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Dancing To Nature's Tune: Starlings Delight Over Doncaster

Wednesday 22nd November 2017

Starling murmuration Credit: Phil Selby

Sundown at Potteric Carr nature reserve in Doncaster. Without warning, calm skies are suddenly filled with a whirling, liquid-like mass of birds, moving in stunning synchronicity. This is a starling murmuration, one of nature’s awe-inspiring spectacles – and the reserve offers the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy it.

Up to 50,000 starlings visit Potteric Carr between November and January, where they roost in reed beds viewable from the visitor centre’s spacious outdoor deck. With acres of sky above you, and the promise of a hot drink in the on-site café afterwards, it’s worth braving winter’s chill to see a murmuration in action.

Though it looks as if they’re guided by some supernatural force, each bird’s movement affects the closest seven birds around it, causing a lightning-fast chain reaction across the flock. This creates the impression of a single, undulating entity, writhing in the sky like smoke.

"The deck in front of the Potteric Carr visitor centre is the best place to view the starlings swooping overhead. Settle in to watch nature at its best!” Andy Dalton, Potteric Carr Programme Manager


The starlings’ aerobatics could be a collective effort to create warmth before settling down to roost, or a reaction to a predator nearby, often unseen by human observers. Finding safety in numbers, the birds may go through their spectacular evasive manoeuvres to avoid being picked off by the razor-sharp talons of a sparrowhawk or peregrine falcon.

Andy Dalton, Potteric Carr Programme Manager said: “These stunning murmurations brighten up our winter nights as the sun starts to go down in the sky. The deck in front of the Potteric Carr visitor centre is the best place to view the starlings swooping overhead, and the centre offers the perfect opportunity to grab a coffee or bite to eat, too. Settle in to watch nature at its best!”

As well as commanding compelling views of the lake and reed beds, Potteric Carr boasts a wonderful gift shop and welcoming tea room, as well as several miles of level trails. With plenty of events happening for adults and children across the cooler months, it’s the ideal destination for your winter wildlife fix.

Entrance to the visitor centre is free but there is a small admission charge to access the nature reserve. Members of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have free access.