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Heinz Sielmann – Mr Woodpecker on Google Doodle

Heinz Sielmann, a German naturalist, documentary maker and  biologist who found revolutionary new ways to capture his subjects celebrated in a Google Doodle on his 101st birthday

Heinz Sielmann - Mr Woodpecker on Google Doodle
Heinz Sielmann

Heinz Sielmann, the late German naturalist and documentary maker, was hailed for his ingenious way of capturing elusive animal behaviour on film.

Often referred to as “Mr Woodpecker”, Sielmann would have celebrated his birthday on June 2.

A Google Doodle pays tribute to the renowned biologist and filmmaker Heinz Sielmann, on what would have been his 101st birthday.

In his honour, Google is changing its logo in nine countries to a doodle, or illustration of him and nature.

This is his story:

Carpenters of the Forest

  • Born in Rheidt, Germany in 1917, Sielmann moved to East Prussia at a young age where his father opened a business of electrical materials.
  • He showed a fascination with the natural world from the first years of his life; he would often wake up early to observe birds.
  • At the age of 17, after being given his first camera, he started photographing his natural surroundings.
  • Heinz Sielmann

    One of Sielmann’s most notable works was Carpenters of the Forest, which captured one of Europe’s most elusive birds, the woodpecker, in a way that had never been seen before.

  • Sielmann placed cameras inside woodpeckers’ nests and in this way he ended up capturing intimate moments between parent and offspring.
  • The film was an enormous success globally. The BBC, which broadcast it, was inundated with requests to show it again. The programme’s appreciation index matched that of a football final, according to British newspaper The Guardian.
  • The project was followed by a book about its making called My Year with the Woodpeckers. In it, Sielmann wrote: “Of all the animals that I have worked with, the woodpeckers are my favourites … because I was able to find out many new facts about the biology of these birds.”

    Lords of the Forest

  • In the late 1950s, Sielmann released his fist feature film, Lords of the Forest, which was commissioned by Belgium’s king.
  • Sielmann spent 18 months filming the gorillas in what was at the time the Belgian Congo.
  • Heinz Sielmann - Mr Woodpecker on Google Doodle
    Heinz Sielmann

    This film won first place at the Moscow Film Festival and quickly became one of his most known works.

  • He was of the first to capture the social nature of gorillas. His film showed that gorillas were gentle and sociable creatures, not the violent animals some people thought them to be.
  • In the next years, from 1965 to 1991, Sielmann presented a popular wildlife show on German Television, Expeditions into the Animal Kingdom.
  • In 1971, he filmed The Hellstrom Chronicle, which showed the struggle for survival between humans and insects. This won an Oscar for best documentary.
  • He also was the cinematographer on a documentary about the sex lives of animals.
  • He founded the Heinz Sielmann Foundation, devoted to giving children a better understanding of conservation issues.
  • Sielmaan died in October 12, 2006 in the German city of Munich. He was 89.

Despite creating a wide range of wildlife documentaries over his life, Sielmann gained the nickname “Mr Woodpecker” after the release of one of his most best-loved films, Carpenters of the Forest, in 1954.

Detailing the life of the bird, it featured then-groundbreaking footage from inside its nests and became hugely popular in Britain after it was broadcast on the BBC.

That the film, known as The Woodpecker on UK broadcasts, remains his most famous work among a career littered with award-winning movies pays testament to its ability to capture the imaginations of audiences at the time.

Born in in Rheydt, Germany, in 1917, Sielmann moved to East Prussia at an early age where his father opened a business selling electrical and building supplies.

His fascination with wildlife began as a child, often waking up early in order to watch birds before school.

At the age of 17, he received his first camera and made his first steps into the world of wildlife photography.

East Prussia became the setting for his first nature film in 1938, a silent movie on birdlife in the province.

However, the young Sielmann’s career was interrupted the following year by the outbreak of the Second World War.

He was initially stationed in occupied Poland as an instructor at a radio communications training unit for the Luftwaffe, spending time as a prisoner of war in Cairo and London.

After the war, he began his critically-acclaimed work for the Educational Film Institute of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Heinz Sielmann - Mr Woodpecker on Google Doodle
Heinz Sielmann – Mr Woodpecker on Google Doodle

It was during this time he started filming Carpenters of the Forest, capturing the elusive woodpecker in a degree of depth that had not been seen before.

Sielmann placed cameras inside woodpecker nests and in doing so was able to film intimate moments between parents and offspring, a move that helped the documentary become a global hit.

“Of all the animals that I have worked with, the woodpeckers are my favourites,” Sielmann would later write, “because I was able to find out many new facts about the biology of these birds.”

In the late 1950s, he released his first feature film, Les Seigneurs de la Forêt, or Lords of the Forest, which was commissioned by the King of Belgium and filmed in the then-Belgian Congo.

The film was notable for being one of the first to capture the social nature of gorillas in their natural habitat. It won first place at the Moscow Film Festival and quickly became one of his most revered works, being translated into 26 languages including an English version narrated by Orson Welles.

In 1971 he photographed for the Academy Award winning film The Hellstrom Chronicle, along with Walon Green, about the threat that insects collectively pose to humans and the struggle between the two.

In 1994, he founded the Heinz Sielmann Stiftung, a foundation that has successfully reintroduced otters and beavers into the wild in Germany.

He died surrounded by his family in Munich in 2006.

Source: aljazeera.com, independent.co.uk

Azad Hind News

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