'Earthflight' review: Bird's-eye view

Snow geese flying through Monument Valley in a Snow geese flying through Monument Valley in a scene from "Earthflight." Photo Credit: John Downer Productions

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REVIEW

THE SHOW "Earthflight"

WHEN | WHERE Wednesday night at 8 on WNET/13

WHAT IT'S ABOUT What exactly do birds see that we who cling safely to the ground do not? That's what this six-part "Nature" series sets out to explore with the aid of minicams, spycams, radio-controlled drones, mini HD cameras, microlights (tiny lightweight flying machines that seat a single brave human) and one very realistic-looking fake vulture. Wednesday night's first part follows some birds -- largely snow geese -- across their North American flight paths; subsequent episodes go to Africa (next Wednesday), Europe (Sept. 18), South America (Sept. 25), Asia and Australia (Oct. 2) and behind the scenes (Oct. 9).

MY SAY Before you get too excited about seeing a snow goose fly over the Great Plains with a camera mounted on its back, be advised: The goose is an actor. If it could talk, it would probably demand an agent, and a raise. (This flying business is hard work, but doing it with some guy in a microlight on your tail must be pure avian hell.) Years in the making, this series was produced for the BBC by John Downer, formerly of its justifiably famed Natural History Unit, also a specialist in "in-flight" photography, which -- in this case -- called on the services of carefully trained birds that know how to hit their marks. But worth all the effort? Yes -- and no. The photography is superb, but a "bird's-eye view" isn't always all it's cracked up to be -- especially when witnessed from the herky-jerky motion of a goose. And when the star emits an occasional -- and very loud -- honk, it's downright comical. But the glory of this series is in the trying, and much of what is seen here is spectacular. My only gripe really is a parochial one -- it's a shame "Earthflight" didn't soar over Long Island, traversed by some of the country's major migratory flyways.

BOTTOM LINE Feathered thespians aside, "Earthflight" is ultimately a celebration of the glory of our world and especially the glory of those that soar above it. What's not to like?

GRADE A

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