by Kathy Hinde & Ed Holroyd

About Twitchr

TWITCHR is a participatory on-line artwork that invites you to observe starlings in Somerset. Use Twitter to upload your starling photo and mark the location it was spotted on a map of Somerset. You will need a twitter account to take part which is free and easy to acquire. Follow the tweets of birdtwitchr to stay up to date with Twitchr events and developments.

The map of markers can then be played like a musical score, giving a louder voice to the starlings of Somerset and new tunes to sing. Starlings are known to imitate the tunes they hear and they are RSPB red-listed, and need protecting. TWITCHR aims to bring the plight of Somerset starlings to the wider public.

Despite their declining numbers, thousands of migrating starlings visit the Somerset levels over the winter months and can be seen in abundance at dusk performing their stunning aerial shows called ‘murmuration’ before roosting each night. Come along to a specially organised TWITCHR starling spotting walk on Sunday November 15th at 2:45pm on the Somerset levels – and bring a camera!

The walk will be preceded by a talk about starlings by bird ecologist Dr. Lisa Thomas. The exact location of the walk will be determined by the current roosting places of the starlings. Follow the tweets of birdtwitchr on twitter for up-to-date information. If you would like to come to the walk, send a tweet to birdtwitchr on twitter. Find out about where the starlings are roosting from the starling hotline on 07866 554142, and expect them to be close to RSPB reserve Ham Wall.

Twitchr will be featured at the Sound:Site conference, South Hill Park, Digital Media Centre on Saturday 2nd October 2010

Kathy and Ed will give and introductory talk about Twitchr, followed by a short walk with the conference attendees of the surrounding area to record sounds and images of the resident birds, to then upload onto the Twitchr map.

Sound:Site is an investigation into how artists use the internet as a site for their work, with a focus on artists working predominantly with sound.

Twitchr is currently being developed to include all birds, an unbound map, and the possibility of uploading sound recordings of birds from various locations.

STARLING – Sturnus vulgaris

a short description by Lisa Thomas

twitchrThe starling is 21 cm from bill to tail with a 25.5 cm wingspan. Its summer plumage is iridescent metallic purple, green and blue. In Autumn, they moult and become dull brown with white-tipped feathers. Older birds have spots. Its habitat is virtually anywhere except for exposed uplands. They frequent human settlements of all sizes, gardens, parks and farms. From April - June they make an untidy nest in a hole, anywhere they can, out of anything they can find. They lay 5 – 7 eggs and incubation takes 12 – 13 days. The fledglings do not leave the nest for 21 days. They eat insects, fruit, seeds and visit garden bird tables. After the breeding season they are very gregarious birds and form huge, aerial display flocks (murmurations) that gather on trees and overhead cables before flying to their communal roosting sites, such as the reed beds of the Somerset Levels. They are great imitators of other birds’ songs and mimic other noises such as telephones and sirens. Their numbers have fallen by 66% since the 1970s, probably due to changes in farming, shortage of nesting sites and inadequate food supplies for chick survival.