Where to see Suffolk’s spectacular starling murmurations

PUBLISHED: 17:27 05 October 2020 | UPDATED: 17:27 05 October 2020

A starling murmuration at sunset at Lakenheath. Image: Nigel Wallace

A starling murmuration at sunset at Lakenheath. Image: Nigel Wallace

Nigel_Wallace

Hundreds of thousands of starlings head to our shores in autumn creating stunning aerial displays at dusk. Here’s where you can see them in Suffolk.

Despite being seen together in huge numbers, starling populations have fallen by 80 percent and are on the endangered list. Image: Getty Images/iStockphotoDespite being seen together in huge numbers, starling populations have fallen by 80 percent and are on the endangered list. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s one of nature’s great autumn wonders – a murmuration of starlings.

As dusk falls look to the skies and you may see thousands of these amazing little birds creating one of the most stunning natural spectacles, a twisting, turning black cloud moving in first one direction, then changing shape before heading in another. It’s graceful, fluid, breathtaking, otherworldly.

During late autumn and the winter months, huge numbers of starlings arrive in Britain from the continent, seeking the relative warmth of our island climate and many of them settle in Suffolk and Norfolk. They spend their days feeding then, come dusk they join up for a communal roost, grouping together to ensure safety in numbers.

Starlings mainly choose to roost in places that are sheltered from harsh weather and predators, such as woodlands, but reedbeds, cliffs, buildings and industrial structures are also used. During the day, they form daytime roosts at exposed places such as treetops, where the birds have good all-round visibility.

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As flocks arrive from all directions above the roost site, you can hear the rustle of wings. The murmuration contracts and expands, swirling back and forth, creating complex patterns as a way to escape airbourne predators, almost as though an invisible hand is squeezing and pulling a ball of black gel. The flocks can be up to tens or even hundreds of thousands strong – a hypnotising, baffling experience for predators, such as sparrowhawks and peregrine falcons, which find it hard to target a single bird. Such large roosts also offer warmth and an opportunity to communicate.

Displays can last many minutes, then as the sky darkens, the birds drop from above, funnelling down into the reeds in an impressive swhoosh.

So, where are the best places to see a murmuration?

Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserves at Lackford Lakes, Hen Reedbeds, Redgrave and Lopham Fen. suffolkwildlifetrust.org

Also, Lowestoft, Southwold, Walberswick, Dingle Marshes near Dunwich, Dunwich Heath, RSPB Minsmere, reed beds at Lovers Lane, Leiston, Thorpeness, and Felixstowe at Landguard Common.

You’ll also see starlings in many urban settings, where they like to roost amongst the warmth of the buildings and street lights.

Despite such large numbers appearing in the sky, the starling population has fallen by more than 80 percent in recent years and they are now on the critical list of UK birds most at risk. The decline is believed to be due to the loss of permanent pasture, increased use of farm chemicals, and a shortage of food and nesting sites in many parts of the UK. Enjoy them while they’re here! Help protect them by posting your photos on social media, keeping the plightof starlings at the forefront of wildlife conservation.

Keep upto date on locations starlingsintheuk.co.uk

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