Episode 6 Hugh's Wild West


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Episode 6

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall tracks down the wild boar that have returned to the Forest of Dean after three centuries and gets hands-on with some rare goshawk chicks.


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For me, watching wildlife is one of life's greatest pleasures.

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And my favourite place to do it is right here,

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in my beloved West Country.

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This captivating corner of the British Isles...

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There's six right underneath us.

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..has a cast of creatures that's as awe-inspiring,

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extraordinary and magical as any.

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Oh, come on! No way!

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I'm hoping to get as close as I can to as many as I can...

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Right, I'm ready. This is great, this is measuring an eel.

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Oh, oh, oh!

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Ants, off, off!

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There's one inside.

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..with the help of a band of dedicated nature lovers.

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Some of the patterns on the feathers, they're beautiful.

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Good spot. Look, look, look.

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-Wonderful.

-It's so cool.

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There's one in my hair now, Poppy.

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I'll share the thrill of the chase...

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-Do you hear them?

-I heard something.

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Yeah. They're in there.

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DISTANT SQUEAL

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Yes.

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The sheer joy of the encounter.

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-She's so golden.

-She's fast asleep.

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It's OK. Shh.

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That's amazing.

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And I'll pitch in to help these local heroes...

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..safeguard the future of our precious animals.

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Bye-bye. There she goes.

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Whoa-ho!

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I can't believe that I have been living

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in the West Country for so many years

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and I've never done this before.

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This will be a year-round adventure...

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Straight ahead!

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..as we explore the natural wonders of the UK's very own

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Wild West.

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There can't be many places in Britain

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as timeless as this ancient woodland.

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The Forest of Dean

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is one of the great wooded landscapes of Britain

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and it is certainly one of the most atmospheric wild places I know.

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In the Dark Ages,

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this forest was protected as the hunting ground of England's Kings.

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And in modern Britain it's prized as an unspoiled wildlife refuge,

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providing shelter, food,

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cover, and camouflage for a multitude of amazing creatures.

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So I'm heading in, beneath the canopy,

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to find out much more about the secretive wildlife

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living deep in this forest.

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The Forest of Dean is set between two great tidal rivers,...

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..the Severn and the Wye,

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which straddle the border between England and Wales.

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Of all the creatures making a home in this forest,

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there is one that I'm absolutely determined to see.

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But it can be very elusive.

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So I've teamed up with a photographer

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who's well practised in tracking these imposing animals...

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..and capturing them on camera.

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This is the wild boar.

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And Robin's account of coming face-to-face with one

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for the first time has me bristling with anticipation.

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I was just frozen.

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Seeing this huge animal just walking up to me in the forest,

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stop, and stare at me.

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We exchanged a glance, sort of thing, and it was like,

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OK, I'm going to stay still and then she trotted off.

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For centuries, wild boar like this ran free in the Forest and, now,

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300 years after being hunted to extinction,

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this native breed is back.

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This looks like quite fresh rooting, here.

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We do have some wild boar footprints in here, too.

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-It's a footprint?

-Yeah.

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Robin is a local, born and bred here in the Dean,

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and he's thrilled the boar have returned.

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I remember the first time I saw them, I was just blown away.

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Yeah, it just love these beasts walking around the forest.

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The wild boar is the original pig,

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the forefather of our domestic porker.

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They are still bred in captivity for their meat.

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The boar's return to the wild began 20 years ago,

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when a few farmed animals escaped into the forest.

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Soon, they were joined by dozens more that were illegally released.

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Today, the Dean is thought to have around 1,200 wild boar,

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the largest population in the UK.

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But that doesn't make them easy to see.

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This is a shy creature

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whose every instinct is to keep well away from humans.

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The Forest of Dean is a very big place, Robin,

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why have we started here today?

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It's just somewhere that I've found boar in the past

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and I like to return because I know they have their breeds here.

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Robin likes to track alone, so today we are a bit of a crowd.

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There is actually five of us here today, these guys,

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as well as us two, and I'm already talking in a whisper,

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I'm sort of assuming that's the way to go.

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Yeah, we just need to respect that there are

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some big wild animals out in the forest and if we do see some,

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we need to just hold back a little bit.

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And big and wild - dangerous?

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There is no recorded incidents, as far as I'm aware,

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that anyone has been hospitalised or anything,

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but, you know, it is a wild animal,

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with any wild animal, you respect them.

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How easy is it going to be today?

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It's not easy to find them at all.

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I spend hours and hours, as often as I can, trying to find them.

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So, the honest truth is,

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we'll be quite lucky to even see a wild boar today.

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Oh, yeah. Definitely.

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I got the message, no aftershave, no deodorant,

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so I'm going home smelly tonight.

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-Yeah.

-I even backed off my rose scented moisturiser.

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-Did you?

-After my shave today, yes.

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So, if I get a sore face, it's all your fault.

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-Gutting.

-THEY CHUCKLE

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That could be nervous laughter, on my part, at least.

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After all, we are tracking a wild animal that can outweigh two men.

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Make sure you are behind us.

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For this first bit, make sure...

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And a boar that feels cornered could charge at intruders.

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Hopefully we will see a sow today.

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With litters of newborn piglets,

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we can expect the sows to be on high alert.

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Are they likely to be active, or resting?

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They're likely to be sleeping and just feeding.

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The piglets might be up.

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If I could just mention to everybody...

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If you smell like a farmyard sort of smell, let me know.

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-Because that means they're very close.

-OK.

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-I'm just going to point you towards this tree.

-Oh, that's boar.

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Yeah.

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So that's tusk marks.

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-Really? That's quite full-on, isn't?

-Yeah.

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-They've got a little bit of sap running on that now.

-Yeah.

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Really recent.

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I would say.

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-Still just crumbly.

-That's a thin trickle, looks very wet.

-Yeah.

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-Does that suggest to you super recent?

-Definitely.

-Last 24 hours?

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I would say so.

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-So, they can't be far away.

-Definitely not.

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WHISPERING: I get the sense that we're right in the heart of boar territory now.

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There is so much rooted-over ground here.

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It looks very freshly dug over.

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-That's a footprint, is it?

-Yeah.

-Yeah.

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Listen.

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-Piglets.

-Really?

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-Did you hear them?

-I heard something.

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Yeah, they're in there.

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DISTANT SQUEAL

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-Yes, yes.

-Piglets.

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I can hear it.

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I very much like to respect them.

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I wouldn't just go walking through that.

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This is the sort of thing I would do.

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I stay on the outskirts of places like this

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and hope they'll come out, maybe get my shot.

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-Do you mind if I just do my thing?

-No.

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Robin is just going to do his thing and go a little bit closer

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and just confirm that that is piglet noise,

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just in this thick conifer here.

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Definitely seems really tuned into the forest.

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He's hearing and seeing things that I am missing, but...

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..he's absolutely on it.

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We're right by the main road here.

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There we go. There they are, there they are.

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Wow! Fantastic.

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About ten piglets, they were just 15 yards away.

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They took us by surprise!

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We practically walked into them.

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Well, they just sort of trotted off into the conifers here.

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I'm not sure we got any of it on film.

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I don't really mind, cos I saw them really well.

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-Lost it.

-Sorry about that!

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Robin's instinct for where this litter was going to be today

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was absolutely bang on.

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That tantalising glimpse has only whetted my appetite.

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I'd love to get a clear sight of this sow and her piglets.

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So we stalk on, as stealthily as we can.

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But someone else is being stealthier still.

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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

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-Hello.

-Nice to meet you.

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We've just had a close encounter with another enthusiast.

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We practically stood on him because he's very well camouflaged.

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It's actually really great to find somebody else here

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doing exactly what we are doing,

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just out of sheer passion and excitement about the wild boar here.

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I think he was up a little bit earlier than us.

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He has been on a long stakeout

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and it looks like he has got a great shot of the sow who was,

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just a few minutes before we came in, she was just here.

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Our fellow stalker's strategy is to stay put,

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letting the boar come to him.

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But with daylight running out,

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Robin and I decide to get back on the trail.

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I am hoping that with Robin's expertise

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and perhaps a bit of beginner's luck from me,

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we'll meet again with this fabulous family group of wild boar.

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For woodland animals, the dense canopy provides valued cover,

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shielding them from view, not only from the ground, but also from the sky.

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Most birds of prey, like this buzzard, hunt in the open.

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But in the arms race of survival,

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being able to hunt among the trees gives one exceptional hawk an edge.

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It is known as the phantom of the forest.

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Swooping on prey as if from nowhere.

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They would fly through the trees, chasing things through trees.

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They have no trouble flying through here,

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twisting and turning just to get through every gap that is there.

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This is the goshawk, the top predator in British woodland.

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Thanks to its broad wings and long tail,

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it can weave through the trees at speed.

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Powerful talons equip it perfectly to seize its prey in mid flight.

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The aerobatic agility of this specialised hunter

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first captivated Gerry Lewis 40 years ago,

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when goshawks were almost unknown here in the forest.

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I started bird ringing back in 1975

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and about three or four years afterwards,

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a friend of mine found the first, or what we thought was the first,

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goshawk to breed in the Forest of Dean

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and we kept following them ever since then.

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And, gradually, they built in numbers.

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The Forest of Dean, Wye Valley, is about as good as it gets

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for a goshawk in Britain.

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There are thought to be around 50 breeding pairs here.

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But this revival brings a threat.

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Across the UK, goshawks are scarce

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and their eggs are still targeted to be sold illegally to collectors.

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Gerry's work keeps tabs on numbers

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and will pick up any worrying trends.

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You know, you can study things for five years

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and you think you know everything, but you carry on for a lot longer

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and you'll learn a lot more things about it.

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I tried to get around about 40 nests,

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monitor about 40 nests a year.

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His goal this year is to ring every newborn chick,

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giving each a unique number

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that will help monitor their progress throughout their lives.

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Gerry's friend and helper is Peter,

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whose day job, conveniently, is a tree surgeon.

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Today, they have tracked a ringed female

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to the place where Gerry thinks she's built a nest.

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They are hoping to check whether she has laid a precious clutch of eggs.

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She's just called over there.

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HE IMITATES CALL

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She'll call again in a minute, I expect.

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Hi, over here, Pete. Pete, over here.

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See you've got a loader down on it.

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Once the nest site is confirmed,

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it is over to Peter to do what he does best.

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There she goes.

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-Just gone, hasn't she?

-Yeah.

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Now this dynamic duo need to move pretty fast.

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Until the eggs are hatched,

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the parents haven't fully invested in their young

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and they could abandon the nest.

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But with Peter and Gerry, the goshawks are in expert hands.

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Four, we have.

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Four?

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-Four.

-That's good.

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Four eggs is quite a good clutch size these days.

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When we first started, you were always getting fours and fives

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but the normal clutch size now is about three.

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So four is quite a good clutch.

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Peter's job is to make some quick measurements of each egg.

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Then, from 12 metres up, the results are relayed to Gerry,

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using a time-honoured technique.

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When they first establish, they will have big clutch sizes...

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Five, five, four.

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Five, five, four.

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Four, two, seven.

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Four, two, seven.

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Five, five, six.

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Five, five, six.

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And then when he weighs them, I can work out what the

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fresh weight will be...

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Four, two, seven.

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Four, two, seven.

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Then we'll know...

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Five, five, eight.

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Five, five, eight.

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The measurements need to be precise.

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They are used by Gerry

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in an ingenious bit of number crunching

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that tells him almost exactly when the chicks are due to hatch.

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So to work out how long they have been incubated for,

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you measure the length by the breadth squared,

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and then you multiply that by a conversion factor,

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which, for goshawk, I use 0.55.

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I'm not very good at keeping up with complicated calculations...

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..Which will be something higher than 56.

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..but clearly Gerry is a master of egg-related algorithms.

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That will relate to how long the egg has been incubated for.

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Happily, he's promised he'll let me know the crucial date

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so I can join him to check on the chicks when they are few weeks old.

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Must be quite well camouflaged.

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Are you looking for movement or...?

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Yeah, looking for movement, yeah.

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We're going on a boar hunt.

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Robin's on the trail of a sow with her brood of young piglets

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and I'm really hoping to get a better sight

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than the fleeting glimpse we caught earlier today.

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Nice.

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At this time of year, female boars and their young

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often group together in what's called a sounder.

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It's usually led by two or three sows,

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each with a recent litter of piglets.

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And the priority for these wily mums

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is keeping well away from prying eyes.

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I guess for the untrained eye, like mine,

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they could be quite easy to miss.

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Yeah, especially at this time of year,

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when the bracken's all orange

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and the piglets are orange.

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Robin seems to sense that we are getting close

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to the group we've been tracking.

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Think we'd better go in that way.

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OK, so, as I said, before we go any further,

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we're going to make sure we're quiet now.

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-OK.

-We're going to disappear into these trees.

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Our visibility isn't going to be great.

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So we're going to rely on our hearing, listen out for the piglets,

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maybe a grunt, and also the smell.

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This is extraordinary, swampy bit, looks really primordial, doesn't it?

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-Yeah.

-And they would come down here to get a bit of water

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-and a bit of mud?

-Yeah, of course,

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they'd wallow in this little bit just here.

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You can see that it's been used as a wallow.

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What have we got there?

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Some kind of animal fur.

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Do you think that's wild boar?

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-It could be.

-It could be deer, couldn't it?

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-Maybe.

-Is it quite soft?

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I would go with boar. Just from the colour, it's quite grey.

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The signs are all good.

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DISTANT SQUEAL

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That's piglets.

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DISTANT SQUEAL

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That's piglets.

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-Can you hear it now?

-I can hear it now, yeah.

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Hang on, hang on, I can see something.

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-Where are you looking?

-Straight ahead.

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SQUEALING

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-Just... They are just in here.

-Yeah.

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-Yeah.

-They are really close.

0:19:160:19:17

It's quite deceiving. That sound does travel.

0:19:170:19:20

-Yeah.

-But they are, yeah, you're right.

0:19:200:19:22

They are making a heck of a racket.

0:19:230:19:26

They are very close.

0:19:260:19:28

There's no doubt that we are now incredibly close to these animals.

0:19:290:19:33

The sudden downpour could actually work in our favour,

0:19:370:19:40

masking our final approach.

0:19:400:19:42

Oh, my God!

0:19:430:19:44

That's incredible!

0:19:490:19:50

She's stopping.

0:19:550:19:57

She doesn't seem to mind that we're here.

0:19:580:20:01

She's saying, "Who are you and why are you watching me?"

0:20:110:20:14

With the camera crew hanging back,

0:20:140:20:16

Robin and I are in a prime position to capture this impressive boar

0:20:160:20:20

on our cameras.

0:20:200:20:21

But then I spot something even more exciting.

0:20:210:20:25

And there's a load of piglets under the tree, too.

0:20:250:20:27

There's a whole load of piglets under the tree.

0:20:270:20:30

That is just brilliant.

0:20:300:20:32

That is crazy.

0:20:360:20:37

I just didn't expect us to see anything like this.

0:20:390:20:42

They are so relaxed.

0:20:430:20:45

They are just trotting off. All the piglets trotting away behind her.

0:20:490:20:52

I've seen more than I could have hoped for.

0:20:530:20:55

And filmed some great close-ups of the piglets

0:20:550:20:58

with the amazing digital zoom on my new little camcorder.

0:20:580:21:01

Or have I?

0:21:030:21:05

I'm really, really sorry to say that I wasn't running.

0:21:050:21:07

I'm feeling like a total idiot.

0:21:070:21:09

I was looking at it through the viewfinder

0:21:090:21:11

and I hadn't actually pressed record.

0:21:110:21:13

-But it was stunning.

-Yeah, it was awesome to see.

0:21:130:21:16

And those piglets were crawling all over each other...

0:21:160:21:18

-Yeah.

-That's what happens if you get an unprofessional, a rank amateur,

0:21:180:21:22

-with a camera in his hands.

-That's it.

0:21:220:21:24

It happens most of the time when I see them.

0:21:240:21:27

You just forget to press record or take a photo

0:21:270:21:29

because you are in awe of what you're seeing.

0:21:290:21:31

Not my finest moment as a budding wildlife cameraman

0:21:310:21:34

but I have an idea that might save my bacon.

0:21:340:21:37

Wild boar in the forest have habitual nests

0:21:380:21:41

where they return for shelter and family time.

0:21:410:21:44

So this could be our chance to capture

0:21:450:21:47

a very intimate home movie of this lovely group.

0:21:470:21:50

I have got a couple of these trail cameras.

0:21:500:21:53

How likely do you think it is, Robin, that

0:21:540:21:57

that same sounder of boar might come back to use this nest?

0:21:570:22:01

I would think it would be very likely, considering this habitat.

0:22:010:22:05

There's a couple of nests dotted around.

0:22:050:22:06

So they are surely going to come back and use this one.

0:22:060:22:10

'I'm hoping these automatic cameras can show us

0:22:110:22:13

'a side of the boar family we could never see with our own eyes.'

0:22:130:22:17

So, this one...

0:22:170:22:18

'For example, how the group behaves

0:22:180:22:20

'when not being watched by men with cameras.'

0:22:200:22:23

These are much cleverer than I am.

0:22:230:22:25

Right.

0:22:250:22:26

If that motion sensor is triggered, the camera will be on.

0:22:260:22:30

-And there is no idiot...

-That's good news.

0:22:300:22:32

..around to be responsible for not turning it on.

0:22:320:22:35

I can't believe I blew my chance to film those piglets.

0:22:370:22:40

But, luckily, Robin has captured a strikingly similar scene

0:22:420:22:46

on a previous visit.

0:22:460:22:47

Which perhaps shows just what I was so excited about.

0:22:470:22:51

I thought my chances of seeing wild boar today were, frankly, slim.

0:22:530:22:57

I mean, Robin gives his chances at 50-50

0:22:570:23:00

when he's out here on his own

0:23:000:23:03

and he's really stealthy.

0:23:030:23:04

He's got great field craft.

0:23:040:23:06

I'm clumping around with a camera team...

0:23:060:23:10

God bless you. But...

0:23:100:23:12

But we got it. We saw them twice,

0:23:120:23:14

and brilliantly, as well.

0:23:140:23:16

I feel like today I've seen a truly wild animal in a truly wild place.

0:23:170:23:22

And that's quite rare and quite special

0:23:220:23:25

in the UK.

0:23:250:23:26

That was a brilliant day, Robin.

0:23:270:23:29

Yeah, that's absolutely fine.

0:23:290:23:30

This forest is a great place to see some of Britain's

0:23:350:23:38

best loved woodland species.

0:23:380:23:40

Fallow deer browse in grassy clearings,

0:23:420:23:45

and at night the forest floor belongs to the badgers,

0:23:450:23:48

living in extensive underground sets that can be up to 100 years old.

0:23:480:23:52

The streams are a stronghold for the delightful dipper.

0:23:530:23:56

And the lakes are home to the once rare great crested grebe.

0:23:560:24:00

And there are curiosities here, too.

0:24:000:24:03

This is one of the best places in the UK

0:24:030:24:06

to see the tree nesting mandarin duck.

0:24:060:24:09

They are native to the Far East but since being introduced here

0:24:090:24:12

in the 1980s, they are thriving.

0:24:120:24:14

With so much to see here,

0:24:160:24:18

it's no surprise that the forest is also well-stocked

0:24:180:24:21

with resident wildlife enthusiasts.

0:24:210:24:24

In my year here,

0:24:250:24:26

I've met some of these devoted guardians of the forest's fauna.

0:24:260:24:30

One of the most remarkable must be Dr Stephanie Tyler

0:24:310:24:35

who I first met on one of her regular sorties

0:24:350:24:38

with ladder and wellies, keeping tabs on the dipper,

0:24:380:24:41

a bird she's been studying for most of her adult life.

0:24:410:24:46

I can't remember a time when I didn't love wildlife.

0:24:460:24:48

I think I was born with it.

0:24:480:24:50

Her devotion to dippers knows no bounds

0:24:510:24:54

but Steph has an insatiable curiosity about all wildlife.

0:24:540:24:58

Even after decades of research and field work,

0:24:580:25:02

her childlike wonder at every discovery burns as bright as ever.

0:25:020:25:07

I think from about the age of three I was just...

0:25:070:25:09

That was all I wanted to do was go out and look at wildlife,

0:25:090:25:12

whether it was wild flowers, or birds, or ladybirds, or whatever.

0:25:120:25:16

Today, we've dropped in on Stephanie in her own natural habitat.

0:25:190:25:23

You cut a flower off there.

0:25:240:25:25

Oh, well, nobody's perfect!

0:25:250:25:28

Steph and her husband Lindsay are both passionate nature lovers.

0:25:280:25:33

They live in a quiet corner of the lower Wye,

0:25:330:25:36

a stone's throw from Forest of Dean.

0:25:360:25:38

I remember planting all these shrubs.

0:25:380:25:40

It's an idyllic existence.

0:25:400:25:42

But life for this well travelled couple hasn't always been so serene.

0:25:420:25:47

In the mid-1970s,

0:25:470:25:49

Lindsay's work as a vet took the couple

0:25:490:25:51

and their young family to East Africa,

0:25:510:25:53

where they were caught in the middle of a civil war.

0:25:530:25:56

We were held hostage for eight months, yes.

0:25:580:26:01

It was a long time ago,

0:26:010:26:02

almost another life.

0:26:020:26:03

We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

0:26:030:26:06

And the children were small, they were just five and seven.

0:26:060:26:09

They assumed we were spies, British spies,

0:26:110:26:14

so they thought they'd keep us for a little while.

0:26:140:26:17

And we heard that they were demanding...

0:26:170:26:19

What was it? A million dollars?

0:26:190:26:20

A million pounds. Not nearly enough in my view.

0:26:200:26:23

-She's worth much more than that!

-Oh!

0:26:230:26:26

In captivity, living on meagre rations,

0:26:260:26:29

their love of wildlife provided some crumbs of comfort.

0:26:290:26:32

We were allowed to keep a bird book, so we did imaginary holidays.

0:26:320:26:36

We'd say, "Supposing we went to Turkey?"

0:26:360:26:39

And we'd get the bird book out and make a list of all the birds

0:26:390:26:43

that we could see in Turkey, or the Balkans, or Italy,

0:26:430:26:47

and so on.

0:26:470:26:48

But we eventually got out, and no lasting damage.

0:26:480:26:53

I think it put a perspective...

0:26:530:26:55

Whenever we're having a little local difficulty,

0:26:550:26:58

we think back to what it was like then.

0:26:580:27:01

We said, if ever we got out,

0:27:010:27:03

we'd just make sure that every day we'd make,

0:27:030:27:06

you know, live that day as if it was our last.

0:27:060:27:08

After eight months, they were released.

0:27:120:27:15

And ever since, Lindsay and Steph have been true to their word,

0:27:150:27:18

exploring the wild world around them at every opportunity.

0:27:180:27:23

They even find delight in a creature many of us would overlook.

0:27:230:27:26

The moth.

0:27:270:27:29

Having encouraged as many varieties to their garden as they can

0:27:290:27:33

with selective planting,

0:27:330:27:34

Lindsay and Steph spend many a long summer evening surveying

0:27:340:27:38

the multiplicity of moths to be found here

0:27:380:27:41

with the help of a home-made moth trap.

0:27:410:27:43

The moths are attracted by the light and then they come down through

0:27:450:27:49

this funnel.

0:27:490:27:50

And they then perch comfortably on these old egg boxes.

0:27:500:27:54

Moths are sensitive to environmental change.

0:27:560:27:59

So by keeping a track of their numbers,

0:27:590:28:01

we can learn a lot about the condition of the surrounding countryside.

0:28:010:28:06

But the real rewards of this weekly ritual

0:28:060:28:08

lie in something far simpler.

0:28:080:28:10

I think the joy of mothing

0:28:100:28:12

is being able to closely examine

0:28:120:28:15

some of the most beautiful things that you could imagine.

0:28:150:28:20

We still love our birds but when you can get a moth list, in one garden,

0:28:220:28:27

-of... What's the total now?

-It can be 80.

-Yeah.

0:28:270:28:30

80 species in a night.

0:28:300:28:32

Our friend across in the next valley,

0:28:320:28:34

he habitually catches more than us, for some reason.

0:28:340:28:38

Very annoying. Yes.

0:28:380:28:40

Spurred on by a bit of local competition,

0:28:400:28:43

hopes of a bumper haul are high.

0:28:430:28:46

On a good night, the boxes will be swarming with moths

0:28:460:28:50

and we take them out one at a time and pot them up.

0:28:500:28:53

Ready to go.

0:28:550:28:57

Most moths are nocturnal, coming out to feed after dark

0:28:570:29:00

when they're less likely to be seen by predators.

0:29:000:29:03

As the trap is left to gather its nightly haul,

0:29:030:29:06

Lindsay and Steph can exercise their competitive streak

0:29:060:29:09

with some other distractions.

0:29:090:29:11

I must see University Challenge.

0:29:110:29:14

What's the time?

0:29:140:29:15

BUZZER ON TV

0:29:150:29:16

-TV:

-Correct. Yes.

0:29:160:29:17

APPLAUSE ON TV

0:29:170:29:18

-TV:

-Ten points for this.

0:29:180:29:19

When it comes to watching wildlife,

0:29:280:29:30

this wooded wonderland has always had a lot going for it.

0:29:300:29:33

Its secluded setting has allowed it to stand largely undisturbed

0:29:350:29:40

for centuries.

0:29:400:29:41

Today, it's one of Britain's few remaining truly ancient woodlands.

0:29:420:29:47

And for the mighty oak,

0:29:480:29:50

this is one of the most important sites in the whole of Europe.

0:29:500:29:53

Individual trees here, like this enormous sessile oak,

0:29:540:29:58

date from the middle of the 17th century.

0:29:580:30:01

These majestic giants of the forest

0:30:030:30:05

make an instant impression for their sheer size.

0:30:050:30:08

But the role they play for wildlife

0:30:090:30:11

all begins at the opposite end of the scale.

0:30:110:30:14

Sometimes, when you're out looking for wildlife,

0:30:140:30:17

you just don't see the wood for the trees.

0:30:170:30:19

And, unless you are really paying attention and looking very closely,

0:30:200:30:24

you might miss something really interesting.

0:30:240:30:27

Like this little guy.

0:30:280:30:29

This is a member of an incredibly significant family of insects.

0:30:320:30:37

The beetles.

0:30:370:30:38

So far, we know of 400,000 types of beetle.

0:30:380:30:42

That's one fifth of all known plant and animal species on earth.

0:30:420:30:46

And the ancient trees of the Dean are crawling with them.

0:30:480:30:51

For some naturalists, there's enough fascination here to last a lifetime.

0:30:520:30:57

I spend a lot of time poking around in decaying wood

0:30:570:31:00

and looking at old trees.

0:31:000:31:02

And, yeah, I'm a specialist in beetles.

0:31:020:31:03

So this is what I spend a lot of my time doing.

0:31:030:31:06

Doctor Sarah Henschel is an entomologist

0:31:080:31:10

working to conserve Britain's precious bugs.

0:31:100:31:13

I've always loved bugs from an early age.

0:31:140:31:16

I think they're beautiful.

0:31:190:31:20

They are so fascinating and I'm always learning.

0:31:210:31:23

Today, Sarah's on the hunt for some of the specialist beetle species

0:31:250:31:29

that thrive here, to get a snapshot of how they're doing.

0:31:290:31:32

Of the 120 species on her creepy-crawly critical list,

0:31:330:31:37

more than a quarter live here in the West Country.

0:31:370:31:40

It's all down to the age and variety of the trees here.

0:31:400:31:43

Just one of the forest's large oaks alone

0:31:440:31:47

can support 300 species of invertebrates.

0:31:470:31:50

And the trees that Sarah is drawn to most of all

0:31:500:31:53

are the ones that might be considered past their best.

0:31:530:31:56

This tree is incredibly important

0:31:580:32:01

and its value comes along with age.

0:32:010:32:03

The older the tree, the gnarlier the tree, the more decay, the better.

0:32:030:32:09

That's a spider.

0:32:090:32:11

As an entomologist, this is the business end of things.

0:32:110:32:14

This is where the decaying wood is,

0:32:140:32:16

where the invertebrates are going to be.

0:32:160:32:18

Even though this tree is dead,

0:32:180:32:20

it's going to provide habitat for lots of difference species

0:32:200:32:23

for many years to come.

0:32:230:32:25

So the life of the oak and all the wildlife associated with it

0:32:250:32:29

can go on for decades and centuries,

0:32:290:32:31

even after it's fallen on the ground.

0:32:310:32:33

That is one just down there.

0:32:350:32:37

Found a little beetle larva,

0:32:380:32:39

it's properly going to be a click beetle larva,

0:32:390:32:41

which are specialists, loving this really lovely rotten, decaying wood.

0:32:410:32:46

The success of beetles is largely down

0:32:470:32:50

to their extraordinary ability to make food

0:32:500:32:52

from unpromising materials.

0:32:520:32:54

In the UK alone, there are over 700 types of beetle

0:32:550:32:59

that live on decaying wood.

0:32:590:33:01

The recovered nutrients are passed up through the food chain,

0:33:020:33:06

as beetles and their larvae are eaten in their millions

0:33:060:33:10

by birds and small mammals.

0:33:100:33:12

And the rich diversity of trees here in the Dean

0:33:120:33:15

make it home to some of our rarest beetles,

0:33:150:33:17

like this cardinal click beetle.

0:33:170:33:19

It's also one of the last known habitats

0:33:220:33:24

of a species that is perilously close to extinction.

0:33:240:33:27

The area's really important for a really rare beetle called Cosnard's net-winged beetle.

0:33:300:33:33

It's known from the Wye Gorge and Forest of Dean

0:33:330:33:37

and only one other location in the UK.

0:33:370:33:39

These are species that are all reliant on these old, mature,

0:33:420:33:46

ancient, and veteran trees.

0:33:460:33:47

Oak trees produce acorns on a cycle of feast or famine.

0:33:490:33:53

Quite often there are very few then, every four or five years,

0:33:530:33:56

they arrive in vast quantities in what's called a mast year.

0:33:560:34:00

Exactly how or why this rhythm works is a mystery

0:34:010:34:05

but, this year, the Dean has one of those occasional bumper harvests.

0:34:050:34:10

For Sarah, this abundance is an opportunity

0:34:100:34:13

to take stock of some bugs

0:34:130:34:15

for whom the acorn is a vital life-support system.

0:34:150:34:18

It's a job that calls for some specialist kit

0:34:190:34:21

that allows her to take a closer look into their tiny world.

0:34:210:34:25

So, I've set myself up a little outdoor lab to have a look at

0:34:250:34:30

what's living inside some of these acorns.

0:34:300:34:33

We've got a knopper gall here, which is really quite spectacular.

0:34:330:34:37

It's very, sort of, knobbly and bobbly

0:34:370:34:40

and a little tiny parasitic wasp has caused that.

0:34:400:34:44

The abnormality is triggered when the female wasp first lays its eggs.

0:34:440:34:48

A secretion from the wasp causes a chemical reaction in the acorn

0:34:520:34:56

that triggers this strange growth...

0:34:560:34:58

..providing the perfect home for the developing wasp larvae.

0:34:590:35:02

Another opportunity that arrives with a bumper crop of acorns

0:35:070:35:10

is to get an idea of the numbers

0:35:100:35:12

of one of the most highly adapted beetles in this forest.

0:35:120:35:17

And this one requires that technical assist

0:35:170:35:19

to spot the signs of its presence.

0:35:190:35:23

So you can see on the screen there, a tiny, tiny little hole.

0:35:240:35:28

And the culprit that's caused this

0:35:280:35:30

is something called the acorn weevil.

0:35:300:35:33

So, a type of beetle with a big long nose.

0:35:330:35:35

They use this nose to burrow into the acorns -

0:35:370:35:40

they've got little mouthparts on the end.

0:35:400:35:42

And then she lays an egg.

0:35:420:35:44

The egg is on the tree in the acorn,

0:35:440:35:47

growing into a big, juicy larva.

0:35:470:35:49

And as soon as these acorns drop to the ground,

0:35:490:35:51

that's the trigger for the larva to find its way out of the acorn.

0:35:510:35:55

Now, these holes are really, really tiny.

0:35:550:35:58

And the larva that we are looking for is quite a chunky beast.

0:35:580:36:01

So, there still might be one in there.

0:36:010:36:03

But to check we, basically, need to break the acorns open.

0:36:030:36:06

No.

0:36:100:36:11

No luck with that one.

0:36:130:36:14

I think this one's been and gone.

0:36:150:36:17

This one looks promising because it's nice and squidgy,

0:36:200:36:23

so it's obviously been chomping away and munching away inside.

0:36:230:36:27

All this little bits of black stuff, that's also a frass

0:36:280:36:31

that's the waste product of the larva.

0:36:310:36:33

Oh, here we go. Bingo.

0:36:350:36:37

Bingo. Right.

0:36:370:36:39

I'll just pop it under the scope.

0:36:400:36:41

He's quite lively.

0:36:440:36:45

They are incredibly mobile.

0:36:460:36:48

This one is making a bit of a break for freedom.

0:36:480:36:52

They don't look agile and mobile, but they've got lots of ridges

0:36:520:36:55

on their underside, which they use to move around.

0:36:550:36:58

And the reason why they have to be quick

0:36:580:37:00

is because once they have got out of their acorn,

0:37:000:37:02

they're really vulnerable to being predated by birds or rodents.

0:37:020:37:06

So they hatch out of their acorns

0:37:060:37:07

and they immediately burrow down into the leaf litter,

0:37:070:37:10

where they will remain for, maybe, a couple of years before

0:37:100:37:13

pupating and emerging into an adult.

0:37:130:37:15

The numbers here are fantastic.

0:37:170:37:19

We've found quite a lot of acorns and I'd say at least, sort of, 30%

0:37:190:37:23

have evidence of acorn weevil within them.

0:37:230:37:27

So, sites like this with lots of acorns, particularly in mast years,

0:37:270:37:30

they're going to be excellent for acorn weevil.

0:37:300:37:33

Sarah's finds are an indication of the continuing diversity

0:37:330:37:37

here in the Dean.

0:37:370:37:39

And that's good news because the bug life here will always

0:37:390:37:43

underpin the food chain of the forest's wild animals.

0:37:430:37:46

At the home of Steph Tyler and her husband Lindsay,

0:37:530:37:56

their garden moth trap has been working all night.

0:37:560:38:00

The time to collect and inspect their spoils is just before dawn.

0:38:000:38:04

Lindsay's still in bed.

0:38:050:38:07

We take it in turns to do it, and I drew the short straw today.

0:38:070:38:11

But we get up just before dawn because already you can hear

0:38:110:38:14

the robins singing, and as soon as it's dawn,

0:38:140:38:17

and the robins are active,

0:38:170:38:19

a lot of these moths would be taken as prey.

0:38:190:38:22

So we are trying to get there before the birds.

0:38:220:38:25

Poppy, no, leave it.

0:38:250:38:27

Poppy, no. Oh, God!

0:38:290:38:30

Oh, Poppy, I can do without that.

0:38:310:38:34

I'm so used to the dog on my back that it becomes second nature.

0:38:340:38:38

She's comfortable up there.

0:38:380:38:39

She's done that since she was a puppy, for some reason.

0:38:410:38:43

There's one in my hair now, Poppy.

0:38:460:38:48

Getting individual moths into inspection pots

0:38:490:38:51

is the best way to identify them,

0:38:510:38:53

but a few always make a break for freedom.

0:38:530:38:56

There's one to catch and another to catch

0:38:580:38:59

but they go against the window and we'll get them.

0:38:590:39:01

Oh, golly!

0:39:010:39:02

At first peek, it looks like the trap has delivered.

0:39:020:39:06

A good catch, actually. There's loads of moths.

0:39:070:39:10

Moths everywhere.

0:39:190:39:20

Another one gone.

0:39:220:39:23

With all the moths now safely in their pots,

0:39:280:39:30

Lindsay and Steph can get down to the part they love the best -

0:39:300:39:34

discovering what wonders the night has delivered.

0:39:340:39:37

I mean, it's like a lucky dip, if you like.

0:39:370:39:40

You never know what you're going to get.

0:39:400:39:42

This is pretty. This is called a blood vein...

0:39:430:39:46

Blood vein, darling?

0:39:480:39:50

There's simply

0:39:500:39:52

the excitement of the hunt.

0:39:520:39:54

What are we going to find?

0:39:540:39:56

Many of these moths are absolutely beautiful to look at.

0:39:570:40:01

You know, you open the trap and wow!

0:40:030:40:05

We've got something we don't know

0:40:050:40:07

or an old friend that we haven't had for a year.

0:40:070:40:10

That's a green carpet.

0:40:100:40:11

Setaceous Hebrew character.

0:40:130:40:15

Some amazing names.

0:40:150:40:17

A flame shoulder.

0:40:180:40:20

Mother-of-pearl.

0:40:210:40:22

Gosh, I'm not sure about that one.

0:40:240:40:25

It's exciting when you get something you can't recognise immediately

0:40:270:40:31

and have to pour through the books to find what it is.

0:40:310:40:33

There's never been a better time to be a naturalist.

0:40:360:40:39

The resources there are, in terms of identification guides,

0:40:390:40:44

stuff on the internet.

0:40:440:40:46

There are at least 2,500 moth varieties resident in the UK.

0:40:460:40:51

So even experts like Stephanie and Lindsay need a bit of help

0:40:510:40:55

identifying each one.

0:40:550:40:57

Moths rest up during the day

0:40:570:40:59

when their incredible wing patterns come into their own.

0:40:590:41:02

Each one is a specialised camouflage that allows them to sit

0:41:020:41:06

unseen on dead leaves, lichen, or tree bark.

0:41:060:41:09

Moths' wings are made of thousands of tiny scales,

0:41:100:41:14

overlapping like tiles on a roof.

0:41:140:41:16

Some of the moths, you want to get a good view of the underwing.

0:41:180:41:22

And this is one of the yellow underwings,

0:41:220:41:24

we'd like to check out which one it is.

0:41:240:41:27

So you can very carefully hold them and reveal the underwing like that.

0:41:270:41:32

If you handle them carefully,

0:41:320:41:34

they are surprisingly tough, these things.

0:41:340:41:37

And we will be able to release this one

0:41:370:41:39

and it will fly away quite happily.

0:41:390:41:41

Steph and Lindsay had been recording their moth data for six years,

0:41:500:41:55

feeding in valuable research

0:41:550:41:57

to several national moth monitoring schemes.

0:41:570:41:59

It was amazing.

0:42:040:42:05

I mean, we probably got a couple of hundred today, at least.

0:42:050:42:08

And we've got several species that are the first of the season for us.

0:42:080:42:12

But there's probably 400 or 500 around in the garden,

0:42:120:42:17

so we've a long way to go.

0:42:170:42:18

Right, these can all go.

0:42:200:42:21

Freedom.

0:42:240:42:25

For these two remarkably dedicated naturalists,

0:42:270:42:31

there's clearly no better task in their moth research

0:42:310:42:34

than releasing the subjects of their study.

0:42:340:42:36

But they'll be setting their trap again soon, same time next week.

0:42:400:42:45

Moth catching goes on right through the summer

0:42:490:42:52

but other events call for meticulous timing.

0:42:520:42:54

It's over a month since a clutch of goshawk eggs

0:42:560:42:58

were weighed and measured.

0:42:580:42:59

And after some careful calculations,

0:42:590:43:03

Gerry Lewis has picked today to return to the nest.

0:43:030:43:07

A busy time of year for you, then?

0:43:120:43:13

It is, yeah. This end of May,

0:43:130:43:16

beginning of June period is when it all happens, really.

0:43:160:43:18

I'm thrilled that Gerry has invited me

0:43:190:43:22

to help him ring the newly hatched chicks.

0:43:220:43:25

Not least because I've never seen a goshawk in the wild.

0:43:250:43:28

What's the plan this evening, Gerry?

0:43:300:43:32

Well, there's a nest just up in the wood on the left here.

0:43:320:43:36

And about three weeks ago, four weeks ago, Pete climbed up,

0:43:370:43:41

checked all the eggs and measured and weighed the eggs.

0:43:410:43:45

And from those measurements, I can work out approximately when they hatched.

0:43:450:43:49

So that we don't go back

0:43:490:43:50

to do chicks that are too small, or too big.

0:43:500:43:53

And these chicks should be about three weeks old now.

0:43:530:43:55

And how do you feel altogether

0:43:550:43:57

about the health of the goshawk population in the Forest of Dean?

0:43:570:44:00

It's good. Yeah, there's plenty of them.

0:44:000:44:02

Going in the right direction? Going up?

0:44:020:44:04

They have probably got to about the maximum number you could fit in now.

0:44:040:44:08

They may be doing well, but the phantoms of the forest

0:44:080:44:11

are never easy to spot.

0:44:110:44:13

And what's the noise I'm looking out for?

0:44:130:44:15

It's a sort of cackle, like a sparrow hawk,

0:44:150:44:18

but deeper and slower, like.

0:44:180:44:20

Can you do one for me?

0:44:200:44:21

HE IMITATES GOSHAWK CALL

0:44:210:44:22

We're on high alert, and it's not long before the goshawk mum

0:44:260:44:30

makes herself known.

0:44:300:44:31

BIRD CALLS

0:44:330:44:34

That's her.

0:44:340:44:35

-Further round?

-I can't hear her, but I can't see her.

0:44:380:44:40

Going through there. Coming back over here.

0:44:400:44:42

I see her, I see her.

0:44:420:44:44

-Yes.

-Yeah.

0:44:440:44:46

Beautiful. Look at that!

0:44:460:44:47

And I heard her before I saw her.

0:44:480:44:50

That's what you normally will do, yeah.

0:44:500:44:52

Yeah. That's why they call them, sort of, phantom of the forest

0:44:520:44:55

cos you hear it, but you hardly ever see it.

0:44:550:44:58

I have seen one now.

0:44:580:44:59

That's my first. That's really exciting.

0:44:590:45:01

And now I want to get a sight of those chicks.

0:45:030:45:05

But that's going to be more of a challenge.

0:45:050:45:08

Not for me, but for tree surgeon, Pete.

0:45:080:45:10

I'm just going to switch you on now, Pete.

0:45:160:45:18

OK. No worries.

0:45:180:45:19

I can't wait to see what it looks like from Pete Cam.

0:45:210:45:24

Good. Pete Cam. That's good.

0:45:240:45:26

-He's moving pretty quick.

-Yeah.

0:45:320:45:34

Pete has probably got the most difficult job out of everything.

0:45:390:45:43

In late spring, Pete weighed and measured four eggs in this nest

0:45:430:45:47

and we are about to find out how many chicks have survived.

0:45:470:45:51

Very nearly there.

0:45:510:45:53

He's just underneath the nest now.

0:45:530:45:54

BIRD CALL

0:45:540:45:55

Three, we have, Gerry.

0:46:040:46:05

-Three?

-Three.

0:46:060:46:08

For a goshawk nest, three chicks from four eggs

0:46:100:46:13

is an excellent success rate.

0:46:130:46:15

That's good news.

0:46:170:46:18

OK, Ger?

0:46:200:46:21

OK. Here they come.

0:46:220:46:23

The precious cargo is lowered down to our level

0:46:240:46:27

and now I can have my first-ever sight of a wild goshawk chick.

0:46:270:46:32

-So, that one...

-Blimey! Look at you!

0:46:320:46:34

That one has got big legs, big feet.

0:46:340:46:38

-Yeah.

-So, that one's a female.

0:46:380:46:40

They are quite chunky.

0:46:410:46:43

Yeah. Yeah.

0:46:430:46:44

That one looks the same.

0:46:460:46:48

Two females, you think, with the thick legs.

0:46:490:46:51

And this one is probably a male.

0:46:510:46:54

See? It's got a slightly smaller foot, slightly thinner leg.

0:46:540:46:57

Definitely. But why is that, then?

0:46:570:46:58

That's definitely smaller, but why?

0:46:580:47:00

The males are... In lots of birds of prey,

0:47:000:47:02

the males are smaller than the females.

0:47:020:47:04

So, that male will always be a smaller bird?

0:47:040:47:07

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And they have just started growing

0:47:070:47:10

their primary feathers, so they are just about coming up to three weeks.

0:47:100:47:14

You can really see how the feathers interlock here.

0:47:140:47:16

You've got this long stem with just a little bit of feather at the tip.

0:47:160:47:21

BIRD SQUEAKS

0:47:210:47:22

Noisy girl. They interlock. Long, short, long, short, long, short.

0:47:220:47:26

Nine millimetres.

0:47:280:47:29

Gerry needs to work fast to get the chicks' vital statistics.

0:47:310:47:35

That gives me a short moment to revel

0:47:350:47:37

in this rare face-to-face

0:47:370:47:39

with a wonderfully adapted woodland hunter.

0:47:390:47:42

The alertness in that eye somehow is quite intense.

0:47:430:47:48

We need to get these guys back in the nest as soon as we can,

0:47:490:47:53

so to make myself useful,

0:47:530:47:54

I'm getting a quick lesson in handling the chicks.

0:47:540:47:57

Keep some fingers on the legs to stop them thrashing about.

0:47:580:48:01

-Gotcha.

-Yeah?

-Yeah.

0:48:010:48:03

And then I need to get at this...

0:48:030:48:05

At that leg.

0:48:050:48:06

-The other leg.

-Yeah.

-OK.

0:48:060:48:08

And then we're putting these rings on them,

0:48:080:48:11

so they're more easily identifiable

0:48:110:48:12

if they are ever seen again in the future

0:48:120:48:14

when they're breeding.

0:48:140:48:16

So, this gives the bird a really personal identity.

0:48:160:48:19

Yeah.

0:48:190:48:20

ABX.

0:48:240:48:25

Even though these goshawks are doing really well,

0:48:270:48:29

here in the Forest of Dean, this is a schedule one protected species.

0:48:290:48:33

Their numbers have been so low in the past that...

0:48:330:48:36

..they really have to be looked after.

0:48:370:48:39

-How are we doing, Gerry?

-OK.

0:48:400:48:42

-Do you want to put that one down and have this one now?

-Yeah.

0:48:420:48:45

You can only really conserve any species

0:48:450:48:48

if you understand what they are doing

0:48:480:48:51

and, by ringing these birds, you can understand where they move to,

0:48:510:48:55

how long they live for, where it's died,

0:48:550:48:57

how long it lived since it's dispersed.

0:48:570:49:00

Maybe the cause of death.

0:49:000:49:01

This lady has got one of her talons...

0:49:020:49:05

..just resting on my finger and I...

0:49:050:49:08

It's not piercing the skin but I can feel the power of it.

0:49:080:49:11

She has just got my finger with the tip of the talon.

0:49:110:49:14

And that's quite a...

0:49:140:49:16

That's quite a crunch she's putting on there.

0:49:160:49:19

It's a privilege and a treat to handle these incredible birds,

0:49:190:49:23

but the priority has to be returning them to the nest.

0:49:230:49:26

-All right, Pete?

-OK, mate.

0:49:260:49:29

And letting Pete get back down to earth.

0:49:290:49:33

-Get round this side a bit.

-Hello.

0:49:330:49:34

I'm sure you want to go back, don't you?

0:49:360:49:38

There we go.

0:49:380:49:40

In you go.

0:49:400:49:42

Up they go.

0:49:440:49:45

When people see a new species, they normally take us all for a pint.

0:49:480:49:52

Yes. I'm bang up for that, Gerry.

0:49:520:49:55

The chicks settle quickly back into their treetop home

0:49:550:49:59

and we can make our exit,

0:49:590:50:00

so the parent birds can return to their young.

0:50:000:50:03

-Thank you both so much.

-OK.

0:50:030:50:05

-Excellent.

-That was just great.

0:50:050:50:06

-No problem.

-Time for that pint.

0:50:060:50:08

Since being in the forest,

0:50:250:50:26

I've been on the trail of the majestic wild boar.

0:50:260:50:29

And you don't have to be here long to realise

0:50:300:50:33

that the return of this native animal

0:50:330:50:35

is contentious, to say the least.

0:50:350:50:37

It's all down to the way they forage for food.

0:50:390:50:42

Boars root out their food

0:50:430:50:45

by bulldozing through the soil with a powerful snout,

0:50:450:50:48

reinforced at the tip with thick discs of cartilage.

0:50:480:50:52

In the forest, this rooting helps to break down leaf litter

0:50:540:50:58

and promote new growth.

0:50:580:50:59

But when boar come into the villages and towns,

0:50:590:51:03

that bulldozed ground is a bit less welcome.

0:51:030:51:06

And, as numbers rise, boar sightings in towns are the more common.

0:51:070:51:11

It's the subject on everyone's lips here.

0:51:110:51:14

So it is something I can't just ignore.

0:51:140:51:16

And, here in Cinderford, I can see why it's such a hot topic

0:51:160:51:20

with boar damage appearing in playgrounds, public spaces,

0:51:200:51:24

and even the graveyard of the local church.

0:51:240:51:27

We think they are coming in over the wall, just over there, because...

0:51:270:51:31

Oh, I can see a bit of wall that's been a bit knocked down.

0:51:310:51:34

-Yes.

-Yeah.

0:51:340:51:36

For church warden Eve Smith,

0:51:360:51:38

boar damage like this is becoming an all-too-familiar sight.

0:51:380:51:42

I haven't got a problem with the boar, as such.

0:51:420:51:45

But not in here.

0:51:450:51:47

Not in the churchyard.

0:51:470:51:49

It's very upsetting for people when they come to visit their loved ones

0:51:490:51:54

and it's been disturbed.

0:51:540:51:56

Most of the land where the boar live is owned by the Forestry Commission.

0:51:570:52:01

So, the controversial task of controlling their population

0:52:010:52:05

falls to them.

0:52:050:52:06

So this clumpy stuff here, that's all boar activity.

0:52:080:52:11

The man who finds himself at the centre of this knotty issue

0:52:110:52:14

is Ian Harvey.

0:52:140:52:16

The general sort of public feeling is, they're OK,

0:52:160:52:20

but at a managed low number.

0:52:200:52:22

And when you say managed, you're talking about a cull,

0:52:220:52:25

which is of course killing boar, reducing the numbers.

0:52:250:52:28

And you're, kind of, caught in the middle.

0:52:280:52:30

That is your responsibility now.

0:52:300:52:32

It's certainly a... problematic aspect of the job.

0:52:330:52:39

Yeah, I mean it's not easy, is it?

0:52:390:52:41

You're caught in the middle of a really serious local debate.

0:52:410:52:45

Quite a contentious local issue.

0:52:450:52:48

Yeah, it is very contentious

0:52:480:52:50

and it does arouse strong feelings in people,

0:52:500:52:52

both for the animals and against the animals.

0:52:520:52:54

And I think this is something that often gets lost

0:52:540:52:57

in the wider discussion

0:52:570:52:58

is that this was a problem not of our making,

0:52:580:53:01

these animals were dumped on our ground.

0:53:010:53:04

Ian's been tasked

0:53:040:53:05

with reducing the number of the boar in the forest by two thirds.

0:53:050:53:09

That is a big challenge.

0:53:090:53:11

I want to put all of this to my boar tracking friend Robin.

0:53:140:53:17

As a local resident who's clearly enjoying the boar,

0:53:170:53:21

what does he think about bringing boar numbers down?

0:53:210:53:23

I've heard some strong opinions

0:53:240:53:26

about wild boar in the Forest of Dean.

0:53:260:53:29

Including, "get rid of the lot of them".

0:53:290:53:31

-Yeah.

-"Shoot the lot."

0:53:310:53:33

And on the other side,

0:53:330:53:35

-"don't touch a bristle on their hides, leave them be."

-Yeah.

0:53:350:53:38

I do kind of get a sense that there's sort of a consensus,

0:53:400:53:43

a sort of meeting in the middle, which is...

0:53:430:53:46

..they should be fine here in the forest.

0:53:470:53:50

But let's try and keep them in the forest

0:53:500:53:52

and probably bring the numbers down.

0:53:520:53:55

At the moment, I think the numbers aren't rocketing as much as people say.

0:53:550:53:58

They're getting pushed out into the towns and everything else,

0:53:580:54:01

but we have no natural predator.

0:54:010:54:02

Culling is the only method at the moment.

0:54:020:54:04

We want to coexist with the boar and it is not up to us,

0:54:040:54:07

we are no experts. We need help from the authorities.

0:54:070:54:10

This debate isn't going away

0:54:100:54:11

but neither is the excitement over the boars' revival,

0:54:110:54:15

as part of Britain's wildlife heritage.

0:54:150:54:18

-Set it up here.

-Yeah.

0:54:180:54:19

And we have another question we're eager to answer.

0:54:190:54:23

Did our trail cams get the intimate footage of our boar family at play

0:54:230:54:27

that we have been hoping for?

0:54:270:54:29

-You ready for this?

-Yeah.

-I haven't seen it either, Robin.

0:54:290:54:33

So I just don't know what's on here, but let's have a look.

0:54:330:54:37

Oh!

0:54:390:54:40

-That's just fantastic, isn't it?

-Amazing.

0:54:410:54:43

That's cool!

0:54:450:54:46

Some juveniles reaching their adult stage.

0:54:480:54:51

-That's a bigger one.

-Yeah.

0:54:530:54:54

It's almost like they are performing for the camera, isn't it?

0:54:560:55:00

And they all exit.

0:55:000:55:02

-See the piglets.

-Look at that!

0:55:020:55:04

A little trail of piglets.

0:55:050:55:07

-Amazing.

-That's awesome.

0:55:090:55:11

I wonder if those are the same ones that I had in my viewfinder

0:55:120:55:16

-when I wasn't...

-They definitely were.

0:55:160:55:18

And we also had a camera pointing straight into the nest.

0:55:190:55:22

Oh!

0:55:220:55:24

That's the nest. That's fantastic.

0:55:260:55:30

That's the shot I had in the mist and the rain,

0:55:300:55:32

all those piglets playing together.

0:55:320:55:34

-That's insane.

-Yeah.

0:55:340:55:36

These pictures of the whole group

0:55:370:55:39

confirm that this is a classic sounder.

0:55:390:55:41

With no males in sight

0:55:410:55:44

three sows share the responsibility for piglet care.

0:55:440:55:48

Our best efforts at a count put the number of young here at 16.

0:55:480:55:53

For me, that is quite something.

0:55:530:55:54

It doesn't get old. That one's looking straight at the camera.

0:55:540:55:58

-Totally.

-He knows we're here.

0:55:580:56:01

That's a really strange feeling,

0:56:010:56:03

being eyeballed through the screen by a little piglet.

0:56:030:56:06

Having a fight as well.

0:56:060:56:07

These are the kind of relaxed and intimate moments

0:56:090:56:11

we could never have seen in the field

0:56:110:56:14

once we'd been clocked by the sows.

0:56:140:56:16

They are so gregarious, aren't they?

0:56:170:56:19

-Yeah.

-They are really social, smart animals.

0:56:190:56:21

You just picked such a brilliant spot for us to put that camera.

0:56:240:56:27

Right on the money.

0:56:280:56:30

All that walking was worth it.

0:56:300:56:32

And here they come at night.

0:56:320:56:34

I don't see them at night really, so it's cool.

0:56:350:56:37

Just little piglets doing what pigs do.

0:56:390:56:42

I mean, looking at this,

0:56:420:56:45

you couldn't want to take these guys out of the forest.

0:56:450:56:48

Exactly.

0:56:480:56:50

Well, thank you so much for taking me to that place.

0:56:550:56:57

-That's fine.

-And showing us where to put the cameras

0:56:570:57:00

-to get those amazing shots.

-That's fine. I loved it.

0:57:000:57:02

-Thanks, Robin.

-No problem.

-I loved it too. Just brilliant.

0:57:020:57:05

The lively local discussion

0:57:120:57:13

about how best to live alongside the wild boar

0:57:130:57:16

is going to continue for some time.

0:57:160:57:19

As people work out how to control where they're going,

0:57:190:57:22

how best to keep the numbers down,

0:57:220:57:24

but the bottom line is,

0:57:240:57:26

the wild boar of the Forest of Dean are here to stay.

0:57:260:57:29

And that surely is a good thing.

0:57:290:57:31

If you'd like to explore Britain's diverse landscapes in more detail

0:57:560:58:01

and find out how to create your own wildlife habitats,

0:58:010:58:04

the Open University has produced a free booklet with bookmarks.

0:58:040:58:08

Order your copy by calling...

0:58:090:58:11

Or go to...

0:58:150:58:16

..and follow the links to the Open University.

0:58:200:58:22

As he continues his wildlife adventures across the West Country, nature lover Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is on the trail of woodland creatures in the Forest of Dean with the help of dedicated local naturalists.

Hugh goes in search of the imposing wild boar that have returned to the forest after three centuries. And he gets up close to the elusive 'phantom of the forest' - the goshawk, a bird of prey perfectly adapted to hunting in woodland. He also discovers why the forest is so good for insects like moths and beetles.