Thursday, September 28, 2023

Co-op Protects Belper Murmuration

A couple of weeks ago Nailed was contacted with a rumour about the murmuration of starlings which a great many Belper residents have been enjoying watching.  The rumour came via an intermediary, from someone who didn’t want to be identified and we couldn’t immediately confirm it.  Now we have.


Collective noun for starlings, which is also used as a noun for their group flight acrobatics.

The Rumour:

That Ladrokes betting shop had requested that the hedge beside their premises be removed.
On Tuesday 28th February, one of the duty managers at Co-op confirmed that the rumour was true.

The Alleyway behind the hedge shows that the humans are much dirtier than the birds.

Another potential issue is that the hedge is currently blocking light to the passageway.  Co-op assured us that this was a temporary and resolvable problem because when the hedge was to be trimmed last year there was a wasp nest inside it and the wasps attacked the arborer.  So it could not be cut back at that time but will be in the future.

The Situation:

The starlings roost in a large laurel hedge opposite Co-op.  The hedge is of aesthetic benefit to Belper as it hides where the shops on Strutt Street dump their rubbish, gives privacy to residents in the surrounding area and leads in to the car park, making it appear less urban.   It is also the temporary home to a massive murmuration of starlings.  Every evening from half past five until sunset, Belper residents can be found on Strutt Street and outside Co-op watching the swirls, swoops and gathering of an ever increasing murmuration of starlings.  At twilight they all plummet into the hedge to sleep.

Starlings are red listed.  All native birds in the UK are categorised as Red, Amber or Green listed.  Green listed birds are doing fine.  Amber listed birds have a set of criteria for concern.  Red listed birds meet the following criteria:

Red list criteria

  • Globally threatened
  • Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995
  • Severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or longer-term period (the entire period used for assessments since the first BoCC review, starting in 1969).
  • Severe (at least 50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period

So starlings need our concern and they need humans to not do anything else to cause them harm.

Both Colin Wilkinson, Senior Conservation Planner for RSPB in the area and Nick Brown, Wildlife Enquiries Officer for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust informed us that there is no legal recourse that Belper residents could take to stop the hedge being removed if Co-op decided to comply with the request.  The Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 only protects active nests and once they are inactive they cannot be protected.  Mr. Wilkinson suggested that Belper residents might be able to apply for a tree preservation order (TPO) which would stop anyone from touching the tree (even to cut it back) without permission from the council.  A TPO can only be issued on trees that have historical, landscape or amenity value.   They also advised in situ protest IF the hedge was to be removed.  An action which some residents had already taken after Nansy Ferrett highlighted the issue on Facebook.

Harry and Ollie Crawford “SOS – Save Our Starling Hedge”

Happy Ending:
Community action is, however, unnecessary, as Co-op will “definitely not comply” with the request to remove the hedge.  The hedge will not be removed.  As of this moment, the starlings are safe and can return after their mating season takes them abroad in March.

We can enjoy the murmuration safe in the knowledge that the habitat is secure for now.

Nailed’s footage of the murmuration, including roosting (photo gallery below videos):







Photo gallery:



All photo and video by Clare Washbrook

Clare Washbrook

Current Editor-in-Chief News and magazine editor since 1995 Post-grads: Literature; Theatre; Journalism, Ethics & Law Community Affiliations: Belper Goes Green, Belper's WW1 Poppies, Amber Valley Solidarity No political party memberships/affiliations.

2 thoughts on “Co-op Protects Belper Murmuration

  • Joanna Kirk

    Thanks for your article. The starlings are quite mesmerizing to watch.

  • Joanna Kirk

    The hawk lands
    wings splayed
    tail fanned
    with prey
    to the ground
    to the sound
    of shrieking calls
    from the starling
    in its claw
    and many birds
    will settle late tonight
    for the hawk
    stalks at dusk
    by the roost.

    observed 4 March 2017 at approximately 18.20 – 18.30

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