Dark Clouds Brighten the Winter
Flocks of starlings, known as murmurations, are one of the UK's most impressive winter highlights and can be seen now across the country. They can involve hundreds of thousands of starlings gathering noisily together at dusk and sweeping across the sky in a huge dark cloud of synchronised flight.
Bryan Bland, RSPB's Head of visitor experience, says "Watching thousands of starlings move across the sky as one is such an unforgettable experience. It starts with just small groups of birds that gradually join together and become one swarming mass twisting and turning overhead, before plunging down into their roosting spot to settle down for the night. It's quite overwhelming, and definitely one of the most magnificent natural sights.
Each year the UK's starling numbers are boosted by starlings arriving from continental Europe to spend the winter here, and it is these large numbers of birds that create such an impressive spectacle. But, there is evidence of a decline in the number of starlings visiting the UK in winter, and this could be linked to the birds' decline elsewhere in Europe. Figures show that 40 million starlings have disappeared from the European Union, including the UK, since 1980.
Bryan continued; "Starlings are still a plentiful bird but their numbers are falling alarmingly. They are such lively, chirpy birds, and are among the species that are regularly seen in gardens up and down the country, but to see a murmuration as dusk falls is a real treat."
Murmuration sites can vary each year, but good sites for them in previous years have included;
RSPB Loch of Strathbeg in Aberdeenshire
RSPB Fen Drayton, Cambridgeshire
RSPB Marazion Marsh, Cornwall
RSPB Mersehead in Dumfries and Galloway
Gretna, Dumfries and Galloway
Brighton Pier, East Sussex
RSPB Leighton Moss in Lancashire
Aberystwyth Pier, Mid Wales
Loch Spynie in Moray
RSPB Conwy, North Wales
Newport Wetlands, South Wales
RSPB Minsmere, North Warren, Snape and Dingle Marshes all in Suffolk
RSPB Saltholme, Teesside
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