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Showing posts from November, 2014

Brighton Starlings | November 2014

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Every autumn, starlings migrate to the British Isles to escape the harsh Scandinavian winter. Some of these birds (about 40,000) spend the winter in parks, gardens and farmland around Brighton and Hove. In late afternoon, they fly to Brighton Pier, where they gather in fluid-like murmurations, before roosting for the night underneath the pier structure. It is thought that starlings began using Brighton Pier (and formerly the West Pier) to roost after the Great Storm of 1987, when gusts of 115mph felled millions of trees across Sussex.  Although no-one knows exactly why starlings form murmurations, it is thought to be a multi-purpose behaviour. Starlings benefit from safety in numbers and generate collective body heat to survive the night ahead. Each bird shadows seven of its neighbours, which accounts for why murmurations can rapidly change shape, speed and direction. Should a bird of prey attempt to intercept a murmuration, it will usually pass straight through, because it only ta

Autumn in the Forest

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I have always loved woodlands. They are places of great emotional sanctuary. I can spend hours wandering through the trees and glades, in a dream-like state, forgoing every worry and responsibility back home. October 2014 began like summer. T-shirts in daytime, al-fresco dining and windows open late into the night. And then early on a Sunday morning, it all changed. I couldn't believe it. Beads of dew on the long grass had frozen solid following a calm, clear starry night. Thereafter, each day saw high winds and frequent torrential downpours, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Leaves blocked drains and early morning commuters found themselves stranded, as flash floods overwhelmed transport infrastructure. A succession of heavy, thundery showers passed over the Arun Valley on an early October afternoon. The tree canopy swayed violently, as squalls cut through the tall slender beeches, opening up the woodland floor to debris and cold raindrops. It became so dark, at one poin