After an absence of two years, a large group of starlings have been arriving at WWT Arundel Wetland Centre to roost overnight in the reed beds. The huge flock of starlings has been enthralling afternoon visitors to the nature reserve. The birds arrive at dusk, at first in small groups then flock together to form a large group called a murmuration. This huge flock undulates back and forth in the air over the reedbed, in waves and swirls like pepper grains on the wind, before the birds suddenly descend en masse into the reeds.
“The number of starlings arriving is growing every week” said Paul Stevens, Arundel Wetland Centre warden. “During our last recorded large murmurations in 2008 the flocks build up over the winter to reach over 6,000 by February. In the late 1980’s numbers over 20,000 starlings were a regular occurrence on a winter day.”
This winter the starlings have begun gathering each day from 3:20pm onwards, depending on the weather conditions. Currently there are 2,000-4,000 birds daily. Starling numbers should build until a peak in late February or early March. The reed bed stores heat and provides shelter to help the birds survive in winter. The ongoing clearance of willow scrub this year has further opened up the SSSI reed beds at Arundel Wetland Centre. This gives sparrow hawks and other predators less places to perch to hunt the starlings.
The best place to watch the daily murmuration spectacle is from the wooden walkway at the refurbished Reedswamp exhibit in the reserve. The best place to hear them is to stroll along the reed bed boardwalk shortly after the starlings land. The chatter of thousands of starlings is amazing in itself!
Watch video of the murmuration and landing online on Facebook page WWT Arundel Wetland Centre or on WWTconservation1 channel on YouTube.