Wildlife series. Steve and the Deadly 60 team are on their home turf, the UK. The adventure begins in a lake as Steve dives in to track down a deadly monster.
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My name's Steve Backshall,
and this is my search for the Deadly 60.
That's not just animals that are deadly to me, but that are deadly
in their own world.
My crew and I are travelling the planet, and you're coming with me
every step of the way!
This time on Deadly 60, we're on my home turf in the British Isles.
We're covering an enormous amount of terrain
and seeing animals that hunt in a variety of different habitats -
down on the ground, under water, up here in the tree tops,
even the skies above us.
The British Isles has oodles of different habitats
and if you know where to look, they're full of deadly animals.
First up, though, it's a trip
over the countryside to see what's lurking in Britain's fresh waters.
Every environment has its predators, and our waterways are no different.
In fact, this lake is home to the most fearsome fish in the UK.
It doesn't only hunt other fish, it'll even snatch water birds
from beneath the surface.
Our lakes and rivers might look pretty,
but they hide a murky secret.
If you live in one, almost everything is out to get you,
from these tiny water fleas...
..to little fish...
and even savage invertebrates like this dragonfly larvae.
It's a complete war zone down there, and as long as there's something
bigger than you, it's only a matter of time until you get munched.
Something has to be at the top of the food chain,
an animal big enough and mean enough to take on all comers -
But to get down into the world of this fearsome fish hunter, I'm going
to need all of this kit - scuba tanks and this massive camera
which weighs more than our actual cameraman.
With our kit assembled and our safety checks complete, it's time
to take the plunge and begin the hunt for our murky monster.
'The bottom of the lake contains numerous old wrecks
'which can contain excellent hunting grounds for our pike.
'So even if it is a little spooky, they're definitely worth exploring.'
The water in here is incredibly murky. You really can't see
more than two or three metres in any direction.
But obviously, that works very much on the side of an ambush hunter.
There's just an infinite amount of places to hide.
They could be anywhere.
'That won't make them easy to find.
'Pike may be big, but they generally live solitary lives and don't need
'to feed very often. Just seeing one will be a real treat.'
I thought I'd come across an enormous pike, but it's not at all.
It's a big old carp.
This stripy fish is a perch.
They're actually predators in their own right.
They're very strong and very fast,
but they're no match for a pike.
In fact, these perch would be exactly the kind of thing
that pike would be feeding on.
That's probably why they're hiding down in the weeds.
'Finding one of our pike's favourite fishy foods is a really good sign,
'for where there's food, there's often a predator not far away.'
So...this is the fearsome water wolf
that we've come into this lake to find.
It's a pike,
and an absolute beauty!
This is actually a really good size for a pike in British waters,
but it's by no means as big as they actually really get.
The biggest females ever caught have
been one and a half metres long, so about half as big again as this one.
It's hard to believe that an awesome predator like this is just hanging
beneath the surface,
possibly every time you go out onto a stream
or a lake or a river here in the UK.
The pike is shaped more like a torpedo than your everyday fish,
with a long, muscular body
perfectly adapted for quick bursts of speed.
The small fins on the bottom are
used for fine adjustments, allowing the pike to hide almost motionless.
The big ones are like engines at the back
and with a powerful flick of the tail,
give the pike its incredible acceleration.
So whether you're a fellow fish, small bird
or even a fluffy water vole,
you'll end up getting sucked into those mighty jaws and impaled
on a mass of spiky pike teeth.
When I was a kid, I used to think that, if I went into
a lake or a river, I'd get munched by a pike.
There's another one in here, look. Just a smaller one.
'I can't believe I've seen two pike in one dive.
'But then, through the gloom, I spot something even bigger.'
It's huge! Look at the size of it!
'This is really exciting, but we're going to have
'to take great care not to startle it.'
This would certainly have to be
the biggest pike I've seen so far.
She's absolutely gigantic, and just sitting waiting,
Look at that!
Nose to nose
with the largest predatory fish in Britain's fresh waters.
With that stillness and the colouration down the side of
her body, she totally disappears,
but any small fish that swims too close to those mighty jaws
with their spiky, backward-pointing teeth is in big trouble.
You are utterly incredible!
They really are a nightmare fish
and they're really not frightened of anything.
Who would've believed that you could have such a dramatic
wildlife encounter in a murky green lake in the middle of England?
That was absolutely brilliant.
I don't think I'm going to have to sell pike to you as being menacing.
I mean, they just look like trouble.
But one thing is for absolute certain -
What are they?
On the Deadly 60!
Back of the net!
A supreme camouflaged killer that melts into the murky waters
with a muscular tail that unleashes ferocious acceleration
and a mouth full of needle-like teeth that would scare the stuffing
out of a pincushion.
Moving from England's fresh-water war zones,
we're taking to the Scottish skies and to where the eagle is king.
And not just any eagle.
This is a white-tailed sea eagle, and it's huge.
This aerial master can have a wingspan of up to eight feet.
That's as tall as me standing with my hands in the air.
It uses those remarkable wings to soar high above its coastal range,
while its super-sharp eyesight
can scan the seas looking for its favourite food -
fish. When it's not plucking
fish from the water or squabbling over leftovers,
it'll happily use those ferocious talons to snatch sea birds
from their cliff-top homes, or even chase down the occasional rabbit.
It'll then take its catch to dry land or back to its hungry chicks,
where that menacing, meat-cleaver-shaped beak
will rip and tear the flesh into manageable tasty chunks.
But none of this would be possible without that
sensational flying ability.
I want to examine that further, but it'd be near impossible
to do that out in the wild, so I'm in a studio in Bristol.
There's a sound man down there.
This is, though, a very special studio,
and I've got with me a very special actor.
This is Sasha. He's a tawny eagle that's found in Africa or Asia.
To be honest, if we tried to get a white-tailed eagle in here,
I think it would probably have savaged all of us,
and it might have been a bit too big, but he is absolutely perfect.
You see, Sasha is very well trained indeed. He's been in movies
and music videos, and he's exactly right for what I want to show you.
So how am I going to use a film-star bird
and a television studio to show you how eagles fly?
Well, I haven't actually told you the full story.
This here is a wind tunnel, and any second now, someone's going to press
a green button and wind is going to start racing through here at about
20-25mph, and Sasha here is going to show us what eagles do best.
OK, Mike, let her rip.
And I can just feel the wind beginning to build now,
and the first thing that Sasha does is go from sitting vertically on
my fist to her body going horizontal and the wings spreading.
OK, now what we're seeing really is
the kind of classic pose of an eagle gliding.
The wings are almost at full stretch now.
You can see the flight feathers,
the primary flight feathers,
almost like fingers at the end of the wings.
These feathers here called alula feathers.
They're the ones making the micro-adjustments to keep him stable
so he has to use no force, no effort at all.
He hasn't even once had to flap his wings to keep in this position.
And now, even though I've still got a hold of him,
he's totally weightless.
Right, let's see him in action.
Whether it's gliding, accelerating or swooping to snatch those fish
from the water, those wings do it all.
I want to see a white-tailed sea eagle hunting in the wild,
and for that, the Deadly 60 team and I are going to head north,
right up north to the Isle of Mull off the coast of Scotland.
We're heading to the local harbour with eagle expert Dave from the RSPB
when we spot what we think is an eagle high up in the trees.
The thing that really sets this bird apart
from the other birds of prey you find in this area is just
the scale, the size of the beak.
And the colour as well. I mean, it is really dramatic.
Gives it the look of a...
almost a cartoon eagle.
It just doesn't look real.
'And as if one wasn't enough...'
Oh, that is just spectacular.
-Do you like that?
-Absolutely brilliant, yep.
-That's a yes.
-A real duet.
What a great opportunity to get a look
at that menacing beak and talons.
But I need to see them in action, and we've got a boat to catch.
Something about this place looks oddly familiar.
So what's the story, guys?
Wouldn't you like to know?!
# What's the story in Balamory Where would you like to go? #
That's right, I'm in Balamory.
Well, in real life, it's actually called Tobermory.
Anyway, our fishing boat's arrived, so with no time to waste,
we kit up and head out onto the water to find our eagles.
# Just don't let me down
# Hold onto your kite and just don't let me down. #
OK, so we have seen our first eagle, but let's face it,
the real place that you want to come across a sea eagle is at sea.
I guess this is the most perfect backdrop you could ever hope for,
and it's not just me. Everybody else in the crew has got
their fingers crossed that we see one.
We've come to a spot where we know that there's a sea-eagle nest
and in fact, up in these trees up here, we've already spotted with
our binoculars two adult birds and one fairly young chick.
In order to see them hunting, we need to attract their attention,
and we're going to do that using this.
Now, I know that eagles don't eat bread but gulls do.
When the gulls come in and start feeding on it,
hopefully that'll bring in our eagles.
'They're pretty crafty creatures. Within minutes we're being mobbed
'by greedy gulls eager to snatch a free meal.'
-Shall I get some fish in?
'Hopefully the commotion will have got our eagles' attention,
'so now we throw in some of their favourite food.'
Their sight might be as much as eight times
more powerful than ours, so to be able to see all this commotion,
all these gulls, all the food from there is pretty easy for an eagle.
Now all we have to do is hope that he can see the fish.
'Through our binoculars, we can see that they're interested,
'but not enough to take to the air.
'What's more, all our fish are getting gobbled up by those gulls.
'Just one thing left to try.'
This is our last opportunity.
Surely no hungry eagle can resist a fish supper that big.
He's coming, he's coming. The eagle's coming.
-Got him, Mark?
He's got that fish in his sights.
-Where are we looking, then?
-Above the dead trees. Very close now.
Yes. Oh, I see, I see.
Oh, there is an incredible purpose about his movement now, actually.
Look at the size of it!
-Here he comes.
-Whoa, wow, look at that!
Just snatched a piece of fish right off the surface of the water,
the classic sea-eagle catch.
Have you got it?
'Not many people can say that they've seen that.
'The white-tailed eagle has officially earned its place
'on my Deadly 60.'
Those incredible wings enable it to effortlessly
pluck fish from the water.
An enormous meat cleaver shaped beak
and incredible eyesight,
eight times more powerful than ours.
Next stop on our Deadly 60 whirlwind tour.
We're in the beautiful British countryside,
but what could possibly be deadly here?
People often ask me what the number-one predator in the world is.
If you're talking statistics, there's one creature
that wins hands down. They eat more than any other carnivore.
The weight of insects that they eat in one year is about
the same as the weight of the whole human population of England.
If you're wondering why I'm thrashing around
with this crazy white net, well...
I'll show you.
Have a look at this.
I think I've probably got
maybe ten, fifteen different species of spider in here,
but that is absolutely nothing.
Here in England, we have about 700 different species of spiders,
and in Westonbirt Arboretum where I am now there could be
as many as 1,200 million spiders.
That's an awful lot of creatures catching insects.
Whether you like it or not,
spiders are all around you, from your garden flower beds to
the nooks and crannies in your house.
As you go about your business, they peer through your plug-holes and
scuttle around under your sofas.
They're everywhere and, lucky for us, all of them are
experts at one thing - catching, killing and eating insects.
Spiders employ loads of weird and wonderful methods to do this.
Some sit and wait until something strays a little too close...
..others have bizarre mouth parts that work like glue guns,
firing out sticky threads to ensnare their prey,
while many more will simply use brute strength.
The variety is both beautiful and amazing, but I've chosen two
of the best as contenders for my list.
One's a web-weaving master, but first up is the king of camouflage.
And getting you close is going to require some specialist kit.
Spiders have a huge variety of methods for catching their prey,
but the crab spider uses camouflage.
She'll sit in the centre of a flower like this, using the small rear legs
to hold her in position and the front two legs to grab a hold
of prey that comes too close.
Flowers are a perfect place for her to hide,
not just because she's camouflaged in the same colours,
but they also attract insects like butterflies, bees and wasps.
As soon as they come too close, she'll grab them, pin them down
and fill them with venom, and then it's all over.
Get a load of this.
Crab spiders have taken camouflage to a whole new level
to fool their prey.
Insects see the world quite differently to us,
and many flowers will attract them by using bright lines and patches
that we can only see with the help of an ultraviolet camera.
The bees get a tasty nectar meal and the plants get their pollen
spread about from flower to flower.
As our bee-vision camera shows, the canny crab spider's bright bottom
actually attracts the bees.
They fix their eight eyes on the approaching target and then...
They grab the bee with their front legs
and sink their fangs into the body.
The venom works quickly, leaving our spider with a juicy bee breakfast.
The crab spider...
crafty, cunning, camouflaged killer, and definitely on the Deadly 60.
It's the camouflage king of the garden,
with a bright bottom to fool the busiest of bees,
powerful front legs to snap up its prey,
and a venom-loaded bite.
Spider number two is probably nature's finest architect.
Their handiwork is all around us, and I've found a perfect example.
This is the web of the orb-weaver spider.
At the moment, she's scuttling around her web,
I think repairing it,
putting in a sticky thread which is used to catch insects on the wing.
It's an incredibly difficult, complex task
which takes about an hour
and, at the moment, you can see her moving up and down the spokes
and just trailing behind her
a sticky thread which is forming a perfect spiral.
That trap will catch any insect that flies into it.
Yes, look at that! This has to be one of the most perfect
hunting methods you'll ever see
and, personally, I think it needs a little bit more examination.
It'd be easy for us to take spiders' webs for granted.
We see them pretty much every day, and it takes a spider
less than an hour to make one.
But we don't take anything in the natural world for granted,
so I'm going to try and build one of these miracles of nature
myself right here in this woodland.
It takes a spider nothing more than her own spinnerets
and some silk to do her web.
For me, it's going to take all of this kit
and it's going to take rather more than an hour.
Spiders don't learn how to build their webs.
It's completely instinctive. Even the smallest of spiderlings
can still build an absolutely perfect web, but that doesn't mean
it's not still a very complex and intricate process.
But it starts very simply.
Our female spider simply gets herself up high.
So, for our spider, the first part of the process is to get up into
a really high vantage point and then just let silk drift
out from her spinnerets. The wind will carry it, and hopefully it'll
fix onto something good and strong.
Obviously I can't do that, but I have got the world's best catapult.
I'm going to try and fire this line across to that other tree,
and hopefully that can be our starting point.
OK... here goes.
I am the catapult master!
Now, obviously this thin thread isn't strong enough to hold my
body weight. What I need to do is to get a much stronger line
across there, and once that's done we can start on the framework.
So our spider's made herself
the first main structural thread of the web.
Next thing she does is come back out to the centre point of it
and head down to the ground.
The main structural, strongest part of the web
is almost like the spokes on a bicycle wheel,
and it starts with this Y-shaped structure
right here in the centre.
And now we have to put in all the other spokes.
That's no mean feat, I can assure you,
but with a few helpers and a bit of TV magic...
Right, now the fun bit begins.
The next part of the build is that characteristic spiral
that you see running round and round and round the web.
Our spider will do that several times.
The first one is like a scaffolding spiral, and the next
two times are going to be the sticky, glue-covered thread
that's going to actually catch insects.
If I tried to do it three times,
I would be here all week, so I'm just going to do it once,
and that on its own, I think's going to take me all day.
As I get towards the outside of the web, it will take me
probably ten or fifteen minutes just to do one spoke,
and that would be enough
for our orb-weaver to actually put a spiral through her entire web.
I have to say I'm feeling quite proud of myself.
It's taken 900 metres of rope,
two whole days of sweat and effort,
but finally my epic spider web's done.
Of course, for our orb-weaver spider, this whole process
takes less than an hour and next to no effort at all.
As soon as she's finished she heads to a spot
where she can sense the tiniest vibration on the web,
and quite often that's right slap bang in the centre.
With trap set, the orb-weaver spreads her legs out over the spokes
and waits for vibrations rippling across her silk.
These tiny tremors travel up her legs and are detected
in special sense organs.
This fly's days are probably numbered.
Struggling not only alerts the hungry female but makes it
more entangled in her trap.
Our spider comes in to inspect her lunch.
She injects a paralysing venom and then produces a new type of thread
in which to wrap it up.
It's like a strong silken shroud
and entombs the insect into a neat packed lunch.
It's not pretty but there's no doubt it's deadly.
Orb-weaver spiders are creatures that surround us
almost all the time but you barely ever notice them.
They're just going quietly about their job of hunting,
killing and eating.
It's all down to the wonders of their web,
the greatest insect trap on the planet.
Orb-weaver spiders are on the Deadly 60.
Using its sticky web to ensnare its prey,
with super-sensitive legs to pick up the tiniest tremors,
she pumps her prey full of venom and saves it for later.
'Join me next time...'
Look at that mouth! '.. for the Deadly 60.'
If I allow that to continue,
it will probably start breaking my hand bones. Ow!
Look at that!
They are tearing the meat to shreds.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Steve and the Deadly 60 team are on their home turf, the UK. The adventure begins in a lake as Steve dives in to track down a deadly monster lurking in its depths. Then it's off to a wind tunnel to check out how eagles fly. Finally, Steve builds a giant web to demonstrate just what lethal killers spiders can be.