Black clouds of starlings

This fascinating winter sight is the phenomenon of a flock of starlings flying in a murmuration.  Hundreds of thousands can gather, often at dusk, to create this miracle of nature.

One UK site where these can be commonly viewed is Brighton beach in Sussex where the birds get their evening exercise before roosting underneath the pier.  The spectacle attracts visitors who come just to view this scene of synchronised flight where more and more birds can be seen to join in and small offshoots may break away to dive under the pier.

Other popular sites to see murmurations include Gretna Green in Dumfries and Galloway and the Somerset moors.  Some of the RSPB reserves also allow for great viewing, such as Leighton Moss in Lancashire, Saltholme in Middlesbrough, Ham Wall in Somerset, Newport Wetlands in Newport and Snape in Suffolk.

Murmurations can be breathtaking as the sheer numbers and the amazing synergy with which they co-ordinate their flight are beheld.  There are many clips on the internet and You Tube, such as this wildlife cameraman Dylan Winter who has put the sweeping dance of this flock to music.

The reason that the birds gather to do this, mostly in winter is because thousands of migrant birds come across from Europe to enjoy Britain’s milder Atlantic climate.  The group congregates for safety and warmth and they actually share information about where to feed.

Sadly, like many facets of wildlife, numbers, even of these common birds, are falling and statistics show that 40 million starlings have been lost from the European Union since 1980.  The RSPB’s UK annual Big Garden Birdwatch verifies the figures, reporting a loss of 80% since 1979.

Ecologists have looked into the problem and consider that loss of their natural homeland, such as trees and fields, and use of pesticides has contributed to the situation.

If you are fortunate enough to see the spectacle of starling murmurations where you live, why not enjoy it from the comfort of your greenhouse – Gabriel Ash wooden greenhouses are the perfect blend for a natural experience.

To read what the BBC nature blog has to say about starling murmurations, see

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