After work I went to Marton Mere, partly for a change of scene and partly in case the first Sand Martins had made it. In the event no martins came in towards dusk, and my attention focused on the mini-murmuration of Starlings.
There were probably no more than 400 birds even at the peak as the sun went down, a fraction of the numbers probably swirling round the piers at the same time. But it was an absorbing enough way to spend an hour. If anything the smaller groups enable the component parts to be observed more. Individual birds could be seen to arrive and join the throng, and at one point two separate new flocks arrived and joined the main mass at exactly the same time. When the groups looped close overheard there were twin muted sounds; of several hundred wings whirring and low contact calls.
The Starling have in the past provided food for the secretive Bitterns that winter here. These camouflaged herons have been seen to clamber up reed stems to pick off the Starlings as they come into roost or after they have settled. This behaviour probably still goes on, but levels of birding coverage are lower than they used to be.
Whilst I didn’t see any Bitterns, or any of the other reedbed skulkers I did hear some. A trio of Water Rails were squealing near the Fylde Bird Club Hide, and several Cetti’s Warblers were singing in their usual explosive manner. A Bittern had been seen earlier moving between favoured areas; on spring evenings they can sometimes be seen circling low repeatedly round the lake in pre-migratory activity but it was too breezy today. The two birds that have wintered this year surely will migrate though as the site is too small to hold breeding birds.
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