Photography by Corrie Aune.
A drowsy copperhead suddenly strikes. A wolf spider sits quietly, her abdomen covered with hundreds of her babies. Mud dauber wasps work tirelessly on a river bank, rolling perfect little spheres to add to their nest. East Dallas, it’s all happening right under your nose, and neighbor Nick Mirro wants you to see it. Welcome to Dallas Nature Channel, his streaming service of short nature documentaries shot in macro — close-up — video.
Considering that Mirro has an undergrad degree in organismal biology with a focus on botany and zoology, a doctorate in chiropractic, a designation as a master naturalist and a fascination with videography, it seems almost predestined that he would conceive of and create nature documentaries.
“There’s no question,” he admits, “that I’m an over-the-top perfectionist and marveller of nature’s interesting secrets. These seem to mesh nicely with macro videography, which at its best is very exacting and revealing.”
So you have to know your arachnids from your isopods to enjoy these videos, right? Not at all. They are intended for a wide, all-ages audience — though nature nerds will love them, too.
Oh, a special shout out to teachers: “Getting these videos in front of students is a huge goal for us.”
Mirro operates with a rotating volunteer crew: Ashton Tassin, Lauren Patterson, Larissa Popkes and Kevin Church. He explains, “Our mission is to showcase prominent Dallas-area naturalists, interesting wild spaces and fascinating wild organisms. We work to show beautiful and highly detailed footage of easily overlooked wildlife. We intend to inspire viewers by delivering stunning 4K footage, high-quality audio and fascinating insights.”
Dallas Nature Channel evolved from Mirro’s YouTube channel, a roaring success with 7 million views and 5,000 subscribers, and from posts on Vimeo, which will remain as the streaming source of the DNC videos.
One of the videos you’ll see on the channel is a cautionary tale for pet owners. Mirro shot the footage at Harry Moss Park where he encountered a coyote sitting quietly in a field. But when an off-leash dog wandered too close for comfort, the coyote showed his dominance and ran off the domestic pup in short order. No injuries, fortunately, just a reminder of the wisdom of the leash.
Another popular video — and Mirro’s favorite — revolves around a wolf spider. Buckle up if you suffer from even the slightest bit of arachnophobia: You’re going to see an extreme close up of eight eyes, sharp fangs and hundreds of baby spiders. Mirro’s narration of the video reveals his obvious delight in stumbling upon such a beauty and discovering those babies on her abdomen.
She even cooperated with the filming, seemingly showing off her young for the camera. Mirro excitedly recalls, “She executed a 360 degree revolution, never leaving the focal plane. I’d have thought she’d prefer to keep her young completely hidden, yet she did the exact opposite. An enormous camera rig 10 inches away and her effect seemed calm. Next, I snapped on a super close-up lens so that she was now 4 inches away. She calmly held her ground!”
Mirro remains in awe. “That video still gives me goosebumps,” he says. “It was a one-in-a-million encounter.”
Another great moment for Mirro occurred in his video of master naturalist and amateur entomologist Laura Kimberly. “We struggled to get good footage of mud daubers creek-side, gathering mud into perfectly spherical mini marbles. I returned solo the next day and lucked into perfect light and busy mud daubers. I had no idea how good the footage was until I got back home.”
These close encounters with nature are not without their hazards. Mirro was apparently in touch with his inner Steve Irwin when he encountered a copperhead and edged a bit too close for the snake’s comfort, which struck, narrowly missing him.
Despite the occasional close call, Mirro maintains his utter enthusiasm for filming and sharing nature. His dream video would showcase Dallas’s creeks. “Dallas has a gorgeous network of creeks, some carved into limestone. I’d love to make a video showing the incredible invertebrate wildlife in these creeks,” he says. ”We actually have a few freshwater sponges, hydrozoans (related to jellyfish), shrimp, tons of mollusks and a wide variety of truly amazing aquatic arthropods.”
For now, Mirro is focused on projects around East Dallas, including one near the Bath House Cultural Center. “This spring, we are going to feature the plants and arthropods of the Blackland Prairie at White Rock Lake, hopefully with Sam Kieschnick,” he says.
He adds, “We’re also planning to feature White Rock Creek in the future. It’s a top-notch location for kayakers, naturalists and fishers. We want to get the word out. Norbuck Park is another similarly good prairie location we might feature in the future.”
Mirro clearly loves the natural beauty all around us, and he wants to inspire us to see it, too. “I want to bring all of this into the lives of urbanites, who may know little about natural history. I want to share amazing stories that are playing out right in their neighborhoods.”
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
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