Brighton's Starling Murmurations

Every afternoon, between November and February, up to 40,000 starlings congregate in a murmuration over Brighton Pier. It is one of the truly spectacular displays nature has to offer and it happens on our doorstep. The joy and bliss created by the murmurations far exceeds the empty hedonism of drugs, alcohol and shopping. My favourite picture is the third one down - it resembles a flying carpet of confetti-like wings set amidst a backdrop of purple, yellow and magenta hues. It is quite magical and I think fairly conveys the mesmerising quality of 40,000 wing beats moving in perfect symphony across the dusky sky.

Starlings over Brighton Pier - BEST VIEWED LARGE

Starling Murmuration - BEST VIEWED LARGE

Brighton Starlings - a flying carpet of wings

Starling murmuration over the sea

Starlings over the sea

Brighton Starlings

Brighton starlings over the sea

Birdwatching on Brighton Beach

Gulls and starlings par excellence at the end of another delightful and unseasonably mild November day. The gulls spent several minutes trying to figure out how to eat a starfish. Each gull picked up the starfish and carried it around before dropping it. Eventually, a tug of war between two gulls produced unintended consequences. The unfortunate starfish was torn apart, resulting in a shared meal. It was refreshing to see gulls eating proper, nutritious food, caught from the sea, rather than the usual burger and chips.

Starfish lack a centralised brain, which means that they are incapable of suffering. If, however, you find starfish on the beach, they are probably still alive. The seemingly 'lifeless' starfish will begin moving again once returned to the sea. Should you take the 'dead' starfish home to dry out for bathroom ornaments, you are in fact responsible for its death, not the high tide. Besides, hungry gulls could have eaten it.

At sunset, many thousands of starlings escaping from the cold, harsh winter weather in Scandinavia, formed a huge murmuration over Brighton Pier. I could see a smaller murmuration over the West Pier.

Gulls fighting over a Common Starfish - BEST VIEWED LARGE

Gulls feeding on fish

Gulls tearing a Common Seastar apart

Feeding Frenzy on Brighton Beach - BEST VIEWED LARGE

Starling Murmuration - BEST VIEWED LARGE

The Unseen II

Thus far unpublished photographs taken in 2011. Occasionally, I cannot find a place for certain pictures in online articles. I am delighted to show them to you.

Feeding Frenzy on Brighton Beach - BEST VIEWED LARGE

Juvenile Herring Gull

Juvenile Herring Gull catching a Crab

The White Horse of Willoughby Fields

Birling Gap - BEST VIEWED LARGE

I didn't think they'd have the bottle      Time for a spin

Brighton Pier

West Pier in Mist - BEST VIEWED LARGE

Brighton Beach at Low Tide - Best Viewed Large

Mushroom growing on a rotting tree trunk      Poppies

Falmer Farm Cat

My Autumn Woodland Haven


I've wanted to do something special during autumn since visiting the New Forest as a boy. Only now do I possess the ability to tell a story about my relationship with the natural world. With the autumn colours at their peak, I retreated to the Saxon hamlet of West Dean in Friston Forest for a seven day holiday. I got up at 9am each morning, ate breakfast and wandered through the canopy of fiery reds and yellow hues until nature exchanged the October sun for the sound of Tawny Owls and stars from the Milky Way. The Grade II Listed Old Manor House Pig Barn, dating from 1597, was my little nest, where I could put up my feet and enjoy afternoon tea, oatcakes, cheese and lemon drizzle cake after several hours of walking. After looking at the day's work on my computer, I climbed a long flight of steps through Exceat Wood to the bus stop. I dined out every night at a different restaurant and returned to a hot bath and an evening of classical music, real ales, cider, single malt and gin and tonic.

I particularly enjoyed a midnight walk around Friston Forest on the 31st October - guided by starlight - carrying my torch only in case I saw a wild animal. I wanted to experience nocturnal wildlife at the coal face, using my hearing, imagination and a visual overlay, created inside my head, of how the forest would look if I could see in the dark. I imagined myself as a Fallow deer, browsing the glades, with 310 degree vision and a sense of smell eleven times greater than my own. The supernatural world, which doesn't exist, was merely an afterthought. I experienced far more interesting things than 'ghosts' - I spotted a badger, several bats and I listened, as a pair of Tawny Owls called to each other across the darkly treetops.

Another highlight was creating a tree-hugging, tofu-eating, Chomsky-reading, wine-drinking portrait in Friston Forest. The process involved setting the tripod-mounted camera to self-timer, and twice running towards an imminently-hugged beech tree. I digitally copied and pasted the tree-hugging, tofu-eating, Chomsky-reading, wine-drinking person on the right who prefers real ale, to create the final image seen below.

Birling Gap looked quite spectacular on Tuesday evening. The sunset and cloud streets were ideal for landscape photography, even if I was a little exhausted after several successive 10 mile walks.

On the penultimate day, I decided to experience my surroundings directly, rather than through the intermediary of a viewfinder and lens. With heavy rain falling and the distant roll of thunder audible from a supercell of Cumulonimbus clouds tracking west-east, I enjoyed the musty scents and tangerine hues of Friston Forest with my own frail, human senses. Along a muddy path, near Snap Hill, I found tracks from a large ungulate mammal, the first direct evidence I've seen, that Fallow deer are living in Friston Forest.

Late Autumn Beech - Friston Forest

Beech Sapling in Autumn      Mushroom in Friston Forest (Hypholoma elongatum)

Autumn Maple Leaf in Exceat Wood

Autumn Beech Leaves      Friston Forest in Late Autumn

October Ladybird in Friston Forest

Tree-hugging, tofu-eating, Chomsky-reading, wine-drinking portrait in Friston Forest      Autumn Beech Leaf held by Fireweed

Autumn Maple Leaves - Friston Forest

Fallen Maple Leaf caught between two Wild Teasels

Autumn Maple Leaves      Late Autumn Beech Trees - Friston Forest

Peppery Milkcap Mushrooms (Lactarius piperatus) in Friston Forest

Mushroom in Friston Forest (Macrolepiota mastoidea)     Autumn Beech Leaves in Exceat Wood

Birling Gap at Sunset

Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters

Birling Gap and Seven Sisters