review by Keith Clarkson
DVD Salamandre Films
Shrouded in mystery, it’s exotic appearance and association with some of the most spectacular and inaccessible mountain landscapes in the world has enshrined the Wallcreeper in birding folklore.
Now, this extraordinary DVD provides a window into the otherwise hidden world of this remarkable bird.
Filmed over a three and half year period, in a variety of exotic locations, focussed on the French Alps, the 150 hours of film rushes have been sweetly edited to produce a 20 minute feature film that follows a year in the life of the Wallcreeper.
Evocative winter scenes including striking images of Ibex and a feeding Goshawk set the scene for the returning male Wallcreeper. We are then taken through breeding season, territorial male aggression and song, nest selection by the female, incubation, hatching, feeding, dust bathing, fledging before the altitudinal migration to the wintering grounds in the gorges near Marseilles.
Throughout we are treated to an array of evocative sounds and beautiful images of the Wallcreeper and their neighbours – Lammergeier, Eagle Owl, Ptarmigan and Rock Thrush, in their natural environment. Magical – it just made me want to go there and find them for myself.
And yet, however, dramatic these images are it was the accompanying extra - ‘Like a butterfly – the making of the film’ that completely grabbed my imagination. The short, subtitled, film captures the remarkable dedication, passion for nature, skill and endurance of the French filmmaking team, Frank Neveu, Christophe Sidamon Pesson and their associates. In the word’s of Sidamon-Pesson ‘‘you push the limits to enter the Wallcreeper’s world’ and that’s exactly what they did.
It was exhausting just watching the pre-dawn start, the ascents and abseil into the most flimsy and precarious hide, bolted onto a vertical cliff face, oh yes, and, the hour-long roped climb back to the clifftop at the end of the12 hour hide session. I’d loved to have seen the risk assessment.
At the end of the ‘making of the film’ Frank Neveu nonchantly comments about the three and a half years – ‘It has been a little harder than I thought’. You are left in doubt that it was but having said that it, it was worth every moment – thank you for the insight into the wonderful world of the Wallcreeper.