Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Guest Blogging

Hello, I’m Stephen Rutt, 17 year-old intern, tea-maker, logger and now guest-blogger with BirdGuides. Since Monday I’ve been in their London office helping out Max, Fiona and John with their various projects, which contrary to the popular belief of my birding friends is more then just being another news service.

Instead since I arrived here late Monday morning I was launched straight into the proof reading of Lee G R Evans updated ‘The Ultimate Site Guide to Scarcer British Birds’. If there is such a thing as a job from heaven then this is up there, with… warden of Cley? After all you can never read too many bird books. My dad owned the old version of this book and as a keen beginner I found it inspiring and gripping, birds that seemed at the time to be near mythical blockers written about in a confident and easy to read style, seemingly guaranteeing success. 3 years later, those blockers are much reduced but I still find it an interesting resource. This update retains Lee’s easy-to-read writing style but totally refreshed with modern ‘gen’ and liberally punctuated with Ray Scally’s jazzy vignettes, with the Hobby and the Long-tailed Skua particularly special. I wasn’t able to find many mistakes and found it an interesting and at times controversial read for the rest of Monday.

On Tuesday, as compensation for the 50 minute rain soaked, bendy bus commute from hell, I was allowed to have a brief play around with another new product, The Guide to the Breeding Birds of the Western Palaearctic. In essence it’s BWPi dedicated to nests, nestlings, fledglings, eggs and habitats, and just like BWPi its fascinating in its treatment of the subject, ranging from species I’d never heard of such as the stunning Amethyst Starling, to some nice surprises like an adult male attending a recently fledged Guldenstadt’s Redstart and chicks of the near mythical Dupont’s Lark. The amount of work that’s gone into this product is frankly staggering, stemming from many years work in the field to collect such a vast wealth of information and photographs. My work over Tuesday and Wednesday was correcting captioning errors and exporting PDF’s of the BWPi species accounts to be backed up, a task so fun the Mac crashed with excitement. And Mac’s never crash…

Wednesday also saw the arrival of the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater in Kent, which to my slight disappointment didn’t spark a work twitch, but did provide more pictures to bulk out the rather sparse looking review of the week.

Thursdays task however came as a bit of a surprise. I was fully gearing up to start using CatDV pro to start making inroads into a small mountain of unlogged footage when Fiona gave me new task, to edit together a series of 8 butterflies for use on GMTV! Editing, for those uninitiated in the media dark arts is a lot harder then you think it is. You have to balance timing of shots with the quality of the action and the brief of what your meant to be editing. In this case it was 10-second clips of butterflies “not doing much on pretty plants.” No problems then with a stunning Small Tortoiseshell, a macro Holly Blue where you can count its hairs and an ultra-crisp blood red and burnt black Red Admiral. Slight problem with the distant Large White perched on a leaf. Never mind, for some reason I find editing fun and it was great to play around with proper footage, not the slightly shaky stuff I film on tiny handicams for Media Studies and the results were certainly stunning. With the rest of Thursday spent compiling an album of “ornithologically astute” pictures in the gallery (really hard to do, if you have any suggestions to include, please leave a comment) and selecting pictures to be used as thumbnails for the cover of the Breeding Birds product.

For the last day of the working week I was taught how to use CatDV pro to log footage. Basically this involved importing big files of HD video into the software, separating them out into clips of individual species/action and then entering in the metadata (time, tape, location etc.) This was surprisingly fun as I had to view an awful lot of stunning footage, from Green Sandpipers to an ultra macro Marsh Fritillary, via nesting Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers. It also is involving learning Bees, Dragon and Damselflies and Moths, whilst brushing up on my occasionally very rusty Butterfly skills, all of which may come in handy for next week when I go out filming.

With that over for another day it was time to head back up to my home in Suffolk for a weekend of dipping. I’ll be back next week…


Alan Tilmouth said...

I guess all of that means your no longer stuck in a rutt, congrats on the internship.

Stuck in a Rutt said...

Thanks Alan.