Friday, 24 October 2014

8 reasons NOT to miss Wonders of The Monsoon episode 4

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8 Reasons NOT to miss Wonders of The Monsoon on Sunday...

If you think you know what the monsoon is then think again….
Meet Giant Leeches, Monstrous Pitcher Plants, The World’s Smallest Bird of Prey, Deadly Butterflies, Lip-Smacking Monkeys, Thermal Nesters and an ancient festival of offering to the volcano god... and you can see me and cameraman Richard Kirby face the 'Mountain of Giants'

1. Giant pitcher plant enticing a mountain shrew... 

2. Lip-Smacking Black Macaques
3. Mega Volcanic Eruptions
4. Giant monster leech sucking giant worm
 5. World's smallest bird of prey
 6. Toxic caterpillars devouring
 7. Big nosed Proboscis monkeys
 8. Termites on the rampage

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

How the cute Indian desert foxes were filmed #WondersofTheMonsoon

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For Wonders of The Monsoon we were the first BBC wildlife series to feature the incredibly cute Indian Desert Fox as seen in episode 3 'The Drought'. But to film this adorable sequence meant that producer Nick Lyon and Cameraman Barrie Britton, had to spend a month working in harsh conditions and searing desert heat in Rann of Kutch, India. 

“It was worth it to tell their story” said Nick, ”but I can understand why they’ve never been filmed before.” “First of all its incredibly difficult to find their dens, we had to rely on the local knowledge of a tracker Samad Khan, who spent several months searching.”

And if finding them was tough, filming them was to be a test of endurance for Nick and Barrie. “Indian desert foxes survive in conditions that make for extremely uncomfortable filming. We'd spend up to 12 hours a day cramped in small hides out on the exposed salt pan with temperatures reaching more than 40degreesC.”

The fact that foxes survive out here at all might seem surprising, but like British foxes, these desert foxes are incredibly versatile. “I particularly enjoyed seeing how our wild desert foxes in India showed the same ingenuity as red foxes in the UK.” said Nick :Whilst being accomplished hunters they will never turn down a free meal." “There was a salt mine nearby and the adult foxes would watch large trucks trundle past and then check the network of dirt tracks for an unlucky rabbit in the headlights.”

(Photo: Kalyan Varma who was part of the BBC crew)
 (Photo: Kalyan Varma who was part of the BBC crew)
(Photo: Kalyan Varma who was part of the BBC crew)

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Pigs on a beach - Bornean bearded pigs with a taste for seafood.

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Just before starting work on 'Wonders of The Monsoon' my wife and I visited Bako National Park in Borneo on our honeymoon. The sun was setting, the tide was out and we were having a BBQ on the beach. Suddenly a group of bearded pigs appeared from the forest heading for our sausages. We had to change our dining plans. However I followed a large male as he headed on to the beach. I was curious as he moved his snout over the sand, like a metal detector. When he reached a large crab burrow he hovered for a while, as if assessing whether or not its resident was home. Sometimes he would pass over the burrow, but often he would dig down with his snout snatching a crab and crunching it before proceeding to the next. Occasionally a terrified crab would leap out of the burrow, just miss the pigs jaws, and run off down the beach... with the pig in pursuit. 

Back in the Monsoon office we decided that pigs on a beach would be an interesting behaviour to film, something which has never been documented before. This reveals how the ingenuity of bearded pigs helps them to seek out a wide variety of food, including sea food, during the dry season, when the fruit supply in the forest is much lower.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Wonders of The Monsoon 'The Drought' gif gallery

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Episode 3 Wonders of the Monsoon 'The Drought' 
BBC2 Sunday 19th Oct
Visit the BBC Programme page here
Also the NEW BBC Earth site for exclusive Monsoon stories

This week...

The world's biggest wild leopard roaring...

Testosterone fuelled black buck duelling...

80,000 budgies flocking...

Baby Elephant playing...

Camels Running...

Camel Chewing...

Desert Fox playing peek-a-boo...

Ghost crab feeding...

Vulture squawking... 

Tough Vulture...

A wild fire...

...and Bearded Pigs fighting

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Magical moon halo over Medirigiriya Vatadage, Sri Lanka

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We had arranged to spend the night at Medirigiriya Vatadage, to capture timelapses of the stars passing overhead. It was a beautiful night made even more magical by a perfect moon halo. 

Here are a few of the timelapses that Rolf Steinman and I captured in the Sri Lankan temples (playable only the UK).

Budgie Tornado - Wonders of The Monsoon

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Budgie Tornado - as featured in 'The Drought', episode 3 of Wonders of The Monsoon.

It had been an extremely hot dry season and I hoped to find one of the outbacks greatest, and most unpredictable, natural spectacles, one that only occurs every few years and might only last a few days. After many weeks of searching, we eventually located a potential waterhole outside the town of Alice Springs in central Australia. It was dawn and as the sun rose we could see black amorphous clouds building on the horizon, these were budgerigars. The clouds grew bigger, moving closer towards me. Within minutes the air was electric with the beats of more than 80,000 tiny pairs of wings. It was a budgie tornado - they had found water, but it wasn’t long before the raptors arrived.

Here's what we filmed... (sorry but only viewable in the UK)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Wonders of the Monsoon - Deluge #GifGallery

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In episode 2 of 'Wonders of the Monsoon' we bring you...

The planets biggest animal taking a dive...
A young elephant playing with it's food...
Monkeys splashing...
 A snakebird in training...
 ...and a frog orgy!

With a whisper on the wind, pre-monsoon showers come to Thailand. Assamese macaque monkeys play in the waters and gorge themselves on a monsoon delicacy of water snails.

To the west, in India, huge banks of cloud roll in, heralding four months of incessant rain. The rains trigger a dramatic response. Male Indian common toads are transformed yellow-gold for just one day. It is their big chance to mate. Within days, insects are everywhere. New filming techniques show, for the first time, how mosquitoes survive the impacts of a giant raindrops. Fresh grass draws nomads and their vast herds of livestock back to their homelands. But they are stalked by hungry wolves and hyenas, which move in at night for the kill.

In the far northeast of India, exceptional rain from the Bay of Bengal combines with meltwater from the Himalayas to create catastrophic floods in the river Brahmaputra. It floods Kaziranga National Park, forcing a herd of elephants to make the perilous journey across a busy road and come into conflict with humans before they can reach the safety of the hills.

In Cambodia, the Mekong swells so much that water is forced backwards up its tributary, the Sap, to fill the vast Tonle Sap lake - one of the most productive freshwater fisheries on earth. It is time for the comical 'snakebird school', where darter chicks learn how to catch fish. Under the water, the sinister frog-faced soft-shelled turtles lurch out of the river bed to snatch passing fish.

Finally, monsoon rainwater flows back through the great rivers of Asia to the Indian Ocean. It brings with it a vast lode of nutrients. Year round, blue whales congregate off the coast of Sri Lanka in search of the bounty that the monsoon brings.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Frill Necked Lizard - Gremlin of the Outback #EarthOnLocation

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It's the end of the dry season in Northern Australia...

All is still in the Outback...

The Sun rises over giant termite mounds... 

Clouds build...

Rain falls

...and the Frilly Wakes!

These lizards not only walk upright on their back legs,
but they can run at speeds of 15 kmph to escape predators...

 They stake a claim to a territory by firing open their neck frills
like an umbrella, to warn other males and to attract a mate...

If another lizard gets too close they run at them with their mouth agape 
as if to say “come on if you think you’re tough enough”! 

One of the inspirations for Jurassic Parks spitting dinosaur. 

 Their long tails help keep them balanced when running, 
but they also act as formidable whips for defence

I Give You The Frill-Necked Lizard Chlamydosaurus kingii