The West Pier
(Click on the images for a large view)
The West Pier in Brighton is probably more famous now than it was in it’s hay day. It opened in 1866 and was the first pier to be Grade I listed in England and Wales. The pier reached its peak attendance between 1918 and 1919, with 2 million visitors. However its popularity began to decline after World War II, when concerts were replaced by a funfairs and tearooms.
It became increasingly derelict following its closure to the public in 1975 and in March and May 2003 two separate fires, both thought to be arson, destroyed most of the remaining structure, leading to English Heritage declaring it beyond repair.
The ruins of the pier are now an iconic, if not rather dangerous, part of Brighton seafront. Every year thousands of starlings make their homes on the rusting structure, and perform the most incredible ‘murmurations’.
It’s basically a mass aerial stunt performed before they roost for the night – thousands of birds all swooping, wheeling and diving in unison. It’s completely breathtaking to witness.
It is not entirely know why they do this. However, grouping together offers safety in numbers – predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird in the middle of a hypnotising flock of thousands.