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  • Garth McElroy

BBC Filming - Sapsuckers and Hummingbirds


During the spring and summer of 2015 I was fortunate enough to work on a BBC nature series entitled "Earth's Greatest Spectacles". It's a three part series and one of the episodes focusses on the changing seasons of New England. Through a series of fortunate events I was contacted by wildlife film maker and friend Michael Male who was looking for a yellow-bellied sapsucker nest to film for the series. Luckily, our yard is host to sapsuckers every year. They love to use our birch trees for their sap wells and usually nest nearby.

Basically the scene was scripted as such: The sapuckers arive back on their breeding grounds as the trees awaken from their winter slumber, ruby-throated hummingbirds follow the sapsuckers and utilize their sap wells as an early food source, the sapsuckers build a nest and raise their chicks, their chicks fledge and breeding is complete. The director specifically wanted interior shots of the nest and chicks as well as the sapsuckers feeding at sap wells and interacting with ruby-throated hummingbirds. This was certainly a challenge but luck was on our side once again. I located a sapsucker nest about 300' feet from my house 30' up in an aspen tree. Now the fun really began. It took a lot of head scratching, and several trips for supplies, but we were able to devise and build a platform system so we could film the birds and their nest comfortably and safely. It was a huge plus that the nest was close enough to the house, and we were able to run electricity to the platforms to operate the camera and all the lights needed for filming. By the time it was all setup were literally had a film studio 30" up a tree. For the camera nerds out there all the filming was done with a Red Epic Dragon 6k.

Amazingly, the birds were unfazed by our presence and the bright lights. As long as we kept motion to a minimum they came and went without giving us a second thought. This was a big relief to us as we didn't want to cause them any undue stress with our presence. We were careful to do construction and other activity while they were out gathering food for the chicks.

Check out the gallery below for some images of the platforms, birds etc.:

All the hard work paid off and the final footage was spectacular. The film aired in the UK last year and will be airing in the US at some point under the name "Seasonal Wonderlands". I'm not sure when or on what network. You can also view the whole series on YouTube including the New England episode. The sequences with the sapsuckers and hummingbirds were the ones we filmed in my yard. You can view that here:

I truly enjoyed the whole experience and learned so much from my friend Michael. Keep in mind the sheer amount of time that went into getting these clips. Probably close to a month of filming over the spring and summer. All boiled down to a couple segments! So the next time you watch a nature film think about all the hard work that is going on behind the scenes and the dedication it takes to get that amazing footage!

#BBC #yellowbelliedsapsucker #nest #chicks #rubythroatedhummingbird #wildlifefilm #earthsgreatestspectacles #behindthescenes #SeasonalWonderlands #behindthescene #reddragon6k

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