Ur Place

February 19, 2008

Sky turns black as thousands of starlings flock into Gretna Green

Filed under: Lajme --- News — halfevil @ 1:06 pm

Time was when the only visitors flocking to Gretna Green were eloping English couples.Now the Scottish border village is getting arrivals by the million – and most of them come by air.

Swooping and swirling across the dimly lit sky, they could almost be mistaken for an approaching storm cloud.

In this dazzling aerial display, over a million starlings wheel and dive across the setting sun, creating elaborate patterns and drawing the admiring gaze of fascinated onlookers.

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Black sky: Thousands of starlings fly over a house

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Every evening at dusk they take to the skies above Gretna Green, after a long day spent feeding in reed beds.

So begins the perilous search for somewhere safe to roost for the night, sheltered from the blustery February winds.

It is a a path fraught with danger, as hungry predators hover nearby.

The little birds must converge, flocking together and squawking, in an attempt to confuse the sparrowhawks, buzzards and peregrine falcons. Reaching speeds of over 20mph, it’s a wonder that there aren’t more feathers flying in mid-air collisions.

But scientists have recently discovered the secret behind their amazing spatial awareness. Each starling tracks seven other birds – irrespective of distance – enabling the group’s impressive cohesion.

It is a spectacle that occurs only during the winter.

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Amazed: Birdwatchers gaze at the sky

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Caught on camera: The starlings blacken the sky

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Dr Andre Farrar, spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, thinks the sight should not be missed.

“It is one of the world’s greatest wildlife experiences and anyone can enjoy it,” he said.

“You just need to open your eyes and look up.”

But don’t leave it too long. As spring approaches, the same urge overtakes them as those runaway couples of old.

They pair off and look for suitable nesting grounds. They will not regroup until September, when their amazing daily display will begin again.

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