Den Cartlidge Blog: Starlings

Monday 12th February 2018

The first thing I noticed was the smell. The cloying scent of fresh bird droppings hung under the trees. Then I noticed the loud chirruping of thousands of early risers. The branches were all occupied. There were so many birds moving from branch to branch, the dark trees seemed to bubble with feathers in the dusk light.

I’d found a starling roost on a dawn stroll through Brough Park in Leek. The starlings had taken over a row of trees and rhododendron bushes by a duck pond. I made a mental note to come back just before dusk. When I returned later, a few people were waiting nearby.

‘I’ve come from Newcastle-under-Lyme to see them,’ one said.

And what had she come to see? As the light began to fade, waves of starlings began to sweep in from every direction. Soon, hundreds of birds were combining to form a vast cloud billowing and swirling above us. We watched them surge one way and then change direction dramatically. They were no longer individual birds – they were now flying together as one. I’d seen murmurations before on TV and been fascinated, but that was nothing compared to seeing them in reality. Why do they do it? The RSPB suggests they might be grouping together for safety, and making it harder for predators like peregrines to target individual birds, but whatever the reason, it’s an incredible wildlife spectacle.

If you don’t get the chance to see Leek’s starlings, the same sort of activity might be happening not far from you. Just type ‘murmuration’ into Facebook or Twitter – you never know, your local starlings might be putting on a fantastic show on your doorstep! + Facebook