Sunday 29 December 2013

Sunset On The Marsh.

An old friend, a reedcutter, telephoned to tell me flocks of Starlings were murmerating above the marshes at Haddiscoe and I should get my camera over there.  Christmas was only two weeks away and the days were very short.  With this in mind we set off for the Waveney during the afternoon in order to arrive at Haddiscoe before sunset.   The day had been particularly mild for late December as it had been for several weeks.  It was probably the mild spell that had prolonged the the Starlings' arial activity.

The sun was very low when we arrived and carried the equipment onto the marsh.  We did not know exactly where the Starlings would perform so we set up the camera and waited, assuming that a group of a few thousand birds would be fairly easy to spot.

Haddiscoe Marsh

The temperature fell sharply as the light faded and we scanned the marsh for a sighting.  The skyline was empty except for groups of seagulls flying line astern and heading due West with their familiar lazy wing action.

Out on the marsh the report of a shotgun rang out as another duck booked its place at table for Christmas lunch.  Our interest was raised when a small group of Starlings sped toward the Haddiscoe bridge but then dropped out sight.

A Small Group Of Starlings

I cupped my hands and blew into them warming my fingers momentarily.  Just a few yards away a Barn Owl flew silently over the Marsh. 

A glorious sunset was developing before us - crimson and gold light lit up the flooded marsh. Out in the haze another shotgun echoed over the reedbeds sending up a small flight of geese, probably "Pink Footed", but they were to distant to identify.

A Glorious Sunset
Apart from small packets of Starlings darting low over the marsh there was no sign of a major group.  The sun dropped ever lower and the temparature grew markedly colder.  I ran my fingers impatiently over the cold body of the camera - where were they?

The Sun Dropped Ever Lower
 A dark cloud formed in the East, it looked like smoke rising above the trees.  We soon realised this was not smoke,  it was Starlings. Wheeling and diving some distance away, not an enormous group but large enough to fascinate anyone who took the time to watch them.  How do so many little birds turn as one?  Why don't they collide with each other?   What induces them to perform this ritual every year?

Wheeling and Diving 

 We filmed the arial choreography for about fifteen minutes before the Starlings dispersed and disappeared into the woods.  Then we were alone on the marsh watching the dying embers of a truly memorable winters day.  Priceless!


1 comment:

  1. I have seen them over Lowestoft bridge like that. There is a bit of video someone took of them somewhere. I will see if I can find it.