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June 8, 2006 11:10 AM   Subscribe

Sir David Attenborough, naturalist and pioneer of the nature documentary, turned 80 last month. To mark the occasion, Britons were asked to choose their favorite Attenborough moment and of all the memorable scenes, his recording of the lyrebird came out on top. In this clip the bird mimics neighboring birds, several cameras, car alarms, and perhaps most impressively, loggers with chainsaws. (wmv, qt)
posted by ewagoner (47 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I came here to fight for one of my favorites, the spot from Mammals where he sings back and forth with the wolves. However, having watched that incredible lyrebird segment, I won't push it. I will point out that the latter is really a lyrebird moment, while the former is about The Man himself.
posted by freebird at 11:16 AM on June 8, 2006

I always loved watching Attenborough as a child, but never managed to catch that lyrebird clip. Thanks, ewagoner!
posted by NationalKato at 11:20 AM on June 8, 2006

Wow, that is an amazing clip!. Thanks for the links.
posted by Staggering Jack at 11:21 AM on June 8, 2006

Wow. They should get that bird for the next Police Academy movie.
posted by pwb503 at 11:24 AM on June 8, 2006

posted by Wolfdog at 11:26 AM on June 8, 2006

Brilliant. Get the RIAA after that bird.
posted by The Bellman at 11:37 AM on June 8, 2006

Altogether Spectacular. Does it take SD cards?
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:40 AM on June 8, 2006

The lyrebird was amazing. It was the motorized camera shutter that really sealed the deal for me.

freebird, do you have any idea where I might be able to see a clip of that wolves moment? It sounds beautiful.
posted by LeeJay at 11:46 AM on June 8, 2006

I've actually been trying myself, because it is. It's not on the "favorite moments" list from the Wikipedia page, so it may not be so moving for everyone, but having had some similar moments myself I found it profoundly touching. I'll keep trying - IIRC, it's from The World of Mammals. Anyone?
posted by freebird at 11:54 AM on June 8, 2006

What a great bird! Thanks!
posted by interrobang at 11:56 AM on June 8, 2006

That was unbelievable. The Lyrebird is my new favourite bird.

After the blue-footed boobie, of course.

Heh heh... boobie.
posted by Robot Johnny at 11:57 AM on June 8, 2006

And what of the tufted titmouse?
posted by pmbuko at 12:30 PM on June 8, 2006

I remember once seeing a little sequence of out-takes from Attenborough's documentaries: animals that kept wandering off just as he told us how remarkably still they would stay even in his presence, bits of hillside that would collapse as he was standing on them, that sort of thing. That, I think, was my favorite "Attenborough" moment because it revealed his unfailing good humour, and patient dedication. Life on Earth was one of the most gripping and impressive TV series I've ever seen. I wish more people made documentaries in that style today--I get so sick of the "arty"lets-throw-together-a-montage-of-images-that-may-or-may-not-have-anything-to-do-with-the-topic approach that seems to rule these days.

Grrrr. Get off my lawn and go watch a David Attenborough whispering-head doco!
posted by yoink at 12:31 PM on June 8, 2006

Very cool. I was a fan of the chainsaw imitation, myself.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:37 PM on June 8, 2006

Attenborough howling interactively with wolves? Reminds me of going to the zoo and proving to my skeptical wife that I could speak tiger. (What you do to make the sound tigers greet each other with is to alternate quickly back and forth between f and hard th sounds, flicking your tongue forward and back behind your teeth as you exhale through your mouth..."fthfthfthfthfthfthfthfthfth.")

Mama Tiger was outside with two cubs, and they perked right up looking for another tiger; the mama softly yowled back at me. I guess it meant, "You're obviously not a real tiger, but howdy anyway."
posted by pax digita at 12:50 PM on June 8, 2006

Mocking birds will do that, too. One time I was really stunned to hear a mocking bird make the sound of a school fire alarm klaxon. (Just as with the chainsaw, it was recognizable but since it wasn't loud and there wasn't any bass, it didn't actually convince.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:59 PM on June 8, 2006

Attenborough is great great great
posted by edgeways at 1:02 PM on June 8, 2006

...and perhaps most impressively, loggers with chainsaws.

impressively uncannily ironically
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 1:17 PM on June 8, 2006

awesome post, bird, man, documentaries, world, etc
posted by foraneagle2 at 1:20 PM on June 8, 2006

I understand the CIA is now interested in using the lyrebird to infiltrate al-Qa'ida.
posted by spock at 1:28 PM on June 8, 2006

Incredible. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 1:32 PM on June 8, 2006

pax digita, I can replicate the distress call of a young alligator with proven perfection, but that tiger greeting has me slobbering all over my keyboard.
posted by NationalKato at 2:04 PM on June 8, 2006

aww, David Attenborough is one of my favorite human beings. Love his work, his special voice, that is an alluring combo of old fart Queen's English, scientist, totally curious mischievous schoolboy, poetic wonder. Got his Trials of Life as a birthday present one year from my best friend, awesome. Here's the BBC Attenborough Archive with 10 cool videos, more videos.
posted by nickyskye at 2:12 PM on June 8, 2006

I always thought the one where he ate the ant butts full of honey was pretty classic.
posted by blendor at 2:14 PM on June 8, 2006

What's truly astounding is how long he's been at this kind of thing, and how long he's been iconic. Monty Python did a parody of him in one of the last episodes of the TV series.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:25 PM on June 8, 2006

I remember when I first saw Life of Birds and they did the "On the next episode..." thing and showed the lyrebird mimicking the chainsaw and camera shutter. I don't think my jaw ever dropped so far. I thought, "No. Frickin'. Way!" and had to watch the next episode immediately. Best I've heard live is a northern mockingbird imitating part of a car alarm sequence.

Oh, and Attenborough is fantastic.
posted by DakotaPaul at 2:38 PM on June 8, 2006

Wow. post made my day!
posted by johnj at 2:45 PM on June 8, 2006

Incredible -- saw it a couple of times and thought it was going to be some sort of April Fool's Day at the end, and it was all a put-on. Literally unbelievable.
posted by docgonzo at 2:45 PM on June 8, 2006

Man, I hope that bird gets laid.
posted by sidereal at 3:10 PM on June 8, 2006

Steven C. Den Beste, Just thinking about Monty Python taking the mickey of Attenborough makes me want to laugh. Fun skit.

The kookaburra makes a raucous laugh.
posted by nickyskye at 3:11 PM on June 8, 2006

I saw this a few years back... I think it must have gotten voted up due to wide play.

Well, of course, plus the "camera with motor drive". hearing that bird make the click-whir sound is totally jaw-dropping.
posted by GuyZero at 3:27 PM on June 8, 2006

sidereal, LOL!
posted by nickyskye at 3:53 PM on June 8, 2006

This is awesome, as is most of Attenborough's stuff. When I started reading the FPP, I was afraid he'd died, as it had the sort of intro an obituary had.

I remember seeing a program about him and his work a while back, where he talked about his experiences. It was aso quite fascinating, and as a bonus, it included his response to religious people who wanted to talk to him about the beauty of nature; something about a worm burrowing out of an infant's eye, I think, and that's why he didn't believe in a benevolent creator god.

Is there a definitive Attenborough DVD box set? It's the sort of thing I'd love to own, and that I think should be obligatory for parents to show to their kids.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:17 PM on June 8, 2006

I love birds and have a parrot for a pet and am always amazed at the sound she will mimic. Laughing, the background noise of the TV, childrens voices and one we couldn't figure out for a couple of weeks (turned out to be the squeaky back gate opening and shutting in the wind). Of course, the Lyrebird puts anything my parrot does to shame.
posted by UseyurBrain at 5:28 PM on June 8, 2006

I am so full of patriotic pride right now.

Although I was actually really impressed by his series on insects. That said, I love me a good bug doco.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 6:27 PM on June 8, 2006

nickyskye: I should also point out that David was responsible for Monty Python's existance, with his gig on BBC2.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 6:48 PM on June 8, 2006

I'm humbled by the fact that bird is a better artist than me. I wonder if he'll start imitating whispering British nature show hosts next fuck season.
posted by dgaicun at 7:04 PM on June 8, 2006

Beautiful and astonishing. Thanks very much. [I've seen a total of 1 lyrebird in the wild but was not priviliged to see their display] Like Joakim Ziegler my heart skipped a beat at first when I saw Sir David's name on the Mefi front page. He must be one of the most universally liked and admired characters this world has seen.

I read his autobiography a couple of years ago which was a great read but sad also - he was filming 'Life of Birds' in New Zealand when his wife collapsed back in the UK. I'm pretty sure from memory that despite jumping on a plane and being home in 24hrs, he didn't get to say goodbye.
"Q: If you had another 80 years, would you ever get bored making wildlife programmes?
A: Not in 800 years! There'll always be people who've never seen a duck-billed platypus"
posted by peacay at 7:31 PM on June 8, 2006

More mini-clips of his best moments. If you click on the "CLICK HERE TO VOTE" another image comes up with clip selections.
posted by nickyskye at 8:59 PM on June 8, 2006

Sir David Attenborough is one of the finest broadcasters to have ever lived. He has brought so much knowledge and understanding to so many people and he is still utterly fascinated by what we have on the planet. If I had the money and the spare time, I'd buy up everything he's done on DVD and watch it over and over again.
posted by TheDonF at 11:46 PM on June 8, 2006

Joakim Ziegler - yes.

Not sure about rules plugging stuff here but as I don't work for the BBC do a web search for the BBC Shop and there's an Attenborough LIFE DVD series that is just simply awesome.
posted by slixtream at 12:08 AM on June 9, 2006

I'm very surprised that the clip with the gorillas wasn't the favourite. That clip was one of the iconic bits of TV footage from the 80's. I remember watching awestruck as he was able over time to get the gorillas to accept his presence and eventually allow him into their pack and start to groom his hair. Remember these were wild creatures that had had no previous human contact and could have ripped him apart at any moment.
posted by bap98189 at 3:39 AM on June 9, 2006

Serial Killer Slumber Party, No way!? You said: David was responsible for Monty Python's existance, with his gig on BBC2.

Can you tell me a little more about that?

bap98189, Yes, the gorilla scenes were marvelous and endearing. His love of life comes through radiantly. Impossible to pick THE best moment in his astonishing opus. Attenborough is a delightful character to have as a psychic companion, savoring being fascinated by anything in nature.
posted by nickyskye at 9:51 AM on June 9, 2006

nickyskye - before Attenborough was quite high up in the BBC's hierarchy before he went in front of the camera. Wikipedia has more (although doesn't mention Python, which I'd not heard of before either - not that that's a guarantee of anything)
posted by TheDonF at 12:11 PM on June 9, 2006

Attenborough's best moments often involve birds. The one that sticks out in my mind (as I was rolling on the floor laughing) was him flinging a handful of dirt onto a mound-building megapode's nest, only to have the bird fling it right back at him. And him being chased by a big old capercalie, was quite funny as well. He just doesn't relate to insects in the same way (although I am glad they finally got around to the bugs).
posted by milovoo at 2:06 PM on June 9, 2006

TheDonF, Thanks for trying to answer my question. I did some Googling and this is what I found: "In the 1960s-'70s, Attenborough moved into senior management positions at BBC, presiding over the introduction of color television in the UK, giving the go-ahead to air Monty Python's Flying Circus, and helping bring many historical, cultural and scientific documentaries to television. "

milovoo, There's something especially hilarious about the meeting of Attenborough's genteel seriousness and the critters doing their spontaneous thing.
posted by nickyskye at 2:25 PM on June 9, 2006

I have Life of Mammals on my netflix queue right now and one of the things that impresses me is the way that he's so hands-off in working with most of his subjects. Many other nature programs would make a point of netting the subject in order to point out unique anatomical features. I think for me one of the most awesome scenes is Attenborough sitting under a bridge surrounded by bats.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:54 PM on June 9, 2006

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