PBS’s ‘Nature’ Spotlights Big Bend’s Biodiversity – Especially Its Wildlife

With narration from Texan actor Thomas Haden Church and music from Austin’s Explosions in the Sky, the latest entry in the long-running series takes a loving look at Big Bend.

By Laura Rice & Shelly BrisbinFebruary 10, 2021 10:58 am,

For 39 seasons, the PBS series “Nature” has shown viewers sweeping vistas of the European Alps and the Sahara desert, or up-close examinations of hummingbirds and weasels. Now, in an episode airing Wednesday on PBS stations across the country, it’s “Big Bend: The Wild Frontier of Texas.”

Skip Hobbie, who is based in Austin, served as a producer and primary cinematographer for the episode. He told Texas Standard he’s loved Big Bend since he first visited with his family at age 18.

A male Lucifer hummingbird in flight
Lee Hoy

Big Bend is more than a single national park; it consists of three very different regions that are connected: the Rio Grande, the Chihuahuan Desert and the Chisos Mountains.

“Wherever you’ve got ecosystems and geography like that overlapping, you’ve got a higher density of species and biodiversity. And so that’s one of the things that makes the Big Bend special and right for this kind of a film,” Hobbie said.

Black bears are main characters in the “Nature” film. Hobbie says the animals are charismatic, and provide a story of species recovery in Texas.

“We’d wiped them out in the early 20th century, and by protecting the park and giving the bears protection, they’ve returned on their own and repopulated West Texas on their own from distant mountains in Mexico,” Hobbie said.

An elf owl, photographed at
Christmas Mountains Oasis
Lee Hoy

Big Bend is home to some animals that aren’t found anywhere else, or that are rare outside the park. They include Lucifer hummingbirds, elf owls and desert bighorn sheep. Hobbie says you’ll even find beavers in the Rio Grande, which surprises some people.

Hobbie says he hopes his film will encourage viewers to care more about land, water and wildlife.

“Caring and conservation is rooted in knowing about things and understanding them,” he said.

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