The shifting shape, the whoosh and swirl of a murmuration of birds at dusk on The Levels in Somerset is simply beautiful to watch. They twist and turn, diving and soaring together, somehow spontaneously communicating their intricate choreography. The movement of the murmuration can also mesmerize, lull you into watching the spectacle through a haze. And then all of a sudden, a single bird calls to the crowd to change tack.

Fascist voices are currently becoming louder and louder; I wanted to write a song about making a difference.It took shape with a starling dipping down through the skies, being the first to sense danger and warn the others. A single voice can create an impact.

The lyrics to the song My Darling are on this blog.

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Ireland 2016. Photo by Thea Tanneberger

p.s. And then, while I was reading about murmurations and the behaviour of swarms, I read this note about birds from Gerald L. Wood’s fascinating Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats, 3rd edition.

We’ve all seen it before. From the comfort of your living room, outside the world is blowing a gale and up there in the sky there are birds flying against the direction of the food and still moving forward!

…“Some birds can fly into a wind with a greater velocity than their own maximum speed and still move forward, although the reasons for this are not known.  Meinertzhagen once saw a small group of common eider (Somateria mollissima) perform this remarkable feat in South Uist, Outer Hebrides during a 90-95 mile/h 145-153 km/h gale.  ‘This particular wind was so strong’, he writes, ‘that shooting was out of the question, wild swans were grounded and unable to rise and we experienced the greatest difficulty walking against it.  Eider duck had come inland from the sea and were sitting about on the short grass.  When disturbed they would rise into the wind and make headway against it at ground level, doing about 15-20 mph except one bird who actually achieved a minus ground speed and slowly backed towards us.’ There is also a record of a flock of wood pigons (Columba palumbus) moving forward at 40 miles/h 64 km/h in the face of a 110 mile/h 177 km/h gale when they should have been moving backwards!  (McNabb, 1953).”


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