Johnny Kingdom films the bird species he finds near his home. Early summer, and the next challenge is getting footage of woodpecker chicks and finding a pair of barn owls to film.
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OK, mate. Eh? Ah, that's good.
I'm Johnny Kingdom and I'm spending a year filming the birds around my home
on Exmoor in the southwest of England.
I've been filming some of them on a piece of land we've got just up the road from our village.
It's a big challenge because I'm trying to follow 'em right through the seasons.
Now it's nearly summer,
the time of the year when all the birds are rearing their chicks.
I've been following a Great Spotted woodpecker.
Now that I've found their nest, what I want to do is get in close so I can film the chicks.
My mate Bob thinks he may have found a way to help me.
Up a bit. Up.
What are you doing, Bob?
And there's one bird that's going to be my biggest challenge.
I zoom in a wee bit. You'll just see a bit of the hide.
The barn owls is underneath there.
Cor, that's brilliant. Look at that.
In't he a funny little chap?
Bet I am too with these glasses on!
This year has been a really busy one.
I've had a job keeping up with the birds down on our land.
I've been trying to film as many of them as I can.
I've got some brilliant shots of this wren's nest.
Prettier than that Johnny says.
I filmed these swallows in our teepee.
I got these lovely shots of a Canada goose and her goslings.
But what I want to get on with today is filming some woodpecker chicks.
I know them there, going "ch-ch-ch".
-The noise of them?
My mate Bob is with me because there's something he wants me to try out.
Now the bird is up there, look.
Listen! Hear that? Ch-ch-ch.
-Yeah. That's the hole there.
What Bob has done is put a little camera on this very, very long pole
so we can get up 30 foot high to try and film these woodpeckers.
Can I be any help at the bottom?
-Just 'im up past.
I'm not sure this is going to work or no.
I think you may have gone past them.
I still can't see that hole.
-You're too low, John.
-I'm too low.
-No, you're above the hole. Miles above.
I think. Come down a bit!
What you doing, Bob?!
Frightened the fella to death. Dearie me!
You've got some stuff in the way of the lens.
What I'm trying to tell you, Bob... Can you listen to me?
Face me, a minute. Bob, look at me, babe.
I called you babe, then. You're not my wife.
-See the tree behind your backside here?
Your angle of your thing, got to come right out there.
I want to get nearer to the hole, you see.
OK. Now you're spot-on, Bob. That's it.
Spot-on. That will do.
You may get a shot there.
What I'll do now is pick up the camera and I want the film crew
to go right back, out the way, then me and you can go in and still hide.
Then we should see birds come back.
Jeez! Six feet of water.
On my arse. Wet right through now.
This my take a few minutes now, but the birds are still...
You're moving, Bob, you must be.
He's back again.
I can see the woodpecker there.
He's feeding the babies, you can just about see it.
The woodpecker's gone again.
He's going ch-ch-ch. Bob, do it.
Ooh, he's come. Shush.
This is the male bird, Bob.
I know it's the male. He's got a red disc at the back of his head.
-Do you know this?
-No, I didn't.
The female is completely black.
-Do you understand that?
What the hell's that? Missed it.
We had a fault just now with the camera.
You buy these things and they don't last two minutes.
-I'm beginning to wonder, Bob, what are you doing next with me?
-I don't know!
He's a nice man.
I think the world of him, but I think he'll have to stick to his silo making.
Still a bit of fungi on the pond.
If I'm going to get any shots of these woodpeckers, I think I'd better stick to my own camera.
-I've got the badgers down here now. There's cubs.
On our land we've got 30 acres of open fields.
This year, I've put it all back into meadow grass.
I've put in the grass. 12 big boxes of wildflowers.
So this year I'm hoping they'll all come out.
If you follow me around we'll try and find some, OK?
These have just started to grow.
I don't know much about wildflowers but I've got a book to help me along.
Here, look. What a pretty picture, these lovely little flowers.
Well, I can pick them out quite easy.
It's in the book.
And it says... Wait a minute.
Or Ger-mander Speedwell.
Germander Speedwell, I think you pronounce this. Very, very pretty.
Of course, one of the reasons why I planted these flowers, they're good for the wildlife.
Heath Lobelia. Right.
Now we've got something different.
Beautiful pink little flower.
I don't know whether the birds would pick on that, mind you, but bees will.
What I'd really like to see is a barn owl.
This long grass is perfect for the field mice, what they eat.
I've even put up a nesting box.
But I haven't seen any yet.
Well, I've not had any luck with owls.
But I had a phone call from a lady called Melanie, a friend who lives in the village.
She's got some barn owls there.
She's got a camera in a bird box in this barn.
Hi. Hello, Melanie.
Come to see your lovely barn owls.
The Barn Owl Trust actually put this camera in the box because these birds are protected.
You just cannot do what you like. Oh!
One, two, three, four, five, six. Oh!
What a wonderful sight that is.
Since the owls arrived, Melanie's become a bit of an expert.
She laid her first egg on May 16th
and she's been laying every other day since then.
How long now do we expect to see chicks in here, roughly?
I think they sit on the eggs for round about 30 odd days.
-As long as that?
-They don't all hatch at the same time like chickens.
No. They'll be all different sizes more or less?
That's so that when they fledge the parents can take the first one out and make it country-wise
as such, and teach it to fly because they can't cope with six chicks flying at the same time.
You'd think they'd break. Look at that.
-That is cracking. I like that.
Well, I've never heard anything like that in my life. Have you ever heard that?
I've never heard that one.
Old timer at 71 but I never give up learning.
-That was fantastic.
-That must have been the male.
-Singing to her?
And then she'll do hissing.
And when he brings her food, she'll preen him.
They seem to be very affectionate.
They scratch each other's faces.
Wife won't do that to me, yet.
I know what to do when I get home.
I'll tell Julie. I'll phone her and warn her!
That's what it's all about.
We might get more eggs.
To come here now and see that, I'm over the moon anyway.
To see them mating, to see the eggs, to see her move around, the funny noise...
You'll know now what that noise means.
-It's the mating call.
-So there's still time for me to do something.
I'd love to find some barn owls to film.
There's so much I'd like to find out about these birds.
I just hope I'm not too late this year.
Well, I haven't forgot about the birds but yesterday I spotted
something else on the edge of our village that I can't resist filming.
Well, I hope you can see me.
That's where the cubs are. There were six cubs here.
I could see them playing but they may not come out.
I've got to get behind the camera now. Get behind
the camera and just wait, OK?
Dear me. There's something you don't do, snap a stick like that!
Sheep up top there. The foxes like a bit
of mutton, a bit of lamb.
I wouldn't stay there if I was you.
Something may nip your backside!
Well, the lamb is going right in the hole where the fox cubs come out.
Would you believe that?
They're looking down the hole.
Look at that.
I've got my eyes spotted on the den now.
Well, well, well. Look at that.
In't that beautiful?
Just sitting out in the sun, look.
Mum's back now. She's been off hunting.
What'll happen now is all these little cubs will start suckling her.
This is brilliant.
Just look at that.
It's wonderful to watch these beautiful animals.
I'm going to move on now.
I won't get any better shots than that,
but that was fantastic.
It's the middle of June.
I'm going back to the woodpeckers' nest to see if I can get some better shots than I did with Bob.
Here I am in a one-man tent, just sitting down, not getting wet.
I need to get these shots because the chicks will be leaving the nest any day now.
Wait for the parent bird to come.
Look, you can see the young bird poking his head out.
This is the male. He's got a big prize.
He's not too eager to feed them because he's trying to call one out.
It's the last one to go. It doesn't look like it's going to go now.
This is the female.
It looks to me like she's got a beak-full of maggots.
He comes part way out, he goes back again, but he just won't come out.
He's saying, "Come on, Mama.
"Come on, Daddy. I want some goodies."
Come on, boy, come out. Come on...
It's a free world for you. Be brave.
There we are. He's just poking his head out further this time.
Come on, mate.
You must come out. Come on.
It's like, how could I give up here?
But I just...I can't wait no longer.
It's been fantastic to watch these woodpeckers.
Next year, he'll be having a family in another tree somewhere in our wood, I hope.
All the best, my friend.
OK, that was one of the birds I wanted to film.
But now I've got to get on with the barn owls.
I still haven't found any on our land, but I've got an idea where I can film them.
I suddenly thought,
there is another place.
I went up to my old hide and I found them up there, would you believe it?
A pair of barn owls.
The hide is at my old mate Tony Thorne's place.
Tony died three years ago.
But I've still got cameras up there.
I've found out there's a pair of barn owls there.
Right, that's where the hide is, where that fir tree is.
That fir tree was my mum's, which I brought there several years ago now.
Just after she died, I put a fir tree there to remember her.
Me and Tony used to go in there and watch barn owls.
If I zoom in a wee bit...
we might just see a bit of the hide with the ropes.
This is where me and Tony used to walk up,
but the barn owls is underneath there and that hide goes up into the trees.
You can't see the top.
Right underneath, it's 30 ft high.
I'm going down here, look.
Down there...in those trees.
That's where my station is, where I can watch the barn owls from.
I've come down this afternoon to show you my set-up.
This station is miles from anywhere
so I put this canvas up to keep things dry, because out here I've got no power.
So down here I've got one battery, 12 volts.
And another 12-volt battery behind there.
And these two converters -
what gets the power to this.
Hello, boy. Oh!
Look at that. A lovely little frog.
Isn't that wonderful? OK, mate, you can go. I'll put you over there.
You can disappear in there. How about that? Isn't that lovely?
Just coming on site like that.
It all happens.
I've set myself up 50 metres from the hide
so I won't disturb the barn owls.
These cables run to three cameras in the hide
that I can operate from here.
There's a good set-up. Last of all there's the sound.
We've got a bit of interference but at least we'll be able to hear
the barn owl talking to the chicks,
making that "gick, gick..." noise in there.
It's a wonderful animal. All I'm waiting for now is to get some results.
The best time to film barn owls is in the dark when they do their hunting.
I'll be back. Wonderful.
HE WHISPERS: Well, I'm at the barn owls' place again
and you can hear the birds hissing.
I've got to keep very, very quiet.
I'm just waiting now.
This is him. We've got the male, and they've brought in something.
He's got to go again.
Oh, yes, now I see.
He delivered a mouse to the female, which we can see now.
He's gone again.
I expect she said to herself, "Well, that's a bit too tough for you, my dears. I'll eat that."
All you could see was the tail just disappearing.
Wonderful, I think that is. To see something like that happen.
He's gone again.
It happened so quick.
He come down so quick, he dropped the mouse, I just turn my back and there you are.
He's feeding the babies.
This is what I love to see. You see?
In the right place at the right time.
They've got to feed well, they've got to.
When the weather's dry like this, they keep piling the food in.
If the babies don't take it, then they'll have a little stockpile there.
They've got to do that, you see, and this is why when it rains for two or three days,
they don't get no food and then I'm sorry to say,
if you're very small, you don't stand much of a chance to live.
And this is the truth about barn owls.
The big one's at the back, lifting her wing up.
One of the big ones, he didn't have enough food.
He's coming out again now, looks like it.
Oh, yeah, I can see him now. Sticking his beak...
Oh, yeah. He just took something from the beak then, which is a lovely shot, that was.
I think that was that big one, you know. Bit of a pig he is.
He stuck his beak right underneath and grabbed something.
Yeah, that big beak. That's why he's getting so big
because he's here feeding all the time.
Oh, he's asking for some more, yes. Passes it to him.
Mind, this happens in barn owl chicks.
They keep grabbing it and grabbing it and the other one don't get enough.
He's got something in his beak. Oh, he's picking it up and trying to help, look.
A little bit of interference inside.
Beautiful. Look at that. She just got up and showed us the chicks.
Oh, that's wonderful!
Funny-looking characters, they are.
But I am, too, now, with these glasses on.
They're all fluffy. They're all fluffy.
It's so nice to see them in there like that, you know. Beautiful.
I can't wait to get home to tell my dear wife Julie.
Tell her what I've done.
Now the barn owl is going to sleep.
And the little babies as well underneath those lovely warm feathers.
So this is the time that I'm going to say goodnight, my friend.
But no doubt I'll be back to see you again.
Over and out.
# I don't care for walking down town
# Crazy autocar going to mow me down
# Look at all the people Like cows in a herd
# Well I like...
# Birds. #
John's been really taken up with the filming of the birds this year, especially the barn owls.
He's been obsessed with the barn owls from day one, from the egg.
Even when we went away, all he worried about was whether
the owls would survive, because it was raining and they couldn't hunt.
He just couldn't wait to get back and see if they were OK. Luckily, they were.
Look, Harry, look. Fish.
See? This has been a really, really good year for me.
Of course the biggest achievement is the barn owl.
I mean, it's took me a lot of time,
but to get those lovely shots, I can't tell you how I feel.
You see, Harry? Look. Watch the water bubble, look.
-You see the bubble?
-John never ceases to surprise me what he takes on.
I think he's just waiting next for the owls to fly.
He's really getting excited about it.
A shark came up. Look, look, look!
Right. It's getting...
It's getting darker and darker and we could be...
Just about the right time to get there and set things up.
Hopefully we'll have a good night, OK?
Well, I'm at the barn owls' place again.
As you can see, they're just waiting there now for the parents to come.
Yes! There's the mice, look.
And he's stopped. And he's stopped. He didn't know which way to give.
Fantastic bit of footage.
Look at that.
Ooh, he's turned around with that mouse, look. That's very unusual.
Now, is he trying to get the barn owl to come out?
He's calling and he's gone away with the mouse again.
That's the first time I've ever seen that happen. He's gone away.
Uh-oh. The young one's gone right on the very entrance now.
You can see his talons.
Ooh, and the other one's there.
Wow, wow, wow. NOW we've got something to look at.
Now we have got something to look at.
We've got the both owls on the entrance, and what a beautiful shot that is.
Oh, just look at that. Weren't that beautiful when he looked back then?
If I don't get any more shots, I shall be more than happy to see that.
Oh that is something, my friends, to see.
And the other one's hitching up... Oh, he's gone! He flew!
That is incredible!
The young one took off in flight for the first time. There you are.
We have recorded it from the hide. Would you believe that?
He's come back, he's come back again.
Oh, look at that for a cracking shot, mate!
Look at that!
Who's the third one? There you are.
The first shot has got three.
It's got three of them in the entrance, look.
Two gone. That's the fluffy one. What's he going to think about it all?
He's not going to go. I shouldn't have thought so.
I expect he's saying, "My mates are gone, I'm on my own. What do I do?
"Do I stay here or do I go?" Look!
Oh. He's exercising his wings right on the doorstep.
Look at that. Look at that. That's how they do it, you see. They're exercising.
Wow! I just don't believe what I've just seen.
I've seen all the shots I wanted and it's happened tonight.
I've seen actually the young one fly out of the hide for the first time
and come back in again, in and out. I just don't believe it.
What a lovely way to finish this lovely story of the barn owls.
Something I shall never, never forget.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
The wild man of the moors is back. Johnny Kingdom, gravedigger-turned-amateur filmmaker 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's 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. Don't expect the Natural History Unit - instead expect passion, enthusiasm, humour and an exuberant love of the landscape and its wildlife.
As spring moves into summer, Johnny is relieved to find a healthy brood of wren chicks and heartened to see that some adults did survive the cold winter. He is thrilled with his footage of swallow chicks, but now faces the challenges of getting close-up shots of the woodpecker chicks and finding a pair of barn owls to film.
Johnny's old friend Bob tries to help out with the woodpecker chicks by fixing a camera on a long pole and Johnny returns to one of his old hides in an attempt to film owl chicks. While Bob's camera brings mixed results, the owl footage is an overwhelming success.