From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
Black Sun Phenomenon / 4 April 2003
Starlings on nature’s own big screen: “Black Sun” season is here once
again. Birdwatchers are flocking to see millions of starlings perform
their beguiling migratory patterns on the dusky Jutland horizon, every
night for the coming weeks.
Last call for the “Starling Express”
Popular interest in the “Black Sun” phenomenon–the migratory patterns
of millions of starlings, which block out the springtime sun–has
exploded. The phenomenon has become so popular that organizers could
easily have sold 50,000 tickets for a special arrangement staged by
national railway company DSB and the National Forest and Nature Council
last week in Tønder Marsh.
There were just 275 seats available in a special train from Copenhagen,
with 10,000 people calling in to reserve anywhere from two to 10
tickets in advance. Most were turned away.
The starlings are en route from their winter habitat in Southern
Europe, to their summer mating homes up North. Flocks of the haunting
birds stop over in Tønder Marsh, to gather energy for the final leg of
their long flight. Starling flocks can be found in several places in
Denmark, but the largest concentration is located in the Jutland Marsh.
According to the Forest and Nature Council, some 1.2 million starlings
can be found in the marsh region at this time of year.
Beyond the 275 lucky ticket holders on the Starling Express, many
locals are keen followers of the Black Sun phenomenon, making their way
into the marsh in droves at sundown.
The Black Sun
The show begins discreetly. Smaller flocks of starlings fly in advance
of the giant surge, with gradually larger groupings following in line.
Suddenly, the rustle of a million starling wings can be heard in
flight, and the haunting formation of birds dominates the field of
vision. The sky is darkened momentarily by the rush of birds–the
“black sun.” As the birds move closer together, heading downward into
the nearby forestland, the horizon fades to gray.
Spectators of the great starling wave say it beats any opera
performance–and what’s more, this show plays to a packed house every
night from mid-March to mid-April.