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Earthflight: North America (BBC) - First episode reviewed

Earth flight

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

JUST weeks after Frozen Planet dazzled us with images of the Antarctic and Arctic regions, Earthflight provided further compelling proof of why nobody currently covers the natural Earth and all its wonders better than the BBC.

A six-part series dedicated to viewing our planet from the perspective of birds, it’s a frequently breathtaking bird’s eye view that also touches down occasionally to properly examine what’s going on below.

This opening episode focused on North America and, in particular, snow geese as they made the long migration north from Mexico to breeding grounds in the Arctic regions.

Using ‘spy-cams’ that virtually placed us on their wings, and with narration from David Tennant proving that their is life beyond David Attenborough (just!), the ensuing hour then offered an embarrassment of visual riches, while informing us of the elaborate survival techniques the birds use to adapt to their ever-changing environment.

In some cases, survival was achieved on a wing and a prayer!

Highlights included numerous footage of bald eagles pursuing the geese, or targeting smaller wildfowl, which eventually gave rise to brutal yet beautiful examples of how these striking birds of prey often use their victims for ‘passing practice’ to hone hunting techniques.

Then there was the bizarre spectacle of dolphins following schools of anchovies and beaching themselves for a feeding frenzy which other birds then scavaged, or the even more obscure sight of brown pelicans landing for a feedy frenzy among eel-like grunion fish who visit the shore to bury their eggs away from sea-faring predators.

Indeed, it was the pelicans who also served as tour guides to provide an aerial view of one of America’s most beautiful cities – San Francisco.

As they flew past its many landmarks, from Alcatraz (which apparently takes its name from the Spanish word for pelican) to the Golden Gate Bridge, it was a potent combination of their grace and our natural beauty.

Memorable, too, were scenes of snow geese flying through (or above) New York or over the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley – further reminders of the vast beauty of the American landscape.

Indeed, there was so much pleasure to be gained from watching this first episode that it’s difficult to pinpoint everything, suffice to say that it’s the type of series that looks destined to reward repeat viewing and which deserves to stand as another classic in the BBC Wildlife library.

And as if to underline that last point, then also consider that North America – as this first episode was called – also provided such spectacles as grizzly bears and bald eagles fishing for salmon in Canada, Humpback Whales breaching off the coast of California and gulls catching flies off the shores of Mono Lake.

Earthflight truly does mesmerise and the journey has only really just begun.