Watching the Aberystwyth starlings during lockdown is quickly becoming a regular part of my daily routine and certainly the highlight of this rather bleak winter.
I love both the predictability and unpredictably of their behaviour. Every evening without fail between October and March they congregate here in our little seaside town and gather in the skies above the pier before settling down to their roost among the the supports beneath. They appear as if by magic around half an hour before sunset, so punctual you could set your watch by them!
The unpredictable aspect of their behaviour is the exiting part. You never know quite how the flock will behave on any particular day and whether they will put on one of their remarkable murmurations. This unique behaviour is thought to be in response to a threat such as a predator in the sky, however they do also appear (although to a lesser extent) when there is no perceivable threat.
This evening I was somewhat underwhelmed with what I was getting from my wide angle lens. It’s great for getting a sense of place and capturing the cloudscapes, but I find it doesn’t really provide the drama and impact I want to create when photographing the starling flocks. I switched to my old faithful 70-300mm zoom for a much tighter view of the action.
This turned out to be a very fortunate decision as a sudden unexpected explosion of movement caught my eye. Hundreds of starlings that had already settled on the pier terrace rose into the air and began to form tight and rapidly changing formations in the sky flying fast and erratically as if trying to evade a predator. From my distant vantage point I couldn’t see what had caused the commotion but after a brief period of chaos whatever it was had gone, leaving the skies calm once more.
It’s not until I was able to review the images on my laptop that I realised I had in fact caught the culprit on camera! A peregrine falcon as I am reliably informed.
It’s not often I take a series of photos that am truly pleased with as there is always room for improvement, but these are definitely up there!
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All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2021
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