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Last modified: 14 November 2012
The murmarations can build to a seething mass of 20,000 or more birds.
Image: Graham Catley
An autumn wildlife spectacle that every year thrills hundreds of visitors to Saltholme, is once again being played out in the skies over the Tees Valley.
As dusk draws in, the wildlife reserve and discovery park near Stockton comes alive with the sights and sounds of thousands of starlings heading to roost in the reedbeds.
For the next three weeks, staff and volunteers at Saltholme are staging Soup and Starling events, so visitors can experience this magnificent wildlife performance - and keep warm with a comforting mug of soup, made especially in the reserve cafe.
The nightly ritual begins at dusk, with just a few small flurries of starlings, then the numbers gradually build to a seething, swirling mass of 20,000 or more birds, all searching for the best spot to spend the night.
This massive flock, or murmuration as it is sometimes called, may twist and turn, rise and fall for some time before finally pouring into the reeds to settle down for the night.
Site manager Dave Braithwaite said: “You may have seen starling roosts on TV and have been impressed by the amazing spectacle, but seeing and hearing the real thing for yourself is unbeatable.”
Dave went on to say: “The starlings’ bed-time ritual is one of my favourite wildlife experiences and the soup made by our staff in the cafe is always good and the perfect accompaniment to this autumn and winter dusk extravaganza.”
Before the starlings settle down for the night, there are plenty of other Time for Bed activities to do and see, as visitors find out how wildlife is getting ready for winter.
With a family pass, they can tackle the hedgehog quiz, build a bug house, add dreams to the dream-catcher tree and search for creatures on a hibernation trail.
The soup and starling events will be held throughout November from 3pm until 5.00pm (or dusk). For more details, visit www.rspb.org.uk/saltholme or call 01642 546625.
The next events will be taking place on Wednesday 21, Thursday 22 and Saturday the 24 of November. Spaces are limited and booking is essential. The cost is £8 for adults (RSPB members £4), children half price.
Time for Bed will run until the end of November. Family activity passes cost £12 - this includes all activities and certain drinks from the cafe, for two adults and up to three children (activities are free for RSPB members).
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