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07Jun2012

Wild Scene Investigation

By Suzanne Yorke, Presenter

The Wild Scene Investigation team was again racing against the clock.   Give three intrepid wildlife investigators eight wildlife mysteries to solve in as many weeks on two continents, and every shot counts.  There are no second chances. 

Raleigh’s riddle: What creature is responsible for strange rooftop noises in the night?  Sleep deprived and desperate for answers, one resident in particular was at his wits end. We narrowed down our suspect list, but the culprit still evaded us.  The night’s reconnaissance would be crucial to our investigation.

Chimney swifts historically roosted in hollowed-out trees.  With the arrival of the European colonists, came the subsequent loss of available roosting sites as forests were cleared for settlement and agriculture.  Remarkably, the swifts adapted.  As the number of homes and towns grew, the swifts began roosting in chimneys.  Sadly, this success story took a turn.  With the modernization of heating systems, fewer new buildings have been built with chimneys, and older chimneys have been capped leaving the chimney swifts with fewer and fewer places to roost. 

Roosting sites are especially important in the fall when the chimney swifts begin their annual migration south from eastern North America to their over wintering territory in the Amazon.  There are only a few short weeks in September when the migrating birds are at their peak in North Carolina.  We were fortunate to be at one of the last large chimneys in downtown Raleigh where the migrating birds roost by the thousands.  Would the swifts roost in the chimney with the camera rig in place? Or would they perceive us as a threat and fly off in search of another roost?

With each passing minute, Dan and Lorne hurriedly secured the last bit of the rig.  The sun crept towards the horizon and thousands of chimney swifts began to congregate, circling high overhead.  Perhaps they sensed the imperative to seek shelter.  In the distance, black, threatening storm clouds inched closer.  I had a bad feeling about this.  We spent so much time devising a rig to best film the swifts that we completely failed to work out a contingency plan for the weather.  A menacing lightning bolt shot out of the cloud.  My stomach turned at the thought of all that expensive gear now securely fastened to the chimney.

This could either go really well, or really, really poorly. 

Wild Scene Investigation premieres on Nat Geo Wild UK every Tuesday from June 12th at 8pm

 

 

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