Saturday, 3 January 2015

Festive Sunsets and Starlings

A little late to be talking about Christmas Eve maybe, but with the hustle of the festive season and the welcome break from a computer screen I have only just got around to looking at the photographs I had taken pre-Christmas rush.

I was spending Christmas (or at least part of it) in Taunton this year so it was the perfect opportunity to pay a visit to the RSPB reserve Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels. The aim: to try and catch a glimpse of the starling murmuration as they came down to roost in the reedbeds.

Three of us headed out in the late afternoon sun on Christmas Eve. It was already a beautiful evening and as the reserve filled with people there was a sense of excitement and anticipation filling the air. As we strolled from the new car park down through the reserve we spotted a large white bird wading in the shallows - a Great White Egret! Now I would never deserve the title of a 'birder' but I was very excited to see this bird as I have never seen one before. Unfortunately it was too far away to photograph, but stunning nonetheless. This bird is quite uncommon in Britain, but like the Little Egret it's population in Europe is expanding, meaning it's likely we will see a lot more of these birds in years to come. Compared to the Little Egret it is noticeably larger and its beak is yellow, not black.

As the sun lowered the reserve was washed with beautiful light and although no starlings yet, the views alone were worth the trip.

Beautiful Light and Gulls
As the light eventually started to fade the first flock of starlings arrived. And there were thousands of them! More and more groups of starlings came circling over our heads and dropped in to the reedbeds in front of us like large black raindrops. 

Lots of Starlings

Unfortunately for us the starlings did not decide to put on a show and perform their famous murmuration this time. But we were very lucky to be only a few metres away from the spot they had chosen to roost in that night. The reeds were soon alive with a sea of black bodies rippling through the vegetation and the noise of that many wings and chattering voices was mesmerising.

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