Birds, Trees, and Mancke

Looking through trees at a river

On Monday, August 12, four people from SCETV loaded into a van and travelled into the forests of Wofford, S.C. Here, the birds chirped, the gnats buzzed, and the trees offered little protection from the heat of the unforgiving sun. I was one of the people on this adventure. 

The purpose of our excursion was to film intros and outros for an educational course featuring the naturalist Rudy Mancke.

The trip offered a multitude of learning experiences, from grasping the functions of reflectors and C-stands and practicing how to set them up, to finding and identifying the native bird and spider species that inhabited the area. In between helping to set up equipment and making sure that the entire crew was staying hydrated, I listened with great interest to all that Mancke said. It was and still is hard not to be amazed at his experiences and abilities.

One of the day’s most striking moments happened when Lynn, one of our crew members, walked over to a tree, as we were breaking for lunch. She bent over and her fingers closed around something that I could not see. When she opened them up, a piece of snow-white eggshell rested on her palm. “Go ask Rudy what kind of bird came out of this,” she directed.

To my surprise, but almost no one else’s, he immediately replied “Mourning dove.”

He preceded to tell us about how these birds build nests that resemble piles of sticks and transport eggshells away from their nesting sites in order to confuse predators. In those moments, it became obvious to me that Mancke’s knowledge is not limited to remembering what he reads in the books of his field, but instead stems largely from experience.

The stretch after lunch was particularly gruesome, as we endured the heat on full stomachs. Just as I was wondering how I would face the next day’s episode (it was a two-day shoot), the last outro was shot, and a member of our crew said “We’re done. We don’t have to come back tomorrow.” 

While it was disappointing to hear that we would not get to explore nature again the following day, we were all happy to escape the heat. Despite the fact that we did not return, I am sure that we all took something away from the experience. Mancke took the abandoned web of an elusive spider that he found and I took away an unforgettable summer memory.