Nature

By David Keane


A photographer caught the moment thousands of terrified starlings formed the shape of a giant bird against the sunset – seemingly to scare off two hungry peregrine falcons chasing them down.

PIC BY VILLAGER JIM/MERCURY PRESS

Villager Jim, dubbed the ‘Banksy’ of the photographic world, captured the incredible snap at Longstone Edge in the Peak District, Derbyshire, earlier this year.

The 52-year-old photographer claims to have watched in awe as the two powerful predators swooped and soared after their tiny victims in a 10-minute chase.

A sequence of pictures shows the murmuration of starlings contorting in various shapes including balls and tornadoes to evade the falcons.

But Jim was able to capture the split second they formed the perfect shape of a bird against the glorious orange sunset – almost giving the appearance they were trying to scare off their pursuers.

However Jim says the hunt proved the old adage of ‘strength in numbers’, as the peregrines eventually had to leave with empty bellies – neither catching a single starling.

PIC BY VILLAGER JIM/MERCURY PRESS 

Villager Jim, from Foolow, near Buxton, Derbs, said: “The starlings were coming home at last light to roost and they were only about 500 metres from their nest when the peregrines attacked.

“It was quite a sight to watch – the two falcons were swooping in at an incredible speed forcing the starlings to take some wonderful shapes in the air as they ducked and dived.

“Sometimes they made perfect little balls, other times the shape of a tornado. Each shape was there for a moment and gone the next, it was a real spectacle.

“I couldn’t believe it when they formed the shape of the bird. It was only there for a split second so I was over the moon to catch it on camera.

PIC BY VILLAGER JIM/MERCURY PRESS 

“It was quite ironic watching two birds chase thousands or even millions of birds and then they make one giant bird together. What a sight.

“It was quite funny, it was almost like they were trying to be a bigger bird to scare them off – though obviously it was just pure chance that they took that shape.

“It was astounding that the falcons, despite being amazing predators, didn’t catch a single starling. It proves there’s safety in numbers.”

Peregrine falcon numbers hit a low in the 1960s thanks to being hunted by humans to guard game birds and the impact of pesticides, however numbers are back up after improved legislation to protect them.