Show Host - Jon Patch

Nature Chronicles a Diversity of Life in

The Sagebrush Sea

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 on PBS

An ecosystem tapped by energy development faces an uncertain future

It's been called The Big Empty - an immense sea of sagebrush that once stretched 500,000 square miles across North America, exasperating thousands of westward-bound travelers as an endless place through which they had to pass to reach their destinations. Yet it's far from empty, as those who look closely will discover. In this ecosystem anchored by the sage, eagles and antelope, badgers and lizards, rabbits, wrens, owls, prairie dogs, songbirds, hawks and migrating birds of all description make their homes. For one bird, however, it is a year-round home, as it has been for thousands of years. The Greater Sage-Grouse relies on the sage for everything and is found no place else. But their numbers are in decline. Two hundred years ago, there were as many as 16 million sage grouse; today, there may be fewer than 200,000.

The Sagebrush Sea tracks the Greater Sage-Grouse and other wildlife through the seasons as they struggle to survive in this rugged and changing landscape. The program airs Wednesday, May 20, 2015 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). After broadcast, the episode will be available for online streaming at pbs.org/nature.

In early spring, male sage grouse move to open spaces, gathering in clearings known as leks to establish mating rights. They strut about, puffing up yellow air sacs in their breasts and making a series of popping sounds to intimidate other males. For weeks, they practice their elaborate display and square off with other arriving males, battling to establish dominance and territory. Successful males then display for discriminating females and are allowed to mate only if chosen as the most suitable. The criteria are a mystery to all but the females, nearly all of which select only one or two males on the lek each year. Once they've bred, the hens will head off into the protective sage to build their nests near food and water and raise their offspring alone. Within a month, the chicks hatch and follow the hens as they forage for food and keep a watchful eye out for predators. In the summer, the grouse head to wetlands, often populated by farms and ranches, in search of water, only to return to the sage in the fall. Shrinking wetlands that once supported thousands of grouse still manage to provide for hundreds.

Other species discussed in the program include the golden eagle and great-horned owl. Both bird species take advantage of perfect perches on the rocks and ridges sculpted by the area's constant wind to nest, hunt, and raise their families. Cavity-nesting bluebirds and the American kestrel return each year to raise their young in rock crevices. The sagebrush serves as a nursery for the sagebrush sparrow, the sage thrasher and the Brewer's sparrow, all of which breed nowhere else.

Sage survives in this arid environment through deep roots that reach to the water below. Like water, however, many key resources are locked below ground in the high desert, bringing an increasing presence of wells, pipelines and housing. As they proliferate, the sage sea is becoming more and more fragmented, impacting habitats and migratory corridors. And of the 500,000 square miles of sagebrush steppe that stretched across North America, only half now remains. For the sage and the grouse, the future is uncertain.

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. The Sagebrush Sea is a Cornell Lab of Ornithology Production.

Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry. Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers. The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.

Nature has won over 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 12 Emmys and three Peabodys. The series received two of wildlife film industry's highest honors: the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. The International Wildlife Film Festival honored Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Media.

PBS.org/nature is the award-winning web companion to Nature, featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews, teacher's guides and more.

Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Estate of Elizabeth A. Vernon, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Filomen M. D'Agostino Foundation, Rosalind P. Walter, George B. Storer Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.

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About WNET As New York's flagship public media provider and the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children's programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah!andCyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state's unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore App where users can stream PBS content for free.

 

The three-part series, narrated by actor David Tennant, deploys 50 spycams to record many first-time images of penguin behavior

The life of a penguin is not an easy one, but recording the challenges faced by nature’s most devoted parents and their offspring in remote parts of the world was nearly as hard, and only possible due to the placement of spycams in their midst. For nearly a year, filmmakers deployed 50 animatronic cameras disguised as realistic life-size penguins, eggs and rocks to infiltrate the colonies of three very different species:  emperor penguins in Antarctica, rockhopper penguins on the Falkland Islands, and Humboldt penguins in Peru’s Atacama Desert. The resulting footage shows what it is really like to be a penguin from a whole new perspective.

Take a front row seat as they journey to their breeding grounds, raise chicks, dodge predators and return to the sea when Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, A Nature Special Presentation airs on three consecutive Wednesdays, September 24, October 1 and 8, 2014 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). After broadcast, the episodes will be available for online streaming at pbs.org/nature.

Series director John Downer (“Earthflight”) and his team filmed 1000 hours of intimate behavior for this project using both animatronic and conventional cameras, footage which was later condensed to three hours for broadcast. Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, A Nature Special Presentation contains a number of notable firsts due to the sheer length of time the production crews spent observing the colonies as well as to the presence of the spycams.

At the cold Antarctic breeding ground of the emperor penguins, emperorcams and eggcams await the arrival of prospective parents. In a humorous sequence, female emperors engage in flipper fights over the more limited pool of potential mates. Even when it’s clear which emperors are officially couples, some female rivals still try to disrupt a pair, sometimes when mating. Later, egg-laying by a female is filmed for the very first time. The footage shows how the mother uses her tail feathers to catch the couple’s single egg while her feet cushion the fall. A dropped egg on the ice would quickly freeze leaving the parents childless.

On the Falkland Islands, rockhoppercams, eggcams and even rockcams capture other firsts, including the underwater arrival of rockhopper penguins battling the stormy South Atlantic seas as they head for dry land. Some rockhoppers are also filmed using mountaineering techniques, rather than hopping, as they struggle to scale the steep rock walls to reach their clifftop nests. On a darker note, pairs that have lost their chicks to predators turn to kidnapping from others in their desperation to find another chick to care for and heated fights ensue.

The shy and rarely-filmed Humboldt of Peru’s Atacama Desert is the only mainland penguin to live in the tropics. At night, low-light Humboldtcams reveal for the first time how hungry vampire bats feed on both adults and chicks while the Humboldts fight back by kicking dirt in their faces. Other sequences show how the penguins maneuver through dangerous booby bird colonies, gangs of fur seals and potentially deadly sea lions to make their way back and forth to their nests from the sea.

With 50 remotely controlled spycams operating in tough environments, there are always mishaps:  losing three eggcams in a blizzard or having a rockhoppercam lose its head in an attack by a jealous mate. But when a predator bird mistakes eggcam for the real thing and flies off with it, viewers are treated to the first aerial of a penguin colony shot by a flying bird. The spycams, which captured many first time events and challenges faced by these dedicated parents and chicks, provide new insights into the study of penguin behavior.

Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, A Nature Special Presentation

Episode 1:  The Journey – airs Wednesday, September 24 at 8 p.m.

Emperor penguins cross a treacherous frozen sea to reach their breeding grounds. Rockhoppers brave the world’s stormiest seas only to come ashore and face a daunting 300-foot cliff, hopping most of the way up. Tropical Humboldt penguins negotiate a gauntlet of dangers to reach their desert burrow nests. The hard work for all the penguins finally pays off when their tiny, vulnerable chicks begin to hatch.

Episode 2:  First Steps – airs Wednesday, October 1 at 8 p.m.

Watched by spycams, newborn emperor penguins in Antarctica are seen walking on their mothers’ feet and taking their own first unsteady steps. On the Falklands, rockhopper chicks meet their unruly and predatory neighbors while eggcams provide unique views of the colony. In Peru, Humboldt chicks take on fur seals and take aim at gulls.

Episode 3:  Growing Up – airs Wednesday, October 8 at 8 p.m.

As their chicks become increasingly independent, emperor and rockhopper parents place them in a crèche and go fishing. Humboldt chicks are left in their burrows as the adults head for the beach. As the young grow bigger and preen out baby fluff they sport punk hairdos. Emperor chicks go skating while rockhopper chicks practice jumping skills. Eventually all the chicks leave for the sea, tackling the same hazards as their parents before them, from sea lions to predatory birds, high cliffs to glaciers.

A two-hour version of this three-hour series, titled “Penguins: Waddle All the Way,” aired on Discovery Channel last November.

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET.  For Nature, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, A Nature Special Presentation is produced by John Downer Productions for BBC.

Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry.  Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers.  The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television. 

Nature has won over 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 12 Emmys and three Peabodys. The series received two of wildlife film industry’s highest honors: the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Recently, the International Wildlife Film Festival honored Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Media.

PBS.org/nature is the award-winning web companion to Nature, featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews, teacher’s guides and more.

Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Estate of Elizabeth A. Vernon, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, the Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Susan Malloy and the Sun Hill Foundation, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by the nation’s public television stations.

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*****NEW FALL SEASON 33 PROGRAM LISTINGS ON PAGE 4

About WNETAs New York’s flagship public media provider and the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore iPad App where users can stream PBS content for free.

NEW FALL SEASON 33 PROGRAM LISTINGS

Wednesday, October 15, 8-9 p.m. on PBS

Nature “Animal Misfits” 

Life on earth is incredibly diverse, but it’s not always what you might expect.  Alongside the fastest, strongest, smartest animals are nature’s misfits.  These odd, bizarre and unlikely creatures at first glance seem-ill equipped for survival.  Left at the starting line in the race for life, these are the apparent losers in the story of evolution, yet somehow they still manage to cling to life and in some cases even thrive.  Animal Misfits reveals some surprising details about how evolution really works, demonstrating that all animals are remarkably well-adapted to their chosen way of life.

Wednesday, November 5, 8-9 p.m. on PBS

Nature “A Sloth Named Velcro”

In 2000 in the jungles of Panama, a young journalist, named Ana, has a chance encounter with a tiny orphaned sloth, which she names Velcro.  For nearly two years, the pair is inseparable until finally Ana travels up a remote river to reintroduce Velcro back to the wild.  This is the story Ana's return to Central and South America to see how much has changed since Velcro came into her life.  Sloths, once largely ignored, have become a hot topic of scientific researchers.  New studies are showing that they're not so sloth-like after all, that they have social structures, they move like primates, and that males keep small harems.  Sloth sanctuaries and rehabilitation centers are also springing up throughout the Americas as development displaces these gentle creatures.  Shot on location in Panama, Costa Rica and Colombia this is a story of friendship and a growing network of people working to learn more about sloths in order to protect them.

Wednesday, November 19, 8-9 p.m. on PBS

Nature “Invasion of the Killer Whales”

A remarkable new story is unfolding in the Arctic, one that has never been told before.  As the ice shrinks, the polar bear is struggling to survive in a fast melting world. Polar bears are great hunters on ice but recently their home ground is vanishing from under their feet. Although classified as a marine mammal, the polar bear is not adapted to hunting in the water despite being able to swim huge distances. And they are certainly no match for the world’s greatest aquatic hunter – the killer whale.  In the last few years scientists have started noting an ever-growing number of killer whales in Arctic waters in the summer months.  More and more have been attracted to these huge hunting grounds by the growing expanses of open water.  And they are attacking exactly the same prey animals as the polar bears: seals, narwhal, belugas and bowhead whales. 

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THIRTEEN's Nature Relates Stories of Animals

Getting a New Lease on Life when

My Bionic Pet airs

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 on PBS

The use of animal prosthetics is on the rise

Animals that have met with misfortune, whether from a birth defect, accident, disease or even human cruelty, are now getting a second chance at life due to human intervention and technological advances. Left disabled without limbs, fins, flippers, beaks or tails, these creatures face a grim future, if one at all. But innovative prosthetics can change those survival odds if someone comes to their rescue.

Nature profiles these animals, their rescuers and the individuals whose work has transformed their lives when My Bionic Pet airs Wednesday, April 9 at 8 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings). After the broadcast, the episode will be available for online streaming at pbs.org/nature.

My Bionic Pet shows that while animal prosthetics are sometimes later retrofitted for human needs, engineers most often adapt human technologies to an animal's anatomy. Westcoast Brace & Limb in Tampa, Florida, made its first brace for a dog named Journey, a golden retriever born without his front left paw. Jennifer Robinson, until recently the patient program director at Westcoast, and born with a limb deficiency of both legs, has a close bond with him. She often worked with Journey, a certified therapy dog, helping amputees adjust to life with prosthetics. The dog has also become a favorite visitor to patients at St. Joseph's Children Hospital, as well as veterans and the elderly.

The fabrication and subsequent operation to attach artificial limbs can be expensive, but as My Bionic Pet explains, a number of people have volunteered to assume the costs - sometimes with fundraising support - and even care of these disabled animals. Los Angeles area friends Kathy Wyer and Elodie Lorenz decided to co-foster Roofus, a blind golden retriever with deformed front legs, and arrange for specialized prosthetics that allow him to walk with all four legs. Likewise, Tara Bayne and Devin Napier from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, became owners of Driftwood, a border collie puppy born with both rear feet missing. Nature follows Driftwood's surgery and subsequent first steps on his new artificial hind feet.

The documentary notes that it's often a matter of trial and error before a solution is reached. It was a team effort by Phoenix's Core Institute and Midwestern University professor Justin Georgi to design a replacement rubber tail for Mr. Stubbs, an alligator whose appendage was bitten off by a larger gator. Other stories include replacing part of a swan's deformed beak so he can preen and eat properly at the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue in Indian Trail, North Carolina; and providing Molly, an injured pony, with a new prosthetic leg so she can serve as a therapy animal around the New Orleans area.

Not every disability requires a high-tech solution. When a piglet, born with deformed, unusable back legs, was brought to veterinarian Dr. Len Lucero's clinic to be euthanized, the Florida vet offered to take care of him. Dr. Lucero built a wheeled harness from some of his son's old toys so newly named pet Chris P. Bacon could move around. The porcine pet has since graduated to a wheelchair originally built for dogs, having outgrown his first homemade device.

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET for PBS.  For Nature, Fred Kaufman is executive producer. My Bionic Pet is a production of Pangolin Pictures and THIRTEEN Productions LLC in association with WNET.

Nature pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry.  Throughout its history, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers.  The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.

Nature has won over 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 11 Emmys and three Peabodys.  The series received two of wildlife film industry's highest honors: the Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award given by the Wildscreen Festival and the Grand Teton Award given by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Recently, the International Wildlife Film Festival honored Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman with its Lifetime Achievement Award for Media.

PBS.org/nature is the award-winning web companion to Nature, featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews, teacher's guides and more.

Support for this Nature program was made possible in part by the Arnhold Family in memory of Clarisse Arnhold, the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, the Filomen M. D'Agostino Foundation, by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by the nation's public television stations.

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About WNET


As New York's flagship public media provider and the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to over 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children's programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state's unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mike Schneider and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore iPad App where users can stream PBS content for free.


About "Think Wednesday"


My Bionic Pet is part of PBS' new "Think Wednesday" programming lineup of television's best science, nature and technology programming that includes the acclaimed series NATURE and NOVA, the highest-rated nature and science series on television, coupled with new special programming at 10 p.m.  Wednesday nights on PBS offer new perspectives on life in the universe and keep viewers both curious and wanting more.