Have you ever witnessed a starling murmuration? I used to see small ones when I lived in Battersea. They would swoop up from under the bridge and swirl around the sky. But one day I'd love to see a giant murmuration...
In January I was inspired to create a drawing of a starling murmuration based on some Instagram Stories of the real thing by Sas Petherick and Julia Hodgson. It is funny how some drawings come to mind and when I try them, they just work. This starling murmuration sketch was one of those.
What are murmurations?
According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, starling murmurations happen at dusk above the birds' roosting sites and just before they head to sleep. It is thought the gathering of up to 100,000 birds helps protect them from predators and gives them the opportunity to exchange information about the best feeding sites. Murmurations start to form from as early as September and throughout the following weeks the starlings gather in number until they are a huge mass of swirling shapes in the sky.
Thanks to the website 'Starlings in the UK' there is a map of roosting sites and recent murmuration sightings in Great Britain you can use to find a flock of nearby starlings: www.starlingsintheuk.co.uk/roost-map
As a British folk music fan (I love how it reflects the landscape and the stories of ordinary people), I was recently listened to the episode of Radio 2's Folk Show when Kitty Macfarlane was performing live in the studio. Her mix of evocative music and lyrics, her love of nature and learning about the world (her song Glass Eels has lots of science in it!) made me feel I'd found a kindred spirit. Kitty's music is inspired by the landscape of Somerset, where she grew up. Starling Song captures the wonder of a murmuration above the Avalon marshes.
"The sun of fading creatures shivers with your heartbeat, they fly over the stories held in the peat, telling their own. Wingbeats the rush in a seashell or a hum in the maize or the mutter of pages turned in haste.."
- from Starling Song by Kitty Macfarlane
Starling murmuration love letter
For every month of 2019 I hope to create some original artwork for the we are stardust shop. This was part of a promise to myself to let go a bit and remember to enjoy the process of creating. In the last year, I'd often not start a drawing or painting for fear it may not be 'good enough'. A piece of artwork each month feels manageable and enough of a nudge to keep me creating (I have recently discovered I need deadlines for me to get things done).
In January, my heart shaped starling murmuration sketch found its way to a new home just one hour after it was put into the shop - a happy surprise! It was hard to part with my starling flock. I haven't ever sold original artwork before - all my drawings and paintings are hoarded at home, safe from exposure. It feels freeing to finally try letting them go into the world. I hope you enjoy seeing what I create this year too.
Although the original is now with it's new owner, I did manage to capture the starling murmuration sketch with my scanner before the starlings flew to their new home. I hope to create some cards and prints with this illustration in time for wedding season.
In the meantime, I have created a free love letter download in time for Valentine's Day (or Galentine's Day - a wonderful alternative where women let each other know how fabulous they are). I hope you enjoy creating the love letter - please tag @wearestardustuk (Twitter and Instagram and Facebook) in any social media photos you take!