The songbirdSOS experts talk about International Migratory Bird Day

On Saturday, May 10 2014 thousands of birders across the globe will be celebrating International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). We checked in with the experts we interviewed in the film to see what they are doing on this special day.

Robert Rice is the acting director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Centre, which founded International Migratory Bird Day in 1993 in Washington, DC. The event has grown to involve more than 700 events in North America each year. This year, Robert will be going to the Okanagan Valley’s Meadowlark Festival to give a keynote address at the opening event.

In Northern Alberta Erin Bayne is too busy with his fieldwork deep in the Boreal forest to plan anything out of the ordinary for Migration Day.  This spring field season involves coordinating fourty people with work like setting up recording devices, banding for migration studies, and teaching new students about banding, telemetry and behavioural observations.

Ornithologist Bridget Stutchbury will be spending the day with her husband Gene (also an ornithologist) birding around their farmhouse in northern Pennsylvania. She has been trying to attract her favourite bird, the Purple Martin, to the property for years and usually goes to the Purple Martin Conservation area in Erie, Pennsylvania to get her fix. The species’ natural habitat is tree cavities, which are very scarce, so Bridget built a birdhouse colony in hopes that they will thrive in the area. Bridget spotted a Purple Martin on April 6, her earliest sighting yet.

Everyday is Bird Day for Bill Evans. He works on his nocturnal monitoring project every day of the year. Each morning this spring, Bill has been analyzing migration flight calls gathered from six recording stations. Peak migration season is fast approaching, so this is an especially exciting time for his team. On Saturday, Bill will be doing his normal daily routine: crunching bird call data from across the continent to put online on his site OldBird.

Andrew Farnsworth has a busy day of birding in New York City planned for Saturday. The night before, he will be watching weather radar to see how migration is proceeding across the United States. If the skies are clear and the winds are southerly, he will be listening to flight calls in the early morning hours. He will be in New Jersey just after dawn, birding in the DeKorte, Liberty and Secaucus areas, and perhaps to Rumson and Sandy Hook. Later in the afternoon he’ll hit Central Park.

The team at the Aras Bird Banding Station in Turkey has a very busy day planned; they will be banding and releasing birds for an audience of children, students, and members of the public. The district’s director of conservation will also be there. Cagan Sekercioglu, the director of the Aras Conservation would normally be there but he is getting married!

SongbirdSOS heads to Germany

SongbirdSOS is heading to Europe for some final spring shooting. Director Su Rynard left for Paris this week to meet up with her crew from Films a Cinq. While there she will be on the look-out for European songbirds and then go bird-watching in a German forest with music composer Dominik Eulberg. Eulberg is an electronic music artist and popular German DJ who has reconciled his love of ornithology with his talent, skill and experience in techno music. Internationally known for his work, he has released numerous singles as well as full-length albums on Traum Schallplatten and Cocoon Recordings. Described as the “a raving ornithologist from the Westerwald”, Eulberg’s fascination with birds means he not only uses bird sounds in his compositions but he also works as a park ranger in some German national parks.

After experiencing a dance club event with Eulberg’s music, Su and the crew will head south to the Konstance Lake area to meet with Dr. Martin Wikelski.  Wikelski is a world-renowned behavioural ecologist at the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology.  He is researching the conservation of birds and small animals by studying how and why individual animals decide to go on the treacherous migratory journeys and secondly by educating the public about migration as a global phenomenon.   He is also developing an incredible app titled Movebank.

Wikelski was formerly at Princeton in the USA and he is now a leading scientist involved with the ICARUS project, a global undertaking with more than 100 biology laboratories across 17 countries.  With a team of dedicated scientists and engineers, he is working towards the miniaturization of live GPS tracking devices so they will be small enough for songbirds.   This means that in the future there is a real possibility we may be able to see the movements of songbirds during migration with real time  monitoring from the International Space Station.

Touring Costa Rica to film the birds

For our  February location filming for SongbirdSOS in Costa Rica, our crew decided to try a different camera kit and use  some special lenses.  We rented the Canon C-300 camera kit from DJ Woods in Toronto as the main camera.    We also had two extra special super telephoto lenses and a C-100 with us.    Lugging the extra camera gear was definitely worth it and we believe the final on-screen results will be appreciated by all the bird-watchers who see the film.

Logistically Costa Rica is a bit of a challenging place to film so Director Su Rynard and Videographer Joshua See traveled in advance of the main crew (DOP Daniel Grant and Location Audio Operator Jason Milligan), and drove to  scout the pre-selected filming locations, trying to find neo-tropical migrant songbirds on  their wintering grounds.

When Daniel and Jason’s flight arrived in San Jose a few days later,  Su and Joshua picked them up and made the scenic (but slow) drive back to the agricultural area where most of the ‘in-situation’ filming was taking place.   One stop along the way was Café Christina.  It is an amazing oasis with bird friendly coffee grown on the premises.  The crew was delighted to see a Chestnut- sided Warbler (on a coffee plant)  Tennessee Warbler,  Golden-winged Warbler and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

It is really is astounding to think these birds make the perilous migratory journey twice a year from their breeding grounds in northern Canada and the USA to the tropics.

Special thanks to the great staff at CATIE Agricultural Centre,   Biologists Alejandra Martinez Salinas and and Jacques Avelino,   as well as the wonderful Ernesto Carmen who is a great birder and was our amazing guide from Café Christina.


Songbird SOS Wins Best Feature Doc Pitch At Sunny Side Of The Doc

Songbird SOS has won the pitch competition in the ‘Best International Programming Showcase (BIPS)’ Feature Doc category at the 23rd edition of the Sunny Side of the Doc in La Rochelle, France.

Director Su Rynard pitched Songbird SOS to an enthusiastic crowd of commissioning editors and participants.

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