“Exceptional, Spooky and Beautiful” Moments With Birds: Dennis Hlynsky’s Creepy Nature Videos

If, by some stretch of the imagination, the end timers have it right, I hope artist Dennis Hlynsky will consider setting up his tripod as demons spew forth from the earth’s crust.

His small brains en masse project has me convinced that he is the perfect person to capture such an event. Have a look at how he documents the comings and goings of birds.

I’ve never experienced a starling murmuration myself, outside of the famous, shot-on-the-fly footage (right above) of Sophie Windsor Clive and Liberty Smith, indie filmmakers who chanced to find themselves in the right canoe at the right time, ornithologically speaking. I admire these young women’s sang-froid. I would’ve been cowering and slashing at the air with my paddles. That funnel cloud of black wings is unnerving even from the safe remove of my living room, but a groovy soundtrack by Nomad Soul Collective encourages even the most bird-phobic amongst us (me) to see it as something gorgeous and awe-inspiring, too.

Hlynsky doesn’t attempt to lead the witness with reassuring sound cues. Instead, he amps up the creepy via “extruded time,” layering sequences of frames atop one another until the darkest pixels become tracers emphasizing flight paths. The combination of everyday sound and visual portent makes it dreadfully easy to imagine one’s truck breaking down at an intersection right around the 7 minute mark.

Perhaps I’ve seen too many zombie movies.

Or have I?

Hlynsky is obviously fascinated by nature, but he also states that “to some degree these videos are studies of mob behavior. Are these decisions instinctual or small thoughtful considerations? Does one leader guide the group or is there a common brain? Is a virus a single creature or a diffused body that we inhabit?”

Put another way, perhaps there’s a reason it’s called a murder of crows, as opposed to a brunch, hug or sweatshirt of crows. Hlynsky, who’s the type of guy to seek their company out, describes his time spent filming them to be among the most “exceptional, spooky and beautiful” moments of his life.

As for these New Jersey seagulls, “throw a french fry in the air and within 30 seconds the entire screech of birds will come.” Yikes. Here, extruded time conspires with the ambient sounds of a boardwalk amusement park, in a tour-de-force of avian-inspired psychic unrest.

Paging Tippi  Hedren… I’m out of here!

Related Content:

The Falcon and the Murmuration: Nature’s Aerial Battle Above Rome

Cornell Launches Archive of 150,000 Bird Calls and Animal Sounds, with Recordings Going Back to 1929

ParaHawking in Nepal: What It’s Really Like to Fly with Birds

Ayun Halliday wishes she had a cat instead of a mean, orange-striped owl. Follow her @AyunHalliday



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  1. Dennis Hlynsky says . . . | January 27, 2014 / 10:46 am

    Thanks for the post. I might add the Murder of Crows on the East Side of Providence frequented the local during the time Poe live in that city. It happens every night and rarely do the citizens look up or out the car window to see the site.

  2. Aaron says . . . | January 27, 2014 / 12:17 pm

    I’m sick and tired of seeing people label something they’re unfamiliar with as spooky or creepy. Learn something about nature people! Example: Passenger Pigeons, before going extinct, where so numerous their flocks flew overhead for two-three DAYS. They blotted out the Sun. It wasn’t spooky or creepy, it was NATURAL. That said, these are great videos, and thank you for sharing.

  3. guillem says . . . | January 27, 2014 / 12:23 pm

    So if you don’t know anything about somethin you automatically say it’s spooky? I mean, those are birds flying. Nature doesn’t get more natural than that. You’re the abnormality, the creature evolved in nature who’s now ignorant and afraid of it.

  4. Greg Kotis says . . . | January 27, 2014 / 2:57 pm

    And I’m sick and tired of pretentious people who label people who they think are labeling things they don’t understand as spooky as abnormal, thereby forcing me to label them as pretentious! Labeling is just so sickening! And Tiresome!

    Love the post, Ayun! Love your work, Dennis!

    Peace!

  5. La Mer says . . . | January 27, 2014 / 3:19 pm

    I’m sick and tired of people getting on their moral high horses about people’s phobias!

  6. Daddy Bachelor says . . . | February 6, 2014 / 12:01 am

    I’m so sick and tired of typing out all the L E T T E R S in this message box, and watching the cursor move across the little white box running away like it’s so scared of the incoming T E X T.

    Also, I’m sick of
    S
    C
    R
    O
    L
    L
    I
    N
    G

    … and of ellipses. I’m so very sic [sic] of spelling errors reported as such in the presss.

    I A M N O T sick of Dennis Hlynsky or his work, and in fact I feel much better having got that out there. New Jersey seagulls are among the best in the biz, world class beach screechers. EN-CORE //

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