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.

Waiting:

Leaving:

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: https://youtu.be/5AOPRQW5Z0U

 

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Painting the sky with birds

  • November 30, 2014 8:55 pm

The rush of air in wings, a thousand birds swirling through the sky in perfect synchrony. At this time of year you can witness one of natures most spectacular events as thousands of Starlings flock together to roost in safety. Across the country great clouds of birds gather at dusk, dancing through the sky together before pouring down into the roosting site. These murmurations occur in many different places, one of the most famous being Brighton Pier, but they also happen over reedbeds. There’s normally a small murmuration on the fen every year, so I set out to photograph it. I wasn’t particularly successful on this occasion sadly, but hopefully I’ll get a chance to go back soon.

Whilst I was there though, with the light fading fast, I turned my attention to the equally spectacular Rook and Jackdaw roost. The noise is the first thing that strikes you, the combined voices of hundreds of Rooks and Jackdaws becomes an overwhelming cacophony, as the birds swoop through the sky. Not in synchrony like the Starlings, much more a chaotic ballet as each birds searches for the perfect roosting spot. With the sun now below the horizon, the birds pour into the trees. With barely any light to shoot with I manually focus on the birds already in the trees and keep my finger on the shutter button. Each flying bird leaves a ghostly trail through the sky with such a slow shutter speed, and the camera captures the very last glimmer of light in the sky. After I take this image, a trembling hoot from one of the local Tawny Owls echoes out from the wood, and I know it’s time to head home.

RookRoost291114DM1781

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