Monday, June 19, 2006

Sleeping under the pier

click photo to enlarge
Of all the common birds, the starling has, perhaps, the most unflattering Latin name - Sturnus vulgaris. The genus name, Sturnus, denotes starling, and the species name, vulgaris, is Latin for common. And, whilst the starling is most definitely a common British bird, there are many who think it is common in the vulgar sense of that word too!

It's a characteristic of people that we take the familiar for granted. Things we see every day are not looked at with the probing eye that we reserve for the new or the unusual. It seems to be that way with the starling. Its iridescent plumage and bright spots or "stars" are overlooked by most people. They see only the predatory flocks of "dull" coloured birds, muscling in on any food that's going, chattering raucously and marching about like they owned the place. Yes, the common starling is somewhere near the bottom of the average person's bird hierarchy.

So, what has this to do with a photograph of Blackpool's North Pier. Well, outside the breeding season the supporting metalwork of the underside of this pier provides a nightime roost for up to 30,000 starlings! Each evening clouds of birds descend on the structure and settle down for the night on the cold metal spars. And each morning, in foraging groups, they set off for the fields and gardens of the Fylde to search for the day's food. One can only imagine how bleary-eyed they must be after a night of high tide and rough seas! I took this photograph on an early June morning, when most starlings had been up and busy for hours. A wide angle lens allowed me to make the white painted theatre the focal point to which the pier structure directed the eye. I adjusted my position so that the curve of the channel of water left by the receding tide leads the eye to the near pavilion, and took advantage of the reflections to add interest to the foreground of the shot.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen