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100,000 starlings roost in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 09:53 22 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:49 06 July 2010

File picture of starlings above Strumpshaw Fen.

File picture of starlings above Strumpshaw Fen.

Some have likened it to a Biblical plague, others the works of Hitchcock. For the air on parts of the Norfolk Coast has been full of the sound of tiny wings, as a flock of nearly 100,000 starlings drops in for the night.

Some have likened it to a Biblical plague, others the works of Hitchcock.

The air on parts of the Norfolk Coast has been full of the sound of tiny wings as a flock of nearly 100,000 starlings drops in for the night.

Wardens at Titchwell Marsh RSPB Reserve believe the birds have never been seen in such numbers in West Norfolk. They began arriving 10 days ago when conditions were right for migration from the continent.

“It's getting colder, it's getting darker and the food over there's running out, so it's the time of year birds are coming over,” said Titchwell's Dave Hawkins.

An anti-cyclone meant conditions were perfect for birds to cross the North Sea. But while the wind was fair for Norfolk, no-one expected them to appear in such numbers.

“On Monday night we had 10,000, on Tuesday night 20,000, Wednesday 25,000, Thursday 50,000 - by Friday it was biblical, there must have been 80,000 or more,” said Mr Hawkins.

No-one is certain why the birds pick certain spots to congregate. Tens of thousands of starlings adopted Clarkson Avenue, a residential street in Wisbech, as a roost for several years.

The birds use Titchwell's freshwater lagoons for mass bathing before bed, rising early to fly off in search of food.

“When you see a flock drop on a hedgerow full of berries, they can strip 20 or 30m within 10 minutes,” said Mr Hawkins.

“I saw them doing it up at Ringstead the other night.”

He added that the sudden arrival of 8,000 starlings at the visitor centre shocked both staff and resident songbirds. “Every twig had four or five of them on it,” he said. “It was like something out of Hitchcock's The Birds.”

Around half the starlings which spend the winter in Norfolk come from Europe. This year, a rare rose-coloured starling - usually native to Asia - has been seen among flocks around Titchwell.

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