Nature’s synchronised swirling spectacle

Scientists are trying to find out why starling murmurations form.  Pic: Michael Flowers.
Scientists are trying to find out why starling murmurations form. Pic: Michael Flowers.
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The reasons for it remain a mystery but swirling displays of acrobatics performed by as many as 40,000 starlings are catching the eye at one of Yorkshire’s most treasured nature spots.

Nightly displays of these ‘murmurations’ which bring together massive flocks of the birds as the sun goes down are proving popular with visitors to Potteric Carr Nature Reserve in Doncaster.

As dusk strikes the sky darkens with thousands of starlings that collect together and move in sync before going to roost for the evening. Although the exact location of the starlings’ mumuration moves position slightly each evening, they have consistently collected above Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s flagship 200-hectare wetland nature reserve.

Andy Dalton, manager for Potteric Carr said: “The nightly display exhibited by a growing group of starlings over the winter has been simply spell-bounding to watch. As we have progressed further into winter the numbers of birds coming to join in has continued to expand.

“Whilst we assume starling choose to roost in large numbers so as to keep warm and better protect themselves from predators by having lots of birds on lookout, the precise reasons behind their extraordinary display before settling down for the night is currently up for debate.”

To catch Potteric Carr’s starling mumuration this week, visitors are advised to arrive at the nature reserve at around 3.30pm as most displays begin at around 4pm.