A vast wetland in South Africa. The mist swirls and conceals the sun and the sky, and then twists again and shows patterns of morning sky.
A team of scientists, vets, and expert birders are searching the wetland in the hopes of finding a White-winged Flufftail, a bird that has only been seen a handful of times in the past few decades. On the IUCN Critically Endangered List, the flufftail may be in this wetland, or be extinct here, as in many other areas of its range.
The teams set out, wading through the swampy wetland, sometimes falling into deep drifts, all the while dragging ropes across the sedges and reeds to try and flush the bird into one of the many fine-meshed bird nets stretched across the valley.
Hours go by, and despondency and resignation start to trickle into the body language of theteams.
Then a shout goes up – a flufftail flies over the sweepers, and dives for cover in the marshes.
They follow, carefully tracking where it might have crept.
Then one of the team sees it, and manages to hold the delicate bird in his hands.
It is carefully bagged and taken by the vet for dna blood sampling, weighing and measuring, feather sampling and more. The more the world knows about this rare bird, the more it can help bring it back from a path to extinction.
Finally the delicate creature is released again, and sits on the grass, not moving.
After a gentle prompt , it flies back into the wetland, and the team looks on, powerless for now to help it immediately. But the data gathered will be a step towards knowing more about a life that was virtually unknown, and with knowledge can come freedom.