Caught by the River

The Bird Effect Diaries

Ceri Levy | 27th August 2009

The diary of the making of a film. and an on going fascination with birds and their accompanying cast of human characters. By Ceri Levy. Read previous entries here.

Friday July 17th

One of the definite effects of birds has been the feeling that now I can hear again. I live in a tree lined street in London and never heard or noticed the birds particularly. Now I hear the jay, the blackbird, the robin, the wren, the great tit, the blue tit, the long tailed tit, the magpie, the crow, the dunnock and the swifts that wheel incessantly outside our kitchen window. I never knew… but now I do!

Saturday July 18th
Here is a picture of my light reading for the month! Birds, birds and bird people!

Sunday July 19th

This looks like an interesting week with a chance to finally do some filming for the first time in ages. As always it will be just my little DV camera and I but I just want to get something in the can. So much talk and no footage! I hate that! I just want to see a line of tapes in front of me so I can then worry about how to put it all together. No footage, no film.

I am going to see one of the starting blocks for the film on Wednesday, Tim Appleton, who runs the nature reserve at Rutland Water and who also set up Birdfair, with Martin Davies. Birdfair has to be seen to be believed. It is often termed as the Glastonbury for the bird world. 20,000 people will descend upon it this year from Aug 21-23. You can buy binoculars, scopes, birdseed, holidays, art and anything you can think of to do with birds and many that you cannot possibly imagine! Marquees, brass bands, food stalls and beer tents. Lectures, talks, competitions and a probable sighting of Bill Oddie and other luminaries of the wildlife glitterati!

When I first started to talk to people about what the bird world was like and what would make good ingredients for The Bird Effect, Tim Appleton said to me, “Go to Birdfair, you will begin to understand what you are dealing with then.” And he was right. I went and my senses overloaded. A couple of times through the weekend I had to leave the fair and wander on to the reserve and hide away in a hide to regain my senses! I began to realise how vast the bird world was and how many possible stories could be told. It was really too much to assimilate and I left a day early just to try and deal with what I had discovered. I was in bird shock.

A year later, and I feel equipped for Birdfair this time around. I know so much more about my subject than before. I also know a lot more people within that world and I am excited about the prospect of being more of a participant than the last time.

A strand I want to explore in the film is that of the persecution of birds of prey. Often poisoned, shot or trapped in vicious snares by people as diverse as farmers, gamekeepers and pigeon fanciers. Birds of prey have been persecuted for many years leading to many problems for these magnificent creatures. For example, the osprey is a magnificent bird and until 2001 it had not bred in England for 150 years and then a pair bred at Rutland Water. The Osprey Project is now seeing returning ospreys, which are breeding most years and is a fantastic success story. As well as being a great example of bird tourism. Perfect for the film as an example of conservation in action and working well. Last year I was lucky to see an osprey fishing on Rutland Water, and they are quite possibly the greatest fishers of all! They dive bomb in a vertical speedy descent into the water and often reappear with a fish thrashing in their talons but held neatly pointing forwards as it rises into the air defying gravity with the weight of the fish and is quite a superb sight. I was also lucky that the bird in question then performed a show, displaying high in the air with its freshly caught fish hoping to impress all the ladies out there.