I was only thinking about Starling roosts at Marshside the other day, when a flock of about 250 birds were spooked into a tight ball by a passing Merlin, and wheeled and flipped like there was no tomorrow for a few minutes
Hey Presto! - along comes a nice press release from Jen Walker from the RSPB up at Leighton Moss, promoting the opportunity to watch the birds coming into roost up in Silverdale.
And she sent a nice pic by Andrew Holden (above) to boot.
Details below (I can never resist a bit of soup).
"Crowds of people are flocking to see a wilder alternative to watching fireworks this year at RSPB Leighton Moss nature reserve, near Silverdale. At this time of year the sky comes alive at dusk, as enormous flocks of starlings can be seen putting on a spectacular aeriel display above the reedbed.
The birds fly in from all directions and turn the sky black, as they join together en masse to settle down to roost for the night. If the conditions are right, they can be seen wheeling, turning and swooping in unison, appearing like a shoal of fish.
Jen Walker, Visitor Officer at the nature reserve said: "Seeing the huge flocks of starlings dancing in the air is one of the UK's top wildlife spectacles and it really is a jaw-dropping sight to behold. It's a similar experience to watching fireworks, with visitors gasping with excitement when they see them twisting and turning, creating all sorts of amazing shapes and then applauding the finale where they pour into the reeds like treacle and chatter to each other before going to bed."
Starlings visit Leighton Moss to roost during the winter months and it is estimated that a massive hundred thousand can be seen. These 'murmurations' can sometimes continue until February or March before they split up to go to their breeding grounds, with many migrating back to the continent.
Jen continues "However, don't be fooled by the numbers of starlings you see in the winter, as starlings are sadly critically at risk in the UK".
Although the starling is still one of the more common garden birds, the breeding population of starlings in the UK has crashed by over 70% and the RSPB is working with farmers and land owners to encourage land management that benefits starlings and other wildlife.
Throughout November at Leighton Moss there are 'Starlings and Soup' walks being held every Wednesday from 2.30 to about 4.30 pm to explore the reserve and then watch out for the starling roost. As a treat, there will be a mug of soup served afterwards to warm up. The cost is £5.40 for adults (RSPB members £3). There is no need to book, just turn up.
Leighton Moss is one of the RSPB's most popular nature reserves and welcomes new visitors. With its variety of habitats, including the largest reedbed in North West England, there is always something to see. A visitor centre with an award-winning café and gift shop, nature trails and all-weather hides makes it the ideal place to watch a wide range of wildlife. As well as starling spotting, November is the ideal time to watch the gathering of winter ducks and look for otters or the rare heron-like bitterns. Throughout this month the café and shop will be open to 5 pm to provide visitors with a chance to get a hot drink after watching the starlings. For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk/leightonmoss or call 01524 701601."
Watched the cracking pre-roost gathering down at Marazion in Cornwall this time last year, the high point being a particularly adaptable Grey Heron that caught several Starlings on the wing over the space of 45 minutes or so, grabbing them in flight, with its neck fully extended - almost as sinister as a Water Rail under a bird table in a freeze up.
Eyes to the skies everyone, eyes to the skies...