I was in the living room this afternoon when a spectacular dark wave passed by the window with a whooshing noise. I looked out and an enormous flock of birds was conducting an aerial ballet, swooping gracefully between our yard and our neighbors’, landing momentarily to search through the grass on each side for insects. They were a sight (and sound) to behold.
I grabbed my camera. But I have a big problem when it comes to animal photography. Actually, I have two big problems: Schnauzer 1 and Schnauzer 2. As soon as they see me pick up the camera, they erupt in a cacophony of barking and make their way to the back door at full speed, sliding across the hardwood floors, scrambling frantically for purchase, and crashing into each other in a frenzy of anticipation. Why? Because somehow, they have come to associate the camera with good things to chase outside. I don’t know why–only a small fraction of the photos I take are of animals. But there you have it. All I have to do is pick up the camera, and the dogs will promptly bowl over anything in their wake–so desperate are they to go after my photographic prey. This is a minor annoyance when I am planning to take a picture of salad indoors. When I actually do want to take a picture of animals outside, I have to resort to various levels of subterfuge.
But today, there was no time. I managed to get one not-so-great photo of the birds on our grass (through the window), but it fails to adequately capture the magnitude of the scene: the flock of black/brown birds completely covered our yard.
After a little investigating, I discovered the birds were Starlings, and they are beauty in motion. A Wired blog post, The Startling Science of a Starling Murmuration, features a must-see video and describes some of the physics behind the birds’ flight patterns. I was watching the video when, lo and behold, the starlings returned, perching on my neighbors’ roof. This time, I stealthily snuck by the dogs and made it outside before their radars went off. I managed to get a couple more photos of the birds before they again departed, leaving silence in their wake.