Brighton's Starling Murmurations
I now offer tuition sessions on Brighton Pier. For more information, please see my new TUITION AND WORKSHOPS page.
Sunday 4th November 2012: The starlings didn't form any murmurations on Friday and Saturday. The most likely reason, was that birds of prey were in the area and deterred the starlings from their usual evening behaviour. As the starlings opted for an early night, Alex and I opted to drown our sorrows in The Lion and Lobster! So, I was therefore delighted to observe the starlings again on Sunday afternoon. Starlings are the world's best synchronized fliers; each bird shadows seven of its neighbours. Starling murmurations react ten times faster than the best human pilots. As such, starlings can easily out-manoeuvre the Peregrine Falcon. Should a predatory bird attempt to intercept a murmuration, it will simply pass straight through, with each bird automatically moving aside.
The seagulls put on a wonderful display over the water; they often fight over caught starfish. The Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM Mark II performed very well in tracking the gulls. Unfortunately, as the light levels dropped, so did the shutter speeds; they were all in focus, but some had motion blur. I have custody of this wonderful lens until November 19th, so please come back to my starling photo diary to follow their progress. Images will be posted in descending order, so please scroll down for the latest work.
Thursday 8th November 2012: An estimated ten thousand starlings gathered around Brighton Pier at sunset this afternoon. I had little time to grasp the sheer magnitude of the display. Within fifteen minutes, my 16GB memory card was full up. The murmurations can only get bigger and more spectacular each afternoon, as thousands of starlings arrive in Brighton for the winter.
Wednesday 14th November 2012: One would normally expect clear skies to be accompanied by cold, crisp weather, but today's maximum temperature of 12.5°C was an exception to the rule. Unfortunately, clear skies don't provide any kind of dramatic backdrop. Therefore, despite taking 600 shots, only one was good enough to show other people. After the standards set last Thursday, keeping up with expectations is becoming increasingly a challenge!
I was delighted to meet Fine Art and Photography student, Suzanne Carr on Sunday afternoon, after being contacted by email. Suzanne is in her final year at Winchester College of Art; she asked me to assist in the creation of a 15 minute film on Brighton's starling murmurations. I was glad to enjoy Suzanne and her daughter's company from the start and equally pleased to make their day out fun and enjoyable. Once again, it was lovely to combine photography with meeting people; Andrew Bertram joined us on the beach as the sun went down. Alas, for Suzanne, the starling murmurations were a let down, but when we meet again in a few weeks time, I am sure this occasion will prove an anomaly.
Thursday 15th November 2012: Visited Brighton Pier again this afternoon, to find Alex Lawrence, back from New York, tracking the starlings with his 500mm lens and Canon EOS-1DX. More birds have arrived in Brighton for the winter; around 15,000 starlings gather in several murmurations. We observed three clusters, consisting of perhaps 1000 starlings each, arrive on Brighton seafront, before departing for trees in parks and gardens around the city. Clearly, there is insufficient space underneath Brighton Pier to accommodate all migratory starlings. I was delighted to capture a few hundred starlings roosting on the pier; they are sweet little birds, with lovely iridescent feathers and complex social behaviour. While they are on the wing, starlings can resemble Morse code or as my mother put it, "Squiggly doctor's writing on note paper".
Wednesday 28th November 2012: After a refractory intermission lasting nearly two weeks, I returned to Brighton Pier on a rather cold afternoon. I pointed out to a friendly onlooker, that today's fitful murmurations weren't a patch on early November, despite the starlings numbering 20,000 birds. He said, "I thought they were stunning, but if this was a poor display, then I look forward to seeing them on a good day".
Friday 7th December 2012: I will have to give the 300mm lens back to Alex on Sunday. Using a lens of this calibre has been a great privilege and I'll have to buy Alex some real ale, to say thank you. I have a cunning plan to substitute the lens with four beer bottles inside the case; a Ford Escort XR3i will be parked nearby for my getaway. The optical and AF performance has been second-to-none and the lens pairs very nicely with the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III. I have received many emails from people, who have been inspired to visit Brighton Pier, from afar, having first seen my photos online. Perhaps the city ought to employ me, as a full-time Tourist Magnet. I would happily accept the challenge. On a rather wintry Friday afternoon, I was pleased to capture the starlings in flight, with the Brighton Wheel as a backdrop. The wheel is a much photographed Brighton landmark, but, until today, no-one has attempted to combine it with the famous starling murmurations. I hope you like it and of course, I hope you've enjoyed looking at my photographs as much as I've enjoyed taking them.