The Murmuration

  • March 20, 2017 9:08 pm

You may have noticed from my Facebook page that I have had the most amazing luck to find a Starling murmuration on my way home from work. If you’ve never witnessed a murmuration before, I strongly suggest you go and see one next Winter as it is one of the most enthralling spectacles in the natural world.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been trying to get some photos, which has not been that easy, but here are the results!

I first witnessed the murmuration in February just as my journey home from work was beginning to lighten and despite the stormy skies a huge flock of Starlings swirled above the dreary grey landscape. As they fought the wind and chased the clouds I tried in the failing light to grab a photo, and this was the result: The Storm and The Swarm:

I was worried the flock would move on in the ferocious storms, but they remained, and in a break in the terrible weather I managed to get something a little clearer.

In the following weeks the flock grew larger, and on one particularly windy evening I witnessed part of the flock be blown across the treetops, dusting the dark clouds with pepper as the birds were scattered and harrassed by the gale.

Fortunately calmer weather followed and gave me some better opportunities. To watch thousands of birds twisting and turning in unison is truly breathtaking, and even when they simply sway back and forth across the sunset it is utterly hypnotising, and rather additictive watching and trying to photograph them.

But when a predator arrives on the scene, the flock cuts in two, twisting into impossible shapes to avoid and confuse their assailant. Like a shoal of fish the birds move in complete synchonicity, flashing black, grey, and gold as the setting sun catches their feathers as they swirl through the sky.

As the evenings grew lighter I found the birds gathering before taking to the skies. They perched together in the very tops of the trees, weighing down the branches, waiting for the right moment.

Such a strange sight!

These pre-murmuration gatherings seemed to happen in a different location every evening. One night I found them much closer to the road, so I stopped to watch, and listen to them. The sound was incredible, the noise of a thousand voices, chattering, chittering together, filling the air with such energy. Then, in a single breath, hush descends through the flock in a wave. The world seems to stop in a silent, pregnant pause, holding it’s breath. Then together, the birds lift to the sky with a rush of beating wings, the swoosh of air through feathers as they swish upwards and away towards the roost.



It was fascinating to watch these birds, so in tune with each other that they seem to act as a single entity, how to they know when to lift off together? How do they fly in such close formation without crashing?

My final image is probably one of my favourites. That moment when they all rise into the sky together is so spectacular, the trees seem to be adorned with a corona of birds, just for a fraction of a second.

I did also manage to get a short video too, take a look here to view:


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If you like what you see, please consider sharing!

UK & Eire Natural History Bloggers

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New kids on the block

  • May 21, 2014 9:09 pm

It’s that time of year when you might start seeing some strange new birds in your garden. Newly fledged youngsters often look very different from their parents. This baby Starling for example looks totally unrelated to the dark, glossy, iridescent adult birds. Yet they fly together in formation, adults leading their offspring to the feeder and showing them what to do, the youngsters chattering and squawking, eagerly awaiting a titbit offered by it’s parent.

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, juvenile perched on bird feeder, Norfolk, May



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A few birds

  • February 22, 2014 10:41 pm

A quick round up of this weeks photography, I’ve been trying out a new lens combination and I’m thoroughly impressed. What do you think?

Blackbird, Turdus merula, male perched on garden fence, Norfolk, UK

Black headed gull, Chroicocephalus ridibundus, close up, coast, Norfolk, UK

Jackdaw, Corvus monedula, perched on wooden fence, coast, Norfolk, UK

Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, perched on wire fence, Norfolk, Winter plumage, UK

All of these were taken using Nikon’s 300mm f/2.8 G IF-ED VR and TC-17E II Teleconverter. It’s an extremely well balanced set up, much more manageable than my current Sigma 500mm f4.5 lens which I find rather ‘top heavy’. The sharpness and quality are excellent and it focuses quickly and quietly. The other benefit of course, of using arguably Nikon’s sharpest ever lens with a converter is that the minimum focussing distance is maintained, meaning it effectively becomes a 500mm lens that focuses down to just 2.3 meters, compared with the 4 meters of the Sigma 500mm, great for little birds, and great for getting creative.

I’m really pleased with the results from this very flexible combination, I just wish I had longer than one week to play with it!

(Click images to view larger…)

If you like what you see, please consider sharing!

UK & Eire Natural History Bloggers


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