscaped in a most unfortunate way. It appeared as though someone had handed that person a list of invasive plant species and they said, “YES! I will plant ALL of those!” We’ve fought off giant sections of quackgrass, a perennial grass native to Europe which can grow up to five feet tall, morning glory vines which were trying to grow over the outdoor air conditioning unit, and the bamboo “forest” which is steadily taking over everything, to name a few. And by “fight off,” I mean we used non-chemical means to deter the growth and spread of these plants, such a heavy weeding or covering sections so light cannot penetrate to aid in growth.
The bamboo. The hardest fight. To the point that we’ve mostly given up. In the beginning, we tried to cut back the encroaching bamboo. I would dry out the stalks and then use the bamboo poles in the garden. (Side note: if you do not allow the bamboo to fully dry, then it will root when you put the pole in the ground and you will have spread the problem. Fortunately, I knew that before we bought the house.) Now we no longer try to cut back the existing stalks, just the new shoots that spread into the yard, which, by the way, can appear up to twenty feet away from the original plants. Therefore, we have a healthy section of bamboo in our yard.
Several years ago, the bamboo forest proved to be an interesting resource instead of just a headache. One spring, I started to notice that the bamboo was rather noisy and filled with activity. My dog began to super investigate the periphery and look a bit wary about it. Then I happened to be outside just before sunset and I saw them. Birds. Like, a thousand of them. All coming to roost for the evening in the bamboo.
Starlings. So many starlings.
They come twice a year, once in spring and once in autumn. They have a regular bird party in the bamboo. Chirping, flapping, and flying about. Who knows where they go during the daytime, but my backyard is home base.
The homecoming of birds is the sort of thing you need to experience first hand to really gather the scope of it. I’ve tried to take pictures, some come out better than others. Here’s a picture of a few late arrivals from an evening last March.
All those tiny black dots? Birds. I zoomed in and counted them after I took this picture. I want to say that I counted about 136 birds. And this is a small group!
Yesterday, I was sitting on the couch and glanced out the window and saw a sky full of birds. I usually catch the tail end of the starlings evening return, but it was apparent from the sheer number of birds that they were just returning. I had my iPad in hand, so I hopped up, grabbed shoes, and went out.
There are more birds this year than ever. If there are less than ten thousand starlings in my backyard, then I’ll eat my hat.
I stood there, mouth agape for the majority of it. I took a video. It’s almost ten minutes long. Every time I would think “well, they’re bound to be almost done arriving” another mass of birds would arrive and swirl around. They were still arriving for at least another twenty minutes after I stopped filming.
I cannot accurately describe this experience to you. There are birds EVERYWHERE. They perch in trees and talk to each other. I imagine them calling role to check if loved ones have returned from the day. There are so many starlings that the barren trees appear to be in full leaf.
But it’s the flights that are even more amazing. The cohesive, almost liquid movement of starlings is called a murmuration. The mass of birds shape-shifts in the sky in a swirling bird frenzy.
They flew directly over top of me multiple times. I could feel the wind generated by their wings. I was awe-stuck, rendered almost immobile by the tidal wave of birds which surrounded me. My brain could only proffer the commentary “whoa. so many birds!”
Here are a few stills from the video I took.
My plan had been to post the video with this blog. Unfortunately, since I’m using the free version of WordPress, I cannot upload videos. So, I’ll totally post the video on Miranda Intentionally’s Facebook page. Even though the video cannot do justice to the experience, it’s still pretty amazing to watch. I know ten minutes is basically an eternity these days, but it’s worth it.
Now the question is, can I petition to have my property designated as a bird sanctuary?