Bird watcher's dedication captured in documentary

2015/11/02 20:09:16 fontsize-small fontsize-default fontsize-big
Shen Chen-chung (沈振中) (Photo courtesy of Activator Marketing Co.)

Shen Chen-chung (沈振中) (Photo courtesy of Activator Marketing Co.)

Taipei, Nov. 2 (CNA) The new documentary "Fly, Kite Fly (老鷹想飛)" by Taiwanese nature photographer Liang Chieh-te (梁皆得) depicts how a bird watcher spent the prime 20 years of his life recording the lives and behavior of black kites in Taiwan.

Liang began following Shen Chen-chung (沈振中) in 1991 and recorded on camera the devoted birdwatcher's observation of the medium-sized raptor for more than two decades before making the 76-minute documentary that will hits screens around Taiwan on Nov. 20.

Shen pledged in 1992 at the age of 38 to write the bird's story 20 years later after witnessing the disappearance of a group of black kites on Mt. Waimu in Keelung in 1991, according to the Taipei-based Raptor Research Group of Taiwan, the producer of the documentary.

Since then, Shen has traveled anywhere in Taiwan where there were signs of black kites, from Keelung in the north to Pingtung County in the south.

Choosing to be a "peeping Tom," Shen kept his distance from the birds he was observing so as not to disturb them while quietly and faithfully writing down his observations.

"Instead of saying I discovered them, it would be more appropriate to say they captured me and wanted me to record everything that happened to them," Shen wrote in one of three of his books on black kites.

To further devote himself to his passion, Shen quit his job as a high school teacher several years after starting observing black kites.

Shen "would watch the sky with binoculars as the sun began to sink, counting the number of black kites one by one. He seemed to be taking an evening roll call of the raptor that belongs to the sky," wrote Chiu Chun (邱淳) in an article on Shen published on the news website CrowdWatch on July 22.

Chiu participated in fundraising efforts to support the documentary.

Writer, poet, natural observer and biological conservationist Liu Ke-hsiang (劉克襄) compared Shen's dedication and efforts to "conduct deep dialogues with the kites" with Jane Goodall's long-term observation of chimpanzees in Africa.

Goodall's "surprising experience of being treated as part of their (chimps') community also happened to Shen," Liu wrote in an article published in August this year about his encounter with the bird watcher.

According to the Raptor Research Group of Taiwan (RRGT), black kites have flourished in neighboring countries but not in Taiwan, where their total numbers have declined to around 300 birds.

The raptor was seen everywhere around Taiwan before the 1980s, but now they only inhabit the northern and southern tips of the island in small flocks, the RRGT said.

Shen's observations inspired the government and the Institute of Wildlife Conservation under National Pingtung University of Science and Technology to launch a study in 2010 on what caused the decline of black kites in Taiwan.

During the study, a group of field investigators, students at the institute and RRGT members led by researcher Lin Hui-shan (林惠珊) found that the improper use of pesticides by farmers may have been one of the major culprits, the RRGT said.

Having filmed the documentary for 23 years, Liang wants to lead the audience inside the bird's primitive mind and be conscious of the warning signaled by its dwindling numbers in the country, the civil group said.

Wu Nien-jen (吳念真), a well-known Taiwanese scriptwriter, director and author, narrated the film, and its score was done by Lim Giong (林強), a popular songwriter and pop singer in Taiwan.

(By Sabina Cheng and Elizabeth Hsu)

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