Tuesday, December 30, 2008
David Attenborough's The Life of Birds
If you haven't seen at least a few parts of David Attenborough's BBC series The Life of Birds, you're really missing something. I realize this series is years old, but you may have missed it.
Through the magic of Netflix, I've been slowly watching the DVDs of the series. So far I've seen the first two discs, which included chapters like "Fishing for a Living," "The Meat Eaters," "The Mastery of Flight," and my favorite so far, "Signals and Songs." Attenborough's fact-filled narration alone is brilliant and insightful, to say nothing of the endearingly hilarious sound of his accented voice saying, "THE Life... of Buhds." LOVE IT. I love him!
He is always sure to identify every bird he shows us (though not necessarily by specific type; for instance, he'll talk about "grebes in North America" without telling us that they're Western Grebes. But this is an anal-retentive birder's complaint). He travels through tropical rainforests in his cute little jungle khaki outfits and roams the icy coasts in sturdy outerwear, sits on the windy tundra getting his hair blown all over the place, gets attacked by a VERY territorial bird who knocks him over at one point, feeds bunches of hummers with a hand-held feeder, lies on a darkened beach watching shorebirds eat--you name it. For an older guy, he's in great shape and he hikes and climbs and crouches with the dexterity (and dirt-under-his-fingernails abandon) of a much younger man. He's like a hipper and soothing-voiced version of Marlin Perkins of Wild Kingdom fame (though I have to credit Perkins and of course Jim Fowler for kindling my absolutely psychotic love of nature and nature shows).
The birds themselves are spectacular: the lyrebird that can mimic a camera shutter sound complete with motordrive, the cock-of-the-rock and its spectacular plumage, sunbitterns and their crazy wings-out threat display, fieldfares who dive-bomb a raven and try to cover him with their poop (which could ground him and get him killed, BTW) to get him to leave their area. Attenborough covers the evolution of birds, mating, raising young, flight, eating, behavior--in short, everything you want to know about birds in general as well as specifics about a huge number of birds the world over.
If you haven't seen this series, WATCH IT. Especially if you've always dreamed of going to Peru or Costa Rica or Africa but couldn't afford it.
WARNING: the following is only for extreme bird-nerds and avian-kooks like me; You know who you are. I have to confess that I've been watching the episodes while holding my Birds of the World and both my eastern and my brand-new western Peterson's field guides; each time Attenborough mentions a new bird, I look it up, figure out specifically what type it is, note its geographical range, and read more details about it. (I warned you.)
Best yet, I checked it out on Amazon and it's only $34! Add to cart, baby. Add! to! cart!
I leave you with a completely unrelated photo: I saw these beautiful clouds while I was out this afternoon and couldn't resist. They almost look like lenticular clouds that form over mountaintops.
Note: More New River potential lifers posts coming up. Been kinda distracted of late, and my mind's just not fully on the birds.