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A Murder of Starlings…

starA quick flick through ‘local’ ‘history’ turned up a curious tale of starling infestation in Tamworth over 60 years ago. I reproduce it here in full:

The Great Starling War
“In December 1961 a massive flock of starlings arrived from Eastern Europe. As their winter quarters they chose the dense rhododendrons between the reservoir and the Woodhouse. Mornings and evenings the sky was black as millions of these birds flighted to and from the surrounding fields. In the woods their stench was nauseating and the boughs of the shrubs were weighed down under layers of their droppings.
Tamworth Waterworks Committee’s fear was that the water in the underground reservoir would become polluted if the starling’s foulings seeped down into it. So a huge shoot was organized and anybody who owned a shotgun was invited to attend.
This battle was arranged to take place from late afternoon until darkness over three days. Cartridges were provided. The shooting was incessant for around 1 ½ hours on each day as the starlings returned to roost in their millions. The army also assisted with exploding rockets.
I recall I used two shotguns because the barrels became too hot to hold so I cooled them alternatively. At the end of the third evening the starlings were still roosting in those rhododendrons, their stench overpowering and their chattering deafening. Neither gunfire nor rockets had deterred them.
April arrived and the birds migrated whence they had come. They never returned to Hopwas Wood in those numbers again.”
Naturally we looked for corroboration of this fantastical tale and, indeed, found other references to a starling invasion of Tamworth. However, these all took place fifity years later and in the other Tamworth on the other face of the globe….

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