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Sunrise on the Shannon Image Name: Sunrise on the Shannon
Kingfisher on Shannon Image Name: Kingfisher on Shannon
Colin Stafford-Johnson on the Shannon Image Name: Colin Stafford-Johnson on the Shannon
Colin Stafford Johnson on the Shannon Image Name: Colin Stafford Johnson on the Shannon

This natural history two-part documentary series for RTÉ Television brings viewers on a truly spectacular journey along the River Shannon, revealing the secret lives of its wild inhabitants.

Camping on its banks, wandering its islands and paddling its many tributaries in his canoe, the series is hosted by internationally renowned wildlife presenter Colin Stafford-Johnson. Over the two years of production, Colin journeyed the length of the river dozens of times to bring to Irish viewers this remarkable portrait of Ireland’s greatest geographical feature.

Beautifully filmed and scored, The Secret Life of the Shannon  follows the river from dawn to dusk through four seasons and captures the river’s ever changing moods. It explores the countless waterways, islands and lakes that make up the entire river system and focuses on some of the river’s more unusual inhabitants. Those that are more common, the films look at through fresh eyes. This is not a journey from source to sea, it is a journey of delicate beauty and discovery following the Shannon’s wild creatures throughout the year.

Produced by Wicklow-based company, Crossing the Line, the series pushes the boundaries of wildlife film making in Ireland. The team have used a host of techniques to bring never before filmed Irish sequences and stories to Irish viewers. Most notably, the team used the cutting edge Phantom High Speed Camera, used to such great effect in Christopher Nolan’s film ‘Inception’, to slow down and capture fast moving animals in all their glory.

From the hunting adventures of Daubenton’s Water Bats, to the acrobatic antics of our Red Squirrels leaping through the forest, and the magnificent Whooper Swans to the exquisite Orange Tipped Butterfly filmed at 1000 frames per second, the world of slow motion opens up new vistas in appreciating Ireland’s wild animals. The filmmakers also gained access to a series of remote places few ever experience – filming high in the tree canopy for weeks following the intimate goings-on of a Little Egret colony as parent birds brood their young in a giant nesting platform thirty feet in the air. The hunting sequence captured of the elusive kingfisher is breathtaking. Slowed down by 40 times, viewers suddenly see the exquisite beauty of these remarkable animals in action. The camera team also ventured underwater capturing for the first time on film in Ireland the mating behaviour of Pike during the spawning season in Lough Allen.

Programme One introduces us to our presenter Colin Stafford-Johnson and to his journey. Opening with early morning mist rising off the river, viewers will be transported to a world few ever see. Close-ups of riverside wildflowers revealing the minutiae of river life give way to massive aerial shots of the river as it flows to the sea. Colin offers thoughtful reflections from inside his canoe or by the light of his campfire. A kaleidoscope of colour and action crosses the screen with giant butterflies and dragonflies powering up and taking off in slow motion. Kingfishers are filmed crashing into the river on their relentless hunt for fish while the Daubenton’s Bat is filmed at night scooping insects from the water’s surface.

Produced by Crossing the Line Productions in association with RTÉ with the support of BAI, ESB, Waterways Ireland, The Heritage Council and NoticeNature.