After spending most of yesterday morning stuck in the car travelling back from relatives, the kids and Mrs G were ensconced either on the sofa or in respective rooms playing with various new toys I decided to head down to Willington Gravel Pits to see what was about. The weather was OK but exceedingly windy and not overly sunny however the Starlings put on a fantastic display with approximately 18,000 birds coming in to roost in to the modestly sized area of reeds on the reserve.
Today (28th Dec) the weather was much better (sunny, calm and not too cold) so I decided to take the whole family out to show them the magic that is a 'murmuration'. For all the kids this would have been their first murmuration and I am hoping not their last!
We arrived early as I had promised a spectacular however (as is always the case) no Starlings! The sunset on the reed bed was however pretty lush and there were plenty of Wigeon, Teal and some Shoveler to watch.
In addition over recent weeks the number of Lapwing on the reserve has built up so we were also able to enjoy some of their pre-sun set wheeling over the reserve.
and then albeit a bit late....... Starlings! (Phew!)
Small flocks became large flocks and then even larger and soon we were able to all enjoy black 'clouds' wheeling and turning over the reed bed before the birds finally came in to roost.
Disappointingly the display was not as good as the previous night with pre-roosting being particularly quick - I think a result of the lateness at which they arrived but it was nonetheless a very enjoyable evening.
Walking back to the car the reed bed was alive with chattering birds which seemingly didn't want to settle (probably due to two female Sparrowhawks that were both sneaking around the roost) and we were able to watch as the roost filtered through the reed bed until it was almost totally dark.
If you are local to Derby / Burton area I can thoroughly recommend going to watch what is one of natures most amazing spectacles and whilst it is not the millions of birds that are present at other sites nationwide it is still stunning and exceedingly easy to access. Oh and the best part is that it is totally free!!
Best time to arrive is approximately 30 minutes before sun-set and the roost is viewable from all of the platforms although P2, 3 and 4 offer better views. P4 gives the best overall view however P2 and P3 will get you much closer to the birds coming in to the reeds.