A couple of posts ago I wrote about the vast flocks of geese which overwinter on The Wash; and there were also big numbers of other birds including small groups of dunlin close in by the shore:
Dunlin (Calidris alpina, Dansk: almindelig ryle)
But a little further out, and almost invisible until they took to the air, were enormous flocks of thousands of dunlin. I couldn’t see what flushed them, but every few minutes they rose en masse and put on a stunning display of aerobatic prowess:
Thousands of dunlin moving in very close proximity at high speed and never colliding
Occasionally they turned into the sun creating a shimmering ribbon of grey and white across the sky:
And as with the geese in the previous post the other thing which I hadn’t thought about until they were swirling overhead was the noise. It was a very different sound to the geese which gave a slow muted beating sound, the dunlin sounded more like a fast moving cloud of enormous insects. It was a really exciting spectacle. And as well as the dunlin flocks of oystercatcher wheeled over from behind and landed in a line on the mud flats:
Several hundred oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus, Dansk: Strandskade) seeking safety in numbers
… and it’s always good, but increasingly seldom, to see flocks of lapwing (Vanellus vanellus, Dansk: vibe):
When I was a kid in the 70’s vast flocks of lapwing were a relatively frequent phenomenon in the fields out in the countryside around home, but their numbers have plummeted twixt now and then, so it’s good to see there are still places where thay can still be found doing what lapwing should be doing!
I missed this the first time around–too many other things going on and demanding attention–but I’m happy to see it now. I’ve just finished a book about waves (The Wave-Watcher’s Guide), which touches eloquently on the flight synchronization of flocking birds. Especially love your second shot.
Hello Gary, good to be back posting again and great to hear from you. I hope that picture conveys the motion and energy of tens of thosands of birds all taking to the air simultaneously, it was an incredible sight, and sound! And I’m pleased you like the picture.
Is ‘The Wave Watchers Guide’ published? If it is, please send the ISBN so I can source a copy, I’d love to read your thoughts on flocking birds – it’s one of nature’s miraculous events.
Sorry–misinformation! It’s the Wave Watcher’s Companion by Gavin Pretor-Pinney.
My fault, I thought you meant you’d written it. Thanks for the update.
What a wonderful sight! And your title made me smile 🙂
My 14yr old daughter councilled against a ‘flocking‘ pun, but just I couldn’t help myself. Who’s the grown up one I wonder 🙂
Yes – I love the way youngsters seriously disapprove of their parents silliness 🙂 It certainly appealed to my rather mischievous sense of humour 😀
Wow, that must have been quite an experience, seeing and hearing all those dunlin. Lovely to see the lapwings, too. I rarely see more than one or two at a time but, like you, I remember seeing more in my youth. Great pics.
Thanks Lorna, it was definitely onbe of those that sticks in the memory!
What a stunning spectacle those flocks are in the sky.
I’ve photographed a Masked Lapwing 2-3 times in the Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne, but never seen them before or since. They seem pretty rare here.
It was a remarkable event. Our lapwings used to be a common sight when I was a kid but alas, no longer. I still see sizeable flocks of them on the coast in winter and on the fens in Cambridgeshire, but nothing like the size or frequency they used to be. It’s a real shame, they’re a lovely spectacle.