Tag: Humane Society of Central Arizona

The mystery of nature.


English starling

Ginger I. who works at the Payson branch of the Humane Society of Central Arizona recently sent me the following video on the magic of a flock of starlings.  It’s … well, you watch it and fill in the rest of the sentence; I ran out of words.

A short film that follows the journey of two girls in a canoe on the River Shannon and how they stumble across one of nature’s greatest phenomenons; a murmuration of starlings.

A murmuration is a…

/merr’meuh ray”sheuhn/, n.

1. an act or instance of murmuring.

2. a flock of starlings.

Ginger also included the following in her email,

A mystery of nature:

No one knows why they do it. Yet each fall, thousands of starlings dance in the twilight above England and Scotland. The birds gather in shape-shifting flocks called murmurations, having migrated in the millions from Russia and Scandinavia to escape winter’s frigid bite.

Scientists aren’t sure how they do it, either. The starlings’ murmurations are manifestations of swarm intelligence, which in different contexts is practised by schools of fish, swarms of bees and colonies of ants. As far as I am aware, even complex algorithmic models haven’t yet explained the starlings’ aerobatics, which rely on the tiny birds’ quicksilver reaction time of under 100 milliseconds to avoid aerial collisions—and predators—in the giant flock.

Despite their tour de force in the dusky sky, starlings have declined significantly in the UK in recent years, perhaps because of a decline in suitable nesting sites. The birds still roost in several of Britain’s rural pastures, however, settling down to sleep (and chatter) after their evening ballet.

Two young ladies were out for a late afternoon canoe ride and fortunately one of them remembered to bring her video camera. What they saw was a wonderful murmuration display, caught in the short video above. Watch the variation of colour and intensity of the patterns that the birds make in close proximity to one other.

I also quickly found a second video on YouTube that seemed worthy of including in this Post.

This astonishing sequence was filmed by wild life cameraman and travel journalist Dylan Winter who is currently sailing around the UK in an 18 foot boat. You can follow his journey and see more of his work at www.keepturningleft.co.uk.

Now I know that as I get older I seem to be turning into an emotional mess!  But a very happy mess!  I mention this because both films had me in tears.  Why?  Not really sure.  But I sense that when one looks at such beauty, such real pure magical beauty, and then reflects on the stupidity, greed and shortsightedness of mankind the contrast is almost too much to handle!

Then we were ten!

Kaycee joins the fold taking us back up to ten dogs.

Many of you read and commented on the loss of Phoebe that I wrote about on the 17th February.

Phoebe used to be one of a group of three dogs that lived in our large basement room, the other two being Loopy and Ruby.  Well, it wasn’t long after Phoebe’s death that we noticed Loopy was, how can I say it, just a bit off.  She had previously suffered from Valley Fever that had affected her when we were living in Mexico, (useful website on Valley Fever is here) and Jean thought that the fever had returned.  In order to keep a closer eye on Loopy, she came up from the basement and joined the three dogs that made up the ‘kitchen’ group.  Those three dogs being Lilly, Paloma and Chester.  It made sense any way as Phoebe was a great play friend for Ruby and it was clear that Ruby was both missing Phoebe and not finding Loopy as an effective substitute play friend.

Lilly, from the 'kitchen' group, checking Loopy out!

So on Tuesday, Jean and I, together with Ruby and little Sweeny, who also came from the local Humane Society, went back to the Society to find a companion for Ruby.

Jean had had her eye on a male dog, Kaycee, that had appeared in the list of available dogs that is featured each week in the local Payson Roundup newspaper.  Indeed, here is the list of dogs for February that has Kaycee’s details, from which I reproduce below,


My name is Kaysee and I’m a 5-year-old Heeler/Pit mix. I have been with HSCAZ since 23rd March, 2011. I’m a flirty boy, who loves to have his butt scratched. I’m super smart too and I know all sorts of basic commands. Did I mention I like to play ball? My song choice is Brian Adams’ “Everything I Do,” because I will do it for you.

Anyway, Ruby and Kaycee took to each other without any issues and he came home with us later on the morning of the 28th.  Now over 24 hours later, as I write this, it’s clear that he is a bright, loving dog with no obvious personality challenges and already Ruby is relishing his company; they slept curled up together last night.  So that’s wonderful for all concerned.

What follows are some photographs of Kaycee’s arrival.  To be honest, when Jean and I walked around the dogs at the Humane Society, it was very hard to fight back the tears – I wanted to take them all!

Ruby, partially hidden, and Kaycee outside the humane shelter.
Checking out the new garden!
Kaycee seconds away from freedom in his new home, Ruby and Sweeny looking on.
Pharaoh and Hazel saying 'Hi' through the fence to Kaycee.

People will think us mad but so what!