Sardinia Continued..

As we left the airport and headed to the shores of Cagliari the sun began to set behind the mountains, luckily we had time to capture this beautiful sight as the water reflected the colours of the fading light.

In no time at all we drove away from the city and headed south to the Sulics,  where wonderful committed people were met, and a fabulously wild Mediterranean forest was crossed.

In which, also, the deep culturally rooted problem of animal poaching was investigated, and its universe of dense political and economical reasons to exist was discovered.

May we say it ourselves, the problem is bigger and darker than we thought. May the Blackbird, the Robin, and the Sardinian Deer, whoso photos feature briefly below, represent the reality of what indiscriminate poaching of these animals can do: slow and painful deaths, often of unwanted animals left to rot in the same traps they died in and never collected, just so that a few selected grams of meat can go and feed the mouths of the rich and heartless few who can afford paying £80 and more for a few boiled birds.

A lot can and should be said about this, which doesn't only involve Sardinia, nor just Italy, but virtually every Mediterranean country. Hopefully the film we will make in the next few months will manage to concisely tell the story of the long fight against bird and ungulate poaching in Sardinia, but for a larger and broader look at the problem, we fully recommend the wonderful essay "Emptying the Skies" by American writer Jonathan Franzer. Here 

                                                                  

  Capoterra, the heart of poaching in Sardinia. The sign says it all.

Meet the team. This tireless bunch woke up every day before dawn, walked 10Km and more uphill, removed thousands of traps, and even tolerated us filming them, all with a smile on their faces.

Day one, introducing The Forest. A stunning 68900 hectars of Mediterranean forest, covered in Holly Oak, Arbutus, Cork Oaks, Prickly juniper, Christmas Holly, Montpellier Maple, Myrtus and many more we don't even know the names of.

One armed and very new trap for ungulates. With this type of trap poachers hope to capture boar, which they can sell in the black market for about 10 euros a Kg, but unfortunately more often than not Sardinian deer get trapped in them. This is a protected species which was on the brink of extinction just a couple of decades ago.

When a trap is found, the wire is removed and folded away by the volunteers.


                                                                       

 A few of the wires for ungulate traps found after a mornings work in the forest.

A beautiful adult male, at least 4 years old, trapped in the leg. Needless to say, this male suffered a long and painful death. What's even more absurd is the fact that the carcass is unwanted and the poacher will not remove it: there is no market for deer meat and the risk of being caught with it (being a highly protected species) is too high. This deer will become food for the scavengers of the forest.

                                                         

Screenshot from video, just to be reminded of the beauty and grace of these creatures.

 Nora beach, the start of another day.


                                                                                                            

An example of the beautiful Linchens which thrived within the forest


Elisa, the youngest of the volunteers, and one of the very few at the camp who is from Sardinia, in the process of removing an aerial trap for birds.

The team celebrate removing the 100th trap of the day.

The President of Lipu, looking over a mountainside covered in traps

An unfortunate blackbird, fallen prey to an aerial trap. Blackbirds, together with Thrushes, are the birds that poachers are after because they make up the "griva", the traditional food still eaten by a few in Sardinia at Christmas.

Freeing a dead Robin from a ground trap he unfortunately fell into.

We will keep you posted about editing of the film.

Nick, Oropendola Productions

 

Project Sardinia

Fuelled by coffee and armed with 75kg of bags, in 8 hours we took two cars, one train, one plane and two buses... We and everything else survived the journey relatively unscathed and are now progressing with our final project of the year.

Over the next two weeks we will be exploring the southern part of the island of Sardinia, home to a unique culture and steeped in traditions. Some of these are beautiful and have rightfully weathered the test of time, like the sound of the  ancient musical instrument Launeddas, whilst others are worth revisiting.

We will explore the island's natural beauty and get an insight into the fight of those committed to protecting the flora and fauna in the face of long standing and firmly ingrained opposition.

More to follow...

Nick, Oropendola Productions

 

 

Absolutely Conkers

A horse-chestnut tree leaf with the typical markings of miner moth Cameraria ohridella

Rejoice, for it is that time of the year once again, when the horse-chestnut trees are fully loaded with their shiny deep red bullets and conkers fall from their tired branches onto our heads, before rolling on the wet ground and bouncing gracefully over a bed of brown leaves.

We have spent quite some time observing and filming these trees recently, and our collection of conkers is starting to take over the house. It is sufficient to say I have even found conkers rolling through my bedsheets as I went to sleep...

As we followed the browning of the leaves and the falling of the conkers, we couldn't help but worry as we observed the destructive work of the tireless horse-chestnut leaf miners (Cameraria ohridella). These are very small moths that on the larval stage feed on the tree leaves, burrowing or mining their way through the green, and leaving streaks of brown destruction on their path.

Holding strong against the assault of miner moths

Once the caterpillars grow to full size (which is a mere few millimetres), they cocoon and emerge as micro-moths, which we could observe in millions during the past weeks, flying around the sad looking trees and shrivelled up leaves. These parasites are not lethal to the trees, but they cause their premature ageing, meaning the horse-chestnuts that are infested tend to shed their leaves and conkers as early as the end of August.

A quick search for these leaf-mining caterpillars and we discovered that they were first observed in 1984 in Macedonia. Since then, they quickly colonised new trees and new countries, and they are currently found living and thriving on horse-chestnuts of most European countries. As far as we could observe, every horse-chestnut tree in Bologna is affected but, to our surprise, when we inspected some trees in Hamburg a week ago, we couldn't find trace of their presence. The leaves of these healthy trees were still radiant and green and the chestnuts were strong, big, and heavy, still dangling from the branches.

A freshly fallen conker, in all her shiny and smooth beauty

But it looks like apart from a few healthy trees in northern Europe, the moth is spreading, and there isn't much we can do about it. What this means is that we'll have to get used to smaller and earlier conkers, and that rather than being a typical autumnal event, we'll have to get used to seeing conkers rolling at our feet as we walk back from the beach, at the end of summer. It's good news for the little birds though, as we found blue, great and coal tits, as well as black birds and thrushes, literally feasting on the larvae at the top of the trees. A welcome and hearty snack in preparation for the long, rainy autumn that will soon arrive.

Not the healthiest leaves, but still attractive in the first light of dawn

Nick, Oropendola Productions

Italian Sunrise Time-Lapse

Perhaps it was only a matter of time or perhaps we were inspired by the beautiful location, but either way, on July 11th with the aid of an intervalometer and a tripod, we gave into the desire to try timelapse photography.