Somerset Wildlife Trust has this week issued a safety warning to local people planning to visit the Somerset Levels to see starling murmurations this autumn.
The Trust is urging people to comply with Coronavirus safety guidelines around social distancing after large numbers of spectators often gathering to see the spectacle.
Visitors from outside the area are being asked not to travel to see the sight this year. The Trust adds that if car park capacity is exceeded, it will be turning people away, so will be wasted journeys.
A Somerset Wildlife Trust spokesperson explains: “Starling murmurations are an amazing wildlife spectacle. On a busy day during starling season anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people could be on site at the Avalon Marshes at one time. This is always a challenging time for reserve teams on the ground.”
“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.”
“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 and 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.”
“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.”
Pictured: Busy scenes on the Somerset Levels in the past to watch starling murmurations