Sunday, 22 November 2020

Close To Home, Close-Up And The Close Of Day

Blustering Boris's latest idea is that we stay close to home to take our exercise and I've been doing my best to comply; he has enough problems without me wandering deserted footpaths further afield. I've long ago given up trying to make logical sense of it all.



Just over three miles on the bicycle gets me to Fowlmere bird reserve, where there is a one-way system in operation around the site. I toddled around in the prescribed direction and only met four people coming the other way! 


I felt inclined to take some close-up, intimate shots of the landscape and, if I saw some birds too, then so much the better. I found myself following a man who seemed to have much the same idea.


I started taking photos like this as long ago as the early 1980s, having seen a magazine article about the photographer Eliot Porter. At the time it all seemed a radical way of taking photos and I got some very strange looks in those days as I aimed my camera at mushy leaves and tufts of grass. 


There's a reasonably dry path around the wetland, parts of it a raised boardwalk, but the mingling of land and water is never far away. At this time of year the transition zone is beautified by green mosses and golden leaves. And having walked once around the circuit, I decided to wander around again.


As the sun sank ever lower in the western skies the golden light began to be reflected in the tiny stream alongside the path.


There are still odd pockets of autumn leaves which are yet to fall, and which looked splendid when lit from behind.


I was now nearing the end of my second lap around the little reserve and still enjoying it. Shall we go round again?


We won't get all the way round as it's starting to get dark, but at this time of year it's worth lingering a while longer.


Flocks of Starlings begin to coalesce and swarm around the skies above the reedbed before roosting for the night.


These spectacular mass gyrations of birds at the end of the day are known as "murmurations", which seems a strange word to use especially if you're ever lucky enough to be standing directly beneath as the pass overhead - the loud whoosh of the wingbeats of a thousand or more birds is hardly a "murmur".


Sparrowhawks and the occasional Peregrine Falcon come to seek out any weak birds for an evening snack. The reason for the Starlings acrobatic twilight flight is probably a response to the threat from birds of prey; there is some safety in numbers. But just how great are the numbers?


This murmuration at Fowlmere is by no means the most spectacular assemblage of Starlings in England, but even so there are probably more than 2,000 birds present. It's easy for the casual observer to underestimate the number, but if you take a photo, then count a small area of it, you'll soon get some idea.


And eventually, just as darkness descends, they suddenly dive headlong into the reeds and settle down to sleep. Now where did I leave my bike?


Take care.


28 comments:

  1. What a spectacular sight those starlings. Love those details too. I always notice those small things as well. I especially photos 6 and 8. Take care.

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  2. Great reflections John, in more ways than one.
    You can get some nice patterns from leaves and water.
    Ah! Fowlmere it was a great place for Dragonflies at the right time of year, but I didn't get much luck with birds though. Hope you got some lights on that bike.?

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  3. Going round and round the path, finding more and more beauty, till the swallows offered their evening delights. Thanks for an enjoyable glimpse of these beauties.

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  4. A beautiful walk there. Love the reflections and the colorful sky with the tall grasses. Starling murmurations are so interesting. It's wonderful that you got to see and photograph that.

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  5. I think that counted as a local walk. But did you have to bicycle home in the dark?
    I've seen those masses of birds and never knew what they were called. I always wonder though which one decides the change in direction?

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  6. Hi John - lovely views ... and aren't the murmurations amazing ... I've seen tiny ones - but those look wonderful. Gorgeous thoughts with images to match ... stay safe - Hilary

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  7. I am endlessly fascinated by the choreography of a murmuration and would LOVE to see one.
    Huge thanks to taking us with you, noticing the small and important things which filled me with delight.

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  8. Awesome photos! I love the water with reflections and I love birds. You have a wonderful way of capturing all the beauty here with your camera. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

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  9. We get groups of starlings flying overhead but not in numbers that large. You shots taken during the walk are wonderful!

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  10. They are a very impressive sight. The wonders of nature!

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  11. It's always fascinating to see a large flock of birds (or school of fish) move in dramatic ways, but as a unit. Who leads the movement? How do they know how to follow? Wonderful We get large flocks of starlings, too.

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  12. I enjoyed your Eliot Porter style photos. I treasure a book of his bird photos taken in their natural environment years before modern digital cameras. So much to see in each shot.
    I have seen some wonderful gatherings of birds going to roost. Recently a river of crows passed overhead and I quit counting after 300 and felt my retinas were about to burn out.😜

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  13. What a wonderful sight seeing all those birds flying around. I haven't seen groups like that in a few years. I like your walking images, they are just spectacular to see.

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  14. Oh, I so enjoyed our stroll! The only thing better would have been to be there. I could just imagine the whoosh of the wings...I have not been anywhere to get good shots. I did see some, but you guessed it...someone behind me. And that on a road that is seldom traveled.

    That 5th shot is awesome.

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  15. I enjoyed this hike! It was nice that you went around several times and kept finding different things to photograph each circuit. Those birds are amazing - I do wonder how they swoop and swirl and fly so fast with out crashing into each other! Outstanding!

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  16. Beautiful photos of your neighbourhood wetland! And to get to see a murmuration of Starlings, you timed your constitutional beautifully. Bird numbers are often astonishing. I was talking the other day about a flock of migrational petrel spotted a couple of hundred years ago, estimated in the order of 150 million!

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  17. An amazing collection of photos. Love the sunset reflection in the water. The birds are amazing too. I can see you are using your creative imagination in an area close to home. Covid has brought out new ideas of entertainment in some cases.

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  18. Wonderful photos, as always, John. Thank you.

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  19. A great post, John. One of the appealing aspects of reading your blog is that one always gets a sense that you really enjoy these excursions and get the most out of them, taking in every little detail. The starlings were a fitting end to the day. And I hope you found your bike!

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  20. Such a delightful post, John! It typifies the sights and sounds that we see and hear at this time of the year! Wonderful to see the Starling images, aren't they a joy to behold in such great numbers!

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  21. Wonderful photos. It was nice to watch all these with your eyes.

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  22. I really like your closeups of nature. I like to do those, too. It was worth waiting to watch that great flock of starlings wheel around and settle in for the night. Hope you found your bike!

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  23. Sometimes all we need to do is stop and notice the things around as you have shown, John. I enjoyed seeing the water reflections, the leaves in the what appeared to be swirling water, and those starlings and now I have learned a new term, murmuration.

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  24. Fabulous shots! Glad to hear you can still get out and about.

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  25. Those birds do make quite a sight in motion like that.

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  26. You've made me both laugh out lound and smile gently this morning. Wonderful photos, especially of the starlings, we've just had about thirty in the garden - the smaller birds retreat to the hedges to watch their food being taken:)

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  27. I like those 'intimate landscapes' you found, especially the golden reflections one. I'd love to see a murmuration but the nearest place I know it happens round here is way too far away for me to fit in with Boris's plans. There was a time when you could see it in Bradford city centre... then they put netting on all the buildings to deter the roost. :(

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  28. I have always wanted to see a murmuration! It sounds as if you've experienced this more than once. I'm envious.

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