Bird’s-Eye View

How the world looks from inside the flock.

(Michael W. Richards)

Scarlet Macaw

(John Downer)

Downer’s team captured their footage in a variety of ways. “We experimented with ultra-lightweight onboard cameras with custom-built bird harnesses and camera mounts that reduced vibration to a minimum,” he writes. “Working with trained, or “imprinted,” birds we were able to have them fly over, under and alongside microlights, paragliders, boats, trucks and cars and, in one case, a specially modified trailer. We developed novel camera platforms and associated kit—programmable model helicopters that were more like military drones, and model gliders designed to work like the birds themselves, flying in the thermals right in among the flocks. We had full-sized helicopters with gyro-stabilised HD cameras and ultra-long zoom lenses to capture the overall spectacle, as well as full-size gliders that followed the birds along their migration path. Above all, what remained key to this new approach were the heroic birds that would fly alongside the cameras and even carry them.” In this photo, a scarlet macaw flies over the Manu River in Peru.

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