Gordon Buchanan takes household names on a wildlife adventure. Gordon and Ed discover that you don't have to head to the wilderness to get close to some amazing creatures.
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I'm Gordon Buchanan.
I've filmed the most amazing creatures on the planet.
Wow. These are animals that have killed people.
But for me some of the best wildlife is right here on our doorstep...
..and I'd like some of our best-loved household names
to experience it as I do.
It's just awe-inspiring.
-That was unbelievable.
-Oh, what an experience.
I could spend weeks or even months
tracking down these elusive creatures.
This time, I have just three days.
This could be the biggest challenge of my career.
I'm in the south-east of England.
This is unfamiliar territory for me,
but it's home to a man who was studying horticulture,
and threw it all in to do stand-up.
Ed Byrne, Irish comedian, radio and TV show regular, and king of comedy.
We found a cat by our bins.
He looked hungry, so now he lives with us.
You wouldn't do that for a human being, would you?
All right, mate, what are you doing by the bins?
You all right there? What are you doing?
You're just hungry, are you?
Do you want to live in the house?
He started his career on the club circuit,
and now he performs sell-out tours all over the world.
'But will I be able to convert him
'to the less high-octane pursuit of wildlife watching?'
Are you into wildlife? Where's your, kind of, sort of, interest?
I have to admit I don't really know a great deal about wildlife.
I sometimes just feel a bit overwhelmed
by the amount there is to know.
For the next three days we're going to be in Essex,
a county to the north-east of London.
It's one of England's largest local authorities -
1,300 square miles and home to just under 1.4 million people.
We'll start our journey in Epping Forest where we'll be looking for
parakeets and the elusive fallow deer.
On our second day, I'm hoping we spot
the spectacular bird life on Two Tree Island.
Then we'll head back to the city where I'd like Ed to have
a close encounter with badgers and foxes.
Even though Essex is only 40 miles from central London,
over 70% of the county is rural.
Right. What's the plan, then?
You should be showing me the map, as this is effectively your...
When you look at a map like this,
you kind of see all these built-up areas,
all these roads, there's railway lines, there's motorways,
and you think it's quite possibly the last place
you'd go to find wild animals.
-But there are still, kind of, lots of green spaces.
-So what are we hoping to see, then?
-Right, in no particular order.
-OK, I've seen foxes around here, yes.
-I've seen badgers.
Seen mainly dead ones, but do see the occasional live one.
-Yeah, as I say, I used to see fallow deer more often,
you know, just leaping across the farmland,
and I haven't seen one in ages.
What I hope to do with you is to try
and get you closer to a lot of these animals
that you may have seen before,
but just to kind of enhance that experience.
It's not a competition or anything.
But I did win.
So, I have just three days to find animals that are relatively common.
There's wildlife all around us if you know where to look for it.
But I don't have to tell Ed that.
He's a keen walker and loves the great outdoors.
Time to get away into the wilderness is rare,
and sometimes you don't have quite enough of it.
So when I do get the chance to, you know, go up into the Highlands,
you slow down, you'll be looking at the scenery.
And now it's like, people in front of me slowing down to look at the
scenery, and I'm like, "Come on!
"Get out of the way! I am in a hurry to go and enjoy the solitude
"and majesty of the Highlands!"
Epping Forest in south-west Essex is an area of ancient woodland.
12 miles long by two-and-a-half miles wide.
It's also home to a colony of rare fallow dear.
-Lovely day for it.
-I know, it's glorious.
Fallow deer are one of six species found in the UK,
but only red and roe deer are native.
The Normans brought them in the 11th century.
They were packing their swords, and bows and arrows
but they obviously had thought,
"Right, let's take some deer as well."
Because we might get bored.
'So many deer were killed on the forest roads
'that they set up a sanctuary in 1959 to protect them.'
It's got everything that they need right here,
so they've got these open grasslands, they've got tree cover.
It's perfect for them. Let's have a little look down in the woods.
'Autumn, during the rut, is the best time to see them.'
So this is where these males with the big antlers
had been coming up and they've actually been
doing a little bit of fallow deer shadow-boxing.
They kind of come up and start fighting, fighting the bushes.
-Knocking their antlers against it.
So bearing in mind what a deer will do to a tree
that was clearly minding its own business,
is there any chance of them having a pop at, say, a human being?
It's highly unlikely.
People have been injured by deer species in this rut period
because they are more aggressive.
What you're saying then is it's unlikely that one
would get attacked by a deer,
but if you're going to be attacked by a deer,
-it would be at this time of the year?
So we're in the right place, at the right time,
-if you want to be attacked by a deer.
It might spook the deer if we headed straight towards them,
so instead we skirt around the edges of the tree line.
# Through autumn's golden gown we used to kick our way. #
I don't know that one. Is that one of your own?
# You always loved this time of year. #
No, War Of The Worlds.
'I think I did mention that deer are easily spooked.'
Dark-coloured fallow dear were brought over from Scandinavia
by James I.
And these deer are their direct descendants.
Right, see how they're all bunched up like that?
It seems like the males are herding the females around.
Yeah, just circling the wagons.
What they don't want to happen is for the whole herd to disperse.
It's about trying to keep an eye on everyone.
When they're 15-months-old,
the young bucks grow their first set of antlers
to prepare them for the rut.
Some of the antlers on the deer are massive.
Yeah, they are huge.
And if you think that they grow them every single year.
When they actually reach that size the circulation gets cut off,
and when the rut's over...
..they just fall off.
That's from a youngster.
You know, a couple of years old.
It's quite hard to find like a perfect set of antlers
lying out in the open
because they chew the ends off them, because they can get nutrients
and get minerals from the antlers.
You can see the sort of...see that.
See, that's interesting.
There you go.
I didn't mean to sound like everything else you said wasn't.
I love that kind of thing.
The rut starts in late-September and peaks in mid-October.
So the bucks compete to mate with as many does as they can.
This big fellow's warning the others that this is his territory,
so back off.
Two stags are having a row.
They're really low to the ground, aren't they, when they do this.
-See, the other... Wow, did you see that?
-Just knocked him straight on his...
-On his arse.
Everything that's going on in their lives at the moment
is vitally important.
What they want to do is have this kind of immortality
-by passing their genes on.
And they can only do that by just fighting their way to the top.
They're doing a little bit of...
Maybe they're just bumping up close to each other.
It looked like some of them are trying to climb up...
Trying to initiate coitus.
'Now that the deer are used to us,
'I'd like Ed to have an even closer encounter.'
Right, actually, I'm going to stop and hunker down a little bit.
He looks really tired.
-He's going to be completely spent.
And if he's managed to mate with ten females,
and he's feeling tired, that's when, basically,
his testosterone levels start dipping
and he just takes himself away.
He's given it his best shot.
When they mate with, say, ten females,
they do that over what kind of timeframe?
They do that in a day, over the course of a week?
I think ten in a day,
yeah, for the right guy is not going to be a problem.
-Wow, that's impressive.
Do you think that they're just moving away because they can sense
-what alpha males we both are?
'This is a great start.
'Bringing Ed close to the wildlife is what this trip is all about,
'and there's a lot more I'd like him to see.'
'So, we head to another part of Epping Forest,
'where I'd like to show him another animal that's not native to the UK.'
Right, I take the slippy route.
'You'd be more likely to find this next creature
'in abundance across Asia.'
Obviously these are alien invaders, technically.
At this time of day, what are we? Just before sunset.
They will be roosting up.
So we might hear them if they are already in the tree,
or we might see them flying in.
There you go. Right there.
'Quite at home in Essex.'
Let's have a little wander round.
There... Hang on.
There's one up there. Can you see it?
'Ring-necked parakeets have been popular pets since Victorian times,
'but only started breeding in the wild in 1969.'
They're pretty. They're really lovely little birds.
'Now there are up to 50,000 of them,
'living mainly in the south-east of England.'
They eat berries, apples, cherries, pears.
If you had a nice little orchard in your garden,
and you had 30 of these guys showing up they would kind of...
-That would be bad news.
-It would be bad news.
They're warm-climate parrots?
-But they're happy enough here.
So the fact that it's a little bit chillier than, you know,
where they come from originally, it doesn't matter.
They must be kind of thinking it. They must be chatting.
"I mean, the food's good here, but is anybody else cold?
"I'm... Are you cold? I'm cold."
-There we go.
-There you go.
There is actually some good myths
about how they came to be living in this part of the world,
but the best one is that Jimi Hendrix released two parakeets
on Carnaby Street, which he actually did do,
but then that gave rise to
the 50,000 or so parakeets living in the area.
So they're all from the exact same genetic breeding pair.
Thanks to Jimi Hendrix.
I feel like we're doing quite well already, though.
You know, it's like, we're going to go see some deer.
Let's go see some deer. There they are.
-You're with a pro.
I've heard there's a place we can go see some parakeets.
Here we go. Five minutes in - parakeets. Bosh.
It's one of my best parakeet sightings.
-But I haven't had that many.
I think I want a lot, I want no less than 100,
and I want them all together,
and their sort of chirping and chatting to be deafening.
I want to see them mating, I want to see them build a nest.
I want to see them rescue a child from a river.
I think it may be your lot this evening.
But that doesn't mean the end, Ed.
What next? What now?
There's the creatures of the night.
-It is Halloween, you know?
-I know, yeah.
Here in Essex, there's wildlife all around us,
even in the built-up areas.
So we're off to Harlow in the west of Essex to meet Brian Owens.
He's had as many as 12 foxes visiting his garden at any one time.
This does not feel like a place for spotting wildlife at all.
Hi there. How you doing? I'm Gordon.
-I know you are.
-Nice to meet you.
-How you doing? I'm Ed.
-How are you?
Is this what you envisaged, Ed, when you agreed to do this?
-That we'd be poking around somebody's back garden?
'With an infrared camera, we head out to look for signs of the foxes.
'Foxes first started colonising urban areas in the 1940s.
'Now there are around 33,000 of them in our towns and cities
'all over the UK.'
That is absolutely perfect for foxes,
because it's somewhere sort of safe and wooded, to retreat to.
They'll have a den here, they can raise cubs.
At the end of Brian's garden,
that's where they can probably get
a significant amount of their food for the night.
'Foxes are hunters and scavengers.
'They'll eat everything from small mammals,
'to insects to discarded food.'
The fox that finds a bag of chips on the street,
it'll pick it up and run away and find somewhere, some cover,
and they can eat it there.
There was some rubbish just up behind the fence.
-Up that way.
There was quite a lot of rubbish, I thought.
What do you reckon to the foxy smell?
Right here it's really strong,
and it's got a kind of like, kind of a...
..public phone box on a Saturday night type smell.
They've got these anal glands that they scent mark,
and it's just part of their territorial behaviour.
At night-time, this is sort of a big fox playground.
So where are they, then?
I would be astounded if they didn't show up.
'Fox activity is generally predictable, but human activity...'
It's not fireworks night,
but there's a lot of fireworks going off,
-and that will definitely have an impact.
-It's Halloween in Harlow.
I think we should get into the garden...
-And wait there.
-..and wait it out.
'It's not something I do in my garden,
'but Brian loves these foxes,
'and really enjoys encouraging them into his garden.'
On a typical night I probably leave
peanuts and an assortment of raisins and sultanas...
..with the occasional sandwiches with peanut butter.
And some liver maybe.
Have you got a kind of fox food budget per week?
Oh, that's a tricky question, that one.
It doesn't feel like the most expensive hobby in the world,
compared to racehorses, say. You know?
It's really, it's a passion of mine and I like to put the food out,
and if it costs me a couple of pounds a night maybe.
-Shall we put this food out?
-Chuck a bit out.
These are going to be the best fed foxes in Essex. They have to be.
Do you have to be careful not to put too much down in case you get rats?
There is no surplus left in the morning,
so there's nothing left for rats
Is this a first for you, Ed?
Throwing out sandwiches.
In another man's garden. At this time of night.
-Let's get our fox watch on.
'We settle down on Brian's patio.
'On his gate is a night-vision camera,
'which lets him see what's going on outside his garden.'
It's quite good because this camera is going to give us
a little bit of pre-warning.
A bottle of Scotch would probably make this whole thing
feel a lot less pointless.
It has been known.
It certainly would help me with my optimism.
It has a tendency to have that effect.
'Come on, Foxy.'
WHISPERS: OK, I can see him, look.
Just bottom left-hand side of the door.
The fireworks seemed to have died down a bit,
and I wonder if he's just been sitting,
kind of cowering in a bush somewhere.
Come on, fox, in you come.
The majority of the food is in the garden through the gate,
so I'm hoping it's just that little bit of enticement
for him to come in.
Oh, you git.
He'll be back.
'And it isn't long before he re-emerges.'
Just come into the garden. Come on.
There's another one.
Oh, look, there he comes.
There you go... He's...
The fox was virtually in the garden and then the biggest firework
of the night went off and he ran away again.
We might have picked the wrong night for fox watching.
In you come. Come on.
'A fox's territory can cover up to 40 acres,
'and in urban areas that means up to 400 gardens.'
There he comes. Look.
He's looking at us,
but he's quite happily munching away.
There you go.
He's getting bolder and bolder.
I didn't anticipate the whole evening being disrupted by
what sounds like some kind of civil war taking place.
You've never been to Harlow on a Saturday night before?
In the time we've given it, we've done quite well.
I am content, if it wasn't for the fireworks going off,
we'd probably have seen more foxes.
That yawn tells me it's time to go.
That's been a good...
..good first day, I reckon.
Goodnight, foxes, wherever you are, if you're still there.
'It's the second day of my road trip with Ed.
'And we're off to Two Tree island in the south-east of Essex,
'which is legendary for its birdlife.'
It was called Two Tree Island because
there used to be two trees there, but they both blew down,
so it should really be called No Tree Island.
Really, no effort has gone into the naming of that island in the first place.
'Even if it's hard to make it out in all this fog.'
So, Ed, welcome to Two Tree Island.
It's not the best conditions.
'Like many Essex coastal sites, this area was reclaimed
'from the sea in the 1800s.
'Now the 640-acre island is a nature reserve.'
It is a really great place at this time of year for migratory birds.
What is it about this place that they like?
Maybe they like the fact they can hide in the fog.
Talking of hiding, we may well need a little bit of additional clothing.
Have you worn a ghillie suit before?
No, is that like camouflage?
It's the ultimate in camouflage.
We will literally disappear.
I'm hoping it's going to burn off.
That the sun's going to get up.
There's a little bit. Do you think that's bluish?
I think it will, I really do.
-Is this your optimism kicking in?
-This is my optimism kicking in.
These mudflats are teeming with clams, shrimps and worms.
It's the perfect diet for the local bird population.
-I believe, is that a curlew?
-It is, yeah.
-Feel my bird knowledge!
Curlew are the largest European wading bird,
and you can find them all round the British coastline.
We are ahead of the game.
It's a common gull.
Common gull, is it?
-At least I didn't say seagull.
There's no such thing.
You know, the reason I know there's no such thing as a seagull is
a great comedian, Mitch Hedberg, used to have a joke that went,
"I saw a seagull by a lake the other day, I said, 'It's OK, little brother,
"'I won't tell nobody.'"
It was just a nice little joke,
and I told it to somebody and they just went,
"Yeah, except there's not actually any such thing as a seagull."
Still a good joke!
-Should we get super-nerdy and put on our ghillie suits?
-Oh, go on, then.
One theory is that ghillie suits were first worn
by gamekeepers on their lookout for poachers.
-Watch us disappear.
Are you into fashion?
-Where are you, Gordon? I hear your voice.
-I can see you.
I hear your voice, but I can't see you.
I'm not saying that as soon as we kind of gear up
-that we're going to be surrounded by thousands of...
That is a very, very good look.
I don't know why it makes me want to do that.
'Despite my earlier optimism, the fog isn't lifting.'
There's something quite soothing about a fog horn, I think.
Well, certainly when you're in the fog.
The one bird that I really want to see is an avocet.
-They're the emblem of the RSPB...
-Yeah, black and white one.
..logo, yeah. And as far as birds go they are, you know, unmistakable,
they're very recognisable.
Look, so we've got an egret. See the egret coming in?
Egrets have been increasing in numbers in the south of England,
and they've moved over from Europe.
You know what, I'm sorry to interrupt you there,
but you know what I think is over there? An avocet.
-You are right. See the length of the avocet's legs?
These wading birds spend most of their time in the shallows
looking for little molluscs and worms.
'Avocets use that unusual beak like tweezers,
'to pick out individual prey.
'But the Victorians took a liking to collecting their eggs.'
By late 1800s, they were all wiped out.
In the Second World War, as part of their defences of the East Coast,
they re-flooded areas of eastern England
to prevent the Nazi invasion,
and in doing so they kind of re-established
this sort of perfect avocet breeding ground.
Their numbers have built up.
But despite our cunning use of camouflage,
the birdlife seems to have stopped drifting in.
And Ed is losing focus.
Do you know what I'm doing?
I'm just closing my eyes so I can use my other senses.
I am at one with the earth right now.
'And before I lose Ed completely...'
I'm thinking maybe the hide is a little bit higher up and we can see over those little islands.
-That's my plan.
-You're the boss.
Really, if we'd just come here when the tide was further in,
and the whole place wasn't covered in a blanket of fog,
we'd have done infinitely better, wearing hi-viz jackets and walking
around letting off firecrackers.
'When I'm filming wildlife,
'I always try to get as close to them as possible.'
I know that you probably think this is the sensible thing to do,
and it is, but actually, I'd rather lie out in the long grass,
wearing a ghillie suit.
I understand what you're saying. I think the idea of hides are great.
That is...a redshank.
Few ducks there.
'And the birds just keep coming.'
There's an avocet has just shown up over there.
So this is officially the closest I've ever been
to one of those birds.
Coming into the hide was the best thing to do.
'I'm really glad I was able to show Ed some bird life.
'But if the fog doesn't lift,
'the rest of the day is going to be a challenge.'
'So we head north to hunt for more of the county's critters.'
You mentioned that Essex is fabulously flat.
Yes, you'll just have to take my word for it.
But behind this fog will be a flat landscape.
This part is particularly flat because this is our next location,
we're at Stow Maries Aerodrome,
which is the best example of a First World War aerodrome in Europe.
Now, I'm not an expert, clearly,
but I'd have thought a very bad place for spotting birds would be an aerodrome.
No, not at all, because it ceased to be a military or RAF aerodrome just after the First World War,
and it's basically been handed over to nature.
I wish we could see a bit more of it.
That would be nice.
The Germans started bombing the British mainland in 1915.
And this aerodrome was used as a base
from which to defend the capital.
After the war it gradually fell into disrepair,
making it the perfect place for all sorts of wildlife.
Sunset is the time when hares, foxes and badgers all come to life.
And this thermal imaging camera,
which can quite literally see in the dark,
gives us our best chance of spotting them.
What is it, Spock?
-There you go.
-That's a rabbit, isn't it?
-That's a bunny rabbit.
Oh, it's a bunny rabbit. Are we using technical terms, are we? OK.
The remarkable thing about this particular bunny rabbit
is the visibility is, what, less than 15 metres?
But this thermal camera is seeing
the heat that this rabbit is giving off,
and it's cutting through all of that mist.
It is literally just seeing a heat image.
-Yeah, that's why the ears are brighter.
The eye is obviously the hottest part.
In the mind of that rabbit it's completely invisible.
It thinks no-one can see it.
-Do you feel incredibly superior to the rabbit?
Being able to see it and it doesn't know that you can see it?
Superior and slightly voyeuristic.
I know things that this rabbit doesn't know.
That rabbit hasn't even been to school.
Things that are important to this rabbit that, you know,
if we didn't have the mist I could scan round,
-and I could tell you if...
-If there was a fox nearby.
-..there was a fox nearby.
Why is he just sitting there?
It seems to me he'd either be hopping around looking for something to eat or he'd be asleep in a hole.
It seems weird that he's sitting, at this temperature,
he's sitting on the surface not doing anything.
It could well be that he's spent the last two or three hours feeding up,
so he's just digesting.
You'll probably find if we kept on watching him,
half an hour from now he'd start moving around.
'Rabbits are active from dusk through till dawn.
'The darkness gives them cover from predators.'
You can see his ears moving the whole time.
Probably you talking.
Even though we're a kilometre away.
No, that's not his name.
-ED SUCKS HIS TEETH
-There you go!
But do you think in the future if you're sitting watching
a wildlife documentary will you be thinking,
"Gosh, I wonder how long they had to sit there?"
They sat doing that.
I'm aware of just how long these things take, yeah.
If there was a sort of genie's lamp and it was one wish,
it would be that I had control over the animal kingdom.
What happened to you as a child?
Were you taunted by jackdaws?
I think I've just spent the last 25 years willing
things to happen and having that lack of control.
'But I don't have a genie's lamp,
'and we don't see anything else that evening.
'So we head off to our quarters for the night,
'the former pilots' accommodation.'
This is better than having to put a tent up.
We drive to another part of the aerodrome...
..and the fog still hasn't lifted.
If you look to the right you can see some fog and a field.
If you look to the left...
..you also see some fog and a field.
These aren't ideal conditions for the animal
I was really hoping to show Ed.
Brown hares aren't originally part of Britain's native wildlife,
they were brought over in the Iron Age from mainland Europe.
And if you were going to sort of move somewhere
and if you actually bring along with you an animal that you
rely on for food, it's kind...
I suppose it makes it a little bit easier.
'Hare numbers have been declining since the 1960s and now
'they're a protected species.'
Come on. Where are you?
OK, there's one coming. Stay nice and still.
It's coming straight towards us.
As it gets lighter, they'll tend to stick closer to the rough grass
cos it's where they feel safer.
If they feel threatened,
they're going to sprint into the long grass and take cover.
They'll have been feeding through the night.
They've been out sort of grazing.
It's just that before they lay up for the day,
they like to get a little kind of bit of the first rays of the sun.
OK, we've got two coming towards us.
On the left.
Can you see?
The stiller we are, the closer they'll come.
'Brown hares are larger than rabbits, with longer ears and longer
'limbs, and they're not the only game species we see.'
There's a couple of hares and a couple of pheasant.
There are pheasants up there as well? Oh, yeah, yeah.
'They feed on a diet of seed, berries and insects
'and are found all over the UK.'
Poor pheasant. I mean, they're just made for shooting, aren't they?
They fly in a straight line,
they make a big noise before they take off.
You said they don't particularly feel safe in the fog
because they can't see?
A prey species is always aware that there's something out there
that could eat it. Whereas in the mind of a fox,
they're always aware that their survival really
kind of depends on them
actually being able to catch the other animals.
Life isn't more difficult for a hare than it is for a fox.
It's that kind of nature's balance, really,
that's kind of been evened out over millions of years of evolution,
just to give each creature a kind of fighting chance of survival.
Hares live out in the open.
They rely on their speed and highly developed senses to evade predators.
They're just naturally very cautious.
There's not much around here that would take a fully grown hare,
other than foxes.
The lighter it gets, the less likely it is for them to come out.
What do you think? You want to call it?
We should maybe pack up here, move on to the next beast.
I still haven't a clue what this place looks like. Really.
It could be commanding views over Canary Wharf in the city of London.
Well, it's supposed to be the second highest spot in Essex,
so there should be a reasonable vista.
But not in this right pea-souper and no mistake.
I hope we don't get hit by a plane.
There's an astonishing diversity of wildlife at the aerodrome and
there are signs of it everywhere, if you know where to look.
-The fog is clearing anyway.
-Yeah, I know.
Just looking around here at all these dilapidated buildings,
all this kind of rough ground, that's all prime habitat,
prime real estate, for all sorts of critters.
There is something quite dramatic
-and romantic about nature reclaiming a building like that.
-The crumbling roof and the walls covered in ivy.
And I like it. It's kind of like nature fighting back.
If your shed's dilapidated, is it a good idea to maybe not take it down?
-Maybe just leave it there and see what ends up roosting in it?
If you could have cut like, you know, a tree down,
don't chop it up and get rid of it, just leave it there.
It's all good habitat for someone.
Does it feel a bit kind of like Grand Designs that I'm going
to sort of tell you my plans for this?
This looks like nothing at the moment, Ed, but...
If this is Grand Designs, does that mean halfway through the show,
I'm seeing signs of life on the floor.
This is kind of prime wildlife habitat. For something
like a little owl, this is perfect.
Even in its dilapidated state,
it offers way more protection from the elements than a roost in a tree.
Obviously, there's a lot of excrement,
so that's a sign of nature at work.
Does that just all look like poo to you?
The white stuff is poo.
-But the small things, these little sausagey type things...
He's picking them up! He's picking them up!
Everybody, he's picking them up!
These are pellets. These are the pellets from a little owl.
So, pellets they've regurgitated?
They regurgitate it, so it's sort of..
If you were to say, "That's kind of horrible, you're picking up poo."
-I'm not, I'm picking up vomit.
-Vomit. That's far more acceptable.
'Owls can't digest things like fur and bone, so they are regurgitated.'
The little owl would have been sitting up there and he would
have... So kind of like a cat's fur ball.
'But I bet these buildings are home to more than just one type of owl.'
It's got potential, definitely.
Down here. Oh, there we go.
Have a look at... Have a look at this beauty!
Oh, right. So those big black ones, are they a barn owl or...?
-See that? The whole skull.
-That's a skull.
So this little vole was happily minding his own business when one
sad night, the barn owl detected his scurryings and rustlings
and spotted him, silently hovered above him,
swooped down and kind of swallowed him in one mouthful.
So this is animal behaviour, cos you're actually looking
at kind of a little snapshot of how this animal hunts and what it hunts.
There's a lot to be learned from pellets and poo.
'I wonder if Ed would like to have a rummage.'
You're going for the small one, I like that.
Good things come in small packages.
It's a bit like going through your bag on your vacuum cleaner.
Yeah, which from time to time, you have to do.
-There we go. That's a...
-That's a bit of bone there.
-It's like a... It's like a femur.
That's exactly what it is.
Can you also find me some hand sanitizer?
Yeah, I'm going to wash my hands on the grass.
-That's what bushmen do.
'Now that we know that the owls are here,
'I'd really love to show him one.'
So, we're on our way to a little owl perching post.
-Now, a little owl is actually a type of owl?
-It's a type of owl.
It's not just a small owl.
No, a little owl is the smallest species of owl that we
have in the countryside in the UK and they are creatures of habit
and there is a post on the other side of this building,
which it actually lives in, that it comes out
and visits with a little bit of enticement.
-In here, I've got some live mealworms.
And the reason that we're using this vehicle,
rather than the Land Rover, is that they see it every single day.
We just try and keep things as consistent as possible.
-There's nothing that a little owl likes more...
-Than a mealworm.
Than a mealworm. Maybe there's other things.
They eat moths and they eat beetles and they'll eat small rodents,
-but this, for this little owl, it's an easy meal.
So, it's a little bit of patience and hopefully,
when I get out there, he's going to see me
and know what I'm going to do and hopefully come down
and check out the post, so we're just going to sit and wait.
He'll definitely notice the difference. He'll notice...
Feeder man tall today!
There's two... Enough chat.
'Fence posts are popular perches for little owls.
'They make the perfect lookout.
'For prey and for danger.'
Was that it?
Let that be your last movement.
Last movement. OK.
'It seems like someone forgot to tell the other birds that the
'food's not for them.'
They're not for you.
When this little owl gets here, you're...for it!
Robins don't, you know,
follow gardeners about because they like the company of gardeners.
It's just that activity
and disturbance that people cause in their gardens, you know,
encourages insects to move around and you'll find that
robins are basically looking for food that we've flushed out.
Oh, there we go. A nice blackbird.
'Only the male blackbird is actually black.
'Females are brown, often with spots and streaks.'
They're not for you.
-A great tit.
I feel like you couldn't have told me we were waiting for a little owl.
I feel like you should have just said we're going to go
and see some birds.
-And then I'd have gone, "Ooh!
"We've seen a robin and a blackbird and a great tit.
And then when the little owl arrived, I'd be like, "Check it out!
A little owl. Nice and easy. Nice and easy.
That was so funny the way he just appeared on that windowsill.
Yeah. Like - looking for me?
I was hoping he was going to come straight on to the post.
He'll be watching us at the moment from the tree.
I think if we just kind of sit kind of quietly, not moving,
he's going to come down.
He knows that the mealworms are there.
He's seen the other birds coming in.
Oh, there you go.
Nice and gentle. You beautiful... Oh, look at that.
What a beauty!
It's weird the way he sits there for a bit before having a peck at them.
Just needs 30 seconds just to have a look at us, figure out whether
we're a threat to him and then just straight into his mealworms.
They do look clever.
'Little owls live up to their name and at just over eight inches,
'it's no bigger than a starling in length.'
-Looks really serious.
It's because he's got those white eyebrows.
When a wild animal looks straight at you,
it's sort of an engagement there.
He just looks really intense. Almost angry.
I'm taking your mealworms.
What are you going to do about it?
'The UK has five species of owls
'and they all typically swallow their prey whole.'
Owls are the purest carnivores or the purest predators in the world
because they like live prey, they like to catch it themselves.
-Or at least, eat it while it's still alive.
Score, one little owl.
-I suppose... Turn your phone off!
-It is off.
Why is it buzzing then?
-It says to walk the dog. No, it's my dog's birthday.
-Your dog's birthday?
I can honestly say that I don't know when my cat's birthday is.
Cos you know why? Cos it's a cat!
When you own a dog, people kind of say, "How old is he?"
And I suppose it's a bit...
But you don't say, "He'll be seven in December."
-I like to treat him a bit nicer on his birthday.
I think he probably knows it's his birthday.
He probably gets to this time of year and thinks,
the leaves are falling, they're kind of...
The first chill of winter is coming along - oh, it's my birthday soon.
That curly haired idiot I live with will be giving me
a bit of extra food.
Extra walkies for Stuarty. LAUGHTER
-Stuarty's the name of my dog, by the way.
Not Stuart. Stuarty. So, what's your daughter's name? Rover?
It's also Stuart.
This is the most fun I've had sitting in a car with
a member of the same sex.
-Shall we skedaddle?
-Let's do it.
-It's not much of a name, though, is it? Little owl.
Maybe that's why he's so angry. He's got small owl complex.
Who are you calling little owl?
'The very last thing I'd love to show Ed are badgers.
'So we head towards Brentwood, another urban area, to find
'one of nature's most secretive creatures.
'It's quite an unusual place to look for them,
'but I hear that Delia Langstone's back garden is badger central.'
How are you?
So, you knew you had badgers in your garden,
and then there was a knock at the door one night. That's how it was.
Yeah, I noticed them under the bird table.
And then one evening, they started to actually come right up
to my house and push the door with their noses.
-I don't know why they did that. Yeah.
I can only imagine someone else maybe had fed them.
They're not tame because they don't like me.
When they pick up something, they walk away from me.
They'll reverse away from me. So they don't trust me.
-They're still wild animals.
-They like dog biscuits.
Cheap sausage rolls, I'm afraid, I give them.
-Cos I cannot resist these.
-I think that's fair enough.
-If you give them expensive sausage rolls, that seems wrong.
-Almost every night that they come?
Yeah, it's very rare I don't see them.
Do you think they would take sausage rolls from us if we went out there?
I don't get near them.
You could throw some, definitely, because my friends do it.
OK, so do we have permission to go
-and chuck some sausage rolls up your garden?
-Do. Yes, do.
That sounds ruder than I meant it to.
Do we have permission to throw sausage rolls up your garden?
Let's throw some sausage rolls to some badgers.
It does feel like we're trying to feed half of Essex's wildlife.
Trying to increase our chances.
Did you mention being able to call the badgers?
-Do you think you could give that a whirl for us?
-I'll have a go.
-I can't guarantee anything, though.
-No guarantees. Wild animals.
-Come on, then. Come on.
If they are out there, they will come.
'It's been nearly an hour and there's still no sign of them.
'But something is moving in the garden.'
Two badgers. Right there, look at that.
'Badgers are nocturnal and live most of their lives below ground.'
Let's just hunker down.
'Their staple food is worms,
'although they'll eat pretty much anything.'
For me to get closer to a live badger than I've ever been in my
life, that's been a payoff, I think, yeah.
We can all go home now.
Most importantly, we can all go home.
It has been fun. I've really enjoyed myself.
It's been great fun, I've enjoyed myself too. Thanks very much.
They were very cute.
Gordon and Ed are in Ed's adopted home county of Essex, where they discover that you don't have to head to the wilderness to get close to some of our most loved creatures.
They head out into the streets in search of urban foxes and badgers and discover that an old disused aerodrome provides the perfect habitat for all sorts of creatures.
They are in Epping Forest on the lookout for fallow deer and Two Tree Island marvelling at the wading birds. They also find an unlikely inhabitant of the Essex countryside - the ring-necked parakeet.