The title Our Nature describes exactly what you can expect: an excellent print focused on Belgian natural beauty. It can compete with the best BBC documentaries. It took at least 960 days of filming.
There was also a lot to photograph, because Belgium is full of wonderful creatures. Famous animals such as the fox, deer or wild boar of course, but also animals of lesser known stature. Which of these sect heroes should we pay attention to when we look at our “nature”?
Foresters Wouter Huygens, Jef De Winter (Nature and Forest Agency), Natuurpunt employee Koen Van Keer and photographer Pim Niesten all contributed to the film in their own way. They guide us through the five favourites.
Spring Fire Spider, Loch Ness Monster of Lommel
Lommel has one of the last groups of spiders around the world that only appears above the ground for a few days a year. This spring fire spider is the name of a hermit insect. The male is sexually mature after four years. Then it turns bright red and begins to search for a female, who will remain underground for the rest of her life.
The spring fire spider was discovered only in 2009 by Natuurpunt veteran Koen Van Keer and his brother, after declaring the animal extinct in our country for a hundred years. “After a report came out, we launched a search operation called Operation N for Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster,” Van Keir recalls. Everyone was looking for them, but no one found them. My brother even saw one crawling under his feet before we wanted to quit! “
The film shows two scenes of the spring fire spider that have hardly been seen, and have never been filmed before
“It’s a very beautiful animal with its lovely colors that were instantly at the top of my wish list,” adds Our Nature photographer Pim Nestine. “It’s kind of an ambassador for spiders. Spiders are the underdog to me, the least valuable animals I want to defend. Although I still wonder how I can get such a fat house spider outside when one wanders around the house.”
The film features two barely-seen scenes that have never been filmed before: a fight between two men for a female, and a mating scene. This last scene in particular had a lot of action. The cave in which the female burrows had to be completely dug and provided with a glass wall so that photography could be done.
Beam Neistin in action for “our nature,” up to his knees in the water.
“Then you have to get a little beam of light in there,” Nestine continues. A binocular light was hung above it. Fortunately, that didn’t bother the spiders, obviously the romance was still there (Laugh). “
Manufacturers do not want to specify exactly where spiders live, so as not to disturb the peace of animals. “In Great Britain, where they also care very much about the species, they are very secretive about it,” Van Ker explains. “On a study trip there, it was almost ‘Allo Allo’ situations. The guide just didn’t say ‘Listen very carefully’ When she revealed the pub’s location map, she looked over her shoulder to make sure no one was listening.”
fresh water barracuda spear
Behind the scenes of ‘Our Nature’: Photographer Peter Germes holds a spear.
A predatory fish with 700 teeth, a cannibal, a carnivore … and a native of Antwerp. This is a pike, or at least the one that is depicted for “our nature”.
Van Keir agrees, saying, “They were filmed at Wolfenberg’s Pond in Perchem.” “A lot of willows have fallen into the water there, so you get a kind of mangrove effect with the sunshine. And that’s between the ring around Antwerp and Singel!”
“There’s a puddle there that we run as naturally as we can, but we didn’t really know what was inside. Until Peter Jermes, the slayer of the diver, got down to it. When he came up again, he had a smile in his ears. Apparently there were several pike swimming around, More than a meter in size. That was a surprise to us too.”
The crane, a welcome tourist
“I don’t know if the average Belgian knows how powerful jacks are,” says photographer Nesten. “They are big and beautiful birds. They come from Germany and Scandinavia to winter in the south. Sometimes they stop once in our country with their young, before moving on the next day.”
“There is a spectacle in the film that was not clear. You just have to be in the right place. All weather conditions must be correct. Not only here, but also in the country where they are leaving. So you wait for the high fence in vain because the direction of the wind has changed, or because there Still very cloudy. Frustrating.”
WATCH – On Monday, September 12, Bem Nesten told de Affsbrack about “our nature.”
Fortunately, there is a whole network of cranes throughout Europe, of enthusiasts showing each other where the birds are. In the end, the team stayed on site for two weeks.
“I was able to photograph the cranes as they descended in the evening. At night, thousands of other cranes arrived. This was one of the hardest efforts I had to make for the movie: plodding through the mud to my hips without light, only to arrive just before morning into the pool where they all sat together without picking them up.”
“The scene we filmed and then hit me harder than I expected. It just blows you away, those cranes standing there calling and flying overhead. Then you feel small and insignificant, hiding at the edge of the forest. You feel in the middle of the wilderness, and that’s only in Belgium ” .
Swamp frog, blue “Lust”
Unlike the red spring spider, the swamp frog turns blue once a year during the mating season. The male then has exactly three days to find a female.
Forest ranger Jef De Winter, who runs the Kalmthoutse Heide, knows the swamp frog well. “In the film you can see in detail how their color turns bright blue and communication begins. In nature, this can only be done from a distance. They are very shy animals that immediately disappear as soon as they feel something coming.”
Do you want to admire animals from our “nature” in real life? Then be sure to explore the Belgian nature reserves on your own. But the rangers ask, Don’t specifically look for one of the genres from the movie. This creates pressures on a population that is often already in short supply. “Take the swamp frog: if disturbed, it will go underwater for up to 20 minutes. This reduces the chances of mating,” explains Jeff de Winter. “So be sure to visit the Belgian nature, but be aware that it is also vulnerable.
Nestine had exactly one day to photograph the animal. not clear. “It was very dry because of climate change,” he says. “Then my contacts in the field called: If you want to come and picture three frogs now, you can come. There was no more, and the new generations did not survive.”
Conditions weren’t right until the third year of filming, the last. “It was a beautiful morning, very early in the spring. We were able to photograph the ice in the puddles melting under the spring sun, and how male frogs had to fight for a female.”
“That was exactly what we needed, but you can’t control anything. When I came back the next day, the activity of the frog was already much less.”
Great gray shrike, butcher with feathers
One of the most gruesome scenes in the movie is the Great Gray Shrike scene. “In documentaries from Africa, you see how a lion catches a deer. Well, it is the same: a gray shriek catches a mouse,” says forest ranger Water Higgins. “I think this is one of the best shots in the movie.”
However, the spectacle is not a sight for sensitive viewers. Because the gray shrike has a special way of preserving its food. It beats its prey in a spiny thorn, usually a hawthorn. “It looks as if it slays mouse skewers. But that is the nature: someone’s death is another bread.”
“That was the most memorable picture from the movie for me,” Huygens colleague Jeff de Winter says. “We know the gray shrike does this, because we have already found a bush perched animal on the property. But if you also want to see it happen in nature, you have to be very lucky.”
“I didn’t shoot that scene, but my colleague Dick Harrogen does,” explains Pim Nestine. “I notice now that there is quite a bit of reaction from the audience, and that the scene is somewhat ominous. The funny thing is that it didn’t come to me like that. But the average audience obviously didn’t expect anything like that.”
“For me, it’s a special winter story: How does the gray shrike survive winter by storing its food supply in a tree. This is how it survives in times of scarcity. By the way, did you know it’s not a real running bird, but a songbird? Although It has a modified hook beak to be able to tear apart its prey.”
“Our Nature” will be shown in Belgian cinemas starting today. A seven-part documentary series will follow on Canvas in January.