I almost didn’t go and watch the starlings this evening, after a gorgeous morning of bright blue skies the clouds had rolled in ruining what I had hoped might be a glorious sunset…
Keen not to be just a ‘fair weather’ photographer I headed out with low expectations. Given the somewhat underwhelming numbers seen at the starling roost this winter and the lack of real ‘murmurating’ so far my hopes weren’t high for capturing anything remarkable.
Despite the monochrome skies my decision to try again this evening turned out to be a great one! It was a slow start with just a few scattered starlings but gradually the number of birds began to swell and form an expanding ball in the sky.
As more and more birds joined the masses suddenly the flock began to swirl and undulate through the skies as though it were one giant bird. Finally the mesmorising displays I had hoped for all winter!
At times the starlings were so densely packed together that the skies and the pier were almost completed obscured in a sea of black silhouettes.
Remarkably the starlings are able to fly in perfect synchronisation without any danger of colliding, even at high speeds. As each starling flies it responds and reacts to the subtle movements of it’s seven closest companions, and those to their neighbours and so on.
This allows them to keep a safe distance from each other whilst also maintaining contact with the flock, a vital strategy which provides safety in numbers when confronted with a predator. More about the science behind starling murmurations can be read here.
In a matter of minutes the excitement was over and triggered by some unseen cue the birds began to descend from the sky as though the wind had suddenly gone from beneath their wings.
Almost as quickly as they had arrived all the starlings had disappeared beneath the struts of the pier, the skies empty once more apart from a few late stragglers rushing to join their companions before nightfall.
All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2020
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