I was riding along the Sammammish River Trail back in to Woodinville one weekend when the noise of geese suddenly filled the air. On the other side of the river from the trail are fields which often are filled with geese feeding. A large flock was gathered there on this day but their grazing had been interrupted by the arrival of a bald eagle. It flew across the area and barely changed course as it did so but it certainly startled the geese and they all took to the air.
They flew around in circles for a while waiting for the eagle to get safely out of the area. Then they gradually calmed down and more and more of them settled back in to the fields to resume eating. However, this was a slow process as they had clearly been spooked and weren’t going to relax easily. This was all starting as I cycled up but I did manage to pull my phone out and get a bit of video of this happening so here is the brief burst of excitement before things settled down again.
I took a walk by Bachman Lake next to Dallas Love Field as part of my weekend in the area. Clearly I was there because of the planes but there was a lot of bird activity over the lake. Given how this was right under the approach to the airport, I was surprised that they weren’t doing anything to deter the birds. Putting that aside, I was happy to see a lot of cormorants. I was surprised to see how they were hanging out together.
Cormorants tend to rest in larger groups. You might see them on pylons near the water or piles in the water in large groups providing some safety in numbers. However, they tend to go off hunting alone. I have seen the occasional pair of cormorants flying together but most of the time they are on their own. The Bachman Lake residents were very different. They were flying around in a large flock. They circled around the lake and then landed in a large group on the water. They would then take off together and fly around as a group again. I wonder if this is common in other areas.
I don’t know whether a murmuration is a thing specific to starlings or whether it applies to any large flocks of birds. I was looking out across San Francisco Bay recently and there was a large flock of birds whirling over the water in the direction of the San Mateo Bridge. It looked just like a murmuration of starlings I had seen once before but I don’t think these were starlings. I have no idea what type of bird they were and what they were up to – hunting or something else – but I was transfixed watching them for a while. A still doesn’t give you much impression of the motion but at least you can see that it was a big flock swirling around.
I have photographed the birds on San Francisco Bay quite frequently. One image that I have seen many times there is hard to reproduce through still photography. That is the sight of a flock of birds wheeling around as one and catching the light on their wings as they do so. It is quite impressive to watch as the flock will flying in a direction for a moment with the light bouncing from their wings before turning suddenly and almost disappearing from view as the wings become shaded and angled away from the viewer.
The pictures here are a couple that show the difference between the two extremes. Sadly, without video, I cannot show exactly how it appears but the still make it clear just how much the visibility of the birds changes as the angle to the light varies.
My recent trips to SFO have also allowed for the occasional bird to be photographed. The bay is very popular with bird life so, in the times between interesting aircraft movements, you can get a few extra shots. A lot of the birds are wading types wandering along the shore looking for life in the mud. You also get some egrets and obviously plenty of gulls. Some ducks life around the area and they can be seen diving for stuff on the bottom of the bay. A few pelicans will sometimes show up and dive for fish a little off shore.
This time I even got lucky with an osprey flying overhead. I haven’t seen one here before so was quite surprised. I grabbed a few shots as it passed overhead and then it was gone. Meanwhile, it was fun to watch some of the larger flocks flying together. The way in which they move seemingly as one is really cool and, with the low sun angle, their changes of direction made them appear to flash as their undersides suddenly caught the light.