Tonight I saw swarms of Starlings passing over the house on the way to their roost on North Pier. It’s a privilege to be able to watch them even when it’s just a blink and you’ll miss it encounter like today. Better still to stand on the Promenade and hopefully be treated to the winter version of the Blackpool Air Show as the murmurations often twist and turn in unison for some time before descending on the legs of the pier. It isn’t for nothing that these gatherings have become tourist attractions in their own right.
But it’s also a bit chastening to think that what we consider huge numbers of Starlings would have felt less impressive only a few years ago. I remember in Barrow when you’d ideally take cover if you were on a Starling roost flightpath, as the sky went dark but the ‘rain’ was guano coming down all around you. Cars that were parked in an unfortunate place would be turned off white irrespective of the colour they started out as.
For every Starling we now have in Blackpool and Britain when I was developing an interest in nature there were three. The decline is that stark, but it has crept upon us and generally we haven’t noticed. It’s not difficult to see why it continues to get more challenging for them; there’s not much feeding to be had in artificial lawns and our increasing need for ‘tidiness’ doesn’t help. Giving them somewhere to feed and nest in the summer helps guarantee an accessible wildlife spectacle in the future.