Starling Murmurations

02nd March 2016
I live near Newby in the Eden Valley, Cumbria and over the last 7 weeks or so, we have had a nightly visit at dusk of a huge number of starlings. They rest overnight in a wooded copse across the fields. The number of starlings seems to have grown significantly over the last few weeks and on a dry clear night prior to settling down they put on a superb show, huge numbers of starlings gather and create shapes in the sky and lots of acrobatic activity (including quite a bit of bird poo on cars when they come over the house.) This is known as a starling murmuration and typically happens in the winter months.

Why this happens is not fully understood but this activity for anyone who is interested this is currently being monitored by the Royal Society of Biology with a view to mapping where these murmurations occur and hopefully trying to get an understanding of why there is a declining number of starlings in the UK. Royal Society of Biology Starling survey.

I don't usually do too many animal or bird photography as most of my cameras and gear is setup for doing landscape photography. However, I have been out watching these on loads of nights recently and decided it was too good an opportunity to miss taking a few pictures. The biggest challenge however is trying to capture fast moving birds and ever changing shapes when it's almost dark ! I have a couple of full frame cameras ie. a Canon 6D and Sony Alpha 7R which both provide great quality images at high ISO in the regions of 6400 and 10000 respectively.

This has allowed me get some fairly sharp pictures of the birds over the last couple of weeks and the best pictures have come when there has been some good sunset light which has helped to provide some nice contrast of the birds agains the lit up sky. I have included a few of the pictures I have recently taken and at the same time i have learnt a bit about starling migration and murmuration activity.

Most of the Starlings in the UK migrate from Northern Europe for the winter (Scandinavia, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia for example) and arrive in October and depart their breeding countries typically in Feb/March.

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