Sunday, November 08, 2015

Flocking starlings

click photo to enlarge
Ever since, during childhood, I developed an interest in birds  I've enjoyed watching and learning from these fascinating creatures. Over the years, as my knowledge grew, I came to see certain species and their habits as markers of the changing seasons. The arrival of the wheatear and the call and tumbling flight of the lapwing were pleasurable and sure markers that spring had arrived. Similarly, the flickering wings and screech of the swift said "summer" just as surely as the warmth of the sun. The onset of autumn is always marked by the gathering of swallows on the wires and the distinctive calls from skeins of geese in lines and "Vs" overhead. And equally representative of that season is the evening flocking of starlings as they gather before going to roost in a favoured place.

When I lived in Lancashire I often saw starlings in clouds, thousands strong, so-called "murmurations", heading for the supporting metal-work under North Pier in Blackpool. This was a favoured site and an impressive sight. I often wondered what a night spent sleeping above a stormy sea was like for these birds. Since my move to Lincolnshire I haven't seen a gathering of starlings as big as the one in Lancashire. However, I do regularly see flocks of a couple of hundred assembling on wires or pylons before going to roost. I'm aware of a few small roosts in conifers and hawthorns, but I've yet to discover a large roost.

Today's photograph is part of a group we saw one evening, as the light was beginning to fail, on some wires on the nearby Fen. It was about fifty to a hundred strong. I took a photograph as they departed, reminded of a similar shot I took a few years ago of rooks.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 37.1mm (100mm - 35mm equiv.) cropped
F No: f4.5
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On