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I'm Johnny Kingdom.
And I'm spending a year filming the birds on our land,
52 acres right on the edge of Exmoor in southwest England.
We've got lots of British birds down here,
like the wren, the blackbird and the great spotted woodpecker.
And I've already started filming some of these birds through this very hard winter we've just had.
But now spring's arrived, and everything happens this time of the year.
Of course, the birds start building their nests.
This is something I always look forward to.
It's the busiest time of the year, and if my wife wants to find me, she's got to come to the land!
-Oh, she's lovely.
-The song thrush.
Beautiful, that, you know.
Now that spring is here, what I want to film is some birds sitting on
their nest, hatching their eggs and rearing their chicks.
If I could do that, that would be fantastic!
Well, in the wintertime, we saw the woodpecker.
This is the female great spotted woodpecker.
But now, this time of year,
this is when you'll hear that... brrr, brrr, drilling.
But what he's actually doing is he's calling a mate,
and year after year they'll go to the same area, they'll call a partner,
then both the pair of them will go and select a nice hole in a tree,
which is the one I'm hoping for, which is down the valley.
I went there in the wintertime because he was roosting there,
so hopefully they may pick that tree for a nesting site.
I'll point the stick out where the hole is.
Up there, look.
You must understand that the woodpecker are not one of the early birds,
it's very early yet to find its nests, but this is the beginning of it.
When you hear the drilling, that will tell me it's spring of the year.
Here I am talking to you, you lovely people,
and I've just seen a swallow fly in my tepee right below us.
We've been waiting for the swallow to come back,
and they've travelled from southern Africa, all that ways!
And they comes back to the same nesting place again.
So we could be in luck! I've already got a camera there waiting for him.
The only trouble is, my wife don't like that tepee.
Most people put a tepee on flat ground.
This is on a hill.
To me, it sticks out like a sore thumb.
He tried to cover it up with willow, but that was very patchy.
Saying that, look, it's growing.
Next year, you won't see that at all, I don't think.
I don't think I'm going to get him to take it down.
I think this is a work of art.
The wife don't like the tepee, OK?
I'm so pleased that I dug this pond, because it brings in lots of wildlife, especially the birds.
Can you see what I can see down there? Look, see the yellow flowers.
There's the cock bird, look. Now, this is one of our biggest geese.
Beautiful, isn't it?
It's a Canada goose, one of a pair, and it looks like they could stay here.
And they've got a nest down the other end, which I'll show you in a minute.
If you follow me down here...
These are our first birds to nest on this pond.
Hello! You OK, mate, eh?
They was introduced into this country in about the 17th century roughly, but they don't go home now.
They stay, they breed in a lot of ponds around here.
Now, if you look over to the island on this side here, if you watch
the box, to the right-hand side of the box,
there is the female goose, look, and she's sitting on eggs.
She may have maybe five or six eggs, so if you say four goslings, I'll be happy, anyway.
Ah, she's got up for the first time,
and she's turning her eggs.
That's fantastic, that.
Look at that.
I can see two eggs. Lovely shot, that.
Around about 15 days, and then hopefully we'll see some goslings.
So I can film the birds without disturbing them, I've put a camera up in a tree.
But we've got a problem.
The camera is misted up, so what I's got to do is climb up the tree
and actually take the globe off and hope that the camera will dry out.
Right, globe's off...
It's very, very damp inside, you can see that, it's all misted up.
And it's misted up on the globe itself, look. Look at that, look.
See? That's condensation, look. It's wet, look at that, look.
Would you believe it?
And that should be a sealed unit.
I'm going to wipe it off, I'm going to leave it staying like that, and it'll dry out, OK?
Well, arrived back at the cabin just to check the cameras,
and I've got to check the goose camera, because that's important.
As you see, I took off the dome.
Nearly there... Ah, now!
Ah... There we got it, now you've started to work.
There you are. The camera's working again, by taking the globe off, but it will get clearer than that
when it dries out a bit, but that's not too bad, actually.
But to see it in the cabin and just sit down in your leisure
and watch all the other birds, I think that's fantastic.
Right, let's come out of that one.
Let me show you another one I was interested to show you.
Now, this is the blue tit's nest.
This is a lovely story, the same thing happened last year.
The blue tit kept this box all through the winter.
I was up there winter nights, looking for the wrens and that,
and the blue tit would always come into this box here.
She kept it last year, and she last year had nine eggs.
And now she's building again, we'll be seeing a clutch of eggs here could be next week.
Right, the next camera I want to show you is out there near that dead tree on the left.
Oh, oh, look! The blackbird's just gone out.
And there's a baby, in again, there was three babies!
Look, there's a baby! Now there's the cock bird!
That's the cock bird actually feeding the babies, how about that?
One, two, three chicks I can see there, and an egg, there's the egg.
So she's got three babies.
That's wonderful, I think.
The blackbird will have two or three broods, and this is the first one.
We are into April now, so you can guarantee...
Oh, end of April these will be flying away, and then she will select another spot.
It just gives you some idea, like everything in the wintertime
is closed down, everything's quiet, but now everything
is happening, now it's so quick.
So I'm not going to do any more today, so I'm going to close it all down.
Bang! That's it!
Well, it's early in the morning, and my dad always said, "If you miss the morning, you miss the day,"
and that is true. Everything's waking up.
That's Jenny wren!
I'm so pleased, because don't forget last year was 18 wrens I had go in
the box, but not this year, because of this bad winter we've had.
I do like the wren.
Oh, I smell fox!
Fox coming this way.
Fox coming now.
I just love this morning time when you hear the birds sing.
A lot of people don't hear this, because them're lying in bed too long.
He's right at the entrance of the hole.
I've just seen a nuthatch go in a hole, and I know there's a pair there.
This nuthatch is in a woodpecker's hole
He's right across. He's gone across over there. He's on a piece up there.
I can see he's cleaning himself or doing something. He's took off!
He's gone back.
A lot of activity going on now, he's definitely at the nest.
This is fantastic. We've got another bird on our list.
What's that? I thought I heard a woodpecker then, a great-spotted woodpecker.
But the sound was on the left-hand here somewhere.
See, this takes time, you've got to wait, you just don't have them just like that.
This is where your patience kicks in.
I've come down early to see if I can see a woodpecker.
Just to see if it's nesting in that hole yet.
You can see down there in the bushes, the hide.
I'm assuming he's showing where the woodpeckers nest is, I'm hoping.
I know he's roosting there.
I'm hoping that the woodpecker will nest there as well, but we might not be so lucky as that, OK?
What I want to do is, walk over to that tree, just in case he may be in there.
Well, he's not in there.
I reckon that those woodpeckers have found another tree.
I think I'm going to have to have another look around our woodland.
Well, interesting story.
I've been waiting for the swallows to return to the teepee.
They've come back.
OK, they're nesting in there.
I've got a camera on the nest, but it's completely different.
The swallow has got a forked tail
and under its beak, where it supposed to be red like the common swallow, it's pure white.
I've looked all through the book,
and the nearest thing to it
is on the next page, is a housemartin, which is black and white,
but the housemartin is completely different.
So, why is this bird white where it's supposed to be red?
If you look here to see the white part on its throat,
just below that white you have a black band, and then it is white again.
A very attractive bird, this.
So what sort of bird is it?
I'm going to have to look into this a bit more, I think.
Right, she is sitting happy there, so let's come out of this one,
and let's have a look at our other birds.
The blue tit did go out. This one has been laying for a few days. There you are,
there's your proof, look. They have left their eggs uncovered.
1, 2, 3.
I can see three or four eggs.
That's the first shot of eggs I've got.
I'm just going to go to our blackbirds quick.
I'd say that they are gone. There you are.
I couldn't to her yesterday, I had to spend a day with my wife.
Here you are, look, this is what they looked like two days ago.
That will show you how quick they fly.
We started with three chicks, but now there is only two left.
This is what happens in wildlife.
Let's come out of this one and get on the goose.
You can see the island.
I can zoom into there.
It doesn't look like she's in the nest.
Right, too far, and she's there, OK.
We've got a new one! I can't believe it. I've got a baby.
It was born today.
Excellent, I've got a gosling, I can't believe it.
I can't believe that I've got a gosling, I'm over the moon!
I hope I'm recording it!
I hope you saw that, you lucky people, that was a gosling.
Just come out of its shell, man, because I can't show you that, you see.
I can't show you that. I've got to get down there, I think, with the camera.
That's what I'm going to do, right? Cut this.
OK. Do that, and close down.
I'm off. I'm going down pond!
OK, right. I'm going to go here.
Well, I've arrived at the pond, and look at that, they're yellow.
It's five little goslings
with mum, in that wonderful...
I can't explain how I feel.
Let's hope and pray that they will all live. It's very, very rare that they all live.
This is a time now where if there are any predators around,
like a mink, or anything like that, they will take 'em.
But look how big those chicks is.
That will tell you now that they won't be very long before them're on the water.
That's dad, there.
You got to get to know me, you know, because you're on our land!
You know that, don't you?!
You've come along and took over.
You don't own the place, you know, do you?!
I've named them Johnny and Julie.
And you can see them moving to the right there.
The reason why she's on that side, is because the wind is coming
from the other side, which is very clever of her.
She's got to keep them warm, mind.
Well done, mum.
Let's go home now and tell Julie the good news.
Julie, you up there?
Come here, come here!
-Oh! Ain't they lovely?
-See, I told you, didn't I?
-Tiny little things.
Yeah, but there's five of them.
Look, Harry, Harry, look!
Can you say birdie or no?
No. No, he's not!
He always do say birdie.
-So all five hatched then?
-All five hatched, and there was hardly a day
and they were on to the bank, onto the grass land as quick as that.
-I wonder if they'll stay there.
-Well, you don't know.
It just depends if there's any predators, but I'm a fair ways up.
They are walking up towards the cabin, you see.
You wouldn't think they'd go so far been as they're so small.
But you see, you'll never get five of them to stay there.
You'd be very lucky if you do, anyway. OK. Brilliant, isn't it?
Well, let's keep our fingers crossed. Come on then, Harry, we're going in.
-See you again, mate.
-Say "Bye, Grandad".
And that's my new grandson.
OK. Well, you know that swallow I filmed on the land,
I've worked out why it was a funny colour.
I thought I had a pair of black and white swallows, but I must be mad, I think.
The problem was, you see, a swallow has got a red-maroon breast, like that.
But this is pure white.
And I am using a colour camera, because you can see the hazel,
all of the colours were there, but on the swallow, it was showing white.
So what's wrong? I've rung up Bristol, the film people, they're all trying to find out.
They've been on the internet.
They can't find these swallows.
And then the brain began to kick in. I know I ain't got much of one!
I thought, ah, let me go down in the tepee.
So I sneaked in there quick with a different camera, and just looked up like that.
It's very, very quick, but it's enough to show you people
that it's definitely a normal swallow.
Not a black-and-white one.
So, that's telling me that there's something wrong
with the other camera, so I shall have to get that fixed.
So, what do you think of that story?
Well, it's a beautiful morning.
But, a very sad one.
The film crew have come all the way down to see me this morning
to see these geese, Canada geese, and they've just disappeared, and I can't understand this.
They only stayed two-and-a-half days.
So where have they gone? It's awful.
Very upsetting, I'm telling you now.
I'm really, really concerned now that a predator have taken our goslings away.
I know that there's a fox around here, but saying that, it could
be a mink that have come up the stream and taken them. I don't know.
But what a sad day for us.
The other thing that upset me is the blue tits.
You see the box up in the tree there,
on Sunday, the blue tits hatched out and I couldn't wait. I'd been waiting for such a long time.
I came back on Monday to do a bit of filming of the birds
and I couldn't believe what I saw in the box.
I saw two eggs and one little tiny dead chick.
This is what the chicks looked like on Sunday, very, very small, tiny little things.
Next day, one dead chick, and two other eggs that didn't hatch.
All the rest is gone, which is telling me they've died
and the parent birds have taken them out of the nest.
I don't know what have killed them.
But, you know, four days we had a very hot spell so maybe it's something to do with that.
I just don't know.
I don't know the answer.
But it's sad.
Well, at last, some good news.
I've been searching and searching, and I finally found those woodpeckers.
There you are, we found the nest.
I didn't think it would be this tree, mind.
I know there's babies here, because I heard them chirping.
Cheep, cheep, cheep. Something like that.
They're wood pigeons.
But I heard that cch-cch-cch. I can hear that noise very faintly.
So what we're going to do now is just wait and see if the woodpecker will come.
If I go back like that, we might be lucky and see them flying.
There's my first shot.
That's where it is, but he's gone in a hole.
The bird's gone running in the nest.
And come out, and gone away again, but at least we got one little shot.
I'm letting it run a bit.
Here he is. He pitched in that time, now is he the male?
Yes. He's lower down.
But he'll start walking up to the nest. There you are, look.
And look, you can't get no better shot than this, this is brilliant.
Beautiful coloured bird with that red helmet
at the back, that shows me he is the male Great Spotted Woodpecker.
In he goes.
So the babies is not that big really.
They don't stay on the outside very long, when the babies get
bigger they will do, because they can't get in with them.
And there it goes. That's fantastic.
Well, ever since the geese disappeared, I've been hoping and praying that they're still alive.
I've been hunting around all over the countryside,
and I found out that they waddled all the way down the river to Knowstone Mill.
And they waddled up this valley, and down at the top of this field,
and they've come out into the road.
And do you know, in the back of my mind, I said, I wonder if they've gone to another pond.
And then, I bumped into George, and he owns a fishery, and a few days ago they turned up there!
They crossed the road in this dip here.
They came down that valley. For this distance now, you're over two miles.
And this is where they went, down into this valley here, which you may be lucky to get a shot off.
I don't know if you can see or not. But down there is the fisheries, you see?
So this is where I am off to now.
I'm off to see George, hopefully to see the parents and these goslings, to see how they're getting on.
-All right, mate.
Nice to see you, mate.
Well, they were halfway along this bank, this morning.
So they have either dived in or they will be up on the top on the oak tree lake.
You know your birds, don't you?
The only sad thing is, George says there's only two goslings left out of the five.
Very, very sad.
What a wonderful sight that is.
Look at that. Lovely, fluffy balls.
Well, they've changed.
They're twice the size.
And it's only a week.
Yes, they doubled their size.
-Doubled in size.
-So they're feeding well, aren't they?
That is a cracking shot.
That is beautiful.
You don't remember me, do you? No.
Well, they probably do, John.
They recognise sounds, don't they?
-And they're ain't too many people sound like you, John, is there?
My missus says I'm a one-off.
So, how did those two know to come to this lake, from that distance, all the way over there?
They normally nest here every year, they have done for years.
This year they didn't nest. For some reason, I don't know why.
George is saying that honestly thinks that this is their home.
They come to my place just for a little while,
have their goslings, and then decided to come back home again.
So I think that's a wonderful story, anyway.
I honestly do. I think it's beautiful, because we got two alive.
That's a good result.
And they're up on their feet now.
Yes, they're up running around now, aren't they?
Well, let's hope these little goslings make it.
There's a bird. He's up there, look.
I want to get that pretty shot you told me that you can get.
Up a bit, go on? Up!
Oh, what you doing, Bob?!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media
E-mail [email protected]
The wild man of the moors is back. Johnny Kingdom, gravedigger-turned-amateur film-maker spends a year recording the bird life in and around his home on his beloved Exmoor.
Johnny has spent three years creating a wildlife habitat on his 52-acre patch of land on the edge of Exmoor. He has been busy nailing nest boxes on tree trunks, planting a wildflower meadow, dredging his pond, putting up remote cameras and wiring them up to a viewing station in his cabin on the land - all the time hoping against hope that not only will he attract new wildlife but also that he will be able to film it.
This year he is turning his attention to the bird life, hoping to follow some of the species he finds near his home and on his land, across the seasons. We see the transitions from the lovely autumn mists of the oak wood, through the sparkling snow-clad landscape of a north Devon winter, into spring's woodland carpet of bluebells and finally the golden glow of early summer. The bulk of the series is from Johnny's own camera. Do not expect the Natural History Unit - instead expect passion, enthusiasm, humour and an exuberant love of the landscape and its wildlife.
Spring has arrived and it is the busiest time of year for the birds. Johnny tries to film as many of them that are nesting on his land as he can. The great spotted woodpeckers have abandoned their roosting site and found a new tree to nest in, but with 20 acres of woodland Johnny will have his work cut out to find it.
He also fixes remote cameras in place to film the nests of bluetits, blackbirds and swallows, but a period of unusually hot weather spells disaster for some of them. On a happier note, Johnny is delighted when a pair of Canada geese nest on the island on his pond and hatch out five goslings.