Tuesday, 11 November 2014

A Murmuration of...

Wondering where to go on Sunday to enjoy the glorious weather and the great outdoors, and to see a wildlife spectacle I had never seen before, I saw a tweet pop up from @RSPBMinsmere about their 50,000 strong murmuration of starlings. Decision made.

On arrival, we were helpfully told where to be and at what time we should be ready to view the spectacle. It left us with an hour to enjoy at least a small part of the reserve. We headed to the 'Island Mere Hide', where there had been earlier reports of otters and bewick swans. We saw neither, but were entertained by the huge rafts of coots, a few diving cormorants and a little blue tit intent on stripping bare one of the rushes. This little bird stayed there, continually pulling away at the 'fluff' the whole time we were in the hide, and after we had left.
 We made our way back to the 'Bittern hide' for 3:30 pm, ready to watch the starlings gather and begin their display. Despite being early, the hide was almost full when we arrived, and there was certainly no seating room available. We waited and waited. After there had been no movement, except for the occasional call from a hidden Cetti's warbler, we decided to head outside and take our chances watching outside the hide, dodging either side of tree branches obscuring our view. The afternoon had been so clear and bright that the starlings took a long while to begin their mesmirising display. Eventually, we saw a flock of black dots moving against the orange glow of the sky, and the white glow of Sizewell B power station in the distance. Humble beginnings for such a majestic display. We kept watch. Eventually, the sky behind us became filled with the sound of wing beats, a rush of wind, and a flock flew over our heads and over the hide across the wetland to join the already thousands-strong murmuration traversing the horizon. More, and more, and more smaller flocks joined the larger flock, until I was sure there were more than the 50, 000 reported the previous day. They danced across the open sky, this way, that way, creating wave like movements as each bird adjusted its position to those next to it. The marsh harriers who had been waiting patiently, like we had, drifted close to the edges of the murmuration, hoping for a starling snack. We saw none get caught.

A beautiful sight, a 'tick' for both of us, and that contented feeling of having seen something truly special, one of nature's spectacles.


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