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Our local starling murmuration.

Over the last ten weeks or so I have been spending a fair bit of time visiting a local starling roost. The sheer number of birds has been incredible (an estimate 500,000 +) but the spectacle itself has often lacked the impact of the more well known roosts at Gretna Green or Gloucestershire. It’s difficult to know why really though oddly in the 15 or so visits I have made I have never seen a peregrine swoop in for an easy meal. Why this is so I cannot fathom since there are quite a few pairs that nest fairly close, all I can think of is that there is so many easy pickings they are replete before teatime. The odd sparrowhawk or kestrel does put in a bit of a shift but the starlings take virtually no notice.

Most evenings the first birds appear in small groups and these are slowly joined by a few larger flocks. They wheel round for ten minutes or so then choose a spot to roost and stream down like a river in flood. Large groups of 2000+ will still be arriving for another thirty minutes or so but the now murmuring, roosting starlings, ever a chatter, act like a powerful magnet and these groups literally funnel down as soon as they appear.

On only three occasions have the earlier group hung around long enough to allow the late comers to join; now forming a flock of some size. The tight patterns do occur but only last a few seconds and this large flock never seems to be as tight as those I have watched in years past at Gretna. However, grumbling as this sounds, well to be honest, I am, it is still an amazing thing to witness. The flocks often come in so low and roost so close to where we stand that it becomes quickly clear why these winter wonders are known as a murmuration.

Photographically I seemed to spend most of my time doing slow mo stuff using shutter speeds of 1/15 to 2 seconds. I love some of the effects that this produced, it seemed to impart a sense of the fluidity of the swirling flock. On one occasion the sky was washed with a lovely shade of pink, mostly the clear sky appears as a cold blue.

Before Christmas we had one of the best sunsets I have ever witnessed, it was as if Dante’s inferno rained down fire and brimstone to all of us wide-eyed below.