Derek Bromhall will be forever associated with the colony of swifts in the tower of the Oxford Museum of Natural History.

He has died peacefully at home in Oxford at the age of 92.

Mr Bromhall brought his talents as a pioneering scientist and inspirational film maker together to create a work of enduring enchantment, the film Devil Birds.

His film portrayed for the first time the detailed behaviour of nesting swifts using the colony in the Oxford tower which had already been made famous through the pioneering work of the natural scientist, David Lack.

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The film was made with very basic equipment during 1976, the hottest UK summer since records began.

Mr Bromhall worked in his swimming trunks in sweltering temperatures in the narrow confines of the tower.

Much ingenuity was needed to film the lightning-fast swifts and certain shots proved hazardous.

To get footage of the birds entering the tower’s ventilation flutes he took to the air, hoping to film from a helicopter.

A catastrophe was narrowly averted when his heavy camera, suspended on a cable below the helicopter, was swept up by the draught from the blades to within inches of the tail rotor.

The film starts with the swifts’ joyous calls as they soar, twist, flicker and glide through the sky, showing Oxford from the Swifts’ viewpoint, memorably described as ‘a petrified forest inhabited by strange creatures’, and going on to reveal, with extraordinary intimacy, the life of the swift in its cramped, dark hole.

Deservedly, the film won an award at the World Wildlife Film Festival and remains the most engaging portrayal ever made of these most aerial of birds.

A wonderful mix of science and romance, it captured the drama and spirit of the birds’ lives and inspired many who first saw it broadcast on Anglia TV in 1980.

He chose another difficult subject for his next film, Kitum – the Elephant Cave (1984).

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For this he spent three months living deep inside a volcanic cave on the Kenya/Uganda border, filming elephants as they made the perilous journey into the caves in search of essential mineral salts.

In 1986, he produced another ground-breaking documentary film, The Agony and the Ecstasy, on the subject of human infertility.

This was followed in 1990 by Journey into Life: The World of the Unborn, which was nominated for an Oscar.

Mr Bromhall was a man of many talents, enjoying a varied career.

His PhD thesis involved research into cloning techniques, which helped lead the way with the creation of Dolly the sheep.

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Sarah Gibson (Swifts and Us, The Life of the Bird that Sleeps in the Sky) and Edward Mayer, founder of Swift Conservation, paid tribute, saying: “It was a great privilege for many of us in the ‘Swift’ world to meet Derek and talk to him about the making of his famous film but also to be enthralled and entertained by his tales of travel and exploration, all told with great panache and imbued with a true humanist’s empathy with all the people and creatures he had met on life’s journey.”