Throughout the winter large numbers of starlings gather above the waters of Attenborough Nature Reserve and treat our visitors to a fantastic aerial display. Gregarious in their nature, winter flocks often come together forming a swirling mass of birds prior to roosting called murmurations.
As sunset approaches, small flocks of starlings arrive on the Reserve from the adjacent fields and water treatment plant. They steadily gather in number as the light fades, then like a cloud of smoke in the sky the birds perform their ‘ballet’ before dropping in to the reedbed to roost for the night.
For some visitors there has even been the added excitement of a sparrowhawk or peregrine falcon shooting through the flock and attempting to catch one of the birds. At such times the starling’s flight becomes more erratic and the murmuration forms a tighter group, performing acrobatic rolls and turns.
Safety in numbers is the primary reason why the starlings congregate en-masse. Birds of prey to find it extremely hard to target one bird in the middle of a hypnotising flock of many thousands.
In late autumn and winter our resident breeding population is supplemented by the arrival of millions of starlings from the continent. Some as far away as Eastern Europe: Poland; Russia; and the Czech Republic.
These birds begin to arrive in late September, with numbers peaking in October and early November.
The starlings should continue to carry out their daily ritual until the early spring, when the winter visitors will begin their journey back to their summer breeding grounds. Until then, you can enjoy watching them from the Delta Hide around 30 minutes before dusk - see map below for directions.