Saturday, 17 January 2015

Jan 16th Norwich

I am in Norwich today, on the top of St Stephan's Street for something special. No, not for a bargain in the January sales but for a wildlife spectacle that people would normally flock to nature reserves to see. Recently, I was tipped off that there was a starling murmuration in the city. My parents were working nearby the high street, when they saw this amazing event. They told me about it and here I am. I don't think many people know about it and, before tonight, that includes me. I've seen murmrations at Strumpshaw, but never here in such an urban location before.

I arrived at the roundabout on the top of St Stephan's Street about 2:45pm to get myself in position and to find where the best place to view the event when it happened. At this time, I could hear a small amount of starling noise amongst the busy traffic. A handful of starlings were already here gathering in some trees nearby. This small group was the foundation to what was coming.

Around 3:45 - 4pm, this tiny group took to the air and started making small shapes in the sky. From behind me, more small flocks of starling joined them. As time went by, the tiny murmuration of 10-15 birds grew and grew in size. It became from a small ball to an enormous swirling mass that created increasingly elaborated shapes above the roundabout and the high street. It was mesmerizing. They would create knots, twists and balls that constantly shrank and expanded in size in an almost hypnotic display.

A couple of people were watching this with me, but everyone else were oblivious and just kept walking without taking a glance upwards. I had questions thrown at me by one elderly woman like why are they doing this and how do they not crash into each other? It is difficult for me to answer these questions as there are still things we don't know. Most people (me included) would say that they do this to confuse predators. Who knows, there could be one of the Cathedral peregrines watching nearby. They could also do this as a mean to communicate to each other. They have to watch and listen to their neighbours very closely so they don't crash into each other after all. Each individual makes a split second decision on which of the many birds surrounding it to follow and that is how the shapes are created (thats my theory any way).

Coming into roost
As darkness began to settle in, the murmuration of several thousands of starlings was coming to a close. They swirled over the taller buildings within the rows of shops and got lower and lower, until eventually they poured onto them like a thin column of rain. Most of them were at the centre of the rooftop out of sight, but the ones overflowing the edge and side of the building were visible like a row of football supporters in their seats. And with that, the event was over. Watching something as amazing as this in a busy urban setting, and for it to be Norwich of all places, it has to be up there as one of the most unexpected things I had ever witnessed. It kind of makes it a bit special really.

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