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Dublin: 2°C Wednesday 14 April 2021

'It was incredible': How this stunning picture of starlings above a lake took weeks of waiting

The photo was captured at a lake in Co Westmeath.

a-view-of-a-starling-murmuration-over-lough-ennell-co-westmeath Starling Murmuration over Lough Ennell, Co Westmeath. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

THIS IMAGE OF a murmuration of starlings was captured at a lake in Co Westmeath yesterday after a process lasting several weeks. 

The image appeared on today’s front page of the Irish Times. It was captured by Inpho photographer James Crombie and filmed by Colin Hogg.

Speaking to RTÉ radio’s News at One, Hogg said this was the culmination of around 50 visits to Lough Ennell in Mullingar, Co Westmeath since last November. 

“James Crombie and myself have been documenting these murmurations over the past several weeks over Lough Ennell,” Hogg said. 

“During the week, we moved to a new location and James took another spectacular image of the murmurations and I was fortunate enough to document it by filming it as well. 

“It’s been quite a successful photo, but it has taken a lot of time and effort to get the moment you need.” 

A murmuration is another word for a flock of starlings. 

a-view-of-a-starling-murmuration-over-lough-ennell-co-westmeath Another image of the starling murmuration over Lough Ennell in Co Westmeath. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Hogg outlined that the pair tried to map where the birds had been roosting. From there, they would find different locations in the area to photograph them. 

He said they “got to know the behaviours and movements of the murmurations” which allowed them to patiently wait for the perfect shot. 

“They all morphed into one big bird right in front of us and it was incredible. Absolutely incredible,” he said. 

Niall Hatch from BirdWatch Ireland said starlings gather in this way for a number of reasons. 

“It’s something that they really only do in the autumn, winter and early parts of spring,” he told the News at One. 

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“They do it right before they go to sleep in the evening as they like to roost communally.”

He said that “a few pioneer starlings go up in the sky and they start to display and that attracts in all the other starlings all around the same general area”.

“They’ll travel in for kilometres to do that and then they do this wonderful display.

“Nobody seems to be in charge of it, they just move almost like a single organism. They never collide with each other.” 

He said it’s a combination of wanting safety in numbers, huddling together for warmth and staying close to the fittest in the flock to follow them to food sources in the morning. 

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