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!