Starlings. Wikimedia, public domain.
Some years ago I wrote a poem called Starling. It was based on my experience of seeing them flock in Champagne. Of course I read a lot about them, but somehow because I had seen them flock in October, I presumed they were grouping to go south. Not necessarily so, it seems. In fact, depending on where they are, they can migrate north, or south – or both! – or not at all. They’re really astonishing creatures.

Have a look at this amazing video uploaded by Dylan Winters
Below it you can read my poem Starling, available under a creative commons licence.

starlings on Otmoor [via Digg]


A green net wheels across a screen
in the pattern certain starlings follow
when they flock before taking off
for the south.

A mathematician has plotted their flight,
as if she had nothing better to do,
knowing the starlings will oscillate
and skim, regardless of calculation.
It gives her a sense of lightness,
as if by juggling her figures she might
grow wings, wavering between choice,
yet flying true to the destination.

What compels her is how they synchronise,
as if they were mobiles of the sky,
a geometry evolving to shadow continents.
“The computer is to the mathematician
what the camera was to the artist,”
she mutters, as if she has coined a maxim,
watching movement and changing shape –
how the equations vary and repeat.

When she was a child she would watch,
entranced, as homing pigeons wound down
their journey before the apartment tower.
For her the sight was a musical notation.

The memory returns like a bar from a song
as she presses a key and a colony of figures
perch on a screen, tense with potential.
The net stretches tight in agreement.

As if she has left her body and intellect
behind, she feeds a cluster of formulae,
which may not make sense, into the computer,
and her study darkens with the noise
of thousands of wings, of wheezing,
chuckling and clicks, of whistling, coughs
and kisses, and a bewildered flock
blunders into the room through the screen.

“I saw a queen in the clouds and she was myself.
Emblazoned on my thighs were triple spirals;
on my arms were stars; on my forehead the eye
of a bird.”

Philip Casey, [update] Tried and Sentenced, Selected Poems, eMaker Editions, 2014

Lough Ree Starling Dance
Uploaded by BDaly1234 on Mar 29, 2011

Here’s that viral vimeo video re the starlings over Lough Derg on the Shannon by Sophie Windsor Clive