Tuesday, March 31, 2015

'Peabody’s Bird Nest Collection featured in Nature’s “Animal Homes” on PBS'

NEW HAVEN -- PBS NATURE’s "Animal Homes" is a three-part series produced by New Haven documentary filmmaker Ann Prum and THIRTEEN Productions LLC "that explores the complexity and diversity of animal architecture and provides intimate, never-before-seen views of the lives of animals in their homes," according to a release.

Airing on April 8, 15 and 22—at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), "the series looks at animal homes around the globe—bird nests, bear dens, beaver lodges, spider webs and more—and the intriguing behaviors and social interactions that take place in and around them," the release says "Over the course of three episodes, the series delves into the amazing flexibility animal architects display, the clever choices they make and the ingenious ways they deal with troublesome habitats."

Also in the release (shared unedited here): 
Program 1, “The Nest,” airing Wednesday, April 8, at 8:00 p.m., begins with specimens from the ornithology collections of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History that illustrate how nests come in all shapes and sizes, crafted from an inexhaustible diversity of materials, including fur, grasses, leaves, mosses, sticks and twigs, bones, wool, mud and spider silk—and often man-made materials such as colorful twine, bits of wire, even plastic bags. From Madagascar there is a hanging moss nest of the Velvet Asity, from Uruguay a mud nest of a Rufous Hornero made of 5,000 beakfuls of mud, and from Nova Scotia an Arctic Tern nest that is a simple platform of pebbles. A cup nest of the Common Yellowthroat, built within an old shoe, was collected in 1899 in Old Lyme, Connecticut. There are also Bluebird and Eider Duck nests and a stick nest of the Firewood-gatherer. Each one is a remarkable work of art, built with just a beak!

 Corey O’Hern, associate professor of mechanical engineering & materials science at Yale, conducts stress tests on some nests, and ecologist Chris Morgan, series host, tries his hand at building a few. This episode then branches out to scenes in the wild all over the world, where birds arrive at diverse nesting grounds to collect, compete for, reject, steal and begin to build with carefully selected materials, crafting homes for the all-important task of protecting their eggs and raising their young. The osprey and saltmarsh sparrow segments in this episode were filmed in Connecticut—the first in Greenwich, the latter in Madison.
Program 2, “Location, Location, Location,” airs on April 15. Featuring the homes of beavers, black bears and woodrats among others, it emphasizes the importance of finding a good base of operations—the correct stream or tree, the correct building materials, neighbors and sometimes tenants. Episode 3, “Animal Cities,” airing on April 22, looks at puffins in the Hebrides, social spiders in Ecuador and leafcutter ants in Costa Rica to demonstrate the importance of colonies to these animals.

The series features a blend of CGI, animation, CT scans and signature blueprint graphics to highlight engineering principles inside the structures. A variety of cameras, including tiny HD versions, capture unprecedented views inside animal homes without disturbing natural behavior. When appropriate, filmmakers shoot behaviors in slow motion and use infrared and time lapse  to reveal how animals create their structures over time and through the seasons. After broadcast, the episodes will be available for online streaming at pbs.org/nature.

New Haven resident Ann Prum explores science, wildlife and the environment through film. She began Coneflower Productions in 1995, and has created programs for National Geographic, The Discovery Channel, The Science Channel, TBS and PBS. She made the popular “Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air” for NATURE and won a regional Emmy for "Creating the Peabody's Torosaurus: Dinosaur Science, Dinosaur Art.”

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