Monday, 1 February 2010

Starling murmurations in Brighton

Brighton Pier at sunset 01

The starling murmurations have been mentioned before but they are such an iconic Brighton sight, they are without doubt worth mentioning again. Especially as a close friend said yesterday that she had never seen one. And that's quite a difficult feat when you live in Brighton.

Sat on Brighton beach on Saturday at dusk I was treated to a spectacular murmuration display coupled with the glorious orange hue that you ocassionally get at sunset along Brighton and Hove's coast. Usually signified by everyone surging onto the beach armed with digital cameras and camera phones in a kind of sunset Benny Hill stylee...

Here's one shot I got above - you can clearly see the murmuration.

What is a murmuration?
A murmuration of starlings is surely one of the most magical wildlife spectacles on display in winter and curious as to why starlings swoop in and out of the pier in the murmuration manner they do, I did a bit of research.

And basically, its all about survival. Starlings are quite a snack for other prey, so the answer is to seek safety in numbers. Each bird strives to fly as close to its neighbours as possible, instantly copying any changes in speed or direction, with every bird trying to avoid the edge where swift predators can sometimes snatch a victim. So all the starlings in the middle are the really smart ones!

It's a really magical experience and even more touching when you realise why they do it.

Where to watch a Brighton murmuration

If you want to see a murmuration, get yourself down to Brighton beach just before sunset. Then, if you're lucky you'll see them approach like a swarm of bees in the distance as they first swoop in. Some of the best places to see a murmuration are:
  • Brighton Pier
  • Brighton Marina - starlings congregate on the mastwires of the boats, and then swoop into the void underneath Weatherspoons pub. Apparently, the noise is amazing. Thanks to Geoff Penn's Flickr page for this top tip.
  • West Pier - the displays are much smaller than here than they used to be, but starlings till sometimes swoop around the remains of the derelict pier.
Murmuration Time Lapse

You can also check out our murmuration time lapse below - it might not quite win an Oscar, but you can clearly see the starlings in the background shortly after the time lapse starts and especially towards the end...


Geoff Penn said...

I wholeheartedly concur; the murmuration is a wonderful spectacle to watch - and the show is free!

Some years ago, I can remember the murmuration took place in Victoria Gardens between the Level and the Old Steine. Recently, I have noticed V-shaped flocks just skimming the surface of the sea, flying east past the once popular West Pier heading towards the Marina. It seems that, like humans, birds change their preferences too!

VisitBrighton: said...

thanks for the comments Geoff. i intend to get myself down to the Marina soon to see the starlings in action down there. from what i gather about the noise it sounds a bit Hitchcockian Birdsesque!

cvinzant said...

very cool story on a neat wildlife spectacle. i heard about it on the bbc wildlife podcast and blogged about it here.