Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall explores the Jurassic Coast to investigate the strange life of its most curious creatures. His fascination for marine life centres on the cuttlefish.
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For me, watching wildlife is one of life's greatest pleasures.
And my favourite place to do it is
right here in my beloved West Country.
This captivating corner of the British Isles...
There's six right underneath us.
..has a cast of creatures that's as awe-inspiring,
extraordinary and magical as any.
Oh, come on, no way!
I'm hoping to get as close as I can to as many as I can...
Right, I'm ready.
This is great, this is measuring an eel.
Whoa, oh, oh.
Ants, off, off! Oh, there's one inside.
..with the help of a band of dedicated nature lovers.
Some of the patterns on the feathers, they're beautiful.
-Look, look, look. Wonderful.
-That's so cool.
There's one in my hair now, Poppy.
I'll share the thrill of the chase...
-Do you hear them?
-I heard something.
-Yeah, they're in there.
..the sheer joy of the encounter...
-She's so golden.
-She's fast asleep.
..and I'll pitch in to help these local heroes
safeguard the future of our precious animals.
Bye-bye. There she goes.
I can't believe that I've been living in the West Country
for so many years and I've never done this before.
This will be a year-round adventure...
..as we explore the natural wonders of the UK's very own Wild West.
This is the world-famous Jurassic Coast.
A stretch of shore I know better than any other in Britain,
because I've lived here for almost 20 years now.
It's named after the incredible fossils that are a snapshot of life
here in the age of the dinosaurs.
But, for me, the real intrigue is the animals to be found here today.
Some of the creatures that live here
seem every bit as weird and wonderful
as any monsters from the past.
I'm never happier than when I can see the sea.
So this is a quest I'm looking forward to.
Whatever this is today,
I certainly couldn't call it work.
The Jurassic Coast stretches for
95 miles from Exmouth in Devon,
all the way to Studland Bay
and includes the seaside resorts of
Lyme Regis and Weymouth.
This bit of coast is where my fascination with the marvels of the
natural world all began.
Here, on childhood holidays,
I'd spend days with a net and bucket hunting in the rock pools to see
what strange beasts I could find.
But, of course, out there in the open ocean,
there are even more extraordinary marine creatures to encounter.
One of them in particular has fascinated me for years.
It really does feel like it's come from another planet.
And it's not just that, it seems like an alien,
it's an intelligent alien.
This is the cuttlefish.
A life form with so many extraordinary features,
it's hard to know where to start.
It has three hearts, blue blood, and
it can change colour in patterns that ripple across its body.
A trick it uses for camouflage to
attract a mate and to mesmerise its prey.
During the spring and summer,
cuttlefish move into our shallow coastal waters to breed.
They aren't here for long,
but I've heard from local fishermen that they're around right now,
and I'd love to see them.
And, if possible, film them.
But that's not easy.
Getting good, clear shots of cuttlefish in the wild is
a challenge, even for the professionals.
But, I'm hatching a plan that might just get us some rare footage of
Have you ever filmed cuttlefish, Robin?
Cuttlefish is a first, but I'm always up for a challenge.
I've reeled in wildlife cameraman Robin Smith to help me try
and pull it off.
-It's quite a charismatic animal.
-That big eye, and there's a sense of intelligence about them.
That whole group of animals is fascinating anyway, isn't it?
And we've got this great population of cuttlefish in the UK,
in the South West in particular,
that come in for the breeding season,
and I've never seen them on a dive.
But I know they're there because the fishermen are out there catching
them in quite good quantities.
My idea is to borrow a trick from the fishermen,
adapting the pots they use to catch cuttlefish.
Definitely come to the right place, Robin.
-It smells like it, doesn't it? I can smell welding.
-Is it Mick?
-Yeah. It is, yeah.
-This is Robin.
Hi, Mick. How are you doing, mate?
Mick makes the creels that fishermen use to catch cuttlefish.
But I only want to catch one on camera and then let it go.
This is a square pot.
-You could cut us an entrance here.
-I'll make you...
-But without the sort of anti-reverse net.
We don't want this to be a trap, we just want it to be...
-An open entrance.
-..an open entrance that they can
-swim in and out of their own free will.
This whole idea is based on a theory that fishermen once told me,
which is that cuttlefish like going into these traps,
they go in out of curiosity, it feels sort of like an interesting,
secluded piece of habitat
where they might be safe laying eggs or whatever.
So, we should actually be creating
somewhere that a cuttlefish wants to go.
-I think we're good to go, Mick.
-Just give it a go.
-Give that a go.
-Thank you, Mick.
-Nice one, thanks mate.
In our modified pot, the cuttlefish can go in and out as they please.
So if Robin can rig ours with an underwater camera,
I'm hoping we might see natural mating behaviour.
First stop, my workshop.
-That might work for us.
-That's got pretty much the whole pot covered.
Yeah, it has, yeah.
OK, hold that up, then. Let's just clamp that on there.
Yeah, once that's fixed in the cage, that feels pretty good to me.
Uh-huh. OK, good.
It's always a fun thing about doing this sort of filming, really,
you never get the same problem twice.
So you're always problem-solving,
working it out from scratch, pretty much.
Like the fishermen, we'll be using
a lure to attract cuttles into our pot.
Something that I hope looks like another friendly cuttlefish.
That looks pretty good.
More or less.
Mind you, I've never seen a more sceptical-looking sound man in all my life.
He's not convinced.
-He's not impressed, is he?
-He's definitely not convinced.
Come on, cuttles.
Prove Gary wrong.
I think we've just got time to get this in the water this evening,
and our skipper, Matt, should be standing by in West Bay.
My friend, fishing boat skipper
Matt Toms, knows these waters better than anyone.
And I think he'll have a pretty good idea where we should put our pot.
But if we've missed the breeding season, even by a day,
those cuttlefish will be gone.
It will be good to know what Matt makes of our plan,
and of my all-important lure.
Very pretty, very pretty.
What self-respecting cuttlefish could say no?
Well, that's what we hope.
But, are there some self-respecting cuttlefish around at the moment?
I hope so, we've got a good 50-50 shot.
They're actually looking for a structure on the sea bed
to lay their eggs, so they'll come and investigate any bit of structure.
What's actually happening here on the Jurassic Coast with cuttlefish
at this time of year?
They actually move into the shallow water to breed.
And as long as they get to breed reasonably successfully during the
catching period, they should bounce back each year?
Well, that's right. And what a lot of the fishermen do is actually
leave the traps out once they've finished catching the cuttlefish,
because the traps are covered in eggs,
so they will leave the traps out until say, September,
and give the chance for the eggs to actually hatch out.
Let's get it in the water, then.
OK, cuttles, lights, camera and we hope...
-Good to go.
And with our underwater cuttlefish photo booth safely installed in ten
metres of water... Brilliant, Matt.
..all we can do is wait to see who or what drops in
over the next 24 hours.
Meanwhile, I'm off to meet a scientist who shares my fascination
with the cuttlefish.
Here at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth,
Alex Harvey has just hatched a new brood.
These little fellows are fantastic.
-Aren't they beautiful?
-How old are they?
They're about seven days old.
And why do you have these cuttlefish here at the NBA?
Who's studying them and what are they trying to find out?
One of the reasons we're interested particularly in cuttlefish is
because of their intelligence. They have incredibly developed eyes,
they've got a very complex brain.
It looks like they have the capacity to learn
and to kind of process new information.
So they're really interesting from that perspective.
It's noticeable that there's quite a lot of colour variation.
There's some very pale ones, there's some almost reddish ones,
some much darker ones.
Cuttlefish have the ability to change the colour and the texture of
-I've just seen one do exactly that.
So when I said there's pale ones and red ones,
one minute they're reddy-brown, and the next minute...
That one has just shot off little clouds of ink.
In fact, I can see several clouds suspended in the water.
The inking is held together like a globule.
Now, a lot of people misunderstand what inking does.
A lot of people think that cuttlefish use it to kind of create
a smoke screen to hide behind.
That's not at all what it's for.
It's actually supposed to make a mimic, like a kind of something that
is shaped a little bit like a cuttlefish,
so whatever predator is attacking the cuttlefish will attack the ink
-instead of the cuttle.
-And they are voracious predators,
they will take anything that they can get their hands on.
And just how voracious, I'm about to find out.
-Is that the food?
-This is the food.
We have a mixture of baby prawns,
baby mysid shrimp and tiny little amphipods.
I'm fascinated that within just a week of hatching,
Alex is offering these baby cuttlefish live prey.
Oh, my goodness, that's unbelievable!
And you see a really big size compared to the body.
Yeah. There's another one.
They're really fired up.
And you see that extra long tentacle, the kind of hunting tentacle,
coming out of the middle of the cluster of smaller tentacles.
And that prawn is just whipped back in.
Oh, my God! Sorry.
That was just full-on.
Look at this one.
To avoid being prey themselves, these little hatchlings
need to grow fast, and that means learning to hunt fast.
Their tiny tentacles are already deadly weapons,
even to prawns half as big as they are.
This is wild behaviour that's going on, in every sense of the word.
It's actually making my heart pound a bit.
They look super cute, like little cartoon characters.
But now that those prawns are in there...
-They're killing machines.
-They're killing machines, they are.
They are highly effective predators.
This is an intelligent animal on A completely different side of the
evolutionary tree from mammals, birds, fish.
That's right. They've evolved completely separately
from all other, what we would call intelligent life.
And that's why they're so interesting.
You know, we can learn about this sort of parallel evolution,
even in things like their eyes.
They have incredibly complex eyes that see at least as well as we do.
Strange. And every thing about them is sort of gripping and fascinating
And they're hunting prowess, I have to say, is second to none.
It's spring, breeding season for our sea birds.
The spectacular cliffs of the coastline here provide many of them
with isolated nest sites where they can raise their
young in relative safety.
But for one summer visitor, life is not so simple.
This is the little tern.
Each year in makes an epic 5,000km journey to get here all the way
from West Africa, only to nest right on the beach.
Here on the ground,
they risk being disturbed by holiday-makers and dog walkers.
And their eggs and chicks are easy prey for predators like foxes and ravens.
So, perhaps it's no surprise that the little tern is one of our rarest
sea birds. It really doesn't make life easy for itself.
You almost want to remonstrate with the stubborn little birds.
Guys, this is not a good idea.
In fact, ten years ago, it got so bad, that it looked like the little
terns might disappear from the Jurassic Coast completely.
So, it's fantastic to know that a growing army of supporters has
gathered round them to help them through this critical time of year.
Every spring, one small band of little terns heads to their last
surviving nest site in the South West, Chesil Beach.
It's a natural wonder of the Jurassic Coast and an 18-mile long
bank of shingle and pebbles.
The stones are size-graded by the action of the sea.
At the Portland end, they're as big as a fist...
..and at the Bridport end, barely pea sized.
It's April and on one small patch of shingle,
preparations are under way for the arrival of the little terns.
Yeah. Just be really careful not to cross those wires.
Would not be a good idea.
Every year, out comes an electric fence,
a flat-pack hut and a wooden walkway.
Vital kit to help the team watch over the terns and protect them from predators.
That should be it.
The extraordinary life choices of the little tern mean that this
long-suffering bird really needs all the help it can get,
as veteran volunteer John knows only too well.
Does the door shut? Yes, it does.
It's such a challenge. Because they are up against so much,
little terns are the Homer Simpson of the bird world.
If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.
Right, get your 99s and your hot dogs here.
Chesil should be an ideal site for a tern colony.
Behind the shingle bank is the sheltered salt water lagoon,
the Chesil Fleet, and the sheer length of the beach makes it
easy to find a private spot.
Only 20 years ago, the colony here had 100 breeding pairs.
But by 2008,
that number had crashed to just ten and there was a real danger that
little terns would be lost from this site for ever.
This project was set up to save them and ever since,
volunteers have devoted their summers to Operation Little Tern.
If you're volunteering, by all means you can paint the hide.
I love little terns.
They're very cute little birds.
They're very noisy.
They've got real character about them.
Much more so than some of the other terns, I think.
The future of the colony depends on the volunteers keeping
a round-the-clock vigil to ward off predators.
The purpose of this hide is mainly to provide shelter for the wardens.
We can sit in here and watch the birds and keep a watch out for
predators to scare off.
This year, the colony has a new chief protector.
Scarlet Hutchin is taking charge as seasonal warden.
You get to really know the birds.
You spend a lot of time watching them.
So you get to know their behaviour quite well and it does become,
it kind of becomes your version of celebrity gossip.
Things that, to a normal outsider, would seem quite small details
become quite big news if you're living in a little sea bird bubble.
For birds who lay their eggs directly onto pebbles on a beach,
predators are just one of many things that can go wrong.
Eggs can easily roll off the nest, cool down and fail,
which is why John came up with this.
Every year, we put these pots of sand out,
because they make a nice scrape in the sand.
It's like a nice little cup which keeps the eggs close together and
then they can sit on the eggs.
Especially when they've got three eggs, it's harder for them to keep
them all close together but when they're in sand, it's much easier.
Nobody can fault the volunteers for effort and the great news is that
their hard work is starting to pay off.
From 1997 to 2008, the population declined from 100 pairs down to just
ten pairs and now the birds are back up to 39 pairs last year.
And I fully anticipate it will go up to 50-odd this year, if not more.
Late in April, the little terns arrive at the end of their epic
flight from Africa.
As soon as they've had a chance to refuel after the long journey,
the business of pairing up can begin.
A male woos the female by offering her food.
But even after successful mating, the dangers that lie in wait for
eggs and chicks mean that the overall
success of the breeding season is very much in the balance.
No-one wants to be the person that drops the ball.
You know, you can do everything right and still have a
catastrophically bad season and that is not
something that you have control over.
It's great to see that so many local people are prepared to step up and
get involved when they see an animal struggling to make a comeback on
their doorstep, and I'm glad to say it isn't just adorable birds or
cute mammals that are getting a helping hand.
At the western end of Chesil Beach is the Isle of Portland,
an isolated outcrop, jutting out into the sea.
This is Dorset's southernmost point.
And it's the lifelong home of retired naval senior rating Rodney Wild.
I certainly wouldn't want to live anywhere else and when I'm walking
early in the morning with the dog, perhaps, and I look out
at the sunrise and I say, "I don't want to go away for a holiday,
"I'd miss this place too much," so...
Last holiday I had was in Wales, but that was 1982.
We had a fabulous time, but I love this place too much to leave
it when I haven't got to.
Rodney is a man with a deep-running passion for his home patch and a
long-held fascination with a strange little resident that has entered
into local folklore.
Portland's got a lot of quirky stuff and there is a bit of
folklore attached to them, which is at Southwell,
they've got these creatures called Nanny Diamonds,
which live in dry-stone walls and peer at people.
Rodney's first encounter with the Nanny Diamonds happened
on a dark night over 30 years ago.
When I was in the Navy and I was on the base down there,
coming back from the Clifton pub and just suddenly saw them on the side
of the road, where we came down and it looked like an ashtray
that had been tipped out, except that they were green.
I said, "What's that?" "Oh, they're glow-worms."
It's likely that the real source of the legend of the Nanny Diamonds is
indeed the glow-worm, a creature which Portland is lucky enough to
have in relative abundance.
This chance meeting 30 years ago sparked Rodney's interest.
And tonight, after dark, he'll conduct one of his regular
glow-worm walks and make a count of these beguiling bugs.
There's a group of Dorset butterfly spotters.
They came out last week and bringing a few friends with them this time,
and it has been advertised so, hopefully, may get one or two more
people coming as well.
I always follow the same route so you can compare statistics with
Not much is known about the UK's overall glow-worm population,
so public counts are a source of valuable data.
Through the summer, walks like Rodney's take place across the UK
and the results are pooled to help build a national picture.
When we get down the bottom, we'll spread out and as soon as you see a
In urban areas, ambient light from cars and cities can drown out the
glow-worms' little show.
It looks like a green LED sitting in the grass.
Some brighter than others.
We spread all the way across.
We found one!
Ah, yeah, I see him.
The glow-worm is actually a beetle.
The female can't fly and uses her ethereal light to attract mates and
It's produced by a light-emitting chemical in a specialised organ in
the beetle's abdomen.
If all goes well, it's the climax of a brief adult life of just a few weeks.
-It looks like wings.
No, there are no wings on them.
Right, so there's two.
Oh, that is the whole thing.
When they mate, the light goes out and they go underground and die and
lay their eggs before they die.
It is all part of life's rich tapestry.
-This is my first time.
There's another one.
Rodney's glow-worm walks are a great way for locals to discover a marvel
of nature right on their doorstep.
One that's all too easy to miss.
I bring the dogs up here every morning.
And we come down here every morning and the evening.
Sometimes the evening as well.
Never this time of night, so I didn't even know they existed.
Counts like this have recorded glow-worms
in hundreds of sites across the UK where they were previously unknown.
It's thought they're in decline,
but until we get more data from more sites,
we'll be in the dark about glow-worms a while longer.
We got to 16, which is a pretty good number.
-I think everyone's enjoyed themselves.
That's it. We're all going to bed now.
I might go to the Clifton and have a last one.
Thank you very much everyone for coming.
-It's really good.
So, next time you're wandering past thick hedgerows and tall grasses on
a summer's night, peer into the gloom, and who knows,
you, too, might catch a glimpse of a Nanny Diamond.
Out in Lyme Bay, it's time to check on the modified cuttlefish pot
that we've left out at sea over the previous 24 hours.
I'm hoping we might have picked up some rare footage of some courting couples.
Strange, isn't it? Because normally when you're pulling a pot,
you're hoping there's something in it.
And if there's something in this,
then the plan hasn't quite gone right.
I just hope something has been in it.
The lights are obviously off, as we'd expect.
And there's a sign that something has paid our cuttle-cam a visit.
-It's all good.
-Some squid eggs.
Any sign of eggs? Squid eggs.
-They didn't take long, did they?
-That is amazing.
-You think that's squid, not cuttlefish?
-That's definitely squid.
-They're like blackberries, cuttlefish eggs.
The squid eggs attached to our pot may not be from our
target cephalopod, but we'll give them the best chance we can.
I've got half of it off quite nicely.
Good luck, squid eggs.
Though, in all honesty, they're probably more likely to make a meal
for somebody than turn into baby squid, but you never know!
Done our best.
I can't wait to see just what has visited our camera-rigged
pot in the last 24 hours.
Did those cuttles come calling, or has a squid stolen the show?
Once Robin's downloaded the footage,
I'll be right over to see what we've got.
-I'm excited, but I don't know how excited I should be.
So, when I've off-loaded the footage and... Interesting.
I'm going to ask the crunch question up front.
Do we see any cuttlefish?
-No. I'm afraid not.
I'm afraid we don't. No.
That doesn't completely surprise me because I spoke to a fisherman who's
had his cuttle pots out and he said in the last three days, he's caught -
in 200 traps - he's caught three or four cuttlefish.
Really? That's interesting. OK.
He thinks that the storm last week basically knocked the breeding
season on the head and they've all moved offshore.
-OK, OK, OK.
-Does that mean we're just looking at an empty trap for
-I mean the trap did what it was there to do,
other than the cuttlefish. There's some interesting stuff in here.
-So, let's have a...
-You've had some visits?
-We've had some visits, yes,
definitely got some hits on the cameras.
-It's a lovely clear picture, isn't it?
I mean the lighting, the rig, it works.
Yeah, it seemed to do the business.
There's a little tiny fish in there.
-Might be a poor cod.
That's some kind of juvenile smelt, isn't it?
Almost transparent. It is interested in the wavy glove.
Yes, the lure's definitely caught its interest.
It's come in to check that out, for sure.
-And some kind of shark, isn't it?
-Dog fish. Yeah.
Also known as a cat shark.
-Oh, really? OK.
-Lesser spotted dog fish is also known as a cat shark.
Just to confuse everybody even further, great!
No surprise there. A few crabs checking it out.
Looks like a little spider crab.
-Thinking of coming in.
But changing his mind.
It's a nice, clear shot.
The set-up is working, isn't it?
-The light works.
The shot's clear. Hey, hey, it's a squid!
-It's a squid.
-There you go.
Is he coming in? So we have got a cephalopod.
-We have got one. Yes.
-We've got the cousin and he's really interested.
He's just hovering up and down the outside.
He's definitely interested in that lure,
the glove that we put in as a lure.
He's coming back for another proper look.
I mean, this whole rig has got him very inquisitive.
-He's really interested. Yeah.
-Is he gone now?
-No, back again.
-A big squid eye on the side there.
Incredible. Those eyes are amazing.
And also we had those squid eggs on the trap.
Maybe laid by this squid.
Quite possibly. It could've been her.
But we don't see that. We don't see the actual laying of eggs.
Sadly not. No.
But I don't know...
We've got a cephalopod. Yep. Or is it a SEPH-alopod?
-What do you say?
-SEPH-alopod, I would go.
We've got a SEPH-alopod.
We could go either way.
-SEPH-alopod, CEPH-alopod, whatever it was, it was one of them.
The whole thing was set up to take advantage of this great annual event,
-the cuttlefish breeding, and we've missed that.
But what do you think about the rig?
-The potential's there, for sure.
The great thing about this is, you do things like this and you think,
next time, we can tweak this, we can tweak that and it's always work in
progress. There's always more you can do.
-Next time. Next time, we'll nail it.
-Just less than one year away.
Well, we'll get in a bit early.
-We'll have to start in March next year.
I can't pretend I'm not a bit disappointed,
but I'm definitely not deterred.
It's always a pleasure to explore this coastline
and find new ways to observe the marine creatures that live here.
And that often means using knowledge I've gained from one of my favourite pastimes.
Most of my encounters with fish along the Jurassic Coast start
with a fishing rod in my hand and end in the kitchen.
But I don't see any contradiction between enjoying catching and
cooking fish and being absolutely fascinated by what they're up to
when they're out there in the middle of the sea.
One of my favourite fish in these waters is the bream.
It's difficult to catch, delicious to eat,
and apparently has an extraordinary personal life.
So I certainly have time for anybody who could throw a bit more light on that.
All along this stunning coastline are marine mysteries waiting to be
uncovered by anyone prepared to put in the time.
This is Sheilah and Martin Openshaw.
Right, that's it. We're good to go.
-No, we're not. We've got to sort this out, first.
-Sort those out, yep.
This couple lead, what looks to me, like a pretty idyllic life here on
the south coast.
Well, we're retired, so life just gets busy when you're retired.
Yeah, we've been diving
as amateur divers for 20 years, just as a hobby.
And we've thoroughly loved doing it.
Passionate as they are, even they didn't guess that their
favourite leisure pursuit might lead to a scientific discovery with
It started on a dive just near Kimmeridge Bay off the Dorset coast.
We were in an area and there were these craters.
It was like a lunar landscape.
And we didn't know what it was.
The couple asked local biologist Matt Dogget if he could shed light
on this find.
We'd known Matt for a few years.
And Matt said about the bream, and we said,
"Oh, yes, bream nests, that's what they were."
Various sea fish build nests, especially reef dwellers,
but the nests of black bream have rarely been documented.
Realising they were onto something,
Matt began diving with Sheilah and Martin and filming their finds.
Every time we put the cameras down there,
we discover something new about them.
It's quite a unique fish, really. Especially in UK waters.
You have a few species of fish which build nests, but not on the scale of
a black bream. I mean, these nests can be two or three metres wide,
huge excavations in the sea bed.
Found a wrasse cleaning station and a lobster,
and some bream nests.
No-one's ever done this sort of work before that we're doing,
in the field.
So it's a great pleasure and privilege to really be out here and
see something that really hardly anybody else ever sees.
It got quite exciting.
You know, just looking at these things and seeing
the male and female interact.
It's something that we've got footage of and we couldn't find it anywhere else.
In April, when bream come inshore to mate, the male fish looks to attract
females by clearing a circular hatching ground or nest
for their eggs.
Clearance work begins with a swish of the tail fin
to shift loose sand and gravel.
Larger stones are picked up by mouth and removed from the nest.
At the end of one season, when the nests were left open and the bream
had just gone, we went down and we did a sort of fairly careful
measurement of the size of the nest.
And we calculated that, you know, that one male bream had shifted 70
kilos of gravel to create this one nest
and that was a fairly typical sized nest.
For an average black bream, that's more than 40 times its body weight.
And the work doesn't stop there.
The house-proud male needs to keep the place tidy to impress a mate.
We believe the females go around and look at all these nests and then
consider the suitability and pick the nest that they prefer to lay
their eggs on.
As females show interest, the male changes colour,
turning almost black apart from a vertical white stripe.
But the female doesn't stick around for long.
The females, you know, once they've laid their eggs,
they swim off and leave them to the male and the male does all the
tending to the eggs until they hatch several days later.
This dedicated team has uncovered some impressive bream behaviour that
I, for one, have never seen before.
Black bream are attentive fathers-to-be,
steadfastly guarding their eggs.
And if the male leaves the nest for even a few minutes,
then there's a risk of the predators going in and starting to eat the eggs.
We've got footage from Poole Bay where we were diving one day.
And the male was off the nest for a few minutes.
And literally, about 40 other fish piled onto the nest
and started eating the eggs.
And that's something the male bream won't stand for.
In all the footage that we've got of different egg predators,
we've got huge Ballan wrasse from this section of coast
feeding on the eggs, male coming in and fighting him off.
And scaring him off the nest.
I think, you know, the other wildlife, the other fish, perhaps,
and things down there, they know what's going to happen
if they wander onto the nest site.
And they just don't.
This project has revealed the doughty character of these feisty fish.
The more I find out, the more I can't help but like them.
Research has shown that nesting fish like this,
individual fish can have individual personalities,
and different levels of aggression,
and we've found sometimes you can
pop a camera quite close to a nest and it will be ignored
for three hours. Whereas, in other fish, they won't give the camera
more than a minute or so before it's, it's laying into it.
The big revelation is the role of the male as guardian of the next
generation. And that's an important
message when it comes to safeguarding the species.
We've been able to show people, show fishermen, show the regulators,
just how important the males are, and that's been instrumental in
encouraging fishermen to return males that
they catch to the nests.
The team's curiosity and hard work has led to a new understanding of
black bream, and with the cooperation of local anglers,
including me, it could help to secure its future.
This is a coastline that offers all of us the chance to make some
exciting discoveries of our own -
and you don't need to have scuba gear to do it,
as I found out many years ago.
When I was a kid, my bucket and spade holidays rapidly became bucket
and net holidays. I was so fascinated by rock pools and the
amazing instant opportunity to delve into another alien world.
For me, a rock pooling foray is never complete without finding one
characterful fish in particular.
Let's see if I've still got what it takes.
Beautiful, clear water, and lovely seaweeds.
But where are the critters?
I want something that moves, something with intent.
Give me a crab, give me a blenny. That's what I'm here for.
There's some little fish here.
You can see the shadows before you see the fish.
Tiny little things.
There's another little fish.
That could be a blenny.
And some little shrimps, too.
Blenny and prawns. HE CHUCKLES
This is just...
This takes me back. I used to spend hours and hours doing this.
And this is my favourite thing to catch.
This is a little blenny.
The blenny is one of the shoreline's great survivors.
When waves are crashing on the rocks,
it jams itself into tiny crevices to stay safe.
These are good places to hide from predators, too.
And that slimy covering helps it to carry on breathing, so it can stay
alive, even out of water.
I've had so much fun catching these guys, putting them in my bucket,
looking at them for hours and hours,
and then tipping them back in the rock pool at the end of the day.
It just seems to me to be bursting with character.
And some... Oh! There he is, back in the pool.
But not for long. No, that was him.
Catch and release.
They do have a habit of doing that.
They're crafty little flippers, and he flipped himself back in the pool.
These days I've teched up a bit when it comes to rock pooling,
using an underwater camera to give me some extra-special close-ups.
Some really pretty anemones just there.
It's so easy to forget that these curious little things are actually
animals, not plants.
The green one with the pink tips
on its tentacles is a snakelocks anemone,
and the browny one is a beadlet anemone.
The tide's just come over the edge of this pool,
so it's starting to get a touch murky, but it also means the
anemones are starting to move their tentacles with the
incoming tide. There we go.
Just a little swish.
There's probably more chance of them getting a feed now that the tide's
coming into the pool.
What is that?
The great thing about rock pooling is you never know
what you're going to find.
It's some kind of sea slug.
Look at that.
I think that is a sea hare.
And I've never seen one of those in an English rock pool before.
Check this out. Sea hare in rock pool.
First time ever.
'The sea hare is a seaweed-eating mollusc. It may not be quite as
'clever as its distant cousin, the cuttlefish...'
It just looks so exotic.
'..but it can fend off predators by squirting ink.
'Those bunny ears, which is presumably how the hare got its
'name, are organs called rhinophores,
'that can detect the faintest smell.'
Really want to see if I can get a close-up of those mouthparts.
Oh, he's just turning this way now.
That might do it. Just...
It looks as if he's staring straight down the lens of my
underwater camera, almost like he's intrigued by it.
But I think that's probably a bit fanciful, because he really can't
have a very big brain, if any. HE CHUCKLES
I've been sticking my nose in Dorset rock pools since I was six years
old, but I've never seen one of these before.
It feels just like being a kid again.
Away from the shoreline, on a marshy ribbon of ground,
even more surprises lie in wait.
In this boggy field, just to the side of the B3351 in Dorset,
are lurking things you won't find on the map...
carnivorous insect-eating plants.
Bog like this is their perfect habitat,
and they're thriving here.
I remember being fascinated by the idea of carnivorous plants as a kid,
but for Tim Bailey, that's a thrill that never went away.
I've been involved, dealing with carnivorous plants now for about 35
years, since I was 15. I collected my first Venus fly trap.
I was quite shocked to find that we actually have 13 native species in
Britain and Ireland.
It's just the fascination that they have, so much mystique and intrigue.
This bog, there's probably more species represented than most parts
of the, of the country. This is my own little personal cathedral.
Carnivorous plants have evolved to live in low-nutrient environments.
Unlike other plants, they take very little from the soil.
It's passing insects that give them all the buzz they need.
This bog, where sunshine and prey are abundant,
is perfect for a range of carnivorous plants,
including ones which hunt below the water.
The bladderworts are one of the most advanced plants in the world.
The actual trap's actually quite frightening.
EERIE MUSIC PLAYS
It could be straight from the pages of B-movie science fiction.
Beneath the bog, what horrors lie in wait?
This is indeed an unusual organism.
Bladder traps empty of water, creating a vacuum inside.
The suction power of that vacuum is released by tiny hairs triggered by
passing insect larvae.
Once the trap is sprung,
the larva is stuck inside with no chance of escape.
And Tim has another favourite.
Now, this is the most common of the sundews.
It grows across Britain and Ireland.
It's called the round-leaved sundew,
and you can clearly see a sort of very round trap,
which is where it gets its name from.
It can catch quite sizeable, sort of, flies.
Then, because these insects, when they're caught,
they might urinate and create nitrogen.
The plant responds to that nitrogen, and it sends lots more of its
tentacles that will bend towards that prey.
If it's really small, it quickly gets consumed, and in a matter of,
you know, two or three days,
there's just this little black globule of soup.
And the plant then sucks
that soup back into the plant.
If insects have nightmares, these plants must surely be in them.
And as Tim continues his survey,
he finds that the nightmare has become very real for some of the
bog's larger insects.
These are damselflies, and they're clearly in distress.
OMINOUS MUSIC PLAYS
Some of them look like they're feeding, but in fact,
they're just using their mouthparts to try and get free from
the sundew's sticky threads.
I've just found a load of damsels
that are caught in the fly traps.
I haven't seen this concentration.
It's like one's been caught, and there's another three on it as well.
So perhaps the one being caught has attracted the others.
Not a sight you would normally see.
You see the odd one trapped from time to time,
but I've never seen that before.
As you can see, they're quite substantial creatures.
These plants do have antibacterial, antiseptic qualities,
which sort of stop the prey from naturally rotting or going,
you know, within there,
so it gives a chance of the plant to actually digest it itself, to get
the meal, because if the insect rots,
it could actually rot the leaf at the same time.
And there's another one at the back, and it's been completely immersed,
so you can actually see
that this creature has had pretty
much quite a horrendous time, trying to escape
the clutches of this plant.
Very interestingly, these are also caught, and there's
a spider that's come along and is
trying to get a free meal.
And the predator has become prey.
This rarely observed world shows plants at their most resourceful and deadly.
It's definitely made this visit really worthwhile.
So I'm a very happy man.
I'm sure the damselflies aren't as happy as I am.
GENTLE GUITAR MUSIC PLAYS
It's June, and the little terns of Chesil Beach are busy feeding their
So far, things are going pretty much according to plan for the dedicated
team of volunteers here to protect the ever-vulnerable chicks.
The terns have nested in the specially prepared sites,
and the electric fence has fended off the foxes.
But for warden Scarlet and the team,
the big worry now is the threat from the air.
We had crows manage to get into the colony and take all the eggs out of
-seven nests over four days, which was...wasn't a very good week.
But we seem to have managed to, kind of, get the best of them.
They're just showing up a lot less now,
and the terns are doing a good job keeping them away as well.
The terns that lost eggs mostly managed to lay again,
and there are now more fluffy chicks than ever to guard.
We've got around 40 pairs, and at least 26 chicks have hatched,
which is really nice.
But this is when the colony is most at risk.
For hungry kestrels with chicks of their own to feed,
this looks like one big baby bird buffet.
The kestrel is a thing that keeps me up at night, basically.
Kestrels in the past have caused a lot of problems here.
So the kind of big question, when you're waiting to see if it's going
to be a good year or not, is whether the kestrels start showing up
a lot or not.
And when a kestrel does show up,
John uses decades of expertise to persuade it to leave.
I will chase it off.
Hey, hey, hey, hey!
We don't have any particularly highly technological anti-kestrel device.
Hey, hey, hey, hey!
Shouting, waving your arms, banging loud things with sticks.
And on this occasion at least,
there'll be no easy meal for the hawk-eyed hunter.
-Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!
In just two weeks, the chicks quadruple their weight,
but until they're fully fledged,
the job is not over for the adult birds or the volunteers.
While they're still flightless, the
team has a chance to ring the chicks, so they can know which birds
are returning each year.
But little tern chicks are so well-camouflaged,
the challenge is not stepping on one.
Can you spot the chicks in this picture?
Neither can these guys.
There are actually two of them.
How about now?
Just check it is the right number.
I'm hoping it carries on as it has been,
because it's going really well.
I don't think we've lost any chicks yet.
We've got lots of chicks hatching.
More pairs of terns than last year, by the looks of things.
So I'm just keeping my fingers crossed for things carrying on
as they are, really.
Within a few weeks, the chicks that have made it through the summer are
ready to take to the wing.
The long migration south to Africa can begin.
And by mid-August,
silence has fallen once more on the tern colony of Chesil Beach.
But how many chicks made it off the nest and into the air?
It's been an amazingly successful season.
We had about 73 fledglings survive this year, which is really,
really good. And productivity of 1.92,
so that's 1.92 chicks fledged per pair,
and that's the highest we've ever had.
It's brilliant. And when you think, only...
back in 2008, and the early 2000s,
we were getting one or two fledglings a year, if that,
often none at all.
So it's a huge, a huge improvement.
For Scarlet's first year as warden,
that must go down as a resounding success.
When you get somebody coming in who doesn't know the site,
it is always a challenge, but Scarlet's been brilliant.
I'm back in Plymouth, at the Marine Biological Lab,
where cuttlefish expert Alex has got some footage she wants to show me.
So there's some competitive displaying between the males
-Do you have any of that behaviour on
-your film clips?
-Yeah, I do, as well.
And we see here this movement by the male,
with this flailing of the tentacle
and quite a strong zebra-stripe pattern on both sides.
-He's displaying very graphically to that male...
-..saying, "She's mine."
So we have a female here, and then a male on this side,
and you see they actually mate face-to-face.
-Yeah, they're really locked on.
-Really. And so what the male is
doing here is, he's kind of grasping her, all
over her face. She's kind of putting her tentacles back,
and then he is basically taking his very,
very long tentacles and using it to pick up a spermatophore,
which is like a packet of sperm, that he then passes to the female.
-So we see the male has got his...
-He's coming apart now.
-That's it, and there we go.
-And that's job done?
-How long after mating does the female lay?
So it can be as short as a day.
Sometimes, it takes a week or two.
In this case, we were extremely lucky.
You can see she's already laid one egg.
-And then she's just approaching and attaching another.
Everything about these curious cephalopods is a surprise.
Locking heads to mate, and now laying eggs by mouth.
She's literally wrapped her tentacles and mouthparts,
as far as I could tell, around that strand of rope,
sort of grappled with it for 30 seconds,
pulled away and there's an egg stuck on the rope.
-And how long between each egg?
So there's usually about one to two minutes in between each egg,
and she'll lay up to 300 or 400 in one succession.
-That's going on all day.
You managed to film the mating, the egg-laying.
Don't tell me you've got the hatching as well!
We have got one very, very small clip of the hatching,
and it happened literally yesterday, and really luckily, we had
just the tail end of this hatching
cuttlefish coming out of the egg.
Quite a struggle for them, actually, to hatch out of the egg.
So they form, like, a little hole,
they quite often bite a little hole in the side of the egg,
or the egg disintegrates a little bit so they can get out.
And then they have to really kind of, you know,
siphon and push backwards to kind of get out again.
We're obviously learning so much from these amazing animals in the
lab here, but what ultimately is their destiny?
So we're going to keep a few back over the summer, just to grow on and
look at their behaviour, but we've had such a successful hatching
season that a lot of them are going to be released back into the wild,
not far from where we picked up the adults.
And actually, we're going to be doing a little bit of that today,
-if you'd like to come along.
-I would love to do that.
Just around the bay from the lab is Jennycliff Cove,
which Alex has chosen for our juvenile cuttlefish to start their
new life in the wild. Stunning spot.
-It's beautiful, isn't it?
-Why is it a good place
to release these baby cuttlefish?
So you can just see, like,
how protected it is here from all the waves,
and there's lots and lots of seaweed for them to hide in.
I might just film the magic moment
on this little underwater camera.
There you all are. Oh, look, a few of them are
inking at the arrival of the camera in their bucket.
Let's get them ready for release.
Come on, guys.
Out they go, out they go.
Look at that!
You've got the whole ocean in front of you.
Where are you going to go?
What beautiful creatures,
and thank you for giving me a new and amazing insight into their
-It's been my absolute pleasure.
Thanks, Alex. Off you go, cuttles. The whole of the ocean is yours.
Well, a nice bit of the Devon coast anyway.
If you'd like to explore Britain's diverse landscapes in more detail
and find out how to create your own wildlife habitats,
the Open University has produced a free booklet with bookmarks.
Order your copy by calling...
Or go to...
..and follow the links to the Open University.
Enthusiastic nature lover Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall continues his wildlife adventures as he explores the Jurassic Coast to investigate the strange life of its most curious creatures and to meet the local heroes dedicated to helping them. His fascination for marine life centres on an intriguing ocean oddity - the cuttlefish. With the help of local fishermen, Hugh devises a plan to see them close up and to try to understand their otherworldly behaviour.
On the shingle expanse of Chesil Beach, a team of dedicated volunteers keep a 24-hour watch over a colony of little terns to help these rare birds raise their tiny chicks in safety. And Hugh revisits the rockpools he knew as a child in search of new finds and familiar favourites.