The Messenger – good film

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On Saturday afternoon – one of the first warm days of the spring – I headed into London to watch a film in the Barbican. The Messenger is about the threats faced by songbirds – not just in the US and Canada but also in Europe and elsewhere.

It’s a good film and non-birders will probably find it just as compelling as those who, like me, sat through it with a self-generated commentary in their heads of bird names as different species appeared in view or in song.

There are some beautiful, and pretty much unique, images of birds in flight (taken in wind tunnels) and a lot of them in the wild too.  It is a vivid reminder of the fact that birds really are simply stunning – visually, vocally and because of the feats of migration they accomplish.

But life is tough for birds. I was a bit worried when the film started with issues and impacts such as collisions with buildings – probably a bigger issue in the US than in Europe (?) – but it moved on through trapping to the bigger issues of pesticides, land use and climate change. A lot of ground to cover (just like a migratory bird) but the film brought it home.

In the Barbican we had a short panel discussion after the film with Carles Carboneres from RSPB, Dave Timms from FoE and Joanne Jackson who joined us by Skype from Canada who produced the film.

A few thoughts from me:

  • I’d been for a walk on Saturday morning and not heard a Cuckoo – I haven’t heard one at my local patch yet this year. Where are they?
  • there was a brief image of a Passenger Pigeon – is the Turtle Dove following it?
  • the images of Canadian prairie farmland growing canola (oil seed rape) showed basically single criops being grown on a massive scale – how could we expect not to have problems with pests and diseases?
  • footage of Mao’s war against birds – shocking!
  • American warblers are stunning!  I want to be in Ohio for The Big Week (here and here).
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2 Comments

  1. Bog-trotter says:

    At least three cuckoos heard on Thorne Moors yesterday, and three hobbies seen overhead in aerial manoeuvres as they grabbed odonata sp. magic!

    Hope our wintering Hen Harriers are ok in the uplands ....

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  2. TLN says:

    The film was aired in my country last night. Very mixed feelings. If you hear about the problems our migratory birds are facing for the first time, then this was definitely an eye-opener and I understand the positive reviews. If you know more about the extent of the mindless killings, then the film seems to miss a few claws. It was too much oriented towards North-American issues, a little bit about European issues (no mention of 25 mln Mediterranean killings) and nothing about African, Asian or Pacific issues. There were some personal highlights still. Getting an interview (wow!) from an Ortolan-hungry Frenchman shows that there's no shame nor fear. Or the ICARUS initiative - great!
    Of course, it is impossible to get everything into 90 minutes, so a TV-series would be much more appropriate. All in all: I'm still quite content that we have a film like that.

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