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19th November 2011 - Magical Murmurations PDF Print E-mail

If you want to see something really special, get down to the Newport Wetlands Reserve to see the gathering starling roost. An estimated 30,000 birds gather just before dusk and perform a breathtaking aerobatic display before dropping down to roost in the reedbeds.

This 'murmuration' includes birds from Scandinavia and Russia as well as UK birds and they arrive in smaller groups that have been feeding locally as the light starts to dwindle. The reserve staff recommend that you arrive about 3.45pm and ask at the visitor centre for directions to the best viewing point (by all accounts you get a good view from the centre itself – which is great if you want to enjoy the spectacle sat down with a cup of coffee)!

I think that starlings are one of our most under appreciated birds. At first glance they appear black, but if you get a closer look you begin to see their lovely irradescent green and purple plumage. They also have a fantastic repertoire of calls and are excellent mimics – I've come across starlings apeing lapwings, buzzards and trimphones (OK, the latter was a few years ago)!

Although they are still quite a common sight, the number of starlings in Northern Europe has declined drastically, leading them to be placed on the red list of conservation concern. There are currently about 800,000 breeding pairs in the UK, compared to over 2 million in the late 1970's. One particular statistic that causes me concern is that only 15% of young starlings reach their 1st birthday, whereas until recently the figure was in excess of 30%!!

The reasons for their decline aren't entirely clear but pesticide use on grassland, changing farming practises, the lack of holes in buildings and trees, and a growing cat population are all thought to play a part.

Most readers will have seen these amazing starling shows on TV, but let me urge you to get out and see one for yourself – It really is an unforgettable experience - for yourself and your family.

If you want any more information please call the centre on 01633 636363.

Starling Murmeration of starlings

Birdwatching Events

Don't forget that the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust will be at Goytre Village Hall (just off the A4042 by the Goytre Arms) next Saturday 26th November, to announce the latest news from the Great Crane Project. Cranes are huge birds that sadly became extinct in Britain about 400 years ago. An ambitious scheme to rear chicks and introduce them to the Somerset levels is under way - and this talk will reveal how the reintroduction is faring.

A fortnight later on Saturday 10th December, local bird expert Chris Hatch will be presenting his illustrated talk entitled 'Northern Wildlife'. Chris is a widely travelled and very knowledgeable birdwatcher, as well as being a very personable bloke, and his talk will focus on the real specialists of harsh winter conditions – If you have been enjoying 'Frozen Planet' on TV this talk will appeal to you!

There is no need to book places on GOS talks - just turn up. New faces (especially Argus readers) are always very welcome.

Talks start at 7.30pm and entry is £1.50 - including tea and biscuits.

For more information visit www.gwentbirds.org.uk or give me a call on the number below. Likewise, if you want me to send you a copy of GOS's programme of walks and talks, just let me know.

Keep in Touch

Thank you to all readers that have taken the time to get in touch.

 I always enjoy hearing from you and can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on 01633 866470.