Last Night's Viewing: Earthflight, BBC1<br />Coronation Street, ITV1


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Given the hysterical simple-mindedness that has recently surrounded some aspects of BBC Natural History filming, you half wonder whether the opening promise of Earthflight – that we would be given a "bird's-eye view" of the natural world – needed to be accompanied by an on-screen disclaimer. "Note: Not actually recorded using a real bird's eye. Microlights used in the filming of this series. Engine noise has been removed from some footage and replaced with the sound of rushing wind and flapping wings. Feather noises may derive from a species not shown on screen." That said, the question of exactly how they did capture these images will be a live one even for viewers not intent on BBC-baiting, because they are remarkable. The camera appears to fly alongside a snow goose, peering up into its wingpit as it languidly beats its way northwards. Or it perches on a bald eagle's ruffed shoulder as the bird itself swoops over the rim of the Grand Canyon, whistling within inches of a pine tree's tip. Or watches brown pelicans as they turn themselves from broken umbrellas into neatly furled ones, spearing into the water to catch fish. Apparently, episode six will reveal all, but in the meantime we'll just have to marvel at what they've managed to achieve.

Last night's episode concentrated on North American birds, following a group of snow geese as they migrated from the Gulf of Mexico to their Arctic breeding grounds, but it also looked at pelicans too, a little mysteriously described here as "one of America's most charismatic birds" (perhaps they have a terrific way with a funny story). And the main impression left behind by the film was of the biological extravagance that is one of the responses to the hazards of animal existence. The screen swarmed with life, to the point that it sometimes looked as if the signal had gone and pure electronic noise had taken over. Snow geese panicked by an eagle lifted off the marshes to create their own concealing blizzard, bats swarmed from cave mouths, spawning grunion covered a shoreline with a bristle of silver, and brine flies clustered over a lake so densely that all the gulls had to do to catch them was open their beaks and stroll forwards.

In among these images of glut they'd caught extraordinary bits of behaviour too. A cluster of devil rays in the Gulf of Mexico leapt out of the water and into the air, as if they were trying to hurry evolution along by sheer muscle power. And, proving that there's nothing killer whales can do that they can't match, a group of dolphins rushed line abreast on to a muddy bank, to panic the fish out of the water. Watching them were egrets, who'd learned how the dolphins fished and nicked in to pick away at the surplus. And again and again you cut back to lovely or thrilling aerial shots. I only had one quibble, which was the swarm of clichés that buzzed around like midges on the voiceover. When snow geese gave an alarm call the message "spread like wildfire", bats "ran rings around" a falcon, and, most clunkily, as spawning salmon filled a river, the bears "go wild". With pictures this sharp, might it be worth making sure that the words aren't so foggy and ill-focused?

"They said nothing about this in the wedding app!" protested Rosie in Coronation Street. Rosie was acting as Sophie's bridesmaid at her wedding to Sian and it wasn't entirely surprising that her app had let her down. It would have to have included a lesbian civil partnership at which one of the brides had snogged another bridesmaid at the hen party and be having second thoughts, and a congregation who start a noisy debate about the wisdom of the marriage halfway through the ceremony. Sophie backed out in the end, which was tough on Sian but should keep the scriptwriters happily occupied for weeks.