Friday, February 25, 2011

TOP STORY >> National Geographic in Beebe

Leader staff writer

The death of thousands of red-wing blackbirds on New Year’s Eve night in Beebe is being explored in a scientific documentary film for National Geographic.

It’s estimated 1.5 million birds roost in Beebe.

John Rubin Productions, a film crew from Cambridge, Mass., was in Beebe this week recording footage and interviewing city employees regarding the intriguing death of 5,000 red-wing blackbirds that dropped from the night sky on New Year’s Eve. The footage will be used in a documentary film for the National Geographic Channel’s Explorer series.

Producer and director John Rubin said the documentary is in the early stages. It is strictly not just about the Beebe blackbirds, but the birds will make up a portion of the documentary. No title or air date has been giving to the documentary.

Rubin has produced 11 documentaries, three of which have been for National Geographic Explorer, “Lost Mummies of New Guinea” that airs Monday night; “Climbing Redwood Giants,” and “Animal Minds”.

He produced the documentaries “What Darwin Never Knew” and “Ape Genius” for Nova on PBS and was a producer of five documentaries for “Nature” on PBS. He also produced the documentary “The Living Weapon” for “The American Experience” also on PBS.

According to the Game and Fish Commission, the winter roost in Beebe is home to around 1.5 million birds.

“Longtime producing partner James Donald was reading the newspapers early in the year. He thought it was an interesting start to a documentary,” Rubin said.

They brought it to the attention of National Geographic and they were interested in the Beebe event.

“It is a great mystery. Seven weeks out and everyone’s opinion is not the same,” Rubin said.

He said everyone in town has been cooperative, making it a pleasure to film.

The film crew interviewed Mayor Mike Robertson, Police Chief Wayne Ballew, Capt. Eddie Cullum and street department supervisor Milton McCullar. The crew also held a roundtable discussion.

Charles Moore, of the Wind-wood subdivision, allowed production crews to use his home’s den for filming a re-creation the night of New Year’s Eve.

The blackbird roost is right across his property line.

Moore has been assisting the documentary team during their time in Beebe.

“I’ve been impressed by the professionalism. It is very exciting and rewarding. This has been fun watching it all.

“I’ve enjoyed them in the town and visiting with them. I think it’s been a positive impact,” Robertson said.

Game and Fish and other wildlife experts have determined the blackbirds died of blunt-force trauma believed to occur when the birds crashed into each other, buildings and trees after they were startled out of their roost near Windwood.

Large fireworks are allegedly to blame for frightening the birds.