I knew tonight would be my last opportunity to see the starlings this year due to work commitments tying up most of my evenings, and the season drawing to a rapid close. As the days grow longer and with Spring just around the corner, numbers have already begun to drop off as the winter migrants return to their European breeding grounds.
Fortunately this evening there were still a fair few birds yet to start their migration and with a backdrop of crystal clear skies they put on a truly awesome display, dancing and shapeshifting well on into the dusk, long after the sun had dipped below the horizon. As the light faded rapidly I had to crank up the ISO in the camera to keep on shooting, fortunately the results were still pretty impressive.
No one quite knows or can fully agree why starlings murmurate in this way. The most accepted theory is that this behaviour deter predators and watching a flock’s rapid shapeshifting in response to a sparrowhawk certainly seems to back this up. Another possibility is that they use these murmurations to communicate with one another or to ‘signpost’ their chosen roost sight, encouraging more to join the flock and further bolster the numbers.
This evening there was not a predator in sight and the murmurations had none of the urgency usually felt when the flock is under threat. It almost appeared as though they were doing it for fun, one last flourish before they parted ways for the summer? Whatever their true motive it is a beautiful spectacle and one I don’t think I will ever tire of watching…
All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2022
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