Flyways, a remarkable film from Queensland director Randall Wood, follows the ancient flight paths taken by millions of shore birds each year between Australia and the Arctic.
These small birds, the world’s greatest endurance athletes, can fly for a week or more without food, water or sleep, beating their wings continuously.
Many species are now facing extinction because the mud flats where they have always stopped to feed and rest on their gruelling flight across the world have been filled in, built over or otherwise destroyed by human development.
Wood’s film opens with a spectacular sunrise at Moreton Bay, near Brisbane, an important feeding ground for 30,000 shore birds.
The Toondah wetlands at Moreton Bay are protected by both the Commonwealth and State governments under an international agreement.
Yet former Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg accepted plans for a $1.39 billion development to develop 42ha of wetlands at Toondah Harbour to make way for 3600 luxury homes and a marina.
In eastern China thousands of kilometres of natural coastline have been replaced by sea walls. In north China grassy wilderness has been converted into rice paddies where the hungry shore birds look forlornly for food.
All over Europe, Africa and Asia shore birds are hunted for sport. In France alone hundreds are shot each year across the major flyways.
Randall Wood, who was scriptwriter and cinematographer as well as director of Flyways, focuses on three major species of shore bird. The biggest, the eastern curlew, weighs about 900 grams; the godwit weighs 250-450 grams; the red knot, just 120 grams, is smallest. Its population has halved in recent years, from about 500,000 birds to 250,000.
Using modern technology such as drones and satellite tracking, scientists are trying to trace the major flight paths in the hope that international pressure will lead to more protection for wetlands en route.
Flyways will have a special screening at 6.30pm on Friday, May 19, at Luna Leederville, followed by a Q and A session with Randall Wood on zoom and local bird experts in the theatre.
Watch the trailer…