A Murmuration

Today was one of those days where I wondered about not going out: It was cold and somewhat grey, and I had quite a lot to do at home. I initially decided to work in the morning rather than have an early walk, and then 2pm came and I wondered about not going out at all…..but luckily I decided to take a quick drive over to Cley.

I say luckily because sometimes one just expects to have a pleasant couple of hours out at a place one knows well, and then something turns up to make it a little bit special.

My first “special” of the afternoon was to get into one of the hides at Cley and find I had it completely to myself. A chance to reflect on what was about and carefully try to identify all the birds I could see. First off were two spoonbills on the far side of the pool. Lovely birds with their spatulate bills and plumes. Too far off to photograph, but then I saw a male pintail very close to the hide. Not only close, but it then proceeded to come even closer. At one point I was looking out of the hide and the pintail was looking at me and we were only about six feet apart!

A male pintail at Cley

There were also good numbers of various wader species on the pool; plenty of lapwing, black-tailed godwit and ruff, plus some golden plover a couple of turnstones and quite a lot of dunlin. And lots of avocets.

After about 40 minutes I headed off to a different hide on the other side of the pool, with the though that I might get closer to the spoonbills. I did – but still not close enough for a decent photo…..and then they flew off and landed very close to the hide I had originally been in. Typical! However there was plenty to watch from this hide, including a group of pintail doing what amounted to synchronised swimming.

Pintail synchronised dabbling!

There was only one other person in this hide and we were both then treated to something completely unexpected: A murmuration of starlings. They started flying in quite suddenly and landing on the small islands in the pool. Then suddenly they would all take off again and settle on the same, or a different, island. Sometimes they would be put up by a passing marsh harrier, but at other times they just seemed to decide to wheel around for a bit before landing. It was a fantastic sight – and hard to imagine how so many birds could land on such small islands. Also impossible to work out how they manage to fly in such dense packs and turn at exactly the same time. The “whoosh” of their wings when they all took off was amazing! I managed some video on my phone which I hope conveys a little of the spectacle.

Starling murmuration at Cley – I love the sound of their wings when they all take off together!

So no new species today – Brenda had several moths in the trap but nothing new – but it was one of those trips out that makes me glad I’m doing this.

No new species for March 5th:

Birds = 136
Moths = 9
Wildflowers = 23