Thursday, June 22, 2006

Bestiary :: Black Sun Murmurations

Perhaps Denmark doesn’t have that many tourist attractions, but who would have thought that starlings would become one of them! Still, once you’ve seen the photographs of Jutland’s annual ‘Black Sun,’ you’ll want to be booking a seat on the ‘Starling Express’ for front row seats to view the phenomena in real life.

The starlings are en route from their winter habitat in Southern Europe, to their summer mating homes up North. Flocks of the haunting birds stop over in Tønder Marsh, to gather energy for the final leg of their long flight. Starling flocks can be found in several places in Denmark, but the largest concentration is located in the Jutland Marsh.

Black Sun gets its name from the sunset flocking of huge numbers of these birds. Small flocks join together, wheeling and soaring against the setting sun until the sky is black with them, before heading for the forests to roost for the night. Elsewhere, starlings indulging in this behavior have given rise to the collective term 'murmuration of starlings'.

More info: article >>
Enlargement of picture above and info at Earth Science Picture of the Day >>
Murmuration post on Spy’s Spice >>
Steve McNicholas Murmuration set on Flickr (and image above) >>
Céline Graciet's video of a murmuration over Brighton Pier >>

Manuel Presti’s image of a swirling flock of starlings evading a peregrine falcon in Rome, Italy, was voted best overall photo in the 2005 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. National Geographic News >>

The Proceedings have an almost similtaneous post on the same subject >>