Dark Portfolio Finalists | Nature Infocus
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Jamnagar, Gujarat, on the western coast of India, has put itself on the world map as one of the best spots for birdwatchers and photographers alike. The coastal city, with its long shoreline and legion of freshwater lakes, attracts thousands of birds every winter—raptors, waders, ducks, smaller passerine birds and more.

One specific avian stands out from all the rest! Although common and found in huge flocks, Rosy Starlings are a unique avian species that migrate from Eastern Europe and spread across the Indian subcontinent during winter. The most interesting thing about these birds is their murmurations. It is enthralling to watch them swooping and swirling in huge flocks, drawing shape-shifting, dark clouds in the sky. They put up quite the show during dawn and dusk!

Lakhota lake, at the heart of the city, is the most favoured spot of these birds. They get food from its surroundings, and there are plenty of trees to provide shelter. They create the most amazing sight when they trace murmurations around the fort in the middle of the lake. Although the lake is situated in the middle of the city, bustling with traffic and crowded with morning and evening walkers, there is an existing harmony between humans and these birds.

The synchronicity and the way multiple groups merge and disperse make for stunning viewing. One can even sight multiple shapes when they fly in certain specific patterns. Children love finding such patterns! When they ask me how two groups don't collide when they merge head-on, sadly, I don't have a satisfactory answer to give them.

Researchers and scientists aren’t sure why murmurations happen, but they have theories that suggest that this chaotic yet graceful dance might be to confuse and ward off predators. There is a theory that they perform murmurations at dusk to notify all the smaller groups in the surrounding areas to roost together for the night.

During these times when humans and wildlife are engaged in constant conflict, the starlings of Jamnagar are a rare example of human-wildlife harmony. I have been lucky enough to have witnessed their magical murmurations for over two decades, and I hope to introduce them to more people through my photography.

Rosy starling murmuration in lakhota lake
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Starling murmurations usually occur just before dusk. One day, while on my usual morning walk and luckily with my camera in tow, I noticed a large flock in action early in the morning. More unusual was how they were swooping and swirling close to the water, almost like a hovercraft, creating ripples on the lake's surface. I am not sure why or what the reason behind it was, but it was something I had never seen before.
Rosy starlings in Lakhota Lake Jamnagar
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A murmuration almost entirely blankets the fort in the middle of the lake, creating a unique sight that blends natural history and 18th-century architecture!
Pedestrians walking around Lakhota Lake in Jamnagar
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The starling murmurations start on the west side of Lakhota lake and slowly move towards the east end, where they roost. Before they settle in for the night, they take a quick pit stop, taking turns in small groups, on a tree that spreads its branches right above the walking track. The tall trees on the left of the photograph are where they roost and the tree with the naked branches in the centre is where they take a pit stop.
Starling murmuration formations
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Starling murmurations are all the more interesting when they start forming different shapes. This one looks like a pigeon.
Photographing Rosy Starling murmuration
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In the age of social media, people love capturing unique natural history moments like these. Even if only for online clout, I believe it helps more people realise the astounding powers of the natural world.
Fort in Lakhota Lake Jamnagar
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Sometimes starling murmurations continue till very late, even after it's dark. The fort in the middle of the lake, completely lit with lights, does not seem to bother them.
Birdwatching in Lakhota Lake Jamnagar
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The photograph captures a perfect moment, showcasing how the human world and nature survive together.
Rosy Starlings roosting
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The final roosting ground. Here you can see one of the many trees where these birds settle for the night.