One of the most breathtaking sights in winter is that of a starling murmuration, where thousands of birds come together in huge swirling flocks at dusk before settling down to roost in sheltered places like reed beds. Last month, people filmed and photographed a murmuration at Portrack Marsh along the river, RSPB Saltholme celebrate theirs with Soup and Starling evenings in the autumn months and I’ve even spotted a small one at Coatham Marsh from the train. There was also a brilliant feature about murmurations on the BBC’s Winterwatch programme last month.

The reasons behind these impressive gatherings are numerous; it’s been suggested that aerial predators such as peregrine falcons struggle to single out birds for attack or the huge flocks could help with communication between birds and advertise the roost to others. Scientists have analysed the group movements to try and work out how the birds fly in unison and create such spectacular shapes. Given that the once common starling has declined by nearly 80% in the last 40 years, we need to treasure these sights and do what we can to protect the bird from further losses. It would be a much poorer Tees if we couldn’t enjoy this incredible display in years to come.



Winter wonders are starting to give way to signs of spring in February. I spotted my first snowdrops of the year last month, near the Bluebell Pub at Yarm Bridge when walking along the riverside Teesdale Way path. Snowdrops brighten up the darkest corners and can provide vital food for emerging insects such as queen bumblebees. They can be found all along the Tees but I know a particularly good stretch on the Teesdale Way path between High and Low Coniscliffe villages which was lit up with frequent clumps of their perfect white flowers and helped take our minds off the rain, hail and sleet that the weather was throwing at us that day in February!