Flight of the Swans wouldn’t be possible without the support of our amazing team of volunteers. Matthew Harris is a wildlife cameraman, conservation biologist and occasional expedition chef. Here we catch up with him to find out what he hopes he can bring to the expedition – aside from making coffee using a sock.
Q What prompted you to get involved in Flight of the Swans?
I was a regular visitor to Slimbridge growing up. I have always been intrigued by the natural world and over the years have developed a real passion for its protection. I studied conservation at Bangor University and after graduating moved into media production and camera work. I saw the media volunteers role come up on an environmental job site and it was clear that it would be a perfect way of marrying my two passions – conservation biology and visual story telling.
Q What are you looking forward to most about the expedition?
I have always been drawn to the area of the world we will be flying through on this expedition. I’m not sure why. I think it’s the vast landscapes and amazing people who live there. I’m really excited to see these places and get to know the local people, while at the same time doing my part to protect the species that live there.
I’m also excited about building a team that will work together to overcome the challenges that we’re going to face along the way. It’s hard to imagine that in a couple of months we’ll be winding our way across the Siberian tundra trying to keep track of, and film, a bunch of birds and paramotorists. As much as we plan, there will always be unknowns, both good and bad. That sense of real adventure is really exciting!
Q How hard was the selection process?
The selection process was a challenge in the sense that you knew your every move was being watched! With a place on such an amazing expedition at stake the pressure was on. However, I managed to put that out of my mind fairly quickly and took it as a chance to get to know a group of very interesting people and learn some valuable skills.
Even seemingly simple tasks, like walking in a straight line blindfolded turned out to be surprisingly tricky. I learnt that in less than 100 meters of walking I could turn 180 degrees and still think I’m heading in a straight line. I also learnt the importance of using a compass…
Q What are you hoping you can bring to the expedition?
Aside from being able to point a camera at things and fly drones, I feel I bring a logical, level head to the expedition. Also, I’m pretty good at throwing together a half decent meal out of random ingredients.
While driving through Central and South America I got pretty proficient at making popcorn on the move, making coffee using a sock and creating something edible from mysterious vegetables and dubious animal bits. High in the Peruvian hills we forgot to do a food stop so were left rummaging in the recesses of our 78 Corolla for anything edible. One onion, a cup a soup, half a bag of flour and a little lump of cheese later, we were tucking into tomato entomatadas. Or something fairly similar!
Q What does Flight of the Swans mean to you?
Flight of the Swans is a chance to engage people from all walks of life about not only the Bewick’s swan but broader conservation issues as well.
But you don’t have to be a volunteer on the expedition to make a difference. You do something as simple as sign our petition which demands protection for these birds and their valuable wetland habitats.