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Starling Murmuration


Starling Murmuration

It’s that time of year again - when leaves, blown in freshening winds, swirl and dance; lighting up dark corners with their vivid colours, patterning our streets and hidden paths - before melding into uniformity ...

leaves fall - 
autumn’s colours
blown away

In sheltered spots the sun still warms our backs, while thoughts turn to bonfires and evenings by the fireside; chill north easterlies bring the first Redwing and Starling from Scandinavia. Our resident starling jostle to join them forming small flocks which towards the end of the month gather together in huge roosts ...

smoke drifting 
from chimney pots ...
starling gather

I have quoted the following passage by Richard Jefferies before but it is so perfect in description that I make no apologies for including it again here.

[…] In the thick foliage of this belt of firs the starlings love to roost. If you should be passing along any road—east, north, west, or south —a mile or two distant, as the sun is sinking and evening approaching, suddenly there will come a rushing sound in the air overhead: it is a flock of starlings flying in their determined manner straight for the distant copse. From every direction these flocks converge upon it: some large, some composed only of a dozen birds, but all with the same intent. Viewed from a spot three or four fields away, the copse in the evening seems to be overhung by a long dark cloud like a bar of mist, while the sky is clear and no dew is yet risen.

The resemblance to a cloud is so perfect that any one—not thinking of such things—may for the time be deceived, and wonder why a cloud should descend and rest over that particular spot. Suddenly, the two ends of the extended black bar contract, and the middle swoops down in the shape of an inverted cone, much resembling a waterspout, and in a few seconds the cloud pours itself into the trees. Another minute and a black streak shoots upwards, spreads like smoke, parts in two, and wheels round back into the firs again. On approaching it this apparent cloud is found to consist of thousands of starlings, the noise of whose calling to each other is indescribable—the country folk call it a “ charm,” [murmuration] meaning a noise made up of innumerable lesser sounds, each interfering with the other.[…]

wave after wave 
the sound of pebbles
in the backwash


Wild Life in a Southern County 1879 Richard Jefferies

The header painting - Sky Art in Nobber, County Meath, is by Eoin Mac Lochlainn, and is featured here with permission.

Eoin is an award winning, practicing, Irish visual artist who also writes a stunning blog about his interests, his inspirations, some stories about the art scene in Ireland, and other musings ...

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October 16, 2020 1:36 pm

Super Video

October 16, 2020 1:40 pm

Clive, these are wonderful verses. I just love the 2nd one! As a child my brother and I had the bedroom at the top of the house and the window looked out onto the second storey and its chimney pots! Starlings would always gather there and ‘sing’, well you know what they’re like, they just chattered and whistled and blew raspberries! Also, thanks for the link to Eoin MacLochlainn. Check you email this weekend, I’m sending a message. Have a great weekend!

October 16, 2020 8:06 pm

Wonderful and such an incredible capture of those amazing birds.

October 16, 2020 10:55 pm

This is really beautifully done.

October 17, 2020 3:33 am

I love your combination of prose with haiku (haibun). The painting and video are especially stunning! Thanks for sharing all of this with us! If you would like to display one of your haiku in my Hokku Garden, please contact me. I would love it!

Richard Sutton
October 17, 2020 9:45 am

This passage by Richard Jefferies reminds me of his delightful description in ‘January in the Sussex woods’ of rooks settling into their roost at night. First much noise and excitement, then silence as darkness deepens in the wood. Both starlings and rooks know how to end the day well!

Josie Holford
October 19, 2020 11:19 am

A charm of starlings. Loved to read again those words from Jeffries and also your tight gems of description. It is an amazing sight. And to have it close by – astonishing performance. Richard Wilbur gets it right too. This rom his poem “Event” –

As if a cast of grain leapt back to the hand,
A landscapeful of small black birds, intent
On the far south, convene at some command
At once in the middle of the air, at once are gone
With headlong and unanimous consent
From the pale trees and fields they settled on.
What is an individual thing? They roll
Like a drunken fingerprint across the sky!

Andrea Stephenson
October 24, 2020 7:24 pm

Beautiful words Clive – you really evoke this wonderful season.

October 31, 2020 1:16 pm

[…] is a link to Clive Bennett’s beautiful post and haiku watching the Starling murmuration which is seasonal now, including a […]

October 31, 2020 2:14 pm

Hello Clive, I posted this on my gene keys website. The murmurations are so inspiring and I love your quote from Richard Jeffries