Every Autumn vast numbers of continental starlings migrate here to take advantage of our milder winters. Huge flocks of a million birds or more swirl over their roost sites before settling down for the night. These impressive gatherings, called murmurations, are both remarkable and inspiring as Brett Westwood discovers as he visits a reed bed in Somerset. He also gets to grips with the physics of how the birds avoid each other in flight and hears from a sound artist who uses the patterns of starlings on a wire as musical staves. Plus a man whose starlings accompany him on the piano.

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28 minutes

Last on

Mon 12 Jun 2017 21:00

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Lloyd Buck

Lloyd Buck
Over the past 25 years, Lloyd and his wife Rose, pictured, have hand-reared and trained birds for many different film and television productions on location and in studios.

Lloyd's passion for birds began at a very young age and he has been lucky enough to turn it into a long career thanks to an instinctive, intuitive way with the birds.

"Looking after our birds is a not just our career and job, it is a lifestyle, as you have to be there for them seven days a week, but we love it. Because we always make sure the birds enjoy themselves, we can get the best out of them without compromising their welfare,” he said.

Kathy Hinde

Kathy Hinde
Kathy Hinde is an audio-visual artist inspired by behaviour and phenomena in nature and the everyday. Her work grows from a partnership between nature and technology expressed through audio-visual installations and performances that combine sound, sculpture, image and light.

Drawing inspiration from the natural world, she creates work that is generative; that evolves; that can be different each time it is experienced. Kathy regularly works in collaboration with other practitioners and scientists and often actively involves the audience in the creative process.

In her work 'Piano Migrations' the inside of an old upright piano, is recycled into a kinetic sound sculpture and videos of birds are projected directly onto the piano to provide an ever-changing musical score. The movement of the birds trigger small machines to twitch and flutter on the piano strings with nature controlling the machines to create delicate music.

Picture: The inside of of an old upright piano adapted for Piano Migrations

Richard Holmes, OBE

Richard is a British author and academic who has written biographical studies of major figures of British and French Romanticism. He is the author of  a biography on Coleridge – and its an extract from Coleridge’s diary which he reads in the programme.

He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Literature and a Fellow of the British Academy. He was professor of Biographical Studies at the University of East Anglia from 2001–2007 and has honorary doctorates from the University of East London, University of Kingston and the Tavistock Institute. In 1992 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire.

David Matthews

David Matthews
David Matthews is a composer who has recently incorporated folksong in some pieces, and birdsong into others. Landscape and the natural world has always been important stimuli in his music. Picture: John Batten

Vincent Sheridan

Vincent Sheridan
Vincent Sheridan is an award-winning printmaker who features animals and birds, especially crows and starlings, in his work and attempts to reflect the social behaviour, flight dynamics and subliminal ‘brushstroke’ patterns of birds in flight. His images often mirror human group dynamics, modes of communication and social interactions.

He was born in County Kildare and studied at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and the Dublin Institute of Technology. From 1989 to 1998 Sheridan lived and worked as an artist in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada and has spent time in the Canadian High Arctic. He returned to Dublin in 1999.

Professor Matthew Turner

Professor Matthew Turner
Matthew Taylor is a Professor in the Physics Department at Warwick University. Along with researchers at the university, he has used mathematical models to unpick how vast flocks of starlings create their mesmerising shapes.

In a computer model of a flock, they built up a series of rules based on what each 'bird' would be able to see in front of it. The model showed that a flock would naturally tend to form at the tightest density that still allows the birds to see in many directions. The team use the term 'Goldilocks' to describe a density that is not too close together, and not too far apart.

Chris Watson

Chris Watson
Chris Watson is one of the world's leading recorders of wildlife and natural phenomena, Born in Sheffield, he was a founding member of the influential Sheffield-based experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire.

His sound recording career began in 1981 when he joined Tyne Tees Television. Since then he has developed a particular and passionate interest in recording the wildlife sounds of animals, habitats and atmospheres from around the world.

As a freelance recordist for film, TV & radio, he specialises in natural history and documentary location sound together with track assembly and sound design in post-production.

Tony Whitehead

Tony Whitehead
Tony, pictured here with presenter Brett Westwood on location at Ham Wall, is Public Affairs Manager for the  South West England Region of the RSPB. He is also a field recordist living in South Devon and you can hear some of his recordings as the starlings erupt from the reed bed in the programme.

Find out Tony's favourite bird and all about his record label Very Quiet Records in this interview with the British Library.

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