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A strange sound, loud and alarming broke through my concentration this morning as I was reading the news on my computer, and almost simultaneously a dark cloud obscured my view of the water.

WHOOOOOOSH! My first thought: some kind of whirlwind. My second, and more terrifying: fire rushing through the olive trees. Not yet having had the stimulus of sufficient caffeine, the brain was not exactly flying along, so it took a few seconds to register that we were totally enveloped by birds. Talk about du Maurier! Eat your heart out, Hitchcock!

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The starlings numbered in the tens of thousands, so dense that my eye could not initially distinguish an individual bird. Poor Retsina was flung off my lap as I leapt up to grab the camera, yelling out to a rather bewildered Ron. We dashed from window to window while the flock swirled and whirled about the property, above the forest, over the water, up the valley and across the hills. The birds twittered and tweeted, chittered and chirped in a sweep of sound that altered with each massive, spiralling swoop.

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The sight was stunning. It can be described in no other way. The flock moved as one, altering direction at mind-numbing speed, with a precision that a choreographer would envy. No missteps. Patterns in the sky that our cameras couldn’t capture fast enough. Loops, whorls, circles, ovals, arabesques, weaving the patterns of a Paisley shawl in darker and lighter concentrations of birds – a swelling symphony of shape and sound.

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The ballet continued for about ten minutes, then dissolved as quickly as it had appeared. We composed ourselves, made tea, soothed Raki who had been much perturbed by the commotion. Suddenly, an encore! It lasted a full twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of aerial performance, interspersed by some starlings taking a brief break to settle in the olives, or to peck about the ground.

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Then they swept away, leaving us stunned by the murmuration.

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