Starling watch at RSPB Otmoor, Oxfordshire

Have you seen a starling murmuration? A murmuration is the name given to the swooping displays made by starlings just before they come into roost. Last winter we were treated to a fabulous display at RSPB Otmoor, and as this is the perfect time of year to see them we decided it was time for a revisit.

On our previous trip to Otmoor we made a mistake and arrived way too early. It was a freezing cold day and we spent a long time standing around in frozen mud trying to keep warm. The wait was worth it though as we were treated to spectacular murmurations.

This year we set off later. It had rained all day but as we negotiated the traffic delight of Oxford’s ring road the blue skies appeared. Surely a signal.

We duly arrived at the car park, put on our wellies and started the 20 minute walk to the viewing point near the reed beds. A couple of small groups of starlings flew overhead and as we walked we were treated to the most amazing sunset.

Otmoor sunset


Perhaps this should have been an indicator that we were a little on the late side arriving this year. Nevertheless, we joined several other bird watchers at the shelter and proceeded to wait for the starlings. And we waited.

A few minutes later a couple of the group started to walk back and we overheard that the starlings had already put on their display for the day. This was disappointing news to us, and to the people next to us who had driven for 1.5 hours to see them!

Many bird watchers have visited my blog over the last couple of weeks to find out what time the starlings roost. At the end of November it was around 3.40pm. About 10 minutes before we arrived.

Were we disappointed? A little. We hadn’t seen the starlings but we were treated to the most amazing sunset. And there’s something magical walking back through a nature reserve in the dark!

If you’re interested in other posts about local nature reserves you might also enjoy reading about moth spotting at Neptune Wood or orchid hunting at Warburg Nature Reserve. Alternatively locals and visitors alike might enjoy my post about things to do in Oxford.

More info:

  • Further details about Otmoor reserve can be found here.

27 thoughts on “Starling watch at RSPB Otmoor, Oxfordshire”

    1. Thanks Sara. We have a row of ‘starling trees’ (where they go to roost) in our town and even though there aren’t as many birds as at the reserve they are still pretty impressive.

  1. Hi ChistiNe, stunning pictures! We used to see starlings fly like that often where I grew up and it was amazing! It was like a cloud of starlings that instinctively moved as one…I was lucky enough to witness the swallows gather and start their long migration together a few weeks back and that too was amazing.

    Literally hundreds of swallows had gathered together on the telephone cables where they sat for a while, before suddenly taking to the skies in one large cloud, moving as one and heading off into the distance…..I am guessing that was the start of their long journey as it was about the beginning of October and we only saw stragglers after that….(I kick myself for not having had my camera on me!).

  2. What fabulous photos. Worth going just to see the sky. We see the starlings murmurations around here. Especially if we are down on the Levels. Children always spot them when I’m driving, so I usually miss the best ones…apparently!

    1. Ah yes, it’s like that when I’m driving too! There’s usually a deer in a field we’re driving by or something.

  3. Oh no – how sad you miss3ed them. There used to be huge murmurations in Newcastle when I lived there (not sure if they are still there) and we also see them in the fields near us here in Normandy, if you are passing at the right time. It really is a magical sight so I do hope you get to see it sometime soon.

    1. Ahem, that may have been a minor editing issue! It looks fine on my mobile and iPad but I’ve just checked it on a laptop and they were upside down. No idea how I managed that, it was nothing to do with watching a sunset upside down 🙂

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