Together we are thunder
an awesome drone
of wing and speed

At once we are a cloud
that darkens the dim
and alters the light
Converging from every
corner of the Earth
where we’ve been to feed
But there we cannot linger
in field or wood,
on eave or ridge.

Forgo the food. Forego …
… for long is our flight
into the crowded night.

As one we are a force
of nature’s greater power.
As one we are invincible
a spectacle of the hour
before the dusk that yields
the squeal and chatter
of the roost, to exchange
the day’s adventures
for the quieter darkening.

This spirit of togetherness
a synergistic strength that binds.
Divisible yet unconquerable.

[ I was moved to write this piece by the amazing reality of observing a murmuration of starlings, with my own eyes for the first time last month. It occurs regularly between September and March each year in various parts of the UK, but this one was at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Nature Reserve at Ham Wall in Somerset, England. I found it very moving, because it gave me a feeling of hope that the human spirit could one day, once again in its evolution, learn from nature and prevail over the predatory forces of greed and exploitation, simply by virtue of cooperating with each other like these clever birds in protecting themselves from predators at night. The predators we face are the masters of power, wealth and greed. Can we show intelligence enough and compassion in our responses to these threats to our environment, to our livelihoods, to our planet, and resist with all our strength and ingenuity, and keep our spirit strong.

The starlings kept on coming for a good hour. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of them coming together to roost for the night in the expansive reed beds of these well preserved wetlands.

Here’s what the RSPB has to say about the starling murmuration:

“It’s basically a mass aerial stunt – thousands of birds all swooping and diving in unison. It’s completely breathtaking to witness. We think that starlings do it for many reasons. Grouping together offers safety in numbers – predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird in the middle of a hypnotising flock of thousands. They also gather to keep warm at night and to exchange information, such as good feeding areas.

They gather over their roosting site, sometimes in their hundreds of thousands, and perform their wheeling stunts before they roost for the night. More HERE.

HERE is my edit of what we witnessed that day. Not as dramatic as some films I’ve seen, but the starlings just kept on coming, on and on, in huge numbers, in their tens if not hundreds of thousands. Power to the birds! Power to the human spirit …
Murmuration of Starlings at RSPB Ham Wall Nature Reserve in Somerset, England

© 2018, John Anstie; All rights reserved to text and video; header photo credit, Murmuration under CC BY-SA 2 license 

4 thoughts on “A Murmur

  1. It’s mesmerizing to watch. I quite enjoyed both your poem and your video! I’ve only ever seen one murmuration in real life, and it was during a Grackle migration through Kentucky, which they do every year. The thousands of them indeed are thunderous, creating such a loud ruckus that it’s hard to concentrate on anything else if you’re outside when it’s happening.

    I LOVE your idea of all of us coming together in cooperation against the greedy, powerful and faceless corporate overlords of our world! There is definitely strength in numbers, and they are far outnumbered by those of us who would see a better future for the planet. We just need a way to get us all together in the same place, time and purpose. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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