Friday, July 24, 2020

TV During the Covid 19 Pandemic: Episode 2: Animal Documentaries!

Animal Documentaries
(Part 2 of the continuing series..."what can I watch during the Pandemic?")

If you're like thousands of other people around the world with a bit more time on your hands because of the Covid-19 Pandemic lock down, then you've probably spent a good portion of it grazing through YouTube for heartwarming animal videos.  There's a whole sub-genre on its own and one that often helps to fill the hole in your lonely locked-down heart with dogs who are friends with donkeys, baby ducks mothered by confused cats, and Labradors with hilarious Scottish sports casters to call play by play on their bone toss.

Videos are great, but sometimes you need a longer format to quench the endless need for cuteness and pretty and big soulful animal eyes.  That's where these next three documentaries come in, all currently featured on Amazon Prime.  Each one is about an hour.  Enjoy!

A few years ago my son and I had a chance to visit Iceland with some friends.  We drove our rented SUV through the frozen volcanic fields and marveled over the geysers, geo-thermal hot water pools and waterfalls. It all seemed beautiful, yet barren and other worldly...until we passed a semi green meadow (it was March) and saw our first real Icelandic wild life.  Ponies!  Hundreds of little horses who looked as if they'd all been styled for an 80's hair band revival.  Still sporting winter coats and glam-rock manes, there were herds of Icelandic horses in every color of the rainbow.

Now you can see some of the prettiest ones in a sweet little documentary that focuses on people who do a cowboy-ish drive of many horses to bring them to a summer pasture.  We also get to meet the people from Iceland who breed, show, shelter and love these versatile little equines. They are gorgeous creatures; spirited yet gentle with a fancy natural gait that enables them to lift their front feet very high like they are prancing.  You can imagine that trait developing from an evolutionary perspective, as they have had hundreds of years to forge their way through Iceland's drifts of snow.

This urban animal gem has been out for several years but now gets wide exposure on Amazon Prime.  It follows the dedicated (some might say obsessed) bird watchers of New York, who live to view and record some of the over 200 species of birds that make Central Park either their part time or full time home.  New York bird watchers cross the spectrum of every type of person.  Never think you can pigeon-hole (no pun intended) an NYC bird watcher.  There are regular older white dudes who look like they'd be more at home on a golf course but their piles of expensive camera equipment give them away as birders.  There are little old ladies, one in particular who has been doing it for so long she even leads guided tours and keeps booklets of sightings going back decades. There's the famous author Jonathan Franzen who seems a bit surprised to find himself a devout birder. There's even the wonderful African American Ivy League enthusiast Chris Cooper, who some may have seen in a recent viral video during his encounter with a "Karen" who thought she would report him to 911 because he asked her to leash her dog.  One of the least stereotypical birders featured in this documentary was a teen girl, who took great pains to explain why being a birder wasn't "nerdy" but who ultimately had to admit, "yeah, it sort of is".

Who would have dreamed that a little plot of land inside one of the biggest cities in the world could host such a menagerie of winged friends?  There are cardinals, woodpeckers, finches and ducks.  There are hawks who build their nests in the high rises,  including the celebrity raptor, "Pale Male".  In an inspired touch, each of the birds featured in the documentary has its own credit at the end of the show.

I was inspired by this doc to purchase a bird feeder and little bird bath for my back yard.  It's a fairly inexpensive Pandemic lock down activity, so I definitely recommend it, as long as you don't have outside cats.  So far my most dominant "customer" is an "Anna's Hummingbird" who likes to stick her beak into the bright orange Firecracker flowers I'm growing in a pot.
Sally: My hummingbird

Cat Heaven Island (The kitties of Japan)

Full disclosure, there are many documentaries about cats in Japan floating about in Stream-Land lately.  Some focus on Cat Cafes, some on cat religions and some on feral cat communities.  Do Japanese people love cats?  That would be a hard yes, and one more reason for me to have visiting Japan on my travel bucket list.  But for now, nobody is traveling during Pandemic lockdown.  As of mid July 2020, Americans are not even allowed to visit Canada, Mexico or most of Europe due to our high rate of Covid 19. So we will have to be content to watch the Japanese cat docs in our living rooms with our own personal cats standing by.

Cat Heaven Island focuses on the cats of Tashirojima, a tiny rock off the coast of Japan.  Once a bustling fishing village, it's now mostly home to a handful of seniors and over 100 cats.  The kitties seem to be well fed and happy, getting hand outs of fish parts from the few remaining fisherman and additional meals from the doting seniors.  Everyone seems to wish that more young people would come and make this island their permanent home, but for now they content themselves with boatloads of tourists who come over from the mainland to see the cats.

If you're an animal fan, you'll find something to love about each of these special documentaries.  However, there's also a surprising bonus that threads its way through all three.  The humans that spend their lives with these critters couldn't possibly be more different; the cheerful Scandinavians in Iceland, the sophisticated New Yorkers and the quiet Japanese seniors in the sunset of their lives.  All of them are just as lovable as the furred and feathered friends that they follow.


Theresa Reesbeck said...

This was a magnificent article . As usual your colorful descriptions and spot on information is second to none. We can’t wait to watch these shows even though your writing makes us feel as if we already have . Thanks for sharing this with us !

Jane said...

What a lovely comment, thank you Terri! Each show has a link too, so you can catch some video or a preview.