After seeing the photographs of Robin Morisson go viral, last Friday I decided to do something wild and go up to the Somerset levels to see the Starling Murmurations blacken the skies of RSPB Ham Wall with their dusk (and dawn) spiralling dance.
Ham Wall is a pretty wetland nature reserve alongside Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor; home to bitterns, bearded tits and a healthy population of Marsh Harriers I arrived early and spent a couple of hours getting to know the reserve before settling on a spot that I believe would give the best views of the reserve from both West and South. I had never seen the murmurations before and was beginning to get a little apprehensive, but by no means unamused, as I listened to the calls of Lapwings warning of an overhead Marsh Harrier pair. I can only speculate that the Marsh Harriers were also waiting for the arrival of the starling flocks but with the sun setting fast whether or not I was going to be able to see them at this location was left entirely to the starlings.
‘The starling roost is one of the most incredible natural spectacles we enjoy here in the UK and they are so easy to see.’ Johann Holt, RSPB
And then, like a black mirage rippling across the sky we were surrounded by shooting stardust against the blood red sky. The sound almost completely unbelievable, it hits you almost like the sound when standing under a steel railway bridge as a Canadian freight train crosses. It’s hard to imagine that this sheer number is only a sliver of what it once could have been with starling population down 70% within recent years.
The waves are caused by each individual shielding itself from potential predators by moving towards the centre of the group as they travel up to 20 miles from their roosts to find rich feeding grounds.
It did not take long until I was hypnotised and determined to return in the morning so setting my alarm at 6 I crept out of my guesthouse and met Volunteer Warden John Crispin to discover how starlings start their day.