Saturday, 4 February 2012

BBC Filming at Umzumbe Swallow Roost

Text and photos by Andy Ruffle

UK TV Presenter Michaela Strachan and a BBC film crew, visited the Umzumbe Swallow Roost on Friday afternoon 3rd February. They were there to film an insert for a one off wildlife special 'Winterwatch', which is due to be aired in the UK on 19th February on BBC2.
(Was actually transmitted on 22nd february 2012 at 21h00). The programme will feature Andrew Pickles ringing the Barn Swallows.
The shoot location, chosen by the crew, was not Andrew's usual ringing spot and involved crossing the Umzumbe River by foot to get closer to the actual roost, there not being any access by road.

Filming started at around 4pm with an interview, followed by shots of Michaela assisting Andrew with putting up the nets.

It would normally take Andrew about 10 minutes to put up the nets, but due to the filming process this seemed to take an eternity and the light was fading rapidly. With the nets finally erected, we just had to wait and hope the swallows would do their stuff.

Andrew with Michaela during a welcome lull
whilst we waited for the swallows to arrive
We were not to be disappointed with swallows bouncing into the nets at an alarming rate. So much so that Andrew had to call it a day early to ensure we didn't catch more birds than we could handle. Unfortunately, by this time the light conditions were not good for photographing the spectacle.
While the crew were still filming Andrew taking swallows out of the nets, Ivan, Eric Kok and myself frantically worked behind the scenes to remove and bag as many birds as possible before the last glimmers of light disappeared.

Final shots before concluding filming for the night
With the nets dismantled, 50 Barn Swallows in bags and a Fiery-necked Nightjar calling, we made our way back across the Umzumbe River, keeping a watch for any reflections of eyes in the river.
The next morning, filming continued with Andrew actually ringing and releasing the previous night's catch.

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