Thursday, August 20, 2009

Filmmaker Visit

We have been graced this past month by visits from some illustrious naturalists. First came Michael Male, who with his wife Judy Fieth creates absolutely amazing films about nature. We know them mostly from their work with birds (their eastern warbler video is soon to be followed by a western warbler DVD that is mouthwatering).

Here is Michael with a camper top of his own design and construction. It reminded me of the enormous snow plow blades you see on the front of locomotives in North Dakota. Imagine making your own camper. He confessed that it's very heavy and probably overbuilt, being made of marine plywood. Still. Anyone who can custom build a truck topper with a queen-sized bed and a pop-up top and tons of storage has my immediate respect. Just thinking of doing it in the first place gets major points with me.


Michael has spent the summer in North Dakota, filming ducks in the pothole region where they court, breed and raise young. He went out to North Dakota the same time we did, and he's only just come home! To do his filming, he made a huge floating blind with a shelf all around the inside. He wore waders that go up to his chest, climbed in the blind, and kind of walked it around the edges of the ponds as he made his groundbreaking films. It was a very cold, wet summer in North Dakota, and his was very cold, wet work. I thought he probably needed a couple of really nice meals and a comfy bed with some headroom, so we made that happen.

Watching some clips of wild ducks pottering around on the water, I felt like a louse on a duck's back; they are that close up and that sharp. They are just breathtaking. It's rare to see a film that takes you so completely into a creature's world. Michael has worked with David Attenborough and the BBC and National Geographic, so he's on a level most wildlife cinematographers hope to attain.

Mether, this would be a boring photo without me, Chet Baker, to spice it up. So here I am, on Michael's lap.

I wish I had something to show you. You can just make out the ducks on his laptop screen in this photo. They more than fill the frame. You could see their duck eyelashes. To see some of Michael and Judy's work, go to their website,

Michael had the most fun with ruddy ducks, and his series on bubbling male ruddies (they very rapidly duck their heads and beat their breasts with bright blue bills, making a fountain of bubbles in the process) just blew me away.

Chet Baker was his usual hospitable self, making sure Michael's blood pressure was nice and low for the ride home.


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