Every year Anne and I make one or two trips to Otmoor, in the hope of seeing starlings.
Usually we're disappointed.
Sometimes we're too late, and have to trudge back to the car park by torchlight.
Sometimes it's too wet.
Once we walked out to the hides in ice and snow, and were rewarded by seeing millions of birds fly straight into the reeds and stubbornly refuse to entertain the watchers at all. 'Too cold,' said one of the more experienced observers. 'They won't waste energy displaying in this weather.'
But last week was perfect.
It was mild and clear with no wind. And they came.
Just a few at first, rising like smoke from the distant trees.
As they approached, smaller flocks pursued larger ones until they met, merged and coalesced into bigger clouds of birds.
They wheeled and spun above the reed beds, their wings making a sound like waves on the sea shore.
Then as if at some signal they funnelled down into the reeds, chattering and rustling as they settled.
A satisfying afternoon.