Experiencing A Mumuration Of Starlings

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It’s a lovely sounding word isn’t it, murmuration? My favourite collective noun (although a ‘plump’ of moorhens is pretty perfect too) and also the most amazing natural display. At this point in February, it sometimes feels like it has been winter forever and that perhaps spring might not ever arrive. Persuading yourself away from the warm indoors/cosy sofa and outdoors is not always easy, but is so rewarding. Winter’s natural beauty isn’t always as obvious as simple summertime pleasures, but just takes a little more effort to get out there and enjoy it.

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But the sun is still here, and the clear winter skies are stunning…even if multiple layers of thermal clothing are required to get outside and enjoy them! I am definitely not a hardy outdoorsy type person; I suspect my body’s circulation system is based more on a reptile than a mammal; I’m only truly warm having soaked up some warm sunshine for a few hours!

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Having visited RSPB Otmoor near Oxford to see the starling mumurations last year, I had to see this amazing display again. I waited weeks for good weather and a Sunday to happen simulataeously, and it was worth the wait. After walking a mile or two through the nature reserve I reached the reed beds where the starlings land to roost each evening. And was just in time; whilst the birds were roosting further away than last time I had seen them, the murmurations could still be seen in the far distance. Thanks to the super zoom lens I was just about able to capture some of their sky patterns.

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It was so incredibly peaceful, standing quietly with a small group of people all gathered for the same reason. Everyone wrapped up warm for the freezing cold, some with telescopes or binoculars and with cameras, and most with a thermos!

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Luckily we had packed hot chocolate supplies for the walk and settled down in a bird hide to enjoy our drinks and watch the starlings settle down for the night.

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The walk home as the sun set over the nature reserve was stunning; such pink winter skies and silhoutted bulrushes and trees. The mist was gathering over the water and the only sound was geese and ducks in the distance.

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Watching the starlings is a winter ritual that I am becoming very fond of, and one not to be missed. Since our trip to Otmoor I have seen coverage on a few tv shows of murmurations all around the country, and perhaps next year we will travel to the coast to see them gather and dance over the sand dunes!

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Welcoming November: Forest And Fireworks

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The last few weeks have been incredily busy here! We have been enjoying so many trips to the forest and some lovely autumn walks, I thought I would share a few with you, and celebrate the fact that we are now into November, one of my favourite months of the year.

I mentioned before how much of a growth spurt Joe had over the summer, and it has not stopped yet. I’ve been trying to take a few more photos of him recently to capture these last few months of him being truly ‘little’ as at three and a half, he will soon be off to school. I applied for his school place last week, and suddenly it is all starting to feel very real. It’s a terrible cliche, but how can Joe be ready to start school when I’m sure his first day at nursery was only a few weeks ago! He still has his chubby baby cheeks though and is always happy to hold my hand or have a hug…I’m hoping these things will last as long as possible, but at the same time hope that I’m not the mum embarrasing him by demanding a kiss at the school gates!

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I always try to remember to look up and down as well as around me when we are in the forest. There are so many beautiful things to see and enjoy, especially at the time of year, with freshly fallen leaves still covering the ground. This lovely yellow leaf is very nearly at leaf-skeleton stage.

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Thousands of crab apples, fallen from the trees above and gathered on the forest floor. The scent from them, and the surrounding trees was pure autumn. The kind of smell you wish you could capture some of and smell throughout the rest of the year…eau de woodland apples perhaps!

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The birds are steadily migrating too, so winter must be well and truly on its way. Apparently the huge number of berries on the trees this autumn is a sign of a long, cold winter…whilst I would love a few days of snow for the little ones, I’m kind of hoping that winter will not be too long or too cold.

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A couple from bonfire night too, which we actually celebrated on 5th November this year for the first time in ages! I really didn’t feel like attending a large organised display, as Mia and Joe are not that keen on the loud bangs, and I always get stressed out by crowds! We found a small display in the village next to ours, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. The route to the display was down a small country lane, lined with tiny nightlight candles to guide the way. It was held in a local orchard, so we stood amongst the apple and pear trees watching the rockets explode into the sky. Fireworks are still not for Joe and he only just managed to stay until the end, even with ear defenders. But, for the first time Mia enjoyed watching them, and we crept closer to the front as the display progressed. It is lovely to watch her becoming less afraid, although I can totally understand their fear of the loud firework explosions. It was a perfect balance for us all really…isn’t it funny how small and local is almost always best!

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