Wildlife spectacular comes to Leamington

By IH Thursday 07 March 2013 Updated: 07/03 07:52

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Buy photos » People have been transfixed watching the nightly starling display (left) against the darkening sky before the birds return to roost in the trees by the railway line. Main pictures by Adrian Litvinoff(s)

A WILDLIFE spectacular is being put on nightly for residents in south Leamington.

For some three weeks each day at dusk the skies near the Asda store have been filled with thousands of starlings moving in perfect liquid-like unison, before roosting in conifer trees alongside the railway track.

The evening air show, which kicks off around 5.30pm and lasts for anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour, has become a big draw, with many people coming out armed with cameras and phones to capture the increasingly rare natural phenomenon - known as 'murmuration' - as the starling population is in sharp decline.

A couple of hungry sparrowhawks have also been spotted by eagle-eyed watchers - but it is not known if they have had any success in their hunt for a meal.

One resident, whose house backs onto the trees where the birds roost, said: “I absolutely love it. It is an amazing sight and I think we are very lucky to get a chance to see it.

“There seem to be more each night, and the trees are alive with noise for hours after they roost.”

But there is a downside for residents. Thousands of birds means a lot of poo. Roads and footpaths are covered in droppings, as are everything from cars to garden furniture, and many who have become regular watchers have also learnt the value of having a hood.

A resident who had had enough of clearing up after the birds said: “If I could I'd sue them.”

The mass gatherings happen in winter up and down the country, mostly in woodlands, but reedbeds, cliffs, and industrial buildings are also chosen by the birds

Increasing numbers of starlings flock together as the weeks go on, which has been the case in Leamington, and a roost can swell up to a staggering 100,000.

The reason they primarily flock together is essentially down to safety in numbers, as predators find it hard to target one bird amidst a hypnotising flock of thousands.

At night they roost in places sheltered from predators and harsh weather. Once roosted, starlings take their time to settle and are quite vocal. Noise levels increase again towards dawn, and the birds leave in waves.

RSPB spokesman Johann Holt said: "'The starling roost is one of the most incredible natural spectacles we enjoy here in the UK and they are so easy to see.

"Starlings also gather to keep warm at night and to exchange information, such as good feeding areas. They often feed miles away from where they roost - sometimes up to 20 miles away. They return to their roosting site at around the same time each evening.

"In many cases they are like clockwork - you know that at a certain time in the evening the sky will start to turn black, and it's mesmerizing watching the flock grow and grow."

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Buy photos» Bird ball. Photo by Adrian Litvinoff. (s)

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Buy photos» Synchronised flying. Photo by Adrian Litvinoff. (s)

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