As regular readers will hopefully have realised by now, you don’t need to go too far from home to see astonishing natural wonders. Just a mile or so from our front door here in the Fen Edge north of Cambridge, for instance, I spotted a starling murmuration at dusk. It was happening over the main road out of the village of Rampton and the fields that flank it. So, having seen it in passing, Mrs Sciencebase and I headed there again today to get some video.
The sight and the sound were amazing, thousands of starlings swirling and whirling as they come into roost in the hedgerows just outside the village of Rampton as you head towards Willingham. There was also a Tawny Owl taunting some of the starlings along the hedgerow and a Little Owl calling from the field beyond; although neither of those feature in the video montage, I’m afraid.
In terms of why starlings flock like this, it’s thought that it throws Peregrines and other predators off the trail. Thousands of birds moving en masse do not present an easy target for a raptor that could otherwise dive on a single victim at over 200 miles per hour.
But, there could be other reasons for this flocking behaviour and as to the psychology of why humans see shapes and animals in the clouds of birds, well, that’s a wholly different story.
While seeing a murmuration on your own doorstep can be quite the spectacle there are even more alluring settings as these birds carry out their coordinated aerobatics in flocks with birds numbers tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands the world over.