TANKCAM (‘Rob-o-cam’). Tough assignment to film NZ’s rarest bird – the Fairy Tern for NZ Geographic Magazine. Less than 40 birds known, they nest in the open and human disturbance may stop breeding.
Solution was to build a remote control vehicle that I could very slowly inch towards the nest over an hour while we monitored the birds’ reaction and leave it set up to capture intimate scenes (very, as you’ll see below!). So that’s why I built TankCam. We’ve kept the highly successful assignment under wraps until now. This video tells the story and gives you an idea of three days worth of filming, behind the scenes. Please view and post your comments – it’s great to get your feedback:
Why not use a large telephoto lens you might ask? …Well we did, but the birds are small, and the depth of field very limited to get great shots of two birds. I wanted to try something fresh in order to get unique photos, and think this was achieved.
I was lucky to score a photo sequence for fairy terns mating! Now that’s a story – when you have rare birds then breeding is of course rarer, and potentially the reason why there are rare. The poor boy spent all morning eniticng and wooing his girl with various fish treats. Finally she relented, lay quietly at his side for him to climb on. He neglected to hand the fish over, but she was demanding. In the time it took for her to swallow the fish it was all over – exactly 3 seconds (as recorded by the camera metadata). But that seems to be all it takes by the look on his face in the last frame. There you go…you saw it here first!
The rig was perfect with it’s 360 degree rotation and up/down panning in the head so once in place I could follow the action easily from a laptop about 20 metres away:
Thanks to Ranger Abby Meagher at Department of Conservation in Whangarei. Her help in understanding the birds and monitoring their behaviour on this assignment was very important.