Taking flight

Blogging challenges, England, National Trust, Wildlife

This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge is Taking Flight. What to choose? I thought of hot air balloons I’ve seen. I thought of planes. I thought of bubbles magically released into the sky to delight children and adults everywhere. In the end, two ideas insisted on their fifteen minutes of fame.

The first is the starling murmurations which are such a feature of life here early every spring. Once, one even took place over our garden. We were entranced until we saw the state of our car afterwards. Have you seen one? Murmurations take place towards evening, when thousands of starlings swoop and swirl in the sky above their chosen roosting site for that night. Are they keeping predators at bay? Exchanging information before nightfall? Nobody’s sure. But as suddenly as it begins, the display stops, and the birds descent to their roosts, and it’s over for another night. Here are a few shots – and look at the featured photo too.

Then there was our visit to the Farne Islands, a protected National Trust bird reserve off the coast of Northumbria What an afternoon we had here. We saw puffins, we saw razorbills, guillemots, eider duck, fulmars …. sea birds of so many kinds. But if it’s flight you want to see today, we’ll just stick with the Arctic Terns, with their bright white and grey plumage and orange beaks.

Arctic terns are feisty, aggressive birds, fiercely protective of their young, as these pictures may suggest. They are impressive migrants, flying between 44, 000 – 59, 000 miles a year to reach their European breeding grounds from the Antarctic.

Bright Square

Lens-Artists Challenge #144

A murmuration of starlings

North Yorkshire, Wildlife, Yorkshire Dales

The bush telegraph was busy.  It’s that time of year, and starlings are murmurating.  Spotted south of Ripon, they’d also been seen at Nosterfield, only a couple of miles from us.

Sunset over Nosterfield Nature Reserve.

Down at the nature reserve, just at sunset, cars gathered.  Their occupants waited, enjoying the spectacle of the nightly sunset.  Then most of the cars  just – went.  What did they know that we didn’t?  Then Malcolm spotted what we’d come to see, over there in the north.

The starlings gather.

Thousands upon thousands of starlings in a dense cloud that spread, re-gathered, swooped, dived and soared  like one of those unending computer-graphic screen savers that used to be all the rage.

We left too,  We needed to be nearer.  And sure enough, there in a lay-by near Nosterfield village we re-grouped, our binoculars to the ready.  The starlings formed an immense cloud, sometimes dispersing to blend in with the grey cloud behind, sometimes wheeling together in sinuous black streaks of snake-like movement.  For half an hour we watched.

 Then this impressive partnership of birds pulsed lower, then lower, then dropped out of sight.  They’d finished their performance for the night.