We first noticed them just before Christmas. A few hundred starlings flocking in a startling and particular way just before dusk. They flew in tight formation across the dull grey sky. I stood and watched, mesmerised, whilst my dog Lola waited patiently, somewhat perplexed that her walk was in sudden hiatus. I heard the sound of hundreds of wings passing over my head, and watched as the flock disappeared over the rooftops only to reappear seconds later breaking into two or three groups before spiralling back together, the starlings now moving as one, describing complex shapes in the air, before dropping into a small clump of tall dense fir trees by the river for their night roost. Starlings have become a rare species in the UK – they are on the critical list for UK birds most at risk, and it is unusual to see them in urban settings. So we are lucky.
Over the last few weeks the flock has grown and now a few thousand starlings congregate together every evening. It may grow to as many as one hundred thousand in a single flock.Our starlings perform these outlandish acrobatics every evening, swooping and diving in a breathtaking display of precision flight.They’ll continue until the end of the winter. It keeps them safe against predators and provides warmth through sheer numbers. They call it a murmuration.
For now, a murmuration of starlings is a sight to behold. Around four in the afternoon until the sun sets, just down by the river, along from my house, completely free.