Just over a year ago, one of my first posts on this blog was of a visit to Leighton Moss where I watched thousands of starlings roost.
It seemed like a good thing to do on New Year's Day.
The pools and reedbeds were still frozen so walking around the reserve was a surreal spectacular entrance into an almost monochrome, almost sepia world. Very few birds about. Sensible really, it was very very cold.
We got to the public hide just as the sun was turning the sky an apricot mousse in the west, settled ourselves and opened the little window facing the woods in the east. Then I saw a smudge. And another. They swarmed and grew for the next five or ten minutes in the distance over the woods, with clear parameters, never swerving too far from a centre. All the time more fingerprints of birds adding to the mass.
Then they started to fly closer to us, spinning out, stretching the shimmering wider, thinner and then looping back into each other. Thousands of them. Back to the woods. Back to picking up more groups.
The turning, the there-are-thousands-suddenly-cutting-into-transparency movement of this huge group was hypnotising. Not so much that I couldn't leap up and out of the hide as they turned and flew towards us, then over us.
The spray of their wings, an airy cascade. The scattered plop of shit. The squeaking shrillness. A sky darkening. They swooped into the seaward reedbed and caught wave upon wave of themselves, calling, whistling as only they can, as they settled in. Wave upon wave. Low down, nearer to us, the numbers magnified. The reedbed still and tall, as they skittered through it.
It seemed a far larger display than last year. I felt closer (physically not emotionally) to them. There was more variation in their groupings and swoopings. Or maybe I was was more alert to it all.
Whichever, it has sent me into 2010 with a renewed sense of purpose about my work - to have patience, be focused on each project, enjoy current and seek new collaborations, listen intently and watch out for the bird shit.