Radipole Lake RSPB Reserve
Saturday November 3rd 2012
I was sat in the North Hide at Radipole this evening just prior to locking it up when suddenly the sky went dark.
Looking up I could literally not see the sky at all - everything was covered by an enormous flock of starlings.
I first saw one of these spectacular gathering some 40 years ago, at the very same place.
In spite of the fact that I had already been birdwatching for several years, and was very familiar with the birds of Radipole, I just could not believe my eyes as this huge black cloud swirled over the reedbeds.
In fact it took me a while before I could work out what they were - at first I could only think they must be bats!
I had probably just been watching a wildlife film on the television.
Recently these "murmurations" as they are now called have become very fashionable.
Whole flocks of people that previously confined their birdwatching to Autumnwatch can be seen gathering in the late afternoon on the Somerset Levels freezing their binoculars off waiting for the starlings to arrive.
I'm not actually sure that these events should really be called murmurations at all.
The collective noun for a flock of starlings certainly is a murmuration, but this is something more than that.
A group of starlings on your lawn is a murmuration.
These amazing spectacles are something that a murmuration of starling does.
It should really be called a "pre-roost gathering".
Lots of birds do it, pied wagtails for instance.
And crows. And jackdaws.
What makes a starling pre-roost gathering different is the way they swirl around before they actually go to roost.
After 15 minutes or so of this, they all flew off. Probably to Lodmoor where the actual roost is.