Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Starling Spectacular

On Tuesday 20th October I joined my very good friend Richard Farrow for a days birding on the North Norfolk Coast at Burnham Overy Dunes.  I arrived to meet Richard at our start point on the A149 coast road.
Arguably, October is the best month of the year for birding if your specialist passion is migration, and we were straight away reminded of this natural phenomena when many hundreds of Pink-footed Geese appeared over the Dunes and marsh to make their way inland to feed for the day.
It was clearly evident that a fall of Robins and Goldcrests had occurred, and this became even more apparent as the day wore on, especially with Goldcrests, which numbered in their hundreds.

From first light flocks of Starlings appeared in the east and passed over in a westerly heading, this passage became more frequent and heavier as the morning went on.  Varying sizes of flocks were seen with the largest numbering many hundreds and once one flock passed over, another soon appeared, and so this continued all morning with numbers and flocks petering out by the afternoon.
During their passage the largest flocks of Starlings moved on in very wide waves with several hundred meters from one end of the flock to the other.  It is fair to conclude that the numbers of Starlings involved in this passage numbered many thousands of birds.
These flocks of Starlings were often accompanied by other species, mostly Finches, most appeared to be a mixture of Chaffinches and Bramblings, but also Greenfinches and smaller numbers of Siskins and Redpolls, however, late morning one flock of Starlings comprised Finches which included at least 4 Crossbills whose distinctive flight call was clearly heard.

Literature indicates that Starlings move at varying times according to where they depart from.  Mid October in undoubtedly the peak for migration with the birds seen today originating from Finland, Russia, Poland, and the low countries.  The aim of these Starlings is to abandon the much colder winters in Northern Europe ad to seek warmth and feeding in Britain where they will join British birds and form very large flocks.  The vast murmurations and the spectacular pre-roost displays for which Starlings are famous for will undoubtedly be a mixture of both British and Continental birds.
Return migration to Northern Europe by continental Starlings starts in March of each year.
This particular visit to the North Norfolk Coast saw many migratory species to keep one entertained, but just as exciting was watching this wonderful spectacle of Starling migration.

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