Children's wildlife documentary. Scouring the UK for lethal beauties, Steve goes otter-spotting with Terry Nutkins and meets with the UK's biggest spider.
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My name's Steve Backshall.
(You can call me Steve.)
I'm on a mission to find the Deadly 60. That's 60 deadly creatures.
I'm travelling all over the world
and you're coming with me, every step of the way.
Today on Deadly 60, we're in the west coast of Scotland.
Behind us is the famous Isle of Skye.
Off there in the distance is the Isle of Rum
and behind us is the Knoydart Peninsula.
It's got some of the most rugged wilderness in the whole of Britain
and it's an absolute haven for wildlife.
Of all the different types of animals found here in the UK,
there's one particular family that has a reputation
for ferocity, bravery and punching above their weight.
And that's the weasel family.
Have a look at this.
Every member of the weasel family is an awesome predator.
Fast, fearless and armed with razor-sharp teeth and claws,
they're happy to take on prey that's at least as big as they are.
Probably my favourite out of this whole group of animals,
and certainly the most beautiful, is the otter.
What have a pig's tail and 5:30 in the morning got in common?
They're both too early. (Twirly.)
Anyway, that's the time that me and the crew
had to get up to maximise our chances of seeing otters.
And we've barely even started before we catch a glimpse.
This is the absolute chaos of wildlife film-making.
Just spotted an otter right down at the seafront
as we were driving along.
We've all gone into absolute scramble.
You can see Cameron, the sound man, trying to fix up super quick
while I'm just trying to make sure that the otter doesn't disappear.
No more than about 30 metres in front of us.
He's just off the rocks in front of me.
Oh, my goodness! Just in front of us.
There. It's a youngster.
Can you see him? Look.
He's little more than a pup.
He's just a young otter. Not much more than a cub, really.
I say "he", but actually he's very sleek and slender.
Probably a female.
At the moment, she's ducking underwater, almost like a seal,
fishing in amongst the kelp that's right in close to the shore here.
Probably catching crabs, molluscs and crustaceans.
Just as fast as she appeared, she was gone.
While we continue on our search, check this out.
On the surface, otters look cute and cuddly.
But once they're in the water and hunting,
they turn into fast, ruthless killing machines.
Their long, slim bodies and short, powerful limbs
make them super-streamlined underwater,
using their webbed paws and muscular tails to power them along.
They're protected from the cold by their thick fur,
which acts as insulation,
trapping layers of air, which keeps them warm.
They feed on fish, frogs, water birds and crabs
and have some of the most powerful jaws for a creature of their size,
which they use to crunch through the shells
and rip apart their prey.
Time to call on a hero of mine
to help us find these elusive creatures.
Terry Nutkins has been a TV presenter and naturalist
for over 30 years.
He's studied and worked with otters for most of his life.
That's a lovely little otter you've got there.
He lives up here,
amongst the incredible wildlife of the Scottish coast
and he's taking us to a particular spot
where he's watched otters many times before.
Along the way, we're joined by porpoise
and even some seals come to say hello.
Look at that. How about that for seals on the doorstep? Jealous?
Very jealous, yeah.
-The last few just heading in now.
-Isn't that nice?
That's the youngest one, I think.
Oh, yeah. That's tiny.
-Have you seen any otters?
This is beautiful.
I grew up about two miles round the point there and we had pet otters.
And they're a bit wacko, really, you know.
We did rescue a couple of cubs.
We called them Mossy and Mundy.
We hand-reared them and we let them free.
Some of these otters round here could be descendants from that.
But it's luck of the draw, you know, where they are.
-I've got it as well.
Right, well, that one may well come closer in.
I'm so lucky to be in a situation
where I can literally walk out into the garden in front of the house
and see an otter, probably every other day in the spring
and probably twice a week at this time of year,
depending on the weather conditions.
And there it is. Back up again in front of that rock.
-Do you see it?
-I got it, yeah.
You're talking about otters being part of the weasel family,
which, as we know, is a group of the bravest, most ferocious,
most fearless animals on the planet.
You've actually got some very real evidence of that, haven't you?
You actually lost parts of your fingers to otters?
Yeah. These two fingers here were bitten off at the same time.
This is when we first learnt about how volatile they are.
It was quite simple, someone came to stay.
The otter bit her in the back of the leg.
Nobody thought any more about it.
When she left, she gave me her jumper.
A couple of weeks later, I put it on.
I was in the house on my own and the otter, her name was Edal,
wanted to go out for a walk because be walked them like dogs.
I went up to get her and I sat on the end of the bed
and I had the jumper on for the first time.
With the scent of the woman she'd taken a dislike to?
Yeah, before I could do anything, she tore my welly boot off.
Just tore right into there.
So me, being so naive at that age and not knowing, not being aware
of the crushing jaws that otters have got, because they need them,
put my hand down to get her off, and of course she got my hand.
She literally ripped my hands to shreds.
Then got hold of that finger.
I'm tugging away and all I remember is her chewing and crunching.
So I picked her up with this hand, and this hand's still in her mouth
and I threw her.
And as I threw her, she twisted round and took that finger with her.
Just went "pyung!" like that.
Then I shot out the room. I threw the jumper away.
-I bet you did.
-Never wore that jumper again!
They're wild animals. They're not domestic animals.
You can tame an animal as much as you want,
but, you know, they're still wild and they're unpredictable.
And otters, out of all animals, or the weasel family,
They may well be Britain's most endearing mammal,
but they've also got to be one of the most elusive.
There's also no doubt that they are a fierce killer.
I mean, try to imagine if you were a sand eel or a trout,
down in amongst the kelp here
and all of a sudden, out of nowhere,
a giant water weasel came plunging through the seaweed
in a fierce frenzy of teeth and claws.
You wouldn't last a second.
And that's why the otter is going on the Deadly 60.
Formidable predators in the water,
fast and agile, with jaws that can bite through bone,
the otter has earned its place on my Deadly 60 list.
We're in eastern England in the Suffolk fens.
A fen is a kind of very flat
sort of boggy area of land with bits of standing water.
Very pretty, but you might think
the most unlikely place on the planet to find deadly wildlife.
Mind you, get into these pools
and you find lots of tiny creatures with enormous appetites.
Let's see what we can find.
OK, imagine you're the size of a tadpole.
Then this pond, and these guys, are your worst nightmare.
So, who are the top predators in this micro world?
First up, we have the water boatmen.
They use their feathery legs to hang just under the surface,
waiting to ambush tadpoles and small insects.
They have bright, burning red eyes and a beak called a rostrum
which they'll use to paralyse and suck the juices out of their prey.
And they're not too fond of humans either.
Now, believe it or not, if you handle one of these,
there's a good chance that you might get bitten and it can be very sore.
In fact, it's a bit like pushing a needle into your hand.
I have to say,
one of the most unpleasant bites I've had in this country.
Next up, the diving beetle.
They swim down to the bottom and cling to grasses or pieces of wood
until prey passes by, and then strike,
trapping them between their front legs
and then biting down with their mandibles.
They are nightmare creatures.
Absolutely amazing hunters and great swimmers.
And very weird looking!
He is an absolute horror of the deep.
And lastly, the dragonfly nymph.
Dragonflies live their young years underwater,
sometimes for as much as two years,
catching other insects, small fish and tadpoles.
They can fire out the bottom half of their face like a detachable mask
and impale anything that swims too close.
They can also fire themselves forward at great speed
by squirting water out of their bottom.
This is an absolutely awesome jet-propelled predator.
They're all ferocious creatures, but they're not going on the list,
as there's another predator that would have these guys for breakfast.
To find it, I'm gonna have to get wet,
which explains why I'm dressing up like some demented fisherman.
If, however, you don't have waders like this,
you could always do what our cameraman Mark's done
and get yourself a 1980's scuba suit.
Be aware, though,
you may have low flying planes trying to land on your head.
Right, this water can be a lot deeper than it looks.
A lot deeper than it looks!
OK, I'm going to try and move quite slowly,
firstly because I could, all of a sudden,
end up up to my neck and it's quite cold.
Secondly, I don't want to spook off
our next deadly animal.
Oh! It's all muddy and horrible!
OK, it's pretty much the same depth here.
So just come forward slowly.
Right, just sitting in front of me here
is our next Deadly 60 hero.
This is a great raft spider.
We've been granted special permission to see these spiders,
as they're endangered and a protected species.
She is the largest spider that we have here in Britain.
At the moment, she's actually sat clinging on to an egg-sack.
I think that's an old one.
Bright yellow stripe running down the abdomen.
She is wonderful. And a good size as well.
It's a bit late in the season now
and she's looking a little bit the worse for wear.
Earlier on, when she would actually have had her egg-sac
full of tiny little legs,
as many as 600 spiderlings would erupt out
and cover this nursery tent silk in tiny little scurrying black dots.
Now they've all dispersed, you can see the remnants.
That kind of brown, worn-out old silk.
How about that? We've found one already.
But we can do better than that!
So, there's no doubt this is a very big, beautiful spider,
but if I'm going to convince you that they can be deadly,
I'm going to have to show you one hunting.
If we were going to wait for that to happen out there,
I reckon we'd be here for about a month.
So, we've set up a special Deadly 60 experiment.
This tank is filled with the exact life
that you find out there in the ponds.
Just the sort of things that this spider will be feeding on.
Mark, the cameraman down here, has a super-high magnification lens,
so hopefully we'll get to see this spider hunting.
All we need to do now is sit and wait and hope for some action.
Raft spiders spend most of their life half in, half out of the water.
They sense ripples along the surface
that lets them know that their dinner's approaching.
The reason the spider's managed to make
this environment so much its own
is down to its use of surface tension.
For very small creatures
and for creatures that can spread the weight efficiently,
the surface of the water becomes like a sort of elastic sheet
that it can skate about over the top of.
You can see this one here standing up on its tiptoes on the water,
almost as if it was solid.
It can still, however, duck beneath the surface
and catch things that are swimming around,
just underneath the water.
But this spider can do something even more amazing.
He's just ducked beneath the surface. Now, look.
That is amazing.
All of that silvery sheen to the exoskeleton
is just trapped air bubbles
which are held under tiny, tiny little hairs all down the legs.
It makes him look like he's been wrapped up in BacoFoil or something.
Just turned into a robot spider!
That they can stay submerged like this on a single breath of air
for perhaps as long as an hour.
Which kind of shows why it's pointless flushing a spider
down the sink or down the bath.
Look at that. Going right down.
Actually, he's right by a water boatmen at the bottom of this reed.
This could be about to happen.
We could be about to see raft spider hunting in progress.
Ooh! That was close!
Did you see that? The spider's definitely getting more active.
You're in trouble! Just missed it.
Oh! Got it!
That was absolutely formidable.
The spider just absolutely lunged forward,
caught hold of that water boatmen,
which themselves are quite ferocious predators, and it's all over.
Right now, the venom is being injected into that insect
and it's going to start digesting from the inside out.
And it's history.
All over in a flash.
You can't tell me that's not deadly.
A spider that fishes for its prey may sound bizarre,
but where most animals would sink, our spider thrives.
It's super senses and it lightning fast reactions
definitely get the raft spider on my Deadly 60.
Our largest and probably one of our rarest native spiders,
a truly veracious hunter with an awesome way of catching its prey.
The raft spider is definitely going on my Deadly 60 list.
Over the years, the absolute bane of my life has been people
complaining about peregrines pooing on the ground while they're talking.
Thank you! You've just completely upstaged me!
At least it didn't get the car!
Over the years, the absolute bane of my life
has been people complaining about British wildlife,
saying it's too tame and too boring
and where are the lions and great white sharks?
Well, in answer to that,
let me present you with the peregrine falcon.
Peregrines are resident British birds
found in mountainous, rugged parts of the country.
And they are the fastest creature that has ever lived.
They've been clocked at an incredible 180 mph
when they're going into a dive known as a stoop.
They hunt medium-sized birds such as water fowl,
but they're particularly partial to a pigeon supper.
Stooping to hit them with their clenched talons,
they knock the bird unconscious
and then weave around to catch the bird in flight.
It's all over in seconds.
A peregrine hunting is one of the most dramatic, explosive,
dynamic sights in the animal kingdom.
And in order to demonstrate that,
we've come up with a Deadly 60 experiment
for which we'll need Lucy here,
a seven-year-old, captive-bred falcon,
this stupidly fast, flashy car, and of course, a moody black sky.
Cue Top Gear filter.
So, the basic idea is that the car will take the place of a pigeon.
And I've got to drive it.
Now, I'm up against one of the world's best hunters
so I need to have a quick test drive.
# Lose yourself in the music The moment, you own it
# You better never let it go You only get one shot
# Do not miss your chance to blow
# Cos opportunity comes once in a lifetime
# You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it
# You better never let it go... #
It was really scary!
Peregrine falcons are absolute specialists,
totally designed for hunting other birds while they're on the wing.
So, for the purpose of this experiment,
you have to imagine that this big, black, shiny car is a big pigeon.
Basically, the peregrine is going to hunt us.
The handlers use bits of meat
and a bright yellow lure to get Lucy's attention.
So now she can see us. She can see the lure.
She's instantly really, really excited, really ready to go.
Full of energy, she's ready to hunt.
I must say, I'm quite excited, too.
I can feel the adrenaline surging already.
Time for the bird's handler, Lloyd,
to jump in with the lure in his hand.
The chase is on.
She can see us.
The wings are spread.
Off she goes!
She's heading straight for us, I can see her in my rear view mirror.
OK, here we go, we're speeding up, speeding up.
We're getting faster, up to 40 mph,
she's right in close to us!
Quicker, quicker, quicker, faster!
Whoa! Right over our heads.
This is unbelievable, she's keeping pace with us without even trying.
You can just see her coming side to side, like a jet plane.
She's absolutely extraordinary.
She's right alongside us! I can see her in my mirror.
She's just hanging, metres off the side of the car.
Wow, right in close! Across the back of the car, she's right in close.
She's up alongside Mark!
It's incredible, she's a foot away from the camera.
You can see that anchor shape, that distinctive falcon shape.
Filming like this allows us to take a close look at how Lucy flies.
Effortlessly keeping up with a sports car,
but a moving pigeon would be even harder to tail.
If I was a pigeon in the wild, the peregrine would attack from above,
accelerating into a stoop to take me out.
OK, we're coming to the end of the runway now, Lloyd.
We're out of space. Whooooa!
And up she goes.
That was out of this world.
I don't believe it!
Well, I've just had a quick look at what it must feel like
to be a pigeon with a peregrine coming out of the sun towards you...
Honestly, the power and pace of that bird is breathtaking.
There's no other word for it.
That was so much fun, I think we might have to try it again.
OK, so while Lucy carries on exercising,
here's some more about the peregrine falcon.
In order to withstand speeds of 180mph,
peregrine falcons' bodies have some added pieces of kit.
At these speeds,
airflow rushes through the nostrils and would press on the brain.
This would make the peregrine just fall unconscious in flight.
So peregrines have small cones just inside their nostrils
to deflect the shockwaves of air.
The pigeons they feed on
are some of the fastest birds around in straight flight -
but no match for this speed merchant.
God, she nearly took my head off!
That's exactly what it would be like to be hit by a peregrine.
It's that moment where they fold their wings
and all of a sudden they hit maximum velocity,
travelling at as much as 180mph.
We're talking about an acceleration of 0-60 in about 0.6 seconds,
to make this car look like nothing.
Just hanging high, he's a good 20 metres above us.
Oh, my life!
That was too close.
Lloyd, you just nearly got me scalped by a peregrine falcon.
He nearly took my head off!
I don't know how that looked to you, but I felt his feathers,
just the wing tips flicked my ears
and saw this big pair of talons coming at my face.
He must have been an inch from me.
You gave me the fright of my life!
I thought you were going to take my head off.
There's no doubt, though, as beautiful as she is,
as a high-speed hunter, the peregrine falcon has no equal.
The fastest creature on Earth.
For that reason alone,
peregrine falcon is definitely on the Deadly 60.
Yes, you're beautiful, aren't you?
And you know it.
The peregrine is the largest falcon in Britain.
It's the fastest animal on the planet ever,
and its beak, talons and raw speed
make it one of the deadliest predators we've had on my list.
Coming up next time on the Deadly 60...
Get him over here!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
The action shifts to Steve's home turf as the Deadly 60 team scour the UK in search of its lethal beauties.
Terry Nutkins lends a helping hand in spotting otters and tells Steve the story of how he lost two fingers to one of these creatures. A bit of pond-dipping reveals a whole host of the nasties ready to bite, maim and generally eat each other, and Steve gets a chance to meet with the biggest spider in the UK.
Then it's off for a high-speed chase as Steve plays pigeon for the afternoon and nearly loses his head whilst being hunted by the fastest animal on the planet, the truly incredible peregrine falcon.