My word, what a lot of starlings

How should you count birds in flight? I know what I’ve been told, but can never get it to work in practice. My best estimates use a scale that runs from one, through 10 to “a xxxx of a lot”; you’ll have to add the four-letter word of your choice because my mum reads this blog.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today I went kingfisher-spotting at Teifi Marshes, which went well. One kept me entertained by fishing just in front of the hide late into the afternoon, so I stayed put longer than planned.

When I finally left the hide (half frozen) the sun was close to setting – and the sky was full of starlings. There’s a fair-sized roost in the Teifi reedbeds and I’d managed to be in the right place at just the right time.

I know that in theory I should be counting a small group of five birds, or maybe 10. Then, it’s a question of guesstimating how many groups of the same size it would take to assemble the whole flock.

That sounds fine, but doesn’t seem so simple in the field. Especially when birds are moving as much as murmurating starlings do. It makes me doubt bird counts that I do sometimes come across that are suspiciously accurate.

Anyway, it was quite a spectacle for the small group of wildlife-watchers gathered on the old Crymych-Cardigan railway embankment that offers the best viewpoint. There were seven birders (I counted six, plus me), but I’ve no idea how many starlings, but it was definitely “****loads”.