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Dark Clouds Brighten the Winter


1049_image1.jpgFlocks 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 1049_image2.jpgeach 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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