US social scientist Kenneth Boulding : ‘If you believe exponential growth can go on in a finite world, you are either a madman or an economist’.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Ants off deck - Swifts and Starlings cash in

The black ants took to the skies today.

There were 14 Starlings on the communications mast on top of Bexleyheath fire station.

Walking along Rudland Rd I noticed that a gull floating overhead seemed to be snapping at something several times over. Was it out of annoyance at getting ants in its face, or was it catching them?

It looked like Starlings definitely were catching them. Both here, and on Barnehurst Rd, quite a number of individuals were making short, jerky, purposeful flights off of TV aerials and looked like they were feeding in mid-air. I can only assume they were eating the ants, but have never noticed this behaviour before.

When I came out onto Barnehurst Rd there were about 24 Swifts in two groups over the south end, flying very low over the road and houses. I have seen a significant number of these birds in this location on a couple of occasions. The first time they were flying so low that a couple only narrowly avoided crashing into the top deck of a bus.

Further down the road I stopped to see if I could get a video clip of the low-level aerobatics on my mobile phone, but no sooner had I taken up position than they all vanished.

On reaching the junction with Hillingdon Rd., I again scanned the sky. This time there were about 70 Swifts at a great height, flying over the area between Northall Rd and Hillingdon Rd.

At 8p.m., standing on my compost bins - from which ants were also taking flight - I was looking south from my garden with a pair of binoculars. A swirling band, now numbering around 120 Swifts (it's difficult to get an exact count!) made a magnificent sight away beyond the Bexleyheath railway line. There is surely something about the airflow that, not for the first time, favours congregation here. And must be no co-incidence that this record number came together just when the ants took to the sky en-masse.

1 comment:

  1. Another puntastic post. I too have seen gulls 'flycatching' when flying ants are around so I think this is exactly what your gull was doing.