David Waugh: sound

David Waugh: sound

Bluebirds on the white cliffs of Dover? Not on your nelly, unless it’s the mega-twitch of the millennium. Vera Lynn, the ‘sweetheart’ of the British Army, sang this famous World War II song probably not knowing that the bluebirds were a new world nation. Let’s point the finger of blame at Walter Kent and Nat Burton, the American writers who wrote this song, for not doing their homework. This unintentional gaffe brings me to my heart about the inaccuracy – some would say error – of cinema and television about where on earth certain birds (and other animals and plants) are.

Imagine this. You’ve settled in to watch a blockbuster movie on TV, and there’s an epic chase going on in the woods upstate New York. He is captivated by the action and landscape, until, in the background comes the sweet cadence of the Willow Warbler’s singing! After spitting out your drink, you start cursing about why everything in the film is on location except for the sound, which is from the wrong continent.

But worse is yet to come, as your fellow onlookers groan: “Here we go again”. They just don’t understand, they don’t care, and they want to go back to film. It could be a definitive alternative, to the quaint English countryside, with the Northern Mockingbird belting out its repertoire off-camera. Or how about the films of King Arthur’s heroes in ancient Britain. The camera descends from the shiny helmet to the chainmail tunic, every detail meticulously researched and recreated with no expense spared. The camera cuts to his glove, on which he is staring – Harris’s Hawk. What!!! The same movie has Merlin, of course, but not the avian kind.

Copying the alarming calls of the Great Northern Diver from TV shows and films seems to be a popular choice, wherever in the world the show may be set (Glyn Sellors).

You might think I have a purple face with bulging neck veins every time I suffer one of these bloopers but, after so many, I’m angry and frustrated. Expert advice ensures that all other important information is present, but nature is reduced when off-the-shelf sources are used without the proper input of information. Exempt from the complaint are products made by natural history and wildlife experts of course. Maybe my perception is wrong. Perhaps mistakes were made in the restoration of the old car for photography, and the result of the melting of the armrests by many enthusiasts.

There are some limitations that you may be aware of. Wild outdoor scenes often include the ‘car-won’t-start’ song of the Cactus Wren – native to the deserts of southern North America – no matter what the climate. Another type of so-called bad wind calls is the Great Northern Diver, and again these are often used with little regard for location. And apparently, the best species of any forest spider is the Laughing Kookaburra!

Don’t be surprised if a rainforest somewhere in South-East Asia is filled with explosive reports of the Screaming Piha (Amazonian resident) or even the African Fish Eagle! A good Western gets its spurs if it includes at least one scene of a bird of prey called the Red-tailed Hawk, but it’s actually a Turkey Vulture – but in the film it’s called a buzzard. Closer to home, a TV series set in 1930s Coventry notably featured a Collared Dove call, a good 20 years before the breed expanded its range in the UK.

Ultimately, I don’t expect much improvement in the short term. What’s more, it’s not annoying at all, can these mistakes be causing unexpected and cruel fun for birders!

#David #Waugh #sound

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