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Through the eyes of the winged elf

The film that will transform your perspective about how humans impact forest conservation…and about the functioning of the scientific world

Hugo Robles

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Popular science film with strong implications for nature conservation that provides a unique perspective through the eyes of an indicator bird species associated with European old-growth deciduous forests: the middle spotted woodpecker, our winged elf.

Behind the story of the natural history of the winged elf, there is also a parallel story of a group of researchers that have jeopardised a large part of their personal and familiar goods to maintain active, for more than two decades, a research line with enormous scientific and conservationist value… even after being aware that this strategy will lead to their academic suicide. This documentary provides therefore a fresh and authentic look at forest research and conservation by following a team of researchers that must overcome multiple difficulties to discover the secrets of the winged elf and its vast accompanying biodiversity.

Both stories – the leading one on the winged elf and the underlying one on the research team – weave together in approximately 40-60 minutes to give responses and open new questions on forest ecology, nature conservation and the functioning of the scientific world in a way never seen before. So… Get ready to debunk established myths about human-nature relationships…and about the functioning of the scientific world!

We need your support to materialize that look in a documentary. Be aware that, without your contribution, this exciting documentary project will not reach the light and, very likely, the long-term research on the winged elf will not continue. Thus, THANKS SO MUCH in advance!

About the rewards

In addition to the already per se significant value of contributing to a great cause, you will be able to choose one or several rewards among those described below. Do not miss the surprises that we have prepared for you… You decide how to contribute and what to get in turn… THANK YOU!

Documentary in streaming – You will watch online the film through a streaming platform, where and when you want.

Documentary in USB stick with case – You will watch the film in your devise by a USB stick. You will be able to pick it up in one of the locations that we will arrange in the cities of León, Oviedo or Madrid. Alternatively, you will receive it at home by post. Protected with a non-toxic plastic case to store it safely wherever you want.

Exclusive print of a winged elf for this documentary – Print of an illustration in dinA5 created exclusively for this documentary. All prints will be numbered and signed by the artist Lourdes Berzas. Currently under construction, you can watch some of Lourdes’s creations here, and a video on the amazing creation process of a winged elf directly on human skin here Do not miss it!

Original illustration of a winged elf– Customised in agreement with the artist Lourdes Berzas in dinA4. A luxury for a selected group of contributors!

Adopt a winged elf! – One of the nicest ways to contribute consists in adopting one of the winged elves ringed by the research team. You will get by email its capture location, picture, biometry and info on the resighting locations and conditions for the next two years. You can choose between adopting a juvenile (approx. 25% of them are resighted only, but often at relatively long distances) or an adult (approx. 75% of them are resighted, often around the capture location). What else!?

Guided visit to the woods – Join us to the habitat of the winged elf, full of centenary oaks and many other natural treasures. You will get detailed explanations to better understand nature and the research project directly from the research team. You will be able to choose when to visit us between two dates that will be agreed with all the participants and the research team. Most likely, we will select one date in the summer and another one in the autumn 2022. The displacement to the initial point of the visit around the village of Almanza (León, Spain) will not be included. Join us to the woods!

Coffee/tea and online chatting – Perhaps you cannot join us to the field, but you still want to talk to us about the project. Take your favourite drink with one of the members of the team at your own choice and have an informal online chat. But remember that your drink comes from your side ;-) Who is in!?

Become a producer! – Your name or the name of your company or institution will appear in the section of “producers and special collaborators”, both at the beginning and at the end of the film. Apart from the tax deduction benefits that may arise from this modality, you(r company/institution) will benefit from a broad visibility through the exposure of the film in wide variety of national and international events, such as e.g. events in learning centres (schools, universities and others), scientific conferences, film festivals, or nature conservation events, among others.

Who we are

Do not expect an orthodox group, you will not find it. We have neither permanent nor exclusive connection with research centres, but rather a foot inside and the other one outside the academia, perhaps in that place where conceptual thinking matches the numerous feelings and logistic issues that are inherent to the “real world”. Neither experts, nor excellent, nor powerful in the social media. Cosmopolite, provincialist, urbanist, rural, tidy, chaotic, impulsive, reflexive, social, solitary…all them can define us, but, essentially, we are just a group of persons strongly committed with their dreams and ideas that are linked by a profound attraction to nature and the need of communicating.

With the assistant of a bunch of crucial collaborators, we have monitored a Cantabrian population of the middle spotted woodpecker, our winged elf, for 23 consecutive years, trying to add new techniques and questions to respond every season. It is now the time to disseminate our findings to the general public.

The winged elf, “the principal performer”

The one that gives sense to all this story. The southwestern edge of its distribution range is located in the southern Cantabrian mountains, where this story takes place. Throughout its eyes, we will explore the natural treasures of the old oak forest, the human-nature relationships, and how the researches overcome the vicissitudes to monitor its population.

Hugo Robles, "the one speaking… and getting wrong"

Unconsciously, the idea of this documentary arose in December 1999, during my first visit to the best-preserved oak forests in the Cantabrian range. There I started to discover the secrets of the winged elf, which resulted in my PhD dissertation. Afterwards, and against my strong philopatric tendency, I carried out a large part of my personal and professional career far away from my natal León city: A Coruña, Antwerp, Vancouver, Basque Country, Delft or Sempach, among others. Even so, some kind of long umbilical chord kept me irremediably linked to the Cantabrian forests at least a couple of weeks every year, which allowed me to continue monitoring the population of winged elves for more than two decades. Currently, I juggle to make compatible my part-time teaching duties in the University of Oviedo with my consultancy work for conservation-oriented projects, while keeping active my investigations as honorary research associate at the University of Antwerp, and trying to conciliate all this puzzling labour scenario with my role as a dad of two little Dutch girls.

Chano (Robles), “the (grand)pa”

No doubt he is the main responsible for the research project being still active after 23 breeding seasons. Besides inculcating his curiosity and attraction for nature to me, I was extremely lucky that he became pre-retired when I just started my PhD project with the winged elves. Since then, he participates as field assistant, cook and hosteller of the team, entertainer and tireless conversationalist, data entering assistant, responsible for multiple unforeseen logistic duties, sponsor… With an exceptional enthusiasm and a work capacity out of the ordinary for a 74-spring man, he has kept the project ongoing during the many years with lack of external funding.

Carlos Rodríguez, “the Bug”

PhD in Ecology and founder of “Bicho Prods” (i.e. “Bug Prods") in 2006, since then he has combined his scientific rigor, his commitment with high-quality production and his passion for nature to create some of the most innovative documentaries conducted in the last years. Not surprising that some of his films, like Durienses, have received multiple mentions and awards in international festivals. He has carried out documentaries for several conservation-oriented projects of the prestigious European LIFE+ programme, for governmental organisations as well as for extreme sport companies. Experienced kayaker, mountaineer and, overall, compulsive traveller, the Bug has filmed natural scenes from the arctic to Patagonia. His experience in filming under extremely unfavourable outdoor conditions, his elegancy in the elaborations of scrips as well as in the edition of images and audios, and his domain of the current filming techniques are the best guarantees of a high quality product.

Carlos Ciudad, “the curls”

Since his arrival to the forests of the winged elf in 2003, the curls has been an essential piece for the long-term monitoring project. He carried out the second PhD dissertation on the winged elves in the Cantabrian woods. Although he is the happiest searching for winged elves, he has participated also in research and conservation projects about large carnivores, ecological connectivity, pollution… as postdoctoral researcher at the Polytechnique University of Madrid, technician for SEO/BirdLife, environmental consultant, GIS analyser, teacher and independent photographer. He currently works as a technician for Tragsatec by developing monitoring protocols for multiple species. His expertise in spatial analysis and ecological modelling, his knowledge of field protocols for monitoring winged elves, and his commitment with the project are essential for the success of both the documentary and the research projects.

Zeno Porro, “the Azzurro”

Unexpectedly incorporated in 2015, this young “Azzurro” quickly learned the protocol and got the skills for monitoring winged elves. Having good aptitudes for data analysis, he participates remotely in the research project. He currently works as an independent consultant and researcher, highlighting his studies on forest birds and urban ecology in Italy. But, in addition, Zeno has a second brilliant career as DJ and music compositor. Who knows if the Azzurro will compose part of the film score to liven up the findings of the secrets of the winged elf!

Lourdes Berzas, “la (pi)piola”

The last and completely unexpected incorporation into the project of dissemination of the secrets of the winged elves is a solidary “pipiola” with an innate capacity for communicating through the illustration. Being able to capture the expression of any creature, our “pipiola” uses the illustration as a tool for social transformation that culminates, inevitably, in nature conservation actions. To achieve this goal, she combines her terrific manual ability with her training in psychology and her environmental sensitivity in a pure innovative action. No doubt she is the designer of the most beautiful rewards of this campaign. You cannot miss the surprises that will arrive from her hand…and her mind!

What will the funding be used for

The total cost for producing the documentary reaches 34228 euros. A great portion of this amount has been or will be supplied by the Instituto Leonés de Cultura, Bicho Prods and the members of the research team. However, we need 8900 euros, hopefully collected in this campaign, to guarantee that the project will be developed successfully.

In one project like ours, in which we conduct field observations approximately 90 days every year, a large part of the funding must be invested in fieldwork. In each fieldwork day, we move on average 140 km in our own vehicle to map the territories of the winged elves (February to April), which allows us to find the nesting cavities and to monitor their breeding performance later in the season (May to early July). It is during fieldwork when we record the images of the winged elves by using professional cameras, drone and camera trapping techniques.

Back in the office, we will have to edit several hundred hours of recording material, to develop the scripts and to ensemble sound and images. Moreover, we will have to afford the services for the locution in Spanish and English, to hire a studio where to record the locutions, to pay for the rights to use some music, etc.

Finally, we will have to afford the costs associated with the crowdfunding campaign, such as the production and shipment of rewards, the cost of using the Verkami platform and the taxes.


We started filming in spring 2021. Since February this year we are monitoring the population of winged elves, which will allow us recording their activity in spring and locate their nesting cavities. From April to early July 2022, we will conduct all the recordings corresponding to the second breeding season being filmed. We will perform the edition, locution and postproduction from July to October. We expect to release the film and deliver the rewards along November 2022.


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  • Nathalie


    about 2 years

    Looking forward to the final product 😍

  • Hugo Robles

    Hugo Robles

    about 2 years

    Gracias Aida...ya casi cumplimos con el objetivo mínimo!! A ver si mañana hay algo importante que celebrar 😀

  • Hugo Robles

    Hugo Robles

    about 2 years

    Gracias Rober!! Seguro que sí, estamos a puntito de conseguir llegar al mínimo. Todo lo que se recaude a mayores repercutirá sin duda en la calidad del documental...Más y mejores infografías, locución, etc.



    about 2 years

    Mucha suerte en el proyecto, seguro que se consigue!!

  • Aida


    about 2 years

    Muchísimas ganas de ver el documental!!! Mucha suerte

  • Hugo Robles

    Hugo Robles

    about 2 years

    Muchísimas gracias, Paco y Rafa!! Ya llevamos el 75% del objetivo. Un esfuerzo más en estos 13 días que nos quedan de campaña y lo habremos conseguido con la ayuda de todos vosotros. Mientras tanto, seguimos monitoreando a los duendes alados y otras criaturas del bosque. Tenemos muchas sorpresas preparadas para el documental...seguimos trabajando!!

  • rafael


    about 2 years

    Mucha suerte amigos. Os la merecéis. Rafa

  • paco peña

    paco peña

    about 2 years

    ANIMO!!!!! y que todo salga bien

  • Hugo Robles

    Hugo Robles

    about 2 years

    GRACIAS a ti Javier!!...y todos los que nos acompañáis en esta aventura!

  • Javier Coll

    Javier Coll

    about 2 years


#14 / ¡Estrenamos documental! - Premiere!

Estimados colaboradores y amigos:

Tengo el inmenso placer de comunicaros que ya tenemos fechas para el estreno del documental. Aquí van.

13 de julio – 11:00 h. Almanza (León), Hostal La Pradera.

25 de julio – 16:30 h. Oviedo. Edificio Histórico de la Universidad de Oviedo, aula magna.

Independientemente del estreno, iremos enviando las merecidas recompensas a lo largo del verano.

¡Espero que podamos compartir y disfrutar del resultado con todos vosotros en esas fechas! Una vez más, ¡Mil gracias a todos!

Hugo, en nombre del equipo

Dear collaborators and friends:

It is our pleasure to communicate here that our documentary film project is about to premiere. Below you will find the first two locations and dates to enjoy the documentary film.

13th of July – 11:00 h. Almanza (León province), Hostal La Pradera

25th of July – 16:30 h. Oviedo city. Edificio Histórico, University of Oviedo.

Regardless the premiere, we will send the well deserved rewards along this summer.

read more

#13 / A punto de compartir el documental con vosotros / About to share the documentary film with you

(English below)

Estimados colaboradores y amigos:

Me complace comunicaros que estamos finalizando el proyecto documental. Actualmente estamos buscando localización para el estreno, que tendrá lugar en Asturias. En las próximas semanas os comunicaremos la fecha y la localización definitivas. Desde ese momento comenzaremos también a enviar o entregar las recompensas.

Queremos agradeceros una vez más vuestra paciencia y apoyo en este apasionante proyecto. El documental cuenta ahora con imágenes sorprendentes de tres anualidades. Esto nos ha permitido grabar algunos comportamientos realmente únicos.

¡Estamos deseando compartir el resultado de este excitante proyecto con todos vosotros!

Hugo, en nombre del equipo

Dear collaborators and friends:

It is our pleasure to… read more

#12 / ¡Seguimos avanzado! - Making progress!

Estimados amigos y colaboradores,

Seguimos trabajando con mucha ilusión en el proyecto documental.

En octubre hemos podido disfrutar de las visitas guiadas a varios bosques cantábricos con algunos de vosotros. La experiencia ha sido muy enriquecedora… ¡gracias a todos los participantes! De hecho, en una de las visitas, algunos de los presentes pudieron fotografiar y grabar a una hembra juvenil dispersante (¡la de la foto!), localizada a unos 7 kilómetros de su lugar de nacimiento. Muchas gracias a Xabi Vázquez Pumariño por inmortalizar este momento con su cámara y por donar sus grabaciones, que seguro incorporaremos al documental.

Además, ya tenemos prácticamente todas las imágenes grabadas y una versión muy avanzada del guion, por lo que empezaremos con el montaje definitivo del audiovisual en estas semanas. También a lo largo de… read more

#11 / ¡Lista la ilustración del duende alado! - The illustration of the winged elf is ready!

Estimados amigos y colaboradores,

¡Ya tenemos lámina del duende alado! Mil gracias de nuevo a la artista Lourdes Berzas por esta inestimable contribución desinteresada al proyecto documental del duende alado. Impresionante ver el proceso creativo en el video. ¡Espero que lo disfrutéis tanto como nosotros!

Dear friends and collaborators,

We have the illustration of the winged elf for the documentary film! Thanks a lot again to the artist Lourdes Berzas for her uninterested contribution to the project. Awesome to see the creative process in the attached video. Enjoy it!


#10 / chicks are growing - los pollos van creciendo

Little by little, cavity nesting chicks are growing in the Cantabrian oak forest. Sooner than later the first winged elf fledglings will show up!

Poco a poco, van creciendo los pollos de las aves nidificantes en cavidades en el robledal cantábrico. ¡Más pronto que tarde tendremos volantones de duende alado!

#09 / Primero celebrar…¿y después? – time to celebrate…and then?

Mil gracias de nuevo a tod@s por acompañarnos en esta aventura de divulgación científica y conservación. ¡Os animamos a seguir celebrando este pequeño gran logro!

Many thanks once again to you all for joining us in this popular science and conservation adventure. We encourage you to continue celebrating the achievement of the crowdfunding campaign!

En las próximas semanas os enviaremos un formulario solicitándoos información relativa a la dirección de envío y, si es necesario, a las características de las recompensas. Por favor, tened en cuenta que, debido a la sincronía en la reproducción de los duendes alados, tenemos que monitorear la cría y anillarles en un periodo concentrado en estas semanas. Por ello, os pedimos un poco de paciencia a la hora de actualizar la información y enviaros los formularios. ¡Gracias de antemano por vuestra comprensión!

read more


¡ Enhorabuena a todos los que formáis parte de esta aventura, juntos hemos alcanzado el objetivo mínimo de financiación!! Significa que seremos capaces de seguir trabajando en ambos en proyecto científico y el proyecto documental de divulgación científica.

Big congratulations to everyone who takes part of this adventure, we have achieved the minimum funding goal!! This means we will be able to keep on working on both the scientific project and the popular science film!

¡MUCHÍSIMAS GRACIAS por vuestro apoyo! Aun tenemos cuatro días para atraer más participantes e incrementar la financiación, lo que servirá para mejorar la calidad del documental. La financiación adicional conseguida estos días se usará en mejorar las infografías del documental, la locución, la música, etc. ¡Así que POR FAVOR seguid transfiriendo el mensaje entre vuestros contactos y redes sociales en los pocos días que restan para el fin de la campaña!

THANK YOU VERY MUCH for your support!!!read more

#07 / Primeros duendes alados anillados – First banded winged elves

Carlos “Bicho” graba a Chano “el becario” liberando uno de los duendes alados capturados e individualmente marcados con anillas de color. Esto nos permite, a través de posteriores reobservaciones en el campo, conocer sus movimientos, su supervivencia o su éxito reproductivo…y los factores que les influyen.

Carlos “the Bug” films how Chano “the student” releases a winged elf after being banded with a unique colour-ring combination. By resighting individually-ringed woodpeckers in the field, we are able to know their movements, survival or breeding success…and the factors that influence them.



#06 / ¡Habemus pullos!

“Habemus pullos”! Primeros pollos de pico mediano, nuestros duendes alados. Poco más de 3 semanas para que vuelen del nido. Seguimos grabando para el documental sobre ciencia y conservación de los bosques Cantábricos.

“Habemus pullos”! First woodpecker hatchlings in the Cantabrian oak forest. A little bit more than 3 weeks for fledging. We keep on recording the popular science documentary on the Cantabrian forest biodiversity and conservation.

Hatching. They keep together to keep warm...and do not call to avoid being detected by predators. How many chicks do you see? Eclosionando. Se mantienen juntos para no perder calor y no vocalizan para evitar ser detectados por depredadores. Cuantos pollos ves?
Hatching. They keep together to keep warm...and do not call to avoid being detected by predators. How many chicks do you see? Eclosionando. Se mantienen juntos para no perder calor y no vocalizan para evitar ser detectados por depredadores. Cuantos pollos ves?

#05 / Boceto de un duende alado - Sketch of a winged elf

Nuestra pipiola Lourdes Berzas ya está trabajando en la ilustración de un precioso duende alado. Aquí va un boceto, ¿Qué te parece?

Our artist Lourdes Berzas is already working on the illustration of a gorgeous winged elf. Here a sketch. How do you like it?

#04 / Huevos - Eggs

Seguimos monitoreando la reproducción de los duendes y otras criaturas aladas en los melojares cantábricos. ¡Es tiempo de poner huevos e incubar!

We keep on monitoring the reproduction of the elves and other winged creatures in the Cantabrian oak forest. Time to lay eggs and incubate!

#03 / Grabada la hembra más longeva anillada en la actualidad - Recorded the oldest banded female in the study area

Carlos Bicho ha grabado estos días a la hembra marcada de mayor edad que tenemos con vida en la actualidad mientras guardaba la cavidad de cría ya construida pero sin huevos. Ocho años, ahí es nada! Cerca del record de 10 años que observamos también para esta especie gracias a nuestro estudio.

Carlos Bicho recorded the oldest banded and still alive female middle spotted woodpecker (8 years old) while guarding her nesting cavity before egg-laying time. Quite close to the maximum longevity of 10 years, also observed in our study area.

#02 / Primer huevo - First egg!

Primer huevo de un duende alado cantábrico! Curiosamente, los duendes de esta población sureña son los que crían lo mas tardíamente en su rango distributivo mundial debido al efecto altitudinal.

First egg of a winged elf in the southern Cantabrian Mountains! Curiously, elves in this southernmost population breed the latest within the species distribution range due to altitudinal effects.

#01 / Gracias a los pioneros - Bedankt aan de pioneers

¡GRACIAS por ser los pioneros en subiros al carro de esta aventura de divulgación científica y conservación! Durante el primer día de campaña hemos alcanzado el 10% del objetivo de financiación. Todavía queda un largo trecho para el objetivo final, pero estamos en el buen camino. ¡Animo y a seguir difundiendo!

DANK JULLIE WEL for being the pioneers to join us in this adventure of popular scientific dissemination with nature conservation implications. After the first campaign day, we have reached the 10% of our goal. Still a long way to success, but we are on the right way. Let’s keep spreading the word!

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