Oasis takes the viewer on a journey up the Esk Valley in southeast Scotland. The Esk Valley (actually two valleys – the North and South Esk – which converge) is a green corridor, which runs through the county of Midlothian. The Esk Rivers run through several different habitats from source to sea – upland moor, deciduous and conifer wood, arable farmland and grazing country, and rocky gorge. Although close to the capital city of Edinburgh, the Esk Valley is not well appreciated for its diversity of birdlife. During the journey we examine some of the less well-known species in the valley. Behaviour, songs and calls are all shown. The documentary begins with a description of the geography of the Esk Valley and opens with winter flocks (waxwings, starlings and finches). Further up the valley, in a steep gorge, ravens and peregrines are encountered and followed through the summer. Waterside birds such as kingfisher and dippers have made a remarkable recovery as water quality has improved. Other woodland species such as tawny owls woodpeckers, redstart and nuthatches are studied. Oasis closes by observing some of the passerines of the upland Esk watershed such as whinchat, redpoll and grasshopper warbler. Oasis was filmed in HDV using a Canon XL-H1A camera and some short sequences in AVCHD using a Canon EOS 7D SLR camera. Oasis (2011) is Neil Grubbs’ third wildlife film and is 27 minutes duration.
The objective of producing Oasis (and Outlands, the sequel which can be seen here: https://vimeo.com/64412415) was to provide a vehicle for increasing the awareness of the general public of the habitats and wildlife which exist in the Lothians and which are accessible. Above all Neil Grubb wanted to show local people that amazing wildlife can be seen without the medium of the blue chip documentaries. The results of this are illustrated by a letter of support from the Scottish Ornithologists Club, and from the large number of invitations Neil has received to speak (and in many cases return to speak) at local and national clubs and societies. In terms of positive results, the aim was to increase public awareness of local habitats and wildlife and to this end Oasis has succeeded in its’ objective. The films were never intended or budgeted to support a specific environmental project – indeed Oasis and Outlands can be regarded as micro-budget films, which have been produced without specific funding – i.e. out of the film-makers’ own pocket!
This multi award-winning tale tells the extraordinary story of how a population of wild New Zealand falcons have managed to survive in the face of fierce commercial forestry logging practices. It also tells the story of two friends – conservationist and director Sandy Crichton, and 88-year-old wildlife photographer George Chance.
Bound by their mutual love and admiration for the falcons, Chance’s failing health and eyesight inspires the young Crichton to capture footage of the falcons as a tribute to the latter’s body of work from the 1970’s. What begins as an empathetic response to fulfil a friend’s final wish to see the magnificent birds on film ends up becoming the chance of a lifetime. When Crichton begins filming the falcons, he inadvertently becomes witness to new falcon behaviour, capturing a turning point in the ecological evolution of the wild birds.
During the making of “Karearea: the pine falcon” filmmaker Sandy Crichton spent three breeding seasons in commercial pine plantations filming wild New Zealand falcons. He also took on the voluntary role of falcon consultant with Wenita Forest Products, the owners of commercial forests throughout the South Island of New Zealand. The role involved locating New Zealand falcon (karearea) nest sites within the plantations, whilst liaising with neighbouring landowners and forestry workers to monitor falcon activity.
This was essential for filming purposes but it also served as an early warning system for contractors working in the same areas as nesting falcons. During the course of filming, the filmmaker visited forestry workers during their breaks and provided training and support in karearea identification and behaviour. Nestcams were used to illustrate the disturbance caused by forestry activities close to nests. Not only did the film reveal completely new falcon behavioural adaptations in response to life in commercial pine plantations, but it also led to positive change. As a direct result of filming, many karearea nests were located and consequently protected. The filmmaker co-wrote a ‘best practice’ work strategy for Wenita Forest Products, which is still helping to protect karearea nests throughout the region of Otago to this day.