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Stars of the show arrive at last

Last modified: 12 November 2014

Starling murmuration

The starling numbers gradually build up to a swirling mass of around 40,000 birds.

Image: Graham Catley

They’re back – around 40,000 starlings have finally returned to put on a show at RSPB Leighton Moss and Morecambe Bay nature reserve and visitors are urged to come and witness the seasonal spectacle for themselves.

The starlings, which gather in their thousands to dance across the sky, usually return to the area at the end of October but due to the mild weather this year, they are late in their arrival.

Staff and visitors have anxiously waited for the starlings to return and had hoped the birds would put on a spectacular show for the BBC Autumnwatch cameras last month, when the Silverdale reserve hosted the popular wildlife television series for the second time. The starlings were one of the stars of the last year’s show, but unfortunately, they arrived too late for the cameras this year.

Now these cheeky, irrepressible characters are back and have been converging in their thousands upon the reedbed at RSPB Leighton Moss of an evening, providing the perfect time for visitors to come and experience this winter wildlife wonder for themselves. 

Annabel Rushton, Marketing Officer at RSPB Leighton Moss, said:“The nightly ritual begins at dusk with just a few small flurries of starlings but then the numbers gradually build to a swirling mass of currently around 40,000 birds, which can increase further in the run up to Christmas.  This flock, or murmuration as it is known, may twist and turn, dancing across the sky before finally pouring into the reeds to settle down for the night. It is one of my favourite sights in autumn and truly incredible to see.”

It is hard to believe when thousands of starlings are seen together at one time, but Europe’s starling population has been in sharp decline for the last 40 years.  Starling numbers recorded in the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch have fallen by over 80 per cent across the UK since the 1970s.

Annabel added: “When watching these stunning starling displays, it is important to remember that numbers of these special birds are struggling and there are many ways that the public can help. Putting out suet and mealworms at this time of year helps starlings to get through the cold nights and adding nestboxes to your garden provides them with much needed nesting sites.”

To discover more about the wildlife spectacles throughout the seasons at Leighton Moss, visit www.rspb.org.uk/leightonmoss

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Find out which birds were the movers and shakers in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch charts.

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