When I was a boy snow to me meant two things. One, that we would have a day or more off school as the bus would not be able to reach the picking up point, bliss indeed. Two, that I would be able to accompany the one man in the village who would be going shooting. I would carry the bag.
Snow "upcountry" drove huge flocks of starlings, lapwings, golden plover – locally known as whistlers – down on to the ploughed and pasture land to try to get food. Woodcock, snipe and wild duck came to the streams and wet areas to feed. Shooting was for the pot. Any surplus to personal requirements would be shared amongst friends as the day of the household freezer had not yet reached our village. There was no need to go looking for the flocks, they always favoured the same fields, whether these fields harboured an extra supply of leatherjackets, wireworms, etc, is not known but as the cold weather stayed, the ground got steadily harder so the birds began rapidly to lose weight.
We do not see these huge flocks any more. Starlings would be in flocks of thousands, most communal roosts were traditional and confined to reed beds where they did no, or little, damage but to choose a plantation of young trees could be devastating.
I remember one estate owner who was being pestered by starlings on a recently planted area and had tried all means of trying to prevent the birds coming in to roost, suddenly switched to waking them up before dawn with a battery of shotgun reports. This did the trick, the birds did not like being waken up too early and found another site. Ingenuity won the day.
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