Families flock to the Downs to spot their starlings

November 04 2015
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Families flock to the Downs to spot their starlings

DURDHAM Downs has hosted a flock of 1,012 ceramic starlings, all made by local residents.

The stunning sculptural installation formed the climax of the Bristol Murmuration, a Neighbourhood Art Project celebrating local wildlife but at the same time drawing attention to a sharp decline in the starling population and an absence of their once familiar aerial displays.

Every bird was made by local residents at a series of workshops for adults and children.

And the opening of the display saw families rushing across the Downs to find their numbered starling.

As a flock they were easy to spot, individually mounted on locally sourced coppiced hazel poles and ‘flying’ in characteristically tight formation.

The Lord Mayor of Bristol, Cllr Clare Campion-Smith, was on the Downs to congratulate everyone involved.

“I remember seeing clouds of starlings in the sky over Liverpool when I was a child,” she said. “Unfortunately my grandchildren are not seeing that.

“We must preserve the environment for future generations.”

The Bristol Murmuration has been funded by Henleaze, Stoke Bishop and Westbury-on-Trym Neighbourhood Partnership as a result of a £10,000 grant from Bristol Green Capital.

Ceramics specialist Zoe Cameron, who has been leading the project, had to expand her team of volunteers as the murmuration caught the public’s imagination.

“It’s quite amazing that over 1,000 local people from three wards have come together like this to sculpt their own clay starling,” Zoe told Voice. “They have ranged in age from 1 to 90, and we have worked with them all over the last few weeks.”

During the display volunteers staffed a bird hide on the Downs.

They loaned out binoculars, distributed information sheets and kept visitors happy with refreshments supplied by Waitrose, Henleaze.

Each starling was made in three sections – the body and wings. This meant that well over 3,000 lumps of clay were needed and around 4,000 sections of wire to fit them together.

“Every starling made was given a number, and we had to stamp it on the body and both wings to ensure that all parts came together with no mismatches,” Zoe explained.

“This enabled the people who visited the display to find ‘their’ starling.

“Ibstock Bricks of Cattybrook generously donated the clay and low-fired the birds on bricks.

“A local brick clay mix, dug at Almondsbury, was used. Tools were made from old milk cartons and other household items, and the bird hide was made of salvaged wood. Other materials were sourced from the Children’s Scrapstore.”

An extra day was set aside at the end of the week for ‘owners’ to collect their starlings from the Downs.

Then the remaining birds were distributed to different venues for collection. Details are available on the project website www.zoecameron.com/a-bristolmurmuration.

Photo: Zoe Cameron who has led the Bristol Murmuration project, surrounded by ceramic starlings on the Downs.