Film ID:
NEFA 20969

BIRDS OF TEESMOUTH

1966

Visitor Tabs

Description

A film produced by the R.S.P.B.[Royal Society for the Protection of Birds] Film Unit from the footage shot by local filmmaker James Monro shows the wealth of bird life and other wildlife living in close proximity to some of the largest chemical and heavy engineering industrial sites in Europe around the mouth of the River Tees near Middlesbrough. The film also illustrates the challenges that such an environment creates where land is reclaimed for the use of man; if birds and other wildlife are to survive and thrive how do we ensure that their habitat is protected?

The opening shot is of Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge, with small boats moored in the foreground.

Title: Birds of Teesmouth [over picture]

Title: Photography By James Monro

Title: We Acknowledge With Grateful Thanks The Co-operation Of Local Heavy Industry, And The River Tees Authority On Whose Lands Much Of This Film Was Made

The film shows a coloured map of the North East of England with the Teesside area highlighted in red. A still picture follows showing a paddle wheeled boat on the Tees, possibly a tug, with sailing ships in the background.

The film cuts to a shot of the Tees Towing Company tug 'Ingleby Cross' on the river, passing South Gare with a lighthouse at the end out at sea. A group of cormorants are sitting on the handrail of a walkway. One cormorant spreads its wings to dry them out. The film cuts to a long shot of an oil tanker being towed by tug. A closer shot shows the bow of the tanker, followed by a side view.

The next shot shows another tug going from left to right across the picture, a cargo vessel is moored in the background. The film cuts to a shot of two industrial cooling towers. The camera zooms in to show that one is still under construction. The film then shows a view of the upper  section of a number of riverside cranes. The film cuts to pipes and towers associated with the chemical industry, followed by smoking chimneys associated with heavy engineering industries such as steelmaking.

Inside a steel works, probably the Lackenby works of Dorman Long, a ladle of molten metal is watched over by a worker. Another worker presides over the tapping of steel. The film cuts to an exterior shot of a lorry making its way along a rough road. The road building is part of a land reclamation scheme. A lorry tips industrial slag.

The film cuts to a view of pink wildflower growing in the estuary area, industrial storage tanks can be seen in the distance. This is followed by a shot of a yellow wild flower, melilot or sweet clover growing on waste ground with more industrial buildings and installations in the background. On a bank a profuse covering of the yellow and white daisy-like flower scentless mayweed. Close up shots follow of toadflax, spotted orchid and yellow-wort. A shot follows of a thistle, and then on another thistle a collection of black and red burnet moths gather.

The next shot is of a slag heap, and a close up of this otherwise barren mound shows a tortoisehell butterfly as it warms itself in the sun. A painted lady butterfly suns itself on a flower stalk. A small copper butterfly explores a plant closer to the ground. A close up of other butterflies follows, the meadow brown, and common blue. Other insects swarm across the ground, ants in particular as well as a grasshopper and a harvestman [a type of arachnid, but not a spider].

A  whinchat perches on a twig, the film then cuts to a man striding through deep mud in wellington boots. He digs up large quantities of mud, showing the kind of life living under the surface, such as ragworms. He then turns over a stone showing creatures underneath, including a sandhoppers and the sea slater [related to the woodlouse].

General views of Seal Sands at the mouth of the River Tees. The camera zooms in to reveal large numbers of waders feeding on the sands. A large group of knot is shown feeding. Dunlin are also plenty in number being the most common wader on the estuary. A curlew comes into land and the camera follows it panning from right to left. This shot is followed with a close up as the curlew feeds in one of the many small pools, it's long beak probing the mud. A ship the 'Ann M' makes its way up a deep channel, the curlew nearby is undisturbed amd continues to feed. A solitary grey plover finds the remains of a crab and after a number of attempts swallows it whole.

The film cuts to group of children playing cricket in the sand on a beach. On the beach a dog digs a hole. General views follow of a park area with attractive floral borders along the promenade at Seaton Carew. A juvenile jazz band marches down The Front, as children look on. A baby in a push chair is given a pen by an adult. A small child holding her mother's hand eats an ice cream cone. The film cuts back to the jazz band. A girl majorette at the head of the parade twirls her baton, the rest of the band follow on playing their instruments. A small child enjoys a ride in an amusement arcade, the ride is in the shape of a cartoon elephant. A shot follows from beneath a rotating wheel ride at a fun fair, showing it's distinctive colours and sign writing. Two girls walk down a street in the rain carrying an umbrella. They walk past an amusement arcade where people are sheltering from the rain. The next shot shows the distinctive art deco bus station on the sea front at Seaton Carew. A woman carrying an umbrella rushes across the road towards the bus station. A close up shot shows a woman walking her dog crossing the road and approaching the camera. A young girl crosses the road walking away from the camera.

The rough seas crash against a pier wall. A man polishes the lens on his telescope [Edgar Gatenby a member of Teesmouth Bird Club], he also wears binoculars around his neck. The commentary states that high winds may blow migrating birds off course and onto the coast, affording birdwatchers the chance to observe some unusual species. A view follows of a rare Pallas's warbler followed by an immature red- breasted flycatcher.

The film cuts to two men with binoculars and one with a telescope bird watching. A view of the Heugh Battery at Hartlepool illustrates it's current use, as  Teesside Bird Club now use it as an observatory. Three men look out from the battery, they are Teesmouth Bird Club members Edgar Gatenby, Peter Harland and Chris Bielby. They are looking at birds flying along the coast including a gull gliding in flight.

A black headed gull walks along the sands trailing an injured wing. A guillemot displays feather damage from oil pollution. A marsh harrier is shown with a broken wing. A general view follows of a group of people tending to injured birds. The film cuts to a  woman cares for a number of injured birds in a home made aviary. A duck enjoys an invigorating splash about in a kitchen sink. Injured birds have to be fed, and a number of different methods are shown. A man feeds a whole fish to a sea bird by hand. A juvenile gannet takes a herring from a plate pushed into it's cage. A close up of the gannet's head follows.  A red necked grebe, needs a fish cut into pieces, before it gorges it down. An injured curlew in a cage is fed bread and water. The film cuts to a woman [Angela Cooper] on the beach about to release a recovered bird from a cardboard box. Two young boys on the beach watch from a distance. She opens the box and the curlew is released and it starts foraging amongst the rocks for food. The film cuts to a long shot across the estuary with industrial chimneys and cooling towers in the distance. The curlew finally flies off across the estuary.

The film cuts to a shot of a ICI [Imperial Chemical Industries] pipeline, a perspective view which shows the pipeline disappearing into the distance. Beneath the pipes, salt water runs from the estuary to a large pool, known as the reclamation pond. Industrial storage tanks can be seen in the distance. As the tide returns to Seal Sands, many wading birds are driven there to rest and feed. A group of bird watchers can be seen walking in the distance. In the foreground a collection of waders forage in the shallows. The next shot shows waders in flight. A grass bank provides a spot for bird watchers to sit and watch birds with their binoculars. A larger group of school children (?) wearing anoraks and waterproofs also watch the birdlife. The next shot shows a group of knot and dunlin in the shallows. Both breeds of bird are shown in close up in their silvery grey winter plumage. Others are still in the chestnut plumage of the breeding season. The film cuts to a group of bird watchers, one of them using a telescope. The commentary states that rarities appear from time to time. A shot shows a small pale coloured wader, a little stint, standing near to a dunlin.

General views of a group of terns showing them nesting, preening and feeding at the reclamation pond. There is a view of a number of  black terns. A shot follows showing the feeding methods of a black tern as it flies low over the water skimming food from just under the surface.

The film cuts to views of a Chilean flamingo in flight with views of heavy industry in the background. It captures the attention of local bird watchers. A low angle shot shows the group gathered on a grassy promontory. The next shot shows the flamingo wading through shallow water.

The film cuts to a close up of a juvenile ringed plover, followed by a shot of a mature adult. A long shot follows showing a dunlin feeding followed by another shot of a second dunlin trying to preen itself while almost being blown over by high wind.

The film changes location to a large area of mud at Cowpen Marsh near the Cerebos Salt works close to Greatham. A cow feeds on some scrubland, in the distance the brick chimneys of the saltworks can be seen. A long shot shows the salt works with two sheep in the foreground. This area has a number of pools or fleets which attract birds. The film cuts to a curlew in flight before landing on grass. A heron stalks at the edge of a pool. A close up follows of a snipe perched precariously on a barbed wire fence. It is giving an alarm call, the reason, a weasel in the long grass nearby. The film cuts back to the snipe which flaps its wings to maintain its balance on the wire fence. A shot follows of more snipe feeding at the pool's edge. A close up of shows how snipe plunges its long beak into the mud to search for food. Another shot follows of the snipe amongst plants.

A lapwing is shown at the edge of a pool. The film cuts to a large number of waders moving in flight right to left before coming in to land on the water. As soon as they land they begin feeding. A green sandpiper comes into shot a slower feeder than some waders. Another close up shows it foraging for food. Two birds are seen preening themselves, a dunlin and a wood sandpiper, amongst long reeds. A close up follows of a wood sandpiper feeding in the shallows. Another close up, shows a spotted redshank feeding, followed by a close up of a of a ruff feeding. A general view shows waders feeding on small eels. A spotted redshank swallows an eel, a greenshank feeds on smaller morsels from the shallow water.

Gulls gather on the surface of the water next to a rubbish tip, near Cowpen Marsh. The gulls are eager to find food from the tip. The following shot shows the tip from a different angle with scrap wood, old chairs and sofas dumped in pools of water. A close up shows gulls scavenging around the tip, juvenile and adult birds mix. Herring gulls feature mainly in the shot, with some greater black backed gulls. Two men drag sacks of refuse to add to the tip. A panning shot shows gulls in flight. The film cuts to individual gulls in flight. On the water below whooper swans are disturbed by the raucous gulls. A shot follows which shows three whooper swans and a smaller Bewick's swan. Close ups follow of the head of a whooper swan then a mute swan to illustrate their different markings. The next shot shows a group of swans feeding on one of the ponds.

Fade Out

The film cuts to a view of a leaking stand-pipe(?) frozen with ice. This is followed by shots of snow on some of the slag heaps. Pond and marshland are frozen. The reclamation pond is deserted. A dunlin searches for meagre scraps of food in a small pool. A redshank also forages. Shelduck are also seen on the estuary drinking water from the surface of the ice, another preens itself. Others try to clean oil from their feathers, victims of oil pollution on the estuary. The next shot shows a coot on the pond, normally a freshwater bird. Swans walk across their frozen pool before flying off after being disturbed.

Hazards are aplenty for birds which fly in and out of the area, in particular overhead wires strung between pylons. Shots follow of more birds in flight, followed by a view of the wing of a juvenile mute swan, caught on one of the overhead cables. In the water lies the remains of the juvenile swan. There is a view of a kestrel hovering in mid-air as it hunts.

General view of Coatham Sands with Huntcliff at Saltburn in the distance. The film cuts to a shot of marram grass in the dunes being blown by the wind. In the distance heavy industrial installations can be seen. A man leads a horse and cart along the beach. He is collecting sea coal  in small piles along the beach. Another man and some children help him with the cart and also in collecting the coal. In the distance not far off shore an oil rig or platform is anchored. The next shot shows snow bunting arriving for the winter and feed on the beach. They also feed on the seed heads of the marram grass in the dunes. A close up follows of two birds perched high on the grass stalks. The film cuts to the beach as sanderling feed, followed by a close up of a group at rest each bird standing on one leg. Two sanderling feed in the wavelets on the shore line. The incoming tide forces the birds to fly off along the beach. The camera tracks them as they fly right to left. The film cuts to a shot of a bar-tailed godwit in flight. Others follow going up the estuary before landing to feed. The next shot shows a godwit feeding along the shoreline. In the background is the Dorman Long steelworks at Lackenby (?). A group of godwit use their bills to penetrate the sand as they search for food.

The film cuts to a gathering of gulls or terns on a sandbank. In the background can be seen the Eston Hills and the Lackenby steel works of Dorman Long. The camera pans right to left showing the large number of birds, and also the extent of the heavy industry along the banks of the Tees. A pilot cutter moves left to right across the picture, in the middle distance. The heavy cloud and smoke from the steel works give the impression a storm is about to break. The birds suddenly take off calling to each other. The film cuts to a shot from a low angle of an Arctic tern in flight. The next shot shows juvenile kittiwake in flight with distinctive black neck and tail markings. The kittiwakes have found a shoal of spratts and they dive into the water to catch them. In the background is the remains of a World War 2 bunker (?). A close up follows of kittiwakes feeding followed by an Arctic skua preening itself. Skuas will often chase terns and gulls in order that they might drop or disgorge their food, the film shows two skuas chasing a gull. The next shot shows a single skua chasing a gull. Another skua in lighter colours also chases a gull.

A long general view shows the tide beginning to flood Seal Sands. A closer shot of the sands shows the rapid ingress of the water and the tide lapping over rocks next to an old jetty. A shot follows of one of the cross beams of the old jetty on which is sitting a kittiwake. A low angle close up of the bird shows it preening itself. The next shot shows an juvenile common gull preening. The incoming tide forces common redshank and turnstone onto the rocks by the jetty. A shot of the birds in flight over choppy seas follows. The birds land on the rocks, then preen themselves. A single redshank  feeds amongst the rocks and a close up shows birds wading through the water. A turnstone feeds near the rocks and a redshank joins in the hunt for food. A turnstone demonstrates the reason behind its name as it flips small stones over with its beak in order to find food. A group of turnstone rests on the rocks at high tide. Two turnstone are shown together, one of which is trying to regurgitate feathers it might have swallowed or the undigested hard parts of crustaceans which make up its diet. The next shot shows a turnstone in attractive mottled plumage, another scratches its head with its foot.

Nearby a juvenile common tern is calling to its parent to be fed. It's parent nearby preens itself. It flies off and as it does so a whimbrel, similar to a curlew, lands briefly on an old beam before also flying off. The juvenile tern is still crying out to be fed. It's parent lands and feeds it a small fish. The tide is now covering the rocks on the beach. In the distance two people explore on the rocks as the waves crash nearby. Purple sandpipers feed amongst the rocks. A close up shows a pair feeding in a small pool, the film cuts to a view of a larger group on the rocks. The next shot shows a gathering of turnstones with sanderling amongst them. A close up shot shows a turnstone bathing. Following shots show oystercatchers bathing and resting whilestanding on one leg. Another oystercatcher uses oil from a special gland to preen itself and waterproof it's feathers. Waves break over the rocks where the oystercatchers are gathered. They grow restless and take off as the tide advances. Large flocks of knot gather on a sandbank, surrounded by sea. Another shot shows a large flock in flight. Some 10,000 birds can flock together and panning shots follow the dazzling aerial display.

Fade out

The film cuts to show a calmer estuary, in the background the ever present heavy industry. The camera zooms in on a newly completed tower or chimney. A shunting engine is busy at work reversing across a track overgrown with vegetation. The film cuts to a road running parallel with a railway. Traffic travels away from the camera. A lorry carrying industrial waste slag, tips its load in the estuary. a necessary part the reclamation programme. A second lorry tips a load of sand as part of the same process. An access road for these lorries runs on top of an embankment of rocks. Other methods used in the reclamation of land, is the use of a large metal bucket at the end of a dragline which scoops sand and mud up from the estuary. An excavator is shown at work on top of a pile of mud and sand as water overflows the area where it is excavating. The water surges around the excavator with the dragline as it continues it's work. Pipes are moved into place, while two workmen watch. Further shots show the dragline excavator at work as the film draws to a close, with superimposed credits.

Title: Commentary Written By Anthony Clay and Narrated By Geoffrey Mathews

Title: Soundtrack By Gatenby Film Production From Natural Sounds Recorded By John Kirby

Title: Editing By Anthony Clay

Title: R.S.P.B. Film Unit, The End