Amy
ABOUT ME - My name is Amy and I'm a birder living in central Florida. On this blog I post book and birding product reviews as well as birder gift ideas and announcements related to my birder gift shop on this site. I also have a personal birding blog called Powered By Birds.

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Archive: August, 2011

More Netflix Instant Watch for birders

Posted on August 5th, 2011 in Movie

Netflix has been in the news a lot in the last couple of weeks, mostly because of the outrage they faced from customers after an announced price hike.

We’re still happy with Netflix, although we’ll probably switch to streaming-only before the price hike deadline. Since my post Netflix Instant Watch for birders last October, a few more titles which may be of interest have become available. Last time, I found four documentaries and one drama. This time, kooky-sounding dramas outnumber the documentaries 5 to 3. Note: the images are affiliate links to Amazon.com, where you can purchase the title. The text links go to Netflix.

John James Audubon: Drawn From Nature “This beautifully photographed documentary profiles the surprising life of John James Audubon, one of the foremost naturalists, artists and explorers of the 19th century. Audubon’s stunningly vivid wildlife portraits are examined in detail. A self-taught artist, Audubon was also a showman who reveled in dramatizing his Wild West adventures when he toured European drawing rooms. Audubon’s fierce promotion of conservation is also discussed.”

The Real Macaw “When hard times fall upon gentle bird owner Ben Girdis (Jason Robards), his 149-year-old macaw, Mac, leads Girdis’s teenage grandson, Sam (Jamie Croft), on a quest to a South Pacific island to track down treasure buried by the parrot’s previous owner, a buccaneer. As medical bills are forcing Ben out of his home, Mac and Sam track down the spoils — but a greedy archaeologist who has learned about the plan awaits to steal the riches for himself.” This seems to be unavailable for purchase on DVD in North America, so Netflix might be your only chance to see this one.

Nature: Birds of the Gods “Deep within the rain forests of New Guinea live birds bearing almost impossibly beautiful plumage. Known as “birds of paradise,” these creatures have inspired explorers and ornithologists for centuries. Renowned naturalist David Attenborough heads a team of scientists as they seek to film these elusive animals in their stunning natural habitat. Along the way we learn of their peculiar habits and elaborate mating rituals.”

The Hawk is Dying “Auto upholsterer George Gattling (Paul Giamatti) searches for meaning in his life in Julian Goldberger’s moving drama. An amateur falconer with a questionable track record, George manages to catch a magnificent hawk and is determined to train the wild bird, despite negative comments from his friends and family. Driven to succeed, Gattling refuses to give up, even in the face of tragic events. Michael Pitt and Michelle Williams co-star.”

The Pigeon That Took Rome “American GIs MacDougall (Charlton Heston) and Contini (Harry Guardino) are undercover in Nazi-occupied Rome. When Contini falls in love with a rebel leader’s daughter, the family prepares a celebration, but mistakenly serves all but one of the agents’ carrier pigeons for the feast. To cover up the error, a family member replaces the flock with German pigeons — which in turn bring MacDougall and Contini’s messages straight back to the Nazis.” This seems to be unavailable for purchase on DVD anywhere, so Netflix might be your only chance to see this one.

Birdemic: Shock & Terror “When sexy model Nathalie (Whitney Moore) and software guru Rod (Alan Bagh) head to a motel for an afternoon tryst, they are attacked by a flock of savage exploding eagles and other birds of prey in the first wave of an all-out avian war against humanity. As the lovers scramble to find food, water and safety, they team up with gun-toting campers to rescue a pair of orphaned kids. James Nguyen directs this low-budget indie thriller.”

Ghost Bird “In 2004, a kayaker reported seeing a mysterious black-and-white bird in an Arkansas swamp. This alleged sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker, thought to have been extinct for decades, sparked an explosion of interest in the elusive bird. This absorbing documentary chronicles the ensuing obsession that overtook legions of ornithologists and birdwatchers eager to glimpse this giant winged holy grail.” I can highly recommend this one.

A Breed Apart “Vietnam vet Jim Malden (Rutger Hauer) shares a remote island with numerous rare bird species, whose survival he zealously protects. When climber Mike (Powers Boothe) pays the recluse a visit, he fails to mention that he’s come to steal rare bald eagle eggs for a collector. As the men get to know each other, Walker hangs on to his secret, while Malden deepens his connection with Stella (Kathleen Turner), who runs a supply store on the mainland.” This seems to be unavailable for purchase on DVD anywhere, so Netflix might be your only chance to see this one.

Have you seen any of these? I’ve only seen Ghost Bird and Birds of the Gods (both highly recommended); I hadn’t heard of any of the others except for Birdemic. I’m planning on watching that one with enhancement by Rifftrax. :)

Movie Review: Kestrel’s Eye

Posted on August 3rd, 2011 in Movie, Movie Review

Back in October I had a look through Netflix’s catalog of streaming titles, looking for bird-themed movies available on Instant Watch. After Rare Birds, I watched Mikael Kristersson’s Kestrel’s Eye, a documentary that follows a pair of Common Kestrels without any narration or commentary.

Common Kestrels are small raptors, measuring just 13 to 15 inches from head to tail. When we lived in the Netherlands we’d see them all the time, hovering over fields in search of prey. We often saw them from the car. Whoever saw the bird first would shout out “kestrel!” and then we’d watch it hover until “woo!” – a dramatic downward plunge towards prey. We were lucky to observe them a bit more closely a few times, which was always a treat. I remember watching this particular kestrel perched on a sign post on a day trip to Zeeland.

It was with this very limited experience in truly observing Common Kestrels that I really looked forward to watching Kestrel’s Eye.

To set the scene, the documentary begins with long shots of the habitat where a pair of kestrels resides. Their home is a church tower window. The church is in a small Scandinavian village, adjacent to an agricultural field. Without any commentary at all, the filmmaker shows us the daily routine of a mated pair of birds as they raise a family together. He hunts, she prepares the scrape (nest site). She lays eggs, they both incubate and brood. The chicks hatch, eat a lot, and eventually fledge. The fledging of the chicks, not surprisingly, is an exciting climax towards the end of the documentary. But there are plenty of other exciting moments throughout the movie. There aren’t really fall-off-your-chair thrilling moments, but I don’t think there have to be in such an intimate nature film.

The human goings-on in and around the church are also highlighted as time passes. A wedding and a funeral fill the church on two separate occasions. I did find there was an inordinate amount of time spent showing the church groundskeepers tending to gardens and raking grave-site gravel. All of these events are shown from the elevated perspective of the birds (seen through the Kestrel’s Eye, get it?), juxtaposing the human priorities with those of the birds.

Overall I found Kestrel’s Eye highly entertaining, but I think this film will mostly appeal to other bird lovers like me. Without a traditional dramatic structure (rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, etc), I think viewers without a great interest in or curiosity of bird life will be bored if forced to watch Kestrel’s Eye. Bird lovers, though – check it out! I give Kestrel’s Eye 4.5 Goldfinches out of 5.

Kestrel’s Eye is available for purchase via Amazon. It is also on Netflix Instant Watch.

Bird blog & online contests for August 2011

Posted on August 1st, 2011 in Contest, Giveaway

Here’s a list of current (as of August 1st) blog & online contests by birders, for birders, and/or offering bird- or birder-themed prizes. Click on the links to learn more, check eligibility, and enter to win! If you are running a contest or know of something that should be added to this list, let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email. This is a monthly post appearing on the first Monday of every month. I will add any updates I find during the month as a comment on this post. If you’d like to stay updated, you can subscribe to the comment RSS feed for this post.

CONTESTS WITH DEADLINES near and far

Two-Fisted Birdwatcher is giving away a blog-branded hoodie. Find this month’s hidden bird (Spotted Towhee) to be eligible for the drawing. This monthly giveaway usually ends by the end of the month, so submit your answer before August is over! See the contest page for details.

Audubon Magazine Photography Awards kicked off last month. Prizes include birding trips, camera gear and iPods. Enter by September 5th; see contest website for more information.

Swarovski is again hosting a Digiscoper of the Year contest. Prizes include Swarovski fleece jackets and optical gear. Prizes will be awarded monthly; enter by September 30th for the overall contest. See the contest website for more information.

ONGOING CONTESTS of interest to birders

BirdWatching Magazine runs a Photo of the Week Contest. Check out the Photo of the Week page to find out how to enter. Prizes include gear from Zeiss optics.

Duncraft hosts a caption contest on Facebook every week. Become a fan of Duncraft to see each contest posting. Enter to win a $10.00 Duncraft Gift Coupon. New caption contests start each Monday.

Each month the Birds & Blooms website runs the Where’s Webster? contest. Find Webster the duck on the website and enter to win. Prizes vary and the contest runs month to month.

The Eagle Optics Email Contest is ongoing for anyone subscribed to their newsletter. A new winner is chosen every month and prizes vary. Click here for details.