Where to see murmurations this winter
Starlings move around to different sites in winter, so it’s always best to check with nature reserves on the day, to see if they’re expecting the birds to be there in good numbers. It’s also worth remembering that murmurations won’t happen every evening: sometimes birds will arrive in small flocks and simply drop in to roost. Mersehead RSPB, Dumfries and Galloway
In January 2017, 50-100,000 Starlings roosted here. If you’re on site before dusk, look out for the reserve’s other winter specialities, including Barnacle Geese, flocks of winter waders and farmland passerines.
Leighton Moss RSPB, Lancashire
Between 20,000-100,000 Starlings usually arrive here in October and November. In some winters they only stay until the New Year, but in other years they have stayed through to February or March. This usually depends on how harsh the weather is in the countries they’ve travelled from, and then how severe the conditions are here.
Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve, Gwent
The nature reserve tends to run special viewing events in November when there are the highest numbers of birds. Last winter, the Starling flocks, which peaked at around 50,000 birds, stayed on through December and January.
Avalon Marshes, Somerset
The RSPB’S Ham Wall reserve, or Natural England’s Shapwick Heath, are preferred roost sites; call the Starling hotline on 07866 554142 to find out where they roosted the night before and plan accordingly.
RSPB Fairburn Ings, West Yorkshire
Up to 20,000 Starlings roost here at the former coal mining site. The lakes are great for winter ducks, too, including Goldeneye, Goosander and Smew, and this is also an important site for Willow Tits.
Brighton Pier, East Sussex
The pier is a favourite roost site – it’s hard to miss the gatherings from anywhere on the front. Watch our video of a Starling murmuration in Brighton at birdwatching.co.uk/videos
Saltholme RSPB, Cleveland
Murmurations here tend to be best from late October through to December, peaking at around 20,000 birds. The reserve runs Sunset Safari walks for people to come and see the Starlings every Thursday and Sunday throughout the month of November when they can be more predictable.
Strumpshaw Fen RSPB, Norfolk
The peak Starling count last winter was in excess of 30,000 birds. There was plenty of action with Sparrowhawks chasing birds as they descended into the reedbeds and Marsh Harriers prowling the sky above.
Fen Drayton RSPB
This wetland reserve near Cambridge gets a good gathering of Starlings most years, and the lakes are well worth checking for the likes of Smew.
Minsmere RSPB, Suffolk
Minsmere saw more than 40,000 Starlings murmurating in January and February 2018. The spectacle is best viewed from the ‘North Wall’, a 10-minute walk from the visitor centre, just before dusk.
Bristol by fitting 25 young birds with radio tags and then tracking them with portable receiver stations, placed in the homes and cars of local volunteers. The results will be used to see whether further expansion of the volunteer network could help build a more complete picture of Starling behaviour. The pilot project was funded by Natural England through its Action for Birds in England programme (AFBIE).
How you can help Starlings
While we don’t know for sure that a lack of insect food is directly driving Starling numbers down, it’s always a good thing to boost this resource for the benefit of these – and other – birds. Leatherjackets, the larvae of craneflies, are a particular favourite, and by keeping your lawn chemical free you can ensure there’s plenty of invertebrate life among and beneath the grass. Keep an area of your lawn mown short, too: that makes it easier for the Starlings to probe into the ground below to find something to eat. You can also help insects on farmland, too, by supporting nature-friendly farming. This involves making considered choices when you’re shopping, and you can also join the
Nature Friendly Farming Network (found online at nffn.org.uk) which is open to everyone. Finally, have you got room for a Starling nestbox or two? These holenesting birds readily adopt man-made homes and are fascinating to watch as they raise their young.
Starlings over Brighton Pier
This is what an individual Starling looks like in winter plumage
Birds gathering low over the water
Enjoying the spectacle!