Sunday, 19 February 2017

Woodford Starling murmuration


The following account, images and information has kindly been submitted by Annie Ford who has discovered and photographed a Starling murmuration in the village of Woodford...

'I first spotted that Woodford had more starlings than other villages in the area when I drove through the village one sunny afternoon in September last year and took some photos. Later on in the year someone showed me a few photos of a murmuration over the streets of Woodford. I went to look for the starlings a couple of times without success. In January this year I noticed them again flying over the houses in Mill Road, but was too late to photograph them because they were just settling. So I made it my mission to find out the best spot and best time to catch them. 

I realised that like us humans the starlings prefer good weather for outdoor activities. When it's dull they just settle down to roost, but when the weather is clear, they will provide a really good spectacle. The better the weather, the more starlings arrive and the bigger the spread of the murmuration. 

I have been to Titchmarsh Lakes and to Summer Leys, where murmurations occurred before, but the weather turned dull on me so I cannot comment if they still happen or not. 

I attach a few photos for you from the various days I have been in pursuit of the little darlings. 

The brightest day was 13th February, when I was watching the murmuration from the field adjacent to Mill Road. The starlings flew right across the village down to Thrapston Road and up to the playing field. Friday wasn't quite so bright, but the sun kept coming out so I decided to try my luck near the playing field again. At first I thought they were just settling straight away in a piece of scrub near Mill Road, but just as I thought of going home, I realised a lot of starlings had arrived and were settling in a field to the left of the playing field. The noise was quite considerable. All of a sudden, they started taking off from that field and flew towards Mill Road in a vast stream of birds. They flew just over the hedge of the playing field. I did take a short video of that because it was quite spectacular. They assembled into a murmuration over Mill Road and beyond and then settled in their place near Mill Road, although I did hear some on the other side of the playing field. 

The action currently happens between 5 - 5.30 pm It's difficult to say, where the best place is to see the murmuration, as they often break up into smaller flocks and then combine again. Sometimes the best vantage point is at the edge of the village in Mill Road, sometimes in or near the playing field near the working men's club. 

I attach a map for you which I prepared for one of the members of my photoclub. Where I wrote murmuration is the scrub where they settle. The field below the hedge, where I wrote park here is the one where the starlings had settled en masse before the murmuration yesterday. (the google map is incorrect, as the working men's club is in the same place as the community sports complex - which is where you can park the car)

I presume the murmurations will stop soon, as the starlings will start pairing up and nesting, but you might catch some if we have reasonable weather before then.

I came back from shopping Thrapston yesterday (Saturday) and the afternoon had brightened up. I saw a few  starlings arrive  at about 5 pm, so I rushed home to dump the shopping and get my Nikon D300 (I only had my  little Nikon S9000 compact in my handbag) and drove back up to Woodford. I just pulled in a few hundred yards  before getting to the Village on Mill Road.

The murmurations started in the usual way with a few starlings, then more and more came and they split and  joined together flying over the whole village and the fields to the left and the right of me. Then finally they started  painting spectacular pictures in the sky. I was stunned. I think there must have been more starlings than ever...'

Annie Ford

Images courtesy
of Annie Ford

Female Starling
courtesy of Cathy Ryden.

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