"You think this is impressive? It’s just in our blood” (Photo courtesy of Nature's Home reader, Yvonne Pay) We’ve somehow reached it already - Autumn. Monday 23rd marked the start of the Autumn Equinox, when day and night are most balanced, and the weather starts to take a turn for the worse. Just about audible over the crunching of leaves underfoot and the slurping of spiced hot beverages of choice, our conversations will soon be flooded with “where has the year gone?”, “look at how dark it is!” and, “who’s eaten all the Celebrations?!” as we’re barged around yet again in a last-minute dash to desperately hunt for Christmas presents. Ah, how I just can’t wait. This season is personally my favourite for wildlife, mostly thanks to the glorious golden sunsets that illuminate the country’s landscapes, like the one Yvonne’s lens caught here at RSPB Snettisham in our gorgeous photo of the week. In the gloomy build up to winter, evenings like these are an uplifting respite. Around this time birds begin to flock together, moulding and warping the sky into a kind of feathered canvas. Sometimes thousands or even millions of birds can congregate to form these rolling, rippling shapes across the skyline. It’s thought that birds perform these aerial stunts for a number of reasons; it’s perhaps a case of safety in numbers, as grouping together makes it challenging for birds of prey such as peregrines to ambush a mesmerising mass flock. It could also be an answer to retaining warmth in large groups and exchanging information like prime feeding spots, as they gather above roosting sites. It's thought they're able to achieve this because of, and bear with me - telepathy!Although these sights drum up images of huge flocks such as these seabirds Yvonne Pay captured through her lens, it’s quite a deceiving picture of the state of population numbers. Starlings perform these displays, or murmurations, and are often seen in their thousands. But populations have fallen by a whopping 80% in recent years, and as such they are on the critical list of birds most at risk in the UK. Just 30 years ago they were an impressive sight above Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast. Today however, you’re much more likely to seeing the birds in action in rural areas. Their decline is thought to be as a result of permanent pasture loss and habitat degradation, the increased use of chemicals and pesticides, and a shortage of food and reliable roosting spots. Starling decline is occurring across much of Europe too, and sadly numbers of migrating birds are dwindling too. You can catch stunning starling murmurations and roosts at a number of RSPB sites. Feeling creative? You can help encourage starlings to breed in the spring by making (or installing) a nest box.
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