Earth Flight (BBC 2011)

Six one hour segments about birds and their habitats and migratory patterns throughout the world. The narration by David Tennant and the music are both just fine. However, the video quality is something the likes of which I have never before seen on any screen, projected or otherwise. The definition of this video seen on a 51″ plasma screen from a distance of 7 or 8 feet is positively astounding. Particularly with Blu-Ray. The first five programs are on birds of six continents: North America, Africa, Europe, South America, Asia and Australia. The sixth episode shows details of how these extraordinary images were produced.

This may be the most astounding nature documentary I’ve ever seen. OK, Mr Attenborough is absent. But that said, the cinematography is truly groundbreaking at times. And at other times, it’s downright psychedelic! I’ve seen “Winged Migration” (2001) which is good, but this goes beyond anything I have seen. There are some shots taken from mini-cameras mounted on the backs of the birds giving you a real bird’s-eye view. It is breath-taking to glimpse what these most ethereal creatures survey on their daily sojourns across our planet.

In “North America,” we witness a flock of pelicans following a school of dolphins to take diving cues for fish. The pelicans, whose beaks can hold up to 10 liters of water, let the dolphins do the work for them, taking advantage of the fish they find. At Bracken Cave in Texas, red tail hawks go after some 20 million bats. In spite of the great odds, the bats prove a challenge to the younger hawks, as they are more adept at maneuvering than they are. It is the largest gathering of mammals in the world, captured in great detail by the BBC’s cameras. They make us feel as if we are there without interfering with nature’s natural processes.

In “Africa,” we find other birds, in this case Cape Gannets, chasing dolphins looking for food. The birds can dive up to 20 meters down, looking for sardines. By driving the dolphins there with them, it causes the dolphins to attack the sardines, making the fish easier for the gannets to catch. The incredible camera footage allows the viewer to see the gannets diving into the water to catch the fish from the gannet’s perspective, giving a unique view of this event. Similarly, vultures rely on sea lions to catch food, scavenging the remains. It is a way these birds have adapted to ensure food is plentiful for them. “Europe” begins with thousands of storks leaving Africa for their breeding grounds in Europe.

The birds need rising currents of hot air, but, as we learn, that is difficult over water. Luckily for them, the Princess Island creates the thermals needed for the birds to make the journey for if the stork’s wing touches the water, it will fall in and drown, making their journey a dangerous one indeed. We are able to witness peregrine falcons hunting starlings over Rome. The starlings are in formation, forming an incredible display and, in spite of the falcon’s efforts, manage to escape. The starlings stay in the city during the winter, but breed in Siberia. The documentary provides incredible close-ups of male storks in Germany, who have just arrived from South Africa. The birds remember their nests, which have often been in their families for generations, and prep them for the arrival of the females.

Here the BBC manages to get footage from the nests themselves, as well as aerial shots of the birds catching feathers in mid air to soften their nests. The level of detail shown by the filmmakers is outstanding throughout. In “South America,” we learn that condors, which, at times, travel over 100 miles for food, use caracara birds as their official food testers. These intelligent condors won’t scavenge the remains of an animal until the caracaras eat it first and they know it is safe. Scarlet macaws in the rainforest look for fruits to eat, but find poisonous berries that are not to their liking. Fortunately for them, there are clay banks, which when eaten, provide soothing qualities for their stomachs. Their hunt for the clay is not an easy one, however, as they encounter spider monkeys, a tapir, and a jaguar along the way.

All along, the camera is right there with the viewer, making it feel as if he or she is part of the flock. It is a rare sight for most to encounter these animals in their natural habitats, making these images all the more exciting. In “Asia and Australia,” we visit Mehrangarh Fort in India, where hundreds of pigeons use the fort’s many cubbyholes for shelter against attacking buzzards. As the buzzards can dive at speeds up to 100 mph, the pigeons need to be resourceful to survive. Meanwhile, we are able to witness the mating routines of parrots in Australia’s Gold Coast and to say they are silly would be an understatement. Similarly, we are able to witness the courtship dance of the Japanese Crane in remarkable proximity. Once a species with only 33 members, today they number over 1,200 thanks to the Japanese people feeding and caring for these revered birds. This series took four years to complete. It goes without saying I highly recommend you grab this dvd set or download it from somewhere.

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Comments

  1. This doco sounds amazing, I’ll definitely be adding this to my to-watch list. Excellent review as always! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you too. 🙂

    Like

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