Showing posts from February, 2014

The Bird and the Bystanders

A crowd had gathered around a washed up Guillemot on Brighton beach. Frequent storms this winter have weakened many sea birds, causing them to get stranded on beaches around the English coast. Many casualties were covered in oil. Rather than use their initiative and find a solution, the bystanders faffed about. Some filmed the bird on their smart phones; others talked at length about doing something, but then failed to act. Humans may think they have freewill, but it is well established that they behave in highly predictable ways, especially when in groups. A phenomenon called the diffusion of responsibility causes individuals in a large group to refrain from helping a stricken person, bird or animal. This is regardless of personality, culture or socio-economic status. We are all capable of walking past someone who has collapsed in the street. I decided to phone the RSPCA. It's fairly straightforward: one has to look them up on Google, tap the Call icon and navigate t

Amazing Starling Murmurations at Brighton Pier

Huge numbers of starlings are now gathering over Brighton Pier every afternoon at sunset. It is possible to observe excellent displays on both sides of the pier, regardless of weather conditions. I would estimate the total number at under 40,000, which is down on last year. It could be that locally, starlings are in decline, but it is also possible that competition for places to roost have forced some birds to find other locations in which to sleep. Murmurations now gather over rooftops along Church Road, Hove. Earlier in the winter, a large and long lasting murmuration would form over Churchill Square, but recent activity from construction workers displaced them. Due to the ongoing pattern of wet and windy weather, lighting conditions have disappointed on many occasions. I have now visited Brighton Pier 50 times this winter. In February, starlings begin gathering at about 16:25 and fly at high altitudes until numbers swell to several thousand, when the flight elevation drops to