50,000 Shades of Grey – Slight Return

Three weeks on from my unsuccessful expedition to see the huge starling murmuration, circumstance has brought me back to this end of Suffolk, so I decide to have another go. After reading up on these things, it appears that I might be searching for a needle in a haystack, albeit a quite a noisy and visible needle. Not only that, but the weather forecast is ominous – “Thames, northwesterly gale force 8 expected soon, increasing severe gale force 9 later”. If I was a starling, or indeed 50,000 starlings, today would be a day for hunkering down in a cosy hedge, rather than mass aerobatics.

Despite the poor prognosis, I head to Warbleswick – it seems they were last seen over Dingle Marsh, 230 acres of reedbeds and ponds that lie to the south. And, notwithstanding the increasingly blustery wind, the journey out to the coast is promising. Wherever I look I see large groups of birds on the move. Flocks of pigeons, skeins of geese, and best of all, great gangs of crows, the latter gathering in groups of several hundred. I’ve seen crows do this before on a windy day – there is no doubt in my mind that they are playing in the wind, allowing themselves to plummet before swooping back up again. It looks terrific and lends a cheerful air to the day.

It is a clearer day today than it was a few weeks ago – still grey and overcast, but much better visibility. And there is no shortage of birdlife – a pair of kestrels patrol the fringes of the marsh, oblivious to my presence, redshanks wade, whilst innumerable oyster catchers race over the ponds, thrilling me with their evocative call.

The rain is heavy now and I enjoy the pitter patter on my hood. To the south Sizewell looms on the horizon, and to the north is Southwold and its lighthouse, the light blinking through the murk, but still no blinking starlings! Time is against me so I reluctantly head off. For, although slightly disappointed, I love it out here. Sea on one side and marsh land on the other – I’ll come back.

Late now, I’m driving back to my next appointment when I catch sight of something to the left. It’s a pig farm, and lifting up from it is an enormous flock of birds. Starlings! Perhaps not the full compliment, but easily several thousand, and possibly thousands more still on the ground. Oh the cruelty! Because I can’t stop. And, cursing my luck, I drive on, slightly incredulous that my needle turned out not to be in the Dingle Marsh haystack after all, but in a pig farm just off the A12.

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