Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Australia: Land of Parrots

Just a short while ago I had the delight of watching Australia – Land of Parrots on ABC TV. It was a brilliant programme highlighting the behaviour of many of our wonderful parrots. While it didn’t cover all of the parrots of Australia it gave a good coverage of several species.

Eclectus Parrot (female) Adelaide Zoo

Eclectus Parrot (female) Adelaide Zoo

I found the section on the bizarre – and rather unique – breeding habits of the Eclectus Parrots to be quite fascinating. Apparently, the female stays in the nest hollow for many months and the male comes to feed her. Furthermore, the male often mates with several other females in his territory during the breeding season, as does the female. This species is also unusual in that the female is the more colourful of the two.

Eclectus Parrot (male) Adelaide Zoo

Eclectus Parrot (male) Adelaide Zoo

The photos shown above were taken of some captive birds in a walk through aviary in the Adelaide Zoo. This species is quite commonly kept in captivity, though very expensive to buy I believe.

Penguins and Happy Feet

I took my wife to see the film “Happy Feet” yesterday. What a brilliant film with plenty of fun and entertainment throughout. It is infectiously happy with an excellent portrayal of the grand beauty of Antarctica. And I don’t think I will ever regard penguins in quite the same light again.

Purists could deride the film as the poorer for having thousands of penguins dancing and singing their way across the screen. Penguins just do not do that in reality. Loosen up if you are a critic who thinks this – despite the obvious drawbacks, several things stand out which are a definite plus in my mind:

  • From this film the general public will learn quite a number of facts about the life cycle of penguins.
  • People will also learn much about life in Antarctica and its delicate ecosystem.
  • The heavy environmental message laid on thick near the end will make people think – and hopefully act – for the good of all species, not just penguins.
  • Learning about the environment can be packaged in a fast paced, entertaining and fun way.

All the way through I was astonished at how the writers had incorporated so many subtle references and allusions to other things, including other films. In summary, this film could be labelled: “where Sister Act meets Riverdance meets Hillsong* meets calypso.”

Overall rating: 4 stars – a must see film.

*Hillsong: a very large and influential charismatic Christian church in Sydney.

Whooping Cranes

Yes – this blog is supposed to be about Australian birds, I know.

This evening, however, our local ABC Television station showed a programme called “Flying Home” about Whooping Cranes. Scientists are trying to save this endangered species by showing them a new migration route from Wisconsin to Florida. They use various techniques to help the birds act as normally as possible. By training them to follow several ultra light planes to a wintering area in Florida they hope to eventually establish a range of Whooping Crane colonies in separate parts of the country, thus enhancing the survival chances of this species.

It was an interesting documentary with some good photography; what else would one expect from the BBC Natural History Unit? The programme also makes a case against the annual shooting of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, which are not endangered.

The narration, however, was rather appalling. Whoever wrote it deserves a few basic lessons, like being forced to view several hundred hours of David Attenborough’s work.

It is natural to make comparisons with the beautiful semi-fictional movie length “Fly Away Home” which features Canada Geese. While the techniques and photography in both are quite brilliant, that’s where the similarities end. The movie has a tension that makes it compelling viewing. This documentary was, at times, dull enough to induce yawns.

Related article:

UPDATE: these cranes have been in the news again – for the wrong reasons. Recent storms have killed some of the cranes. Read about it here.

Kakadu & Arnhem Land – a DVD review

I have subscribed to the Australian Geographic magazine for many years and enjoy the interesting and varied articles about Australia that they contain. I think that the photography contained in these magazines is brilliant. I particularly enjoy any photos and articles about birds, plants and other aspects of our wonderful flora and fauna.

Special DVD

The last two issues of the magazine have included a bonus DVD produced and presented by Sorrel Wilby. The current issue, which arrived a few days ago, included number 2 in the series and is titled “Kakadu & Arnhem Land.” It covers some of the flora and fauna of this wonderful region of the Northern Territory of Australia. Its main strength, however, is in the coverage of the culture of the local Aboriginal people. The commentary gives one a good introduction to the deep spiritual connection between the Aboriginal culture and the land we know as Kakadu.

The birds and plants of Kakadu

While this new DVD does not specifically cover the vast range of birds and plants present in the Kakadu and Arnhem Land region, it does feature quite a number of species, especially water birds, in several sections. The opening few minutes show quite an array of the birds one can see there. Several species of plants and insects are also featured but this is just a taste of the enormous range of flora and fauna that has been recorded there.

Bonus feature

A special extra bonus on the DVD is a 4 minute feature on photographer David Hancock. He has specialised in photographing the Kakadu and Arnhem Land area. His latest article “Buffalo Rising” – about buffaloes in the Northern Territory – is included in the current issue of the magazine.


This beautiful new DVD will certainly give people a taste of what is to be seen in the Kakadu area. The photography is beautiful and inspiring. The introduction to the spiritual and cultural heritage of the region is interesting. Overall, it will inspire people who have never visited the region to put Kakadu on their “must see” list. Those who have had the delight of already experiencing the region will feel the urge to return.

Birders wanting lots of photos of birds may be disappointed. I would like to have seen more birds featured – but then, this was not intended as just another bird DVD. Its intention was to paint a broader picture, and has indeed, succeeded in doing so.

The main section runs for 52 minutes.

UPDATE January 4th 2008: Back copies of this DVD and others in the same series are currently available from the magazine by ringing 1300 555 176 Monday to Friday during office hours (Australian time).

Update Nov 2013: I’m not sure if these DVDs are still available.