After watching the crows all summer we started to notice the starlings flying past as the sun goes down. It turns out that only three miles from our house is the biggest starling roost in Wales . Estimates vary but I'm told it's a safe bet that more than a million birds gather there. They roost in a small copse of fir trees near to Plumstone Mountain.
Go there half an hour before sunset and face south with your back to the trees. About fifteen miles away is a small tump known as Arnolds Hill. If you look carefully, what appears to be a plume of smoke will rise from it and drift towards you. Soon after the birds will arrive.
The first flocks swirl above the trees, making patterns as they rise and fall in ever tighter circles. You will hear them too, a hundred thousand wings swooshing overhead as they change direction. Then more will arrive; from St Davids, Llanrhian, Fishgaurd and Preseli. If it's a clear night the sky will be indigo, perhaps turning pink. Still they will come; from Llandeloy, Pembroke Dock and Clarbeston Road. Buzzards and sparrow hawks will hover by the cow sheds, an owl might flit from tree to tree. And above the copse the sky will be black with birds.
Last time I was there, John Cod, who owns the cow sheds, told me it was nothing to see five different raptors in the air at one time. 'Sometimes there are more than 3 million starlings,' he says. 'Can you believe they are a protected species?' His house sits in the shadow of the fir trees. 'The only problem with living here is the bird shit; good for the soil though.' Would I like some fuscia cuttings?
Jon farms here, trains motorcyclists as a sideline and knows more about birds than most of the twitchers who chase round the county with their telescopes. There's a hushed mention of a rare warbler - I'm to keep my eyes peeled on a certain moor. He tells me to come at dawn when the starlings leave, evidently more quickly than they arrive and in bigger flocks. I'm to look for the stragglers in the road; every night there are some that don't make it back – easy pickings for the buzzards.
Before leaving, I headed into the trees, picking my way through the forest break by moonshine. It seemed a small area for so many birds. You can't help but wonder why they come here. I could hear them calling, a soft ripple that ebbed and flowed like running water; as if there were a stream nearby, a waterfall perhaps.
Hard to believe those are birds!
Fantastic pics and videos of the starling roost. My wife and I were there last night and managed to get a glimpse but I think we must have been in the wrong place. Where would you recommend us getting the best views?
This year the starlings are gathering in a different spot - to get the best views you have to go up the forest track which takes you to a clearing by an abattoir. I did some more recent posts on this blog and also on my other blog (link on side bar) with pictures and a video from a few weeks ago. I have not been for a couple of weeks but I hear there were goshawks present the other night.
Hi again MarkReplyDelete
Very many thanks for the information that you provided to help us get the best views of the starlings. I'm actually living in Cardiff at the moment but my wife and I have a building plot at Glynarthen, Ceredigion where we are hoping to start a self-build project once we've sold here. We get down there most weekends (we've got a caravan on the plot - bit nippy at this time of the year!!) and sometimes I get down mid-week too. Anyway, I was down yesterday morning so thought I'd check out your instructions on my way back. Sorry to be a complete pain but could you give me a bit more help with the location of the forest track. I found a narrow track up the hill alongside the woodland (to the west of the woodland I guess)and close to Gwachel Tagy Farm. That track took me out onto pastureland to the north west of the woodland. I also noticed a wider track, almost a roadway, into the woodland a bit further up the road towards the B4330. I didn't venture up there as I was running out of time and had to be back in Cardiff for a meeting. Anyway, if you could let me know if I was along the right lines I'd be very grateful.
No problem - the track you need is the one you didn't venture up - it is almost a road and breaks off from a slight bend in the road; there is an obvious V junction where the track goes into the wood. Once into the wood keep the right and within about 200 yards you will cometo some industrial buildings - park there and look upward; the first flock will probably arrive from the south east. The exact grid reference of where you need to be (on an OS landranger map) is 908-224ReplyDelete
I am pretty sure Gwagl Tachy farm is the home of John Codd who has excellent local knowledge and is a bit of a character. If it has radio ariels on the roof it is definitely his house. It has a track next to it that goes up the western side of the wood - this is NOT the track you need
Mark you are a star. Thanks very much for your help.ReplyDelete