Wales: Starlings and sunsets in Aberystwyth
As much as I love to discover new places for the first time, I also find it exciting to return and re-discover a place – like when I recently found myself back in the university-town of Aberystwyth in Mid Wales.
As with my first visit the previous year this was just a one-night-visit – and although it was in early November, and thereby far out of the touristy-season, I was still lucky to get an amazing experience along the town’s iconic promenade… but first up was a visit to the regionally and historically focused Ceredigion Museum that I had somehow managed to miss out on during my first visit.
This museum has a very unique setting inside an old theatre/cinema that is still being used for plays, screenings and other events – and what a great way it is to make use of a historic building. It also connects to the new tourist information centre as well as a first-floor café, so it naturally draws in a lot of visitors. The museum is free to visit but donations are appreciated, and it’s definitely worth taking a look inside for the building alone – where the collections and displays are spread out over the balconies and around the edges of the main floor.
The museum is found just a couple of minutes from the sea front promenade, where the old Royal Pier is stretching out into the sea. While the pier itself is not a huge attraction of this seaside town, it is what happens above it at dusk (during autum and winter) that is the real highlight – because this spot is famous for its mesmerizing starling murmurations.
During my first visit to the town I hadn’t been lucky to witness this natural spectacle, but this time around I got to see it with my own eyes. We were walking along the promenade as we discovered a flock of small birds forming a flock above the pier – frequently being joined by smaller flocks over and over, and we realized that this was the starlings preparing for roosting under the pier – but not before putting on an unbelievable dancing performance right in front of our eyes, as they waved back and forth in formidable formations.
More and more people stopped on their promenade-walks to take in the show, and a couple of locals told us more about this natural phenomenon and confirmed that these were the famous starlings, and for a while we forgot our cold hands and the chilly sea breeze, while we got caught up in this wonder.
And then, at a certain point large groups of starlings started to “swoosh” down under the pier, making it look like they were being suck in by a giant invisible hoover, until thousands of birds had found their temporary home for the night – and only their loud chirps could be heard from the promenade above. A memorable experience that was even topped up with a golden sunset over the sea.