Today I was enthralled to catch the Belper starling murmeration after my forest school sessions. This particular murmeration is new for Belper and has been really creating a wonderful feeling of joy locally. Its been going on for a few weeks now and lots of people are stopping to watch, to share the magical experience and to gaze in awe.
Because many of my sessions are in schools its not always possible to get along to see starling murmerations at the right time of day, and this particular one has been amusing me by the ways I keep just missing it! I got there recently just to see the last few starlings descend into their roost site! And I'm often passing by after dark (they roost in the centre of Belper) and I can hear them chattering away...
There's a crowd of around 100 starlings hanging around outside my house most days, I'm sure they join vast numbers of others each evening to perform these amazing dances in the sky over Belper.
So it felt really special to see this as dusk fell today. I'd gone back up to the Middleton Moor roost a few days ago, but that roost has now moved on, probably after recent snowfall in that part of Derbyshire, so today I was delighted to see another gathering of starlings creating such beautiful patterns in the sky.
The sound of the wings beating as the birds fly by is really special - and incredibly loud as they pass low and close overhead. They whole flock much of the time seem to move really calmly and gently, yet as they pass really close by each individual bird is beating its wings really fast. I had a wonderful chat about this with the woman I was stood next to tonight, it really is like a sense of poetry in the sky.
With this roost they seemed to have a clever last part of their formation in order to ensure they all would fit into the bushes properly... the entire murmeration kept tightly together and they all dived towards the bushes in line - but in a split second as they got to the tops of the plants just a few hundred actually went into the bushes and the rest kept tightly together and did a fast swoop up back into the sky... They formed a tight ball and swirled around over the bushes whilst you could hear loud chattering from the first set of starlings to roost, as if they were all finding a perch... And then the whole thing happened again, and again, and again, each time with smaller groups going into roost and jostling up to find somewhere to squeeze in to roost... until suddenly all of them were down and into the bushes, chattering away. Amazing and an utter privilege to watch.
Its so special how something like this can bring people together - I've chatted to some really lovely people I don't know, all because we were stood in awe watching the starlings or listening to them chattering away in their roost.
Its also really interesting to see just how many people walk by without looking up and who don't notice the natural spectacle going on immediately around them.
But so many people have smiled and stopped to talk to friends, family and (maybe crucial in terms of a sense of community) strangers, to remark on how very special this all is, how very lucky we are to have them here where we live, how stunning the patterns are, how nature provides free things which lift your spirits like nothing else...
Thank you starlings.
My friend Sue has written a lovely blog post about the Belper starlings on the Earth Pathways Diary website here.
There's lots more information about starling murmerations on the following links:
BBC springwatch / autumnwatch
starling survey results
starlings in the uk website