Starling Murmuration in the Fens

LIFE ON THE FEN EDGE – WITH SIR DAVID ATTENBRADLEY

EPISODE 1: I HEARD A MURMUR

from the BBC, the Bradley Broadcasting Corporation

Sunset is still a long way off. But, there’s a peace settling over the reed bed at the Broad Lane balancing pond in Cottenham. Nevertheless, it seems an unlikely place to spend the night. But, that’s exactly what several hundred local residents are planning to do. They’re just waiting for the sun to go down and in they’ll come to make their bed.

The time is drawing near, a few birds have come home to roost and are calling from the trees. Almost as soon as the sun dips below the horizon, the first of the overnighters arrive, winging their way in from the local fields and making a flap about who gets to sleep where. And, then the crowds begin to arrive, everyone jostling for pole position in the race to find the most comfortable and safest spot to bed down for the night.

The arrivals are, of course, starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), and this is murmuration time. We do not see quite the magnificent flocks of millions that appear over the African savannah nor even the multitude that murmurates along Brighton Pier. But, this is Cottenham on the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens and we have to make do with a mere two or three thousand of these birds settling down each winter night. Wave after wave arrives to find a roosting place among the reeds.

And then, the stragglers, the less prompt late back from the fields. Thankfully, there’s always a snug bed among the reeds. And, there’s no panic about who gets the top or the bottom bunk. Every roost is the same and every roost is as safe as the next from night-hunting predators with a taste for our feathered friends. They just have to hope there are no pike in that balancing pond.

LIFE ON THE FEN EDGE – WITH SIR DAVID ATTENBRADLEY

EPISODE 1: I Heard a Rumour
EPISODE 2: Goldfinch Dynasty
EPISODE 3: Young People’s Beat Combo
EPISODE 4: The Cumulus Dynasty