Safety in numbers: The starlings having a whale of a time

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PostWed Dec 02, 2009 3:29 am » by bugmenot


Safety in numbers: The starlings having a whale of a time :lol: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... whale.html

Behold a sight that would have had Captain Ahab rousing his crew and roaring: 'Point that harpoon at the heavens, lads!'

For up in the sky glides the shape of a gigantic whale.

This awesome airborne Moby Dick is not fictional but a work of nature - comprised of countless starlings moving in formation in the winter breeze.

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Spectacular sight: In a natural display of formation flying, thousands of starlings took the shape of a whale soaring through the skies over Gretna Green

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Familiar? The birds closely resembled the marine mammal as they gathered to roost over the Scottish borders

The image, captured on camera at Gretna Green on the Scottish borders, shows what experts call a 'murmuration' of starlings.

This is when they fly back en masse to their winter roost from a day's feeding which can be as much as 20 miles away.

As they return in their hundreds of thousands, there is safety in numbers as they constantly swirl and change formation to confuse predators.

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Bird watching: Starlings take the form of a penguin during a murmuration at Gretna Green in 2007

Their wheeling and diving creates many shapes, such as the whale, complete with fin and nose, which was snapped by starling-watcher Gail Johnson.

These two were taken by fellow enthusiast Fiona Exon, who said: 'There were fantastic flowing formations and shapes. A photo can't fully portray the beauty of this amazing sight.'

Joined by Scandinavian starlings who have flocked here for winter, the number of these birds swells in December.

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Sticking your beak in: The birds closely resemble the beak of Disney character Donald Duck in this picture taken over the Scottish Borders

Gretna has become a particular hotspot to see these swarms of hundreds of thousands of birds as they return at dusk to roost.

As they return, they swoop and dive into many shapes, such as a whale or a huge bird.

There is safety in numbers as the birds constantly swirl and change shape to confuse predators as they look for somewhere to roost for the night.

And this is not the first time these types of images have been captured at Gretna.

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Playing with feathers: This formation over Gretna Green looks like Mick Jagger's full lips

Starlings have previously been pictured taking a shape which resembled Donald Duck’s beak and a penguin as well as the lips of Rolling Stones rocker Mick Jagger.

Ms Exon said: ‘Over a quarter of an hour or so smaller flocks gathered from all directions and melted together like mercury to form the enormous swirling flock of starlings.

‘There were fantastic flowing formations and shapes. A photograph can't portray the beauty of this amazing sight.'

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The bird: The starlings make a shape of a bird, left, and, right, a rather rude hand gesture - also called 'the bird'

She added: ‘I could feel the movement above me as it whooshed over the few of us gathered in a lay-by close to the busy A74 motorway.

‘Birds of prey, mostly falcons, skimmed the edges of the flock trying to pick of stragglers, but the flock would split and swirl around them.'

Ms Johnson, who captured the 'whale' shots added: 'The birds group a couple of miles out of Gretna Green and have nearly caused a few accidents as they can swoop over the motorway.'

But when spring comes, the birds pair up to mate and move off, leaving it until winter to return.

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Space flight: This flock of starlings looks like cartoon character Marvin the Martian

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... whale.html :lol:

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