my name is Tim and I'm messaging to make a slightly unusual request for help/ information on the creation of habitat fit for starlings that could also bring in other wildlife in an unusual location. I'm an architectural assistant at a local practice in Petersfield and am an office based candidate studying for my part 1 RIBA qualification. As part of my coursework I'm writing a theoretical brief for the creation of a nature reserve and learning centre for the burnt out shell of the West Pier in Brighton. Hence I'm looking for information about how you might go about designing habitat to encourage the starling population back onto the West Pier, but also the creation of habitat in general for other wildlife to, in effect, create a park out of the shell. Any ideas where I might find the information or someone that might be able to help?
I'm also looking for information on Brighton's native flora and fauna that could be used as a way to mediate the design process.
the more and more I learn, the less and less I know.
I couldn't possibly begin to help you (although I'm sure others will be along to do just that), but I wanted to say what a brilliant idea - and what a shame it is theoretical!
See my photos on Flickr
Many thanks for the kind comments Linda.
Tim, the work sounds fantastic.
Have you seen the eco roofing at Hornimans Museum London....you could look at that for ideas on how to bring greenery onto the shell. I can imagine it would look wonderful.
But I bet the starlings would come back naturally wouldn't they? A fish n chip shop nearby might help!!
Thanks for the tip. I'm aware of green-roof technology and sedum blankets that can replicate wildflower meadows etc, but just not sure what specific changes might be needed to make a permanent home for starlings and other wildlife that might make it's way onto the pier. i.e. nesting material/ diet/ how much shelter from the wind might be needed etc? Some of it will no doubt just need a common sense attitude to solve, but I need information to present to back up the design rather than just my own musings. I'm sure there will be more starlings over the pier this coming winter, I certainly hope so anyway, but numbers are apparently dwindling! A starling friendly fish n chip recipe that seagul's hate could be just the ticket!
Hi Ginothy have a look here about Starling roosts www.bbc.co.uk/.../spotlight-on-a-starling-roost.shtml
My photos are on Flickr and Website
Hi Tim, just hang out food, you'll have them ! The ones round here are currently getting through that much I'm considering taking out a lone in order to keep up with them, fat slabs are going so quick I've now limited them to three a day, they're getting through 12 fat balls a day and goodness knows how much soft bill feed and suet pellets, and that doesn't include all the other birds, I wonder if you would like some of them from round here, I will let them know about your wonderful project. I think it's a lovely marvelous theoretical thing you are doing, well done !! and the best wishes in it too, just think food.....
The truth is I'm mad. We are all mad and many are too mad to know the truth.
Starlings are a very adaptable bird. They flock together in autumn and winter. They would need somewhere to roost, so a building within the confines of your peir would be a good start, oh and a building that is in use. Maybe some nestboxes strategically placed around the pier, on the building itself, and maybe just underneath the pier as well. Good luck.
If it's not outdoors it's not worth watching.
Hi Tim, what an exciting project, as had been said some sort of shelter from prevailing winds and weather would help - I think the big murmurations used to use the derelict buildings before it burnt down. As it is 'theoretical' you could look at at the creation of artificial trees (iron) etc to act as roosts, actual plants will be difficult because of the potential of seawater damage so you are restricted to native seashore/dune plants and encouraging sand to build up in areas and rain water pools to form in others. If you can look at some of the RSPB sites in person you may get a good idea of how tough some of the plants are, otherwise go through the 'places to visit' and on a good number of them you will see plant lists- sea holly, thrift, burnet rose, thyme etc hand on in some pretty extreme conditions - insects find them and birds follow. Good luck and please let us know how it goes.
Caroline in Jersey
Thanks for the tips everyone! And Caroline, yes, perfect, that's almost exactly what I was thinking. Tailoring the plant life to seashore varieties. A bit like at Dungeness maybe? And the creation of artificial trees also. Perhaps with some roosting under a deck level too to replicate the roosts found under other pier decks? With the decks providing access to observation hides for studying the habitat. I will have a look at 'places to visit' for sure, and look into nest boxes also.
Snowman, when you mention a building that is 'in use', I take it you simply mean inhabited by other animals/ insects etc, not by people, but maintained by people certainly? I was also thinking that you might be able to encourage the sea-life habitat around the pier and under the water. To encourage molluscs to take hold that might prove appetizing for the starlings etc?
GinothyI was also thinking that you might be able to encourage the sea-life habitat around the pier and under the water. To encourage molluscs to take hold that might prove appetizing for the starlings etc?
Starlings use piers purely as safe roosting sites , I doubt that barnacles or other sea creatures would prove appetising to them. A little research into the birds themselves might be helpful in understanding their habitat requirements. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Starling
My gallery here
I never cease to be amazed at how much I didn't know I didn't know.
Hi Galatus, I read on another site that they sometimes feed on mollusca as well (haven't got the link with me here at work), though I realise this likely just meant land based snails etc? Just trying to think how you might be able to expand on the idea of the pier to create a diverse habitat, whereby more than roosting may be possible. Hence creating a nature reserve that enhances opportunities for sea-based as well as 'land' based wildlife, but with a focus on the starling population. That might not be possible though as you highlight above.
Well, starlings are mainly grassland specialists, feeding on soil dwelling insect larvae, worms, slugs etc so perhaps some rough grass near to the pier may be good idea. Though depending on space constraints this may or may not be possible.
I have watched flocks of starlings working piles of seaweed in winter- it is usually a mix of kelp and bladder wrack washed up during storms that as it breaks down attracts flies and small invertebrates but that is probably not so easy to produce on the Brighton coast line. Dungeness would be a good place to start :)
Perhaps some surf breaks beyond the pier-head could be laid that encourage sand to gather (thanks for the idea) and create a shallow wetland at high tide where grasses could be grown? Survey notes I have suggest the seabed is fairly shallow, relatively speaking, quite far beyond the pier. Might need to learn a bit about surf science...