Every year in the Autumn and Winter months thousands of starlings gather every evening to roost in the Victorian iron structure of the pier at Aberystwyth. They arrive in large groups from the land and collect in still larger groups to do their amazing synchronised flying before settling into their very close and noisy accommodation on the pier structure.
It all happens quite quickly; about 30 minutes before sunset the groups begin to arrive, and 45 minutes later it’s all over. So on this day, the 3rd of January, they began to arrive around 3:50pm. The picture to the right shows the pier supporting structure just before they started arriving.
From 3:50 to 4:30 the sound they made grew quite rapidly. Initially it’s possible to pick out small groups, to hear individual birds. Other birds can be heard too. The sound of large groups of starlings can be heard as they fly in formations making rapid changes of direction and elevation. Some groups break away and settle on the structure; then they fly off again and rejoin larger groups flying out to sea until they eventually resettle back on the pier.
By 4:30 they are all settled. But they are not quiet at all. The sound just keeps going! Here is a closeup picture through the pier supports of a very small section. I read that this year the pier has up to 50,000 birds per night.
The recording linked below is a sample of what it’s like to listen to this experience; it shows the steady rise in intensity of the birds as they arrive, fly around, and eventually settle.