Another cloudless and stunning evening in Aberystwyth drew me once again to the promenade for my regular ‘starling watch’. Conditions could not have been more perfect with crystal clear skies and the setting sun creating a beautiful backdrop of pastel orange and blue on which to (hopefully) capture the starlings throwing some shapes.
After a slow start the starling flock swelled into quite the impressive crowd, although I get the feeling numbers haven’t quite reached their peak for this season yet. The birds formed their typical swirling holding pattern above Aberystwyth’s Royal Pier but there was much more urgency in their flight today, the sign of an impending threat on the horizon.
Sure enough the unmistakeable figure of a bird of prey appeared as if it of nowhere and hurtled towards the starlings, triggering an energetic burst of shapeshifting as they tried to avoid become a sparrowhawk’s dinner!
Frustratingly much of the action took place partially obscured by the imposing silhouette of the old college building. This did however help to convey the sense of scale of the huge starling flock as they danced above.
The college’s towering chimneys and turrets provide the perfect vantage point for aerial predators and it’s quite likely this is where our sparrowhawk had been patiently waiting to set up it’s ambush.
As the sparrowhawk continued it’s assault, the starlings responded by massing together in ever tighter balls before breaking out into fluid, rapidly changing formations.
Eventually the swirling cloud of birds left the shadows of the old colleague to continue their display out in the open sky, a great oppurtunity for some more sparrowhawk spotting!
You certainly can’t miss the distinctive silhouette of the sparrowhawk in this particular image, captured as it chased a break away group right over my head!
Another of my favourites from the evening.
Unfortunately most of my other attempts only capture only a distant dot, but this merely highlights the huge challenge faced by any predator who tackles a starling murmuration head on. I don’t know how many such hunts are successful, but I would be willing to bet they fail more often than they suceed…
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All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2022
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