Produced by John Downer and narrated by actor David Tennant, this is a brilliant BBC series to follow 'Frozen Planet' albeit from a different perspective, taking a journey across countries and continents through the eyes of birds. Natural world wonders and man-made landmarks form a scenic backdrop to the challenging exploits of the birds and their interaction with one another and non-avian species inevitably encountered. The activity is captured in, (literally), breathtaking sequences by application of advanced photographic techniques conveniently divided into 5 main settings:
NORTH AMERICA: Migrating snow geese wing under The Golden Gate in San Francisco with pelicans, past Alcatraz and the Statue of Liberty ever aware of bald-eagle predators. Film from an eagle's back reveals the stunning Grand Canyon. In California, pelicans encounter dancing devil rays chasing shrimps, later demonstrating their plunge-diving in the company of dolphins in joint pursuit of anchovies. Geese on flight paths over the Mississippi, and cascading Niagara Falls. At Mono Lake against a surreal landscape, Gulls strike into 'billions' of flies (7 calories each),only 60 per day needed.
AFRICA: Cape gannets arrow-dive on the great sardine run. Unfortunately sharks can eat 12 of them in one gulp and whales and dolphins are in competition. Great white killer sharks prey on seals with kelp gulls feeding on leftovers. Eagles fly through the mists of Victoria Falls. Vultures soar over the Serengeti and reef valley above the yearly migrating wildebeest who are at the mercy of crocodiles, lions and vultures. Fish eagles find an amazing S-shaped living island of lesser flamingos. These are filmed in flight to the Kenyan soda Lakes, Nakuru and Borgoria where algae are in plentiful supply. So are baboons and hyenas who are partial to these pink birds. There is a memorable synchronised flamingo dance performed pre-breeding.
EUROPE: Cranes are in flight over the Rock of Gibralter and then in France over the famous white horses of the Camargue, galloping through marshland,even more stunning with slow motion camera work. Over Rome, millions of starlings put on an aerial display to outwit the hungry peregrines. Cranes and geese rise over London almost at touching distance from the screen. At Bass Rock (Firth of Forth) thousands of gannets dive up to 22 metres (in slow-motion) gobbling fish. Swallows are beautifully filmed swooping on mayflies as they emerge from water at dusk. Ospreys and bears fishing in Finland add to the magnificence of the show.
SOUTH AMERICA: At Patagonia, giant petrels shadow killer whales hunting seals to feed off the residue. On the border of Brazil and Argentina, dusky swifts dive through the Igassu Falls to their nests. Humming birds are memorably captured glistening in the sun feeding on nectar and bathing. Condors reign supreme in the Andes, scavenging on the casualties from warring guanacos (llama relatives). The gorgeously coloured scarlet intelligent macaws eat toxic fruit and are elegantly filmed seeking medicinal clay in the Amazonian rain forest as an antacid and vitamin supply. In Peru, condors await the remnants of feuding sea-lions, whilst in Costa Rica, black vultures descend on new-laid turtle eggs in the sand. Eagles also eat spider monkeys. What else?
ASIA AND AUSTRALIA: Amongst the spectacular setting of the Himalayas, Demoiselle cranes battle to negotiate a hazardous 200 mile journey through the mountain passes to India. 5 miles above, bar-headed geese take the easier route (-40 degrees) although prey to eagles and peregrine falcons. In Rajasthan, pigeons feature prominently having adapted to urban life. We are taken with them past palaces and temples, one dedicated to sacred rats! In Australia, rainbow lorikeets and parrots pass Sydney to patrol the Gold Coast. Thousands of white cockatoos raid farms for food. The sight of millions of budgerigars flocking over Ayers Rock is a vividly colourful one to behold. Dodging the cumbersome falcons at the waterhole is remarkable. In China, swallows and swifts visit the magnificence that is the Great Wall of China and the forbidden city of Beijing. In Japan, Japanese cranes are fed fish by the locals as they are a welcome symbol of good luck. Remarkable footage of an amnesty between cranes, red fox and eagles is taken on the ice. Not bothering each other. The common denominator is fish. Japanese cranes dance in the snow performing a balletic courtship dance of striking beauty.
This enterprising series of films is visually stunning. The photography is of the like I have never seen before and seems so extraordinary as to be almost unbelievable. An amazing, unforgettable experience. The narration is, on the whole, appropriate and the sparing use of music appreciated. The technical achievements are so advanced that it is of little surprise (well-publicised) that microlites, paragliders,helicopters were used. Robotic models and tame birds were involved in some shots particularly close-up flights and camera-carrying birds. This may detract some viewer's opinions on the merits of the film but for me it remains a landmark in aerial avian documentary that lends itself to multiple viewings. A 3D edited version is rumoured to be in production. Absolutely wonderful.