Production for Bluebird Man has started out with a bang! The Wild Lens team returned from British Columbia yesterday evening after a successful 4-day shoot with our neighbors in Canada. We captured some amazing footage of Western Bluebirds, documented the North American Bluebird Society’s perspective on bluebird conservation, spent a day in the field with a PhD student studying Western Bluebirds, and also a day with the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia. Overall we had a busy and productive trip.
We spent Monday and Tuesday with North American Bluebird Society (NABS) president Sherry Linn who resides near the Okanagan Valley of south-central British Columbia. Sherry provided us some fantastic perspective regarding the history, mission, and goals of NABS and bluebird conservation. We were also able to capture great Western Bluebird scenes along Sherry’s own bluebird trail (she has over 10 boxes on the property). Providing NABS and other groups with a tool to excite and inspire the next generation of bluebird conservationists is one of our top priorities, and gaining their perspective was vital to our film. We thank them for their continued cooperation: what a fantastic organization they have been to work with thus far!
Wednesday we took a brief break from bluebirds and spent a day in the field with Lauren Meads of the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of British Columbia. Lauren has been filming for Wild Lens since 2012 and graciously allowed us to bunk at her house during our trip (thanks Lauren!). A Burrowing Owl re-introduction and captive breeding program was initiated in British Columbia after being extirpated (or locally extinct) in the 1980s. Populations in BC are slowly growing, however Burrowing Owls are still an endangered species and Lauren works to raise captive birds to be re-introduced to the wild. Wild Lens has been assisting Lauren in creating a video the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC can use to help inform and educate people about the plight of Burrowing Owls in Canada. By spending a day in the field with Lauren, we were able to capture some additional footage we can use for this piece, as well as give Lauren some useful filmmaking tips.
Thursday found us back on the bluebird trail as we accompanied Queens University PhD student Catherine Dale for a day of bluebird research. Catherine is studying the Western Bluebirds of the Okanagan Valley. This population of bluebirds is unique in Canada in that a proportion of the population remains in the valley year-round, surviving the cold winter eating mainly berries from Russian Olive trees. Catherine is trying to determine why some birds stay for the winter, and what reproductive advantages they may gain from surviving the cold BC winters. During the breeding season, many of Catherine’s bluebird boxes are along the edges of vineyards as the Okanagan Valley has over 200 wineries, and this is where we spent most of our time. What a beautiful landscape to be able to conduct bluebird research in, we were certainly in awe.
Catherine was attempting to trap male bluebirds to determine if they were individuals that had wintered in the area, or migrated south for the winter. She was also collecting samples for some Isotope work, which can help determine where a bird has spent the winter by analyzing the chemistry of the nutrients they store in their body from the food they eat. We spent several hours with Catherine attempting to call in male bluebirds to boxes with a Western Bluebird decoy and song playback. Placed in front of the box was a mist-net that will ensnare a bird that flies into it. After several unsuccessful attempts, we managed to trap two adult male bluebirds. A pretty good day all-in-all!
With production of Bluebird Man underway, we look forward to filming in Idaho, where our main story will take place. Sunday we will spend our first day of the season with Al Larson, the inspirational subject of our film. Tomorrow we will be traveling out to the Owyhee Mountains, and we look forward to capturing the energy and enthusiasm of his first visit to the remote mountain region where he grew up. This will mark the beginning of his 36th season of bluebird monitoring. Astounding!
Tags: bluebird man, bluebird trail, Burrowing Owl, NABS, okanagan valley, webisodes, western bluebird