Sean Locke volunteers at Strumpshaw Fen reserve. Here is his account of the spectacular starling flock outside reception hide:
On Sunday 6 November, I was excited as it was my first session at the Strumpshaw starling roost as a volunteer. When I got there, I was early and ready for the starlings. The hide started to fill with wardens, volunteers and visitors. It was spitting slightly with rain, but it wasn’t freezing cold. Minute after minute of the first hour of waiting flew past without a single starling. Then suddenly from almost nowhere, they started to arrive. To begin with, they arrived in ones and twos and then threes, fours, fives and sixes, joining up to make a sizable flock. Just like the Blob, the flock grew even larger with every starling that joined it. They became murmurs (the technical name for a flock of starlings) and began making noticeable patterns in the sky. Each wave moved towards and behind the hide of enthralled viewers.
As dusk grew darker, the murmurs of starlings returned in greater numbers to find a place to settle for the night. They poured into the reed beds at two spots on the reserve, one to our right amongst the small isolated bushes and dead trees and the other to the left closer to the Fen Hide. I cupped my ears with my hands to magnify my hearing to listen to the din of the estimated 12,000 birds. I could hear their whistles, clicks and chirps very clearly and I wasn’t the only one listening to them. Marsh harriers were busy patrolling these roosts. They can never let an opportunity like this go without catching one or two starlings for supper. Like the eagles of the marsh that they are, they soar over the roosts making them all take off in their thousands to dance in the air every now and then. The attacks on the roost to out right made them swarm towards the roost to our left in a giant wavy ribbon that twirls and knots the sky.
As it was nearing complete darkness, we had one last finale as every last starling launched into the air in one giant murmur. It was the final spectacle of the night as they twisted, turned, braking off into smaller flocks that rejoined again like a juggling act and formed many shapes such as ribbons and kidneys all over our view from the Reception Hide before returning to their roosting spot. After that it became too dark to see and it was time for everyone to go home with big smiles on their faces.
BREAKING NEWS!! Even more starlings have now joined the Strumpshaw roost and a whopping 40,000 were estimated yesterday (Tuesday).