Despite the stunning beauty of this phenomenon, it is the starling defence for birds of prey circling observant from a distance.
As the sun sets the starlings start to gather for the night in the reeds – as these migratory birds do every night during a short period of time, before they are heading off to a warmer destination. The phenomenon is called Black Sun.
We are aiming for a spot in Tøndermarsken hoping to experience this beautiful animation. It is an hour before sun set. We are driving in two cars. Three generations on tour with a mission: Starlings. The picnic basket is stuffed with soft drinks and snacks. It is raining a bit, but luckily the weather is not too cold. The grandparents have experienced Black Sun before so they lead the way to where the party will stop for a good chance of Black Sun. The parents and their two children follows with the novelty’s excitement.
To reach the best view as a Black Sun audience we drove across the German border to Aventoft. At Aventoft we were met by other groups of excited spectators with similar equipement prepared to spend the evening in pending excitement. The grandparents say it is a good sign. Some parties have brought their own folding chairs and a glass of wine, others are unpacking the camera gear and getting in position. One party have an expert guide from the local area telling about the Black Sun in details. The overall image from the spectators side is clouds, umbrellas and rainwear but joyful expectation. From this small hillside the view is flat over the reeds contouring the nearest town in the far distance.
At this particular spot in Tøndermarsken, up to 300.000 starlings gather for the night. In Spring and in Autumn, the event takes place every night around sun set over a limited period of time after where they migrate for new locations.
It is quite a spectacular scenario when a huge formation fills in the sky. The image is similar to big fish steams in the water. This Black Sun phenomenon formed in the air is mind-blowing and very musically. Despite the stunning beauty it actually is the starling defence for birds of prey circling observant from a distance.
Link to Wadden Sea National Park website: https://eng.nationalparkvadehavet.dk/experience-the-national-park/black-sun/
Photography by Henrik Hansen & Dea Simonsen
Video & Words by Dea Simonsen