Starling season and Covid-19

Westhay - Sam Glasspole

As you may know, starling season is our busiest time of year for visitors across the Avalon Marshes from October through to March. It is with great sadness that this year we are asking our visitors to try and visit an alternative local roost instead where possible, and to think carefully before travelling to our site due to the difficulties created by Covid-19 and the need for social distancing.

Please note that this blog was written before the government lockdown announcement on 5 January. In light of these recent announcements, we urge you to follow the legislation around non-essential travel and please visit your most local nature reserves and green spaces for essential outdoor exercise.

Starling murmurations are an amazing wildlife spectacle. On a busy day during starling season anywhere from 500 to 1000 people could be on site at the Avalon Marshes at one time. This is always a challenging time for reserve teams on the ground.

Crowds of people at Avalon Marshes waiting for starlings

RSPB Ham Wall

There’s a chance that numbers of visitors coming to see the murmurations this year might exceed those of previous years. This will present greater difficulty for what are now reduced reserve teams with regards to overflowing car parks and greater road congestion - which impacts on the surrounding local communities. This is in addition to the extra challenges we are still facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic such as fly-tipping and antisocial behaviour, and the additional work teams are now undertaking - without the help of usual groups of volunteers - to make up for lost time.

It is our responsibility to keep murmuration visitor numbers to a smaller, more manageable level this year so as to ensure the safety of our staff, volunteers, the community and the general public who visit - which is our main priority.

Busy car park on Avalon Marshes

RSPB Ham Wall

In our experience it will not be possible for people to maintain social distancing at times when the birds display. Encouraging people to come could result in a mass gathering which contravenes government guidance and for which there are penalties. So we are not encouraging any visitors to travel from further afield or out of county at this time and we respectfully ask people to think very carefully before travelling.

If car park capacity is exceeded we will be turning people away, so there will be many wasted journeys. Nearby roads are not be available for additional parking as this prevents access for local residents, emergency vehicles or farm vehicles. We welcome those that are local as long as people are careful to follow the Covid-19 guidance provided for the Avalon Marshes here.

We know that people from outside the local area will be very disappointed not to visit. We want more people to connect to and experience nature, but the starlings will still be there in 2021, so please stay local instead this year and come back when it is safe to do so.

Thank you for your continued support. 

More information can be found here.