Murmuration over Ennell chosen as one of CNN's photos of 2021

The photo of a murmuration of starlings over Lough Ennell that went viral last spring has been included in CNN’s photos of the year.

Award winning sports photographer and Rahugh native James Crombie’s image of a murmuration of starlings in the shape of a bird was chosen as one of photos of 2021 by the American news outlet, alongside images from the assault on the US Capitol, Joe Biden’s inauguration and climate change events from across the globe. The photo had also been chosen by CNN as a photo of the week when it was first published in early March.

Video footage from James’s friend Colin Hogg of the murmuration has also been view hundreds of thousands of times online.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, James said that in a year when there has been a lot more bad news that good, it is great to get "something Irish" and "positive" included with images from across the globe. He also said that he and Colin are delighted to be able to highlight the natural beauty of Westmeath.

"You think you have to go to Antarctica or on safari to Africa to see things like this...but it is all around us," he said.

Before capturing the image on March 2, James and Colin visited Lough Ennell more than 50 times over the course of four months to photograph the tens of thousands of starlings that winter there each year.

They estimate that they spent more than 100 hours at the lake over this period, tracking the birds as they made their way to different locations before they finally struck photographic gold.

James, who was named the Press Photographer of the Year last February said that he and Colin had been involved in a game of “cat and mouse” with the starlings.

“My wife kept asking why we were going again, and I said because there is going to be a good picture in it. I had a few pictures already that I was quite happy with and I said they are good, but there is something else,” he said.

James and Colin have started tracking the starlings again this winter and hope to hold and exhibition of the fruits of their labours next year.