The Green Flash and another starling story.

Starlings at Aberystwyth yet again)

Starlings at Aberystwyth yet again)

Several more visits to Aberystwyth seafront at sunset have elapsed since my last post. You can’t believe how frustrating it is to witness another damp squib, then go home, turn on the TV to watch Countryfile and see video of amazing displays from somewhere in the Midlands and then somewhere in Cumbria! Last Wednesday was a bit of an exception, in a way. I arrived in good time and got chatting with a photographer who had driven over from the West Midlands to see the famous Aberystwyth starling murmation.  He must have thought I was a gloomy old so-and-so when I told him it hardly ever happens!

Once any possibility of a display seems to have evaporated I swap lenses from the standard zoom to the long zoom. I set it up on the tripod and head down the wooden jetty as far as sea level will allow, and focus on the starlings as they perch on the metal framework under the pier. This area seems to serve as a ‘waiting room’,  as later – or perhaps younger / less dominant birds – await their turn to squeeze in under cover. There is constant movement as they re-arrange themselves.

On Wednesday, the sun was setting dramatically, the tide was high and there was quite a swell. The crests of big waves fizzed with orange light as they broke against the shore. I took a long series of images in really exciting conditions, although I knew I would be deleting most of them later! As it happens I did manage a few that I am pleased with such as the one above (click on it to enlarge it.)  In the nick of time I then remembered the Green Flash. The very last sliver of the sun’s disc can turn green as it disappears below the horizon, especially if the atmosphere is clear and crisp. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon; I’ve seen it a number of times while down at the starling roost,  but never managed to photograph it. I alerted my new pal from Brummidgem, who had joined me on the jetty, pointed the camera at the setting sun and quickly pressed the shutter.

Reviewing the images on the screen I could see I’d captured the Green Flash successfully behind the framework of the pier. Exposure is always a problem at sunset and I’m not sure why this image works when previous ones haven’t. It was very much a grab shot and a reflex reaction to the situation. But it so happened that the exposure was good (ie – it was underexposed) and the light levels elsewhere in the image were compatible with that of the sun’s disc; and of course, digital processing helps.

The Green Flash, Aberystwyth, 11/02/17.

The Green Flash, Aberystwyth, 08/02/17.

After sunset a gaggle of photographers tends to gather on the prom to have a moan (er….discuss the afternoon’s events…..). Our Brummie pal joined us as we muttered. He was elated! “That was amazing!”  he enthused; “absolutely mind-blowing!” He loved watching the starlings and had never seen the Green Flash before….never even heard of it, in fact.  It was lovely to encounter someone being SO excited about something which many of us now take for granted.

 

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About Jeremy Moore

One of Wales' leading photographers; based near Aberystwyth, and specialising in Welsh landscape and wildlife. He has published the Wild Wales / Cymru Wyllt range of postcards since 1987. His most recent book was "Wales at Waters Edge" (with Jon Gower) published in May 2012. The National Library of Wales has a large number of his prints in its Collection. His exhibition "Bird/land" was shown at Aberystwyth Arts Centre from June until August 2016. It originally received support from the Arts Council of Wales. He is also working on a new book about Wales with the author Jon Gower, due for publication in spring 2018.
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2 Responses to The Green Flash and another starling story.

  1. Ian Nicholls says:

    What an absolute pleaseure to meet you and make me feel welcome to what was my first visit to see the starlings at sunset at Aberystwyth pier. Wow the atmosphere, wow the birds, wow (and wow again) my first ever green flash! Thanks a million my friend for taking time to talk and explain and show me the sights and sounds of this incredible place. (Wolverhampton accent) Yow med me jerney of two and a harf howers well worth it mayte.

    I really hope to come back to Aberystwyth sometime soon, probably when the weather is more palletable for Penny (she who must be obeyed). Cracking pictures by the way, an inspiration for my own happy snapping.
    With all our very best
    Ian and Penny

    • Jeremy Moore says:

      No problem, glad you enjoyed it. I nearly translated your comments into Brummidgem , as in –

      “That was amizeen!…absoluteloy moind-blaween!

      If it’s any help, we do suspect that the starlings may be likely to display in early March, prior to their journey back north. But please don’t quote me on that…..

      jerry

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