Netta and I had one of our biggest birding thrills in a long time at Astoria, Oregon, on the evenings of 6 and 7 February. I have seen flocks of starlings going to roost many times, but I’ve never before seen anything like this. We watched the fantastic murmurations of flocks at their best, wheeling around from high in the sky to just over the rooftops. At the end of Pier 2 we watched many thousands of birds in different flocks that split and coalesced and split again, doing their best to compete with the spectacles you’ve seen on YouTube, usually from somewhere in Europe.
On the second evening a Peregrine Falcon made stoop after stoop into the flocks, coming up empty-footed every time, but it was a wonderful thing to see. It drove one group of only, say, a couple of thousand birds higher and higher in the sky, splitting the flock, and we could see the flock breaking into smaller groups and heading away from the site rapidly to the west. We think it was the same birds that came in very low from downriver in flock after flock later, something we didn’t see at all on our first evening. I wondered if this was an anti-falcon tactic.
The whole show lasted from around 6:00-6:30 pm.The birds were very photographable until just about dark, when they came swooping in to land on the end of the next dock to the east, not that far away. Anyone who has any reason to be in Astoria at dusk over the next weeks (months?), you really should make the attempt to check this out. Oh yes, there’s a Steller’s Eider in Seaside, only eight miles away.