Butterfly effect affection
May 17, 2020 4:23 AM   Subscribe

Take a ride with a hummingbird drone into a massive swarm of monarch butterflies. And there's also bonus video without narration or music.

The footage os from PBS' Spy in The Wild series, and this article goes into some of the technical aspects of shooting it. The monarchs swarm in an area that was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. The area is threatened by illegal logging and agribusiness, and foul play is suspected in the recent deaths of environmental activists advocating for the area's protection. Here's hoping the forests stay vibrant for generations to come.
posted by Burhanistan (9 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

This just brought back the best memory - there was a cedar grove with a clearing in the middle next to my grandma's house - and for two days when I was little in the late 80s the monarchs descended on the grove and it was like being in a dream. I hope that I'll experience something like that again, but highly doubt it.
posted by Tchad at 6:32 AM on May 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

That is glorious. Thank you for the links.
posted by Pentickle at 7:03 AM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Almost all the central and eastern flyways merge here in central Texas for the fall migration. Little orange "snowbirds" fluttering about everywhere...
posted by jim in austin at 7:33 AM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

So beautiful, I hope I can see it one day.
posted by mumimor at 8:13 AM on May 17, 2020

That was a lot of fun. Thanks for sharing. I'm currently downloading a torrent for the most recent Nature episodes because damn, that's awesome. I need to make that a regular part of my rotation.
posted by Fizz at 9:33 AM on May 17, 2020

Wow, that was wonderful. Like Tchad, that brought back great memories. A very long time ago, before we married, husband and I took a very long drive and a very long hike in Mexico to see the monarchs there. It was magic.
posted by bearwife at 9:45 AM on May 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Are there actually two drones? One to film the butterflies, and one to film the drone filming the butterflies?
posted by Lokheed at 4:08 PM on May 17, 2020

Are there actually two drones?

There's a comment by the video's producers on this version of the video saying, "We use various spy cameras, spy creatures and cameramen on long lenses who are also filming." If I had to guess, most of the footage is probably filmed with standard wildlife photography equipment with a little of the drone footage mixed in. The drone footage in the opening shot looks very GroPro-like, the small sensor and lens give it a wide angle and a fixed focus to infinity. The shots with shallow depth of field and blurry backgrounds are probably taken with professional video cameras with big sensors and lenses. They also link to a video of drone in operation in a television studio; the drone camera isn't on a gimbal, so any shots that tilt up and down are likely shot on a different camera system.

That's not to take anything away from the video and the people who made it, it's still quite lovely.
posted by peeedro at 8:08 PM on May 17, 2020

My favorite thing about this series is the footage. My second favorite thing is that they insist on referring to their animal robots as if each of them is named Spy [Name of Animal]. This results in sentences like,"Here comes Spy Crab," and, "Will Spy Hippo be allowed in?" which, for some reason, I find hilarious.

I do think they give some of the animals too little credit. There's this assumption that the subjects are have been tricked into accepting Spy Jaguar Cub or Spy Gorilla when the animals have approached the robot, inspected it, and decided it isn't a threat. Even if the animal is curious about the robot and continues to interact with it, that isn't exactly the same as assuming it's one of their own.

I also wonder how they decided upon the characteristics and movements of the robots, given that animals sense things differently than we do. I'm definitely impressed with how realistic the spies look, but a lot of animals prioritize smell over vision, see other parts of the spectrum, or have a different concept of the primary characteristics of their species.

Finally: alien abductions and experiments are real, but we're the aliens.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:52 PM on May 17, 2020

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