January 2022 - Starling Murmuration at RSPB Ham Wall
January 2022 - Starling Murmuration at RSPB Ham Wall

A full group of members joined Dave Sage and I on the Somerset Levels in January, to see a sight we had been attempting to enjoy for 3 years! 

We met up with the aptly named Lucy Starling and Terry Doman from Bath Naturalists Society, who were both very knowledgeable about the many birds we saw throughout the afternoon.

These included several Cettiā€™s warblers, widgeon, shoveller, gadwall, stonechat, teal (courting and mating), chiff-chaff, great crested grebe, snipe, marsh harrier (both male and female), coot, long-tailed tit, lapwing, kingfisher, great white egret, little grebe, cormorant, tufted duck, and mute swan. 

Photo: Male Marsh Harrier

Lucy was leading the group, with Terry as the back marker. Dave and I happily stayed near the back of the group, stopping frequently to set up telescopes and binoculars as there was always a new bird to see.
We could see Lucy and the front-walkers in the distance; unfortunately when we caught up with them we discovered that we had been following the wrong group! This meant that when it was nearly dusk the group were located in different places to see the murmuration but at least both groups had an experienced guide with them! 

The starlings started flying over our heads just before dusk, firstly in flocks of about 100, then gradually they increased to 400, and finally 3000 at a time. This was an amazing sight; we could hear the down thrusts of their wings as they flew directly overhead towards the reed beds where they would be roosting overnight. They choose this type of area to get protection from foxes, who cannot (usually) swim. Suddenly each flock plummets down into the reeds, which are deliberately left uncut, and they chatter amongst themselves until it is dark; this sounds just like water going over Pulteney Weir! Because the reed bed is full of birds, it is warmer than open ground.

Starlings do not feed at night, but spread out during the day up to 20 miles away in fields to feed. They keep away from each other in the vast overhead flocks by noting the positions of the 6 birds around them, avoiding their wings; a very simple but effective way of not bumping into each other!

Liz Wintle

Video taken by our Vice Chair, Kathy, on a previous visit to the Somerset Levels
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Avon Wildlife Trust
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