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Tripping the flight fantastic: Starlings perform sky aerobatics over Newcastle

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The first of the flock starts flying in around 4 p.m. and an hour later mass movements of starlings darken portions of the sky as they soar and swoop in formation over a rural Newcastle neighborhood. Retirees Hazel and Donald Winton have a birds-eye view of the thousands of the starlings as the birds create constantly moving waves of flight. And then, like clockwork, at about 5 p.m. for the past two weeks the birds swoop down en masse into a nearby draw of blackberries and willows. There, they remain chirping for the night. Donald Winton, an 88-year-old former PG&E employee who was raised on the land, said the birds sound like running water at their sleeping spot. At about 7 a.m. they make another spectacular aerial display – sweeping skyward in a tight cloud of grey. They leave for the day, flying in the direction of Newcastle’s business area. Similar larger flocks have been spotted in Sacramento. But the Wintons have never seen anything like it on their land, which borders Folsom Lake near Auburn. After two weeks, the Wintons are taking the unexpected presence of thousands of starlings in stride. “But I just wonder if they’re always going to live here,” Hazel Winton said. They also say that they’re perplexed why the flock chose their area at this particular time of year. While the bird-loving Wintons are curious about their new guests, they also say they’re enjoying the experience of thousands of birds putting on a spectacular sky show two times a day.