Call of the wild – starlings fly home to roost over our house

I hear them long before they become visible. Starlings are gathering over the hills to the south of the estate where we live. It begins as an avian whisper, barely audible above the ambient sounds of wind and distant traffic. And then it starts to build, unseen birds chattering excitedly with one another, shouting, squawking, screaming joyously. A wall of sound, the call of the wild.

The cacophony echoes all around me. I scan the sky in the direction from which I know they will appear. Still nothing. But it’s only a matter of time. They will be here. At this time of year they fly over our estate every day at around 4pm, heading towards their roosting site. Today will be no different.

At last they start to arrive. First a lone outrider, silent and determined, appears from behind the house at the rear of our garden. It passes over me and disappears into the distance. Then two others, calling to one another as they fly.

Seconds later the main flock arrives, hundreds of birds in close formation. A deafening, spellbinding squadron of starlings, known to science as a murmuration, fills the sky.

Although the birds clearly have a destination in mind, they briefly break off from their journey to swoop and swirl above my head, like a bunch of boastful aviators flaunting their skills at an air show. The murmuration takes on a life of its own, sketching ever more complex and beautiful patterns on the canvas of the evening sky. The noise is louder than ever, drowning out everything else.

And then, as suddenly as they arrived, they take their leave. The flock heads off to who-knows-where, and the sound of their relentless chitter-chatter fades. A few laggards appear from the south, flying swiftly in pursuit of the main flock, keen to catch up with their buddies before they roost for the night.

Seconds later they too have gone and I’m left alone with my thoughts, marvelling at the extraordinary event I have just witnessed.

* * * * *

In some parts of the country murmurations at this time of year can number several hundred thousand birds, occasionally more than a million. By these standards, the aerial display that takes place above our garden every winter’s afternoon is tiny. But to me it is far from insignificant.

What a privilege it is, to stand in our modest back garden on our boring suburban housing estate in the unremarkable, overpopulated East Midlands of England, and experience the call of the wild. It is a moving, mesmerising experience, and the wonder of it fills me with joy. Long may it continue.

24 comments

  1. shazza · December 15

    That’s amazing! I have never seen one. A joy indeed. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 15

      Yes, it’s a magical sight. I hope you get experience a murmuration one day. I promise o won’t ever forget it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Paddy Tobin · December 15

    A wonderful experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Steve Gingold · December 15

    So amazing and I am quite envious, having never seen such a phenomenon.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, Another Blogger · December 15

    A fantastic sight. You definitely were in the right place at the right time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 15

      Yes indeed, and even better that I can see it from my garden, just feet away from a lovely hot cup of tea (sorry, you must forgive we Brits for our obsession with tea 🙂)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A spectacular sight, and murmuration is a delightful word too. Worth remembering for Scrabble…..

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ann Mackay · December 15

    A wonderful sight which I’ve only seen on film so far. We used to see a fair few in Scotland. Once our back garden filled up with over 20 of them, driving our cat, who was watching from the window, quite frantic. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 17

      Poor cat. So much temptation, but all of it on the other side of the glass!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ann Mackay · December 17

        I felt amuse and sorry for him at the same time. I think he was quite overcome by the sheer numbers!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. tanjabrittonwriter · December 15

    Thank you for sharing the result of your collaborative efforts, Mr. and Mrs. P.– your precious words and photographs. I enjoyed envisioning the “boastful aviators” putting their aerial skills on display, and seeing their “complex patterns on the canvas of the evening sky.”
    May your wish come true, and the murmuration of starlings continue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 17

      Thank you, Tanja, I’m delighted that this one resonated with you. The starlings were out in force again yesterday, brightening up an otherwise miserable afternoon.

      Liked by 1 person

      • tanjabrittonwriter · December 19

        We have to keep looking for the little (or large) miracles to make it through the less appealing days.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Platypus Man · December 20

        Agreed. These days we must take our pleasures however, wherever and whenever we can.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Laurie Graves · December 15

    Amen! Long may it continue. Beautiful description. Lovely images.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ThoughtsBecomeWords · December 17

    Beautiful sight! Uplifting in every sense of the word.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · December 17

      Absolutely. Strange how something ostensibly so simple – just a bunch of small birds in flight, after all – can at the same time be so profoundly moving. A very special experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Adele Brand · December 19

    Starlings are truly one of nature’s great dancers. I’ve seen the famous murmuration at Ham Wall reserve but all of their flocks – large or small – are something impossibly magical.

    Liked by 1 person

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