One of winter’s great spectacles is happening above us this winter

Don’t be disheartened by the dark clouds that are gathering overhead at the moment, as they are actually playing a big party in an incredible and definitely not to be missed wildlife spectacle. Flocks of Starlings, otherwise known as murmurations, are one of the most impressive highlights of the winter, and they can now be seen right across the country.

These can involve literally hundreds of thousands of starlings with gather together noisily at dusk and sweep right across the sky in one massive dark cloud of flight which is in perfect synchronisation.

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

Find out more at www.rspb.org.uk/reserves