At the hut in the car park the RSPB volunteers were reporting that the roost was split. It seemed that during the previous week the largest group had been roosting to the north near the village of Stileway. But a small group were in Waltons Heath and another still in Loxtons Marsh. This explained why the birds flew high overhead into the distance during my last visit to Loxtons.
If they had been near Stileway for a week it was getting to the time they would move to a new roost site. Anyway, I did not want to drive all the way around to Stileway so I headed off to the nearby Tor View hide gambling on the starlings returning to the Waltons Heath.
I sat in the hide for some time determined to claim my spot hoping the starlings would return to Waltons. For an hour I watched the sun as it set beyond the open water of the Waltons. A beautiful sky that would make the evening a success even if the starlings were a no show.
Several flock flew passed the hide. This is not uncommon, the birds fly passed in large groups only to circle around in the distance before returning. Sometimes they will drop into their old roost site only to lift again and move to the new site.
Gradually, small groups of starlings began to linger in the skies above Waltons.
The groups got bigger.
Then much bigger. Now, it was pretty clear that a good size flock was going to roost at Waltons. The long wait in the hide was going to be worth it.
Its early in the season and the numbers of birds is still relatively low. However, they did make some interesting shapes.
I had saved my spot in the hide looking towards the sunset. When the birds are roosting in the Waltons there drop into the reeds close to the western edge then move eastwards as the reedbeds begin to fill with birds. When this happens they fly over the footpath leading to the Tor View hide into Waltons East up to the edge of Loxtons.
More and more birds arrived in long lines spread across the sky.
As the skies darkened they began to drop into the reeds
They poured out of the sky into the roost at Waltons West.
Once all the birds were down they continued to move around getting closer to the hide. Sometimes you cannot see the birds themselves only their reflections in the water.
Birds were arriving at the roost from elsewhere on the reserve, keeping low just above the reeds.
The birds were finally settling down in their roost and as last of the sun light reached around the horizon before the wisps of red cloud disappeared in the dark.