Gordon Buchanan takes household names on a wildlife adventure. Gordon and John are in the beautiful Cairngorms in search of the elusive Scottish wildcat.
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'I'm Gordon Buchanan.
'I've filmed the most amazing creatures on the planet.'
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 can 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 north of Scotland with someone
'I'm more used to seeing in a flak jacket.
'John Simpson, BBC's world affairs editor.
Veteran war correspondent and a man who's often in the firing line.'
Out there, the Gaddafi people are shooting in our direction.
You can hear bullets flying overhead from time to time, quite low.
Nobody's around. They're too scared to stay.
'John joined the BBC when he was 25
'and he's made a career reporting from the world's conflict zones.'
Baghdad and Kabul.
I actually enjoy going to them, not because it's dangerous,
although it is quite dangerous sometimes,
but because it's difficult.
Difficult to operate, difficult to explain.
I take a pleasure in that.
But there is something in me that would prefer to get on a plane
and go to these wild, kind of crazy places that nobody goes to.
'For the next three days, we're going to be
'in and around Cairngorm National Park in the north of Scotland.
'It's the UK's largest national park,
1,750 square miles,
'and home to four of the UK's five highest mountains.
'Today, we're on the lookout for the elusive wildcat.
'Then we are in the Highlands tracking red squirrels,
'and our only native hare.
'I'm hoping we'll also see ptarmigan and free ranging reindeer.'
So, John, one of my favourite places on the planet is right here.
-Cairngorms. I absolutely love it.
-Oh, yes. Oh, yes.
25% of some of the UK's most important species are found...
Is that right, a quarter?
Yes, so, what I'd like to do is just show you
the majesty of the mountains, the magic of the forest,
-and just pick a handful of creatures that I'd like to find.
-I'd love to. I've never seen a red squirrel.
Really? Oh, there you go.
a hardy little bird that presents its own challenges.
For them, we're going to have to go up into the mountains.
Wildcat is the Holy Grail, I think, of British wildlife.
-There's so few of them, they're so hard to find.
-Fewer than tigers.
Fewer than tigers, yes.
They're one of the most endangered cats in the world.
So, of those species, is there any that kind of ignites a spark?
Well, there really is.
Ever since I was a kid,
I've been excited by the idea of wildcats in Scotland.
Really endangered, really, really rare,
really difficult to see. So that's what I'd like to see. Can you...?
I'll see what I can do.
OK. Well, if you can, I'll be really happy.
-We are in the best possible place to see them.
-OK, well, you know.
-I live in hope.
'So, I've just three days to show John wildcats, red squirrels,
'mountain hare, ptarmigan and reindeer.
'But it's November and the Cairngorm plateau is the highest,
'coldest, and snowiest place in the UK.
'I hope John knows what he's in for.'
I don't like the cold so much.
I did a documentary in the Arctic with Ranulph Fiennes,
and there I was miserable.
I mean, it was -70, and the wind blowing like crazy.
And I got frostbite on all my fingers. I just...
I loathed that. I couldn't wait to be out of it.
I promise there's no chance of frostbite. Hypothermia? Yes.
But frostbite, no.
'The Angus Glens are around 20 miles north of Dundee.
'And one of the few places we might spot the elusive Scottish wildcat.
'They used to be found all over Britain.
'Now there are only a handful left in the north of Scotland
'because of persecution and loss of habitat.
'Scottish Wildcat Action is a conservation project set up
'to save this iconic animal from extinction.
'They've been monitoring wildcats using trail cameras.
'And this area has one of the highest densities.
'So, I'm hoping project manager Dr Roo Campbell
'can tell us where to put our cameras.'
This is all...
all great habitat. Hello, how are you doing? Roo's the man.
Nice to meet you.
I was thinking, when was the last time a wildcat walked up...
walked up here? Have you ever bumped into a wildcat?
I could count the number of times on one hand.
-So it's not often.
So, this habitat,
-I suppose it provides everything that wildcats need.
-It does, yes.
When that grass goes up and that becomes great vole habitat,
so then you've got prey.
Right next to it, you've got all this mature pine
or you've got a young plantation, so, that'll provide cover.
So the cat's got everything it needs all in one place.
It's exciting, isn't it?
When you think, small island, not very many species of wildlife,
really. And, yet, you can have something
that's so little known as a wildcat.
That's really...why I've always had a real interest in them,
for that reason. Just sort of mysterious.
Our last ferocious predator.
And without the use of camera traps,
the chances of actually learning anything about them would be...
They've revolutionised the work on the species. Totally.
We can go out and cover large areas of ground.
Scottish Wildcat Action's going to be setting
something like 70 camera traps for 60 days in each of our
six priority areas we've got across Scotland, so that's 420 cameras.
-You know how these work.
-I do, yes.
-So, you put it out. Anything...
-Anything that moves.
-Anything that moves will be recorded.
So what we're going to do is start exploring on the edge
of the forest and go in, and look for places that I think
are going to give us the best chance. Let's do it.
-Roo, thank you very much. See you later.
-All the best.
'Roo is also going to put out a couple of his camera traps,
'just in case.'
-Just up here, see the post?
Here what I want to do is try and hold the cat
in this area by...
putting things here that are going to be of interest.
-So, sardines. Nice, smelly fish.
Do you have any cat urine with you?
-Strangely, I left it behind.
-I should have said.
I've got some mountain lion urine.
-How do they get it to pee in the bottle?
-That is the question.
-Do you know what wildcat lure smells like?
This will be a first for you.
Phwoar, that's disgusting.
This is possibly more familiar.
-It's like the worst public toilet in the world.
That's not very nice, either.
You're right, it's not very nice.
-Right, if you take that, and...
-Try not to spray it on myself.
Don't spray it on yourself,
just liberally around this area, so this whole tangle of roots.
Presumably this isn't something you've done before.
-No, I'm just trying to think...
-Sprayed urine on a log,
in your long and varied career.
There's always something new, there's always something new.
-Go close because of this wind and rain.
-I'm afraid the wind's blowing it...
-It's blowing straight into me!
You're spending the next three days with me, John,
and you're covering me with cat pee.
Onto the camera.
-It will take in that whole...
-The whole of that.
Finding a good site, going to all this effort to climb up
here and put out all this food,
-you just have to obviously make absolutely sure...
..that the camera is doing what it should. Good luck, camera.
'Often, when I use camera traps, I like to use several
'in the same location to increase my chances or just in case one fails.'
'On our way back to the Land Rover, we look for signs of wildcats.
'Like droppings, or scat,
'which wildcats use to mark their territory.'
There we go, John. Right...right there.
I'm really glad you told me because I wouldn't know.
Let me just find something to give it...
to give it a prod with.
Is that genuine wildcat?
I couldn't say with absolute certainty, but it fits...the bill.
And it smells...
It's got... What's it been eating?
The longer hairs could be from...
So that's been eating something... something furry.
-Does it smell as you...?
I just got a good catty waft.
Finding faeces is, kind of, greatly exciting to me.
It's one of the key, one of the very few things that is associated
with the animal that you can see, isn't it?
It's not exactly beautiful, and it certainly doesn't smell
very nice, but I think that's really exciting.
I mean, it shows that a wildcat has been here.
'So, we leave the camera traps to do their thing.
'But there are no guarantees, so we're travelling 70 miles north
'to the Highland Wildlife Park,
'where I know I can show John a wildcat.'
-Will I really see it?
-We will see...
-we will see one...
-Not a stuffed one?
Not a stuffed one.
Even in captivity, they're still quite shy.
But we can certainly go into the enclosure, and see one.
Cos I'd really like you to see
-this animal that we're talking about.
-Oh, yes, yes, yes.
'The Highland Wildlife Park covers 260 acres.
'And it helps to conserve endangered species, like the wildcat.'
These cats that we're going to see are very different
to the cats in the wild,
insomuch as they're well used to seeing people.
Visitors come every single day.
'There have been captive wildcat populations in zoos
'for around 50 years. Here at the park, they have nine.'
-There's a youngster.
-My God, yes.
-So, that's a kitten from this year.
-There's a litter of three that were born in April.
I never thought to see this in my life.
And another couple over there.
I'm just out of my... out of my head with this.
The one that's looking slightly grumpy is this...
is the mother.
I don't think I would reach my hand out to this one.
It's those flattened ears, she's telling us
exactly how she's feeling about us.
That cat looks quite bad-tempered.
-That's what I wanted to see!
-A hissing, snarling wildcat!
Even though it's not in the wild, I just think it's fantastic.
-Let's go round, let's go into the enclosure, and get even closer.
-I like the way I make you go first.
-Delighted to go first.
'It's a real privilege to be allowed in the cage with them.'
I'm used to cages with various wild things but not cats.
-Here comes one here, John, look.
They are exquisitely beautiful.
They really are.
That stare is kind of as intimidating as the stare
-of a tiger.
-I'm sure it is, yes.
Not a creature you'd want to get on the wrong side of.
'Wildcats have a distinctive thick, ringed, black-tipped tail.'
He is absolutely magnificent.
-Can you see the barring on the tail?
-Yes. On the tail, yes.
Never would've thought this.
-We're being stalked by the Highland tiger.
Despite the fact that they are actually, you know,
they're accustomed to seeing people,
-they're not walking between your legs and purring.
-I'd like to get as close as we can, as close as we dare...
-So I've arranged for Rachel to come and put some food out.
And they're looking pretty hungry, so...
Rachel Williams is a carnivore animal keeper.
What have we got? Chicks? All right, here, look at this.
(Oh, yes. Gosh.)
No messing. You just see how comfortable they are...
-Look how he works his way his way through there.
-..in the trees.
They'll catch things from small mice, voles, rabbits, young hare...
birds if they can get them.
-Oh, look at that.
The sharp claws are retractable which helps keep them sharp
so that helps with their climbing.
And just incredibly sharp teeth.
All predators are unsuccessful most of the time.
Of course, yes, of course.
-And if they were successful most of the time...
-There wouldn't be any...
There wouldn't be anything left.
It's a hard life, isn't it?
For predators of all sizes.
The wild is no place for the weak.
Sounds like the BBC!
He's very choosy.
That one just made a little noise.
Some unmentionable bit of a bird hanging out of his mouth and "Grrr!"
I thought he was going to jump on my head for a moment.
-Don't speak too soon!
-No, he still might.
Oh, what an experience!
When I lived in the country, I had a cat which used to go
and catch voles and things.
We had an Indian carpet with a circle in the middle
and the cat would put this little vole or whatever
exactly in the middle of the circle and he would have messed around
with the tail until the tail was directly straight.
He was proud of what he'd done, he wanted it to look good.
-A little gift.
-Yes, a little gift
and he wanted to show it off in the best way possible.
Maybe it's just your cat.
Yes, it may be.
-That's his present to us.
-I'm well fed, John's looking a bit hungry.
-He might like this vole.
-I'll do a nice thing with a bit of tail.
What a sight!
They are all the more magnificent for being wild animals.
They're not all sort of pretty-pretty,
soft, furry, you know, curling up on the end of your bed
type of animal.
That's what I really appreciate.
Look at the colours, look at the markings.
Look at the grace of that thing.
I'm so glad to be able to show John these fabulous cats up close.
It's only a 15-minute drive to the Alvie forest
and our bed for the night.
We're staying in a bothy,
a simple shelter out in the wild that anyone can use.
It's basically wild camping indoors.
I think it's time for dinner.
'Bothies are often abandoned farm buildings
'and they're found in remote and mountainous spots all over the UK.'
As long as I've got...
somewhere to sleep that's not too infested with insects,
that's kind of warm and dry or warmish and dry-ish,
and some food, a little bit of whisky maybe,
it's amazing the places that I can make myself comfortable.
The worst sleeping experience happened to me
night after night after night in Sarajevo during the siege
when all the windows had been shot out of the hotel.
I was there for two months in the winter
and it was one of the coldest winters, 1992.
--19, -20 every night.
And nothing really protecting us from the outside world.
I used to sleep in my sleeping bag with all my clothes on
except my shoes and I tied a scarf around my head
and I still couldn't sleep.
It was too cold to sleep.
But whisky helped!
Just going to stick a couple of logs on.
There's a bottle of whisky as well that is...
Well, that will be my reward.
-Can you bear some of this?
-I could bear a great deal of that, yes.
-Would you like a splash of water or...?
No, I think I'll just take it neat, actually.
Oh, it's very good, isn't it?
It's got almost a sort of orangey sort of nose to it.
That, to me, is a sort of really satisfying end to the day.
If I can't sleep or if I've had a stressful day or something,
I like to make myself a hot chocolate
with a big dollop of whisky in it.
You've properly had more than your fair share
of stressful days throughout your career.
Erm... Well, I try not to let things stress me.
I try and really kind of float over it a bit.
But for the most part, you know, the sort of constant irritations
and difficulties, I just feel now that I'm in my 70s,
-I can just float over them.
-Rise above it.
Rise above it.
Through all those horrific things that you've witnessed,
how have you managed to keep it together?
That's assuming I have, of course.
And if it's going to come out,
it's going to come out in a lonely bothy in the Highlands.
I think for a start, I belong to a different generation.
I came along at the end of that period where you just
tried to keep calm and carry on.
I have seen quite a lot of nasty things
and the worst thing that happened in many ways to me
was that we got bombed in Iraq.
When was that? 12 years ago.
..a lot of people killed, 18 people killed,
but my colleague and I spent the next four or five days, I think,
talking to each other and we talked and talked and talked
and talked about what we'd seen and what we'd done.
And by the end of the third day, I think,
we'd just got sick to death of talking about it.
Both he and I, I think,
felt that afterwards that that had exorcised it.
We are equipped to deal with the horrors of life
-and the best way of dealing with it is to actually share that.
And I think a lot of the social ills is that people don't want
to admit that they're weak and that they're vulnerable.
It's the second day of our Highland adventure.
And there's just time for a quick breakfast
before we head off to our next animal.
My entire life is spent racing around and that business which
we did here of arriving in the dark
and then in the morning stumbling out, you know,
rubbing your eyes and seeing what lies outside, especially
when it's as beautiful as this, I love all of that.
In a way, you and I live parallel lives.
You know, you observe animals, I observe people,
often in fairly extreme circumstances.
Are you a reckless man, would you say?
Erm... I kind of am, in a way, yes.
I am. I tell myself I'm very sensible and don't take risks,
but that isn't true.
Does it become an addiction,
a lifelong addiction to sort of travel and uncover those stories?
Yes. It's that business of always, you know,
always wanting to know what's round the next corner.
That's what keeps me going.
"For lust of knowing what should not be known,
"we take the Golden Road to Samarkand."
That's what I love, things that people don't want you to know
and going and finding out and coming back and telling other people.
That, to me, is heaven.
There is nothing in my world, in my life, in my existence,
that's better than that.
Thank you, bothy.
That was a nice place.
Roof above our heads.
We head south towards Glenfeshie to track down another amazing animal.
The mature pine woodland is the perfect habitat for the UK's
only native squirrel.
Red squirrels were common all over Britain
until grey squirrels were introduced in the late 1800s.
Disease and competition for food means
they are losing the fight against their bigger cousins.
-John, if you go into the hide, make yourself comfortable...
..and I'll put out some food.
John has never seen a red squirrel before
and I'd really like to show him one.
Even if it means enticing them in with hazelnuts.
Let the long wait begin. Or let the short wait begin.
And do they expect to find nuts here?
Yeah, this is a place where food has been put out before.
-On a regular sort of basis?
Do they live on the ground or do they live up in the trees?
Their nest is made of a collection of twigs and leaves.
It is called a dray. And they'll have a dray up in the trees.
But, yeah, we kind of think of them as being an arboreal creature,
but they are as happy on the ground.
The trees are their safe haven.
That's where they'll retreat to if they feel threatened.
There are now only 140,000 red squirrels left,
compared to 2.5 million greys.
-(John, John, John, John. There's one. OK.)
(OK, to the right, on the tree. Stay there.)
You don't even need the binoculars for it.
(I want to see more than that.)
-(Yes, yes. OK. I think they're there, right on the log.)
(Watch what he does. Watch what he does.)
-(You see that. It covered about 25 feet without me even seeing it.)
(It's just darted back up in that direction.)
I think he's fine.
-It knows that we are here.
-Look at that beautiful animal.
-I saw just a flicker of something. There you go. There it is.
'And it's gone.'
I can wipe the sweat from my brow because the fact that
I have been able to show you a red squirrel,
I'm mightily pleased about.
I'm so pleased. I'm profoundly grateful to the squirrel for coming.
Let's move on, because we're actually going to leave the woodland
and go somewhere that's very different to here.
-Am I going to like it?
-I...think... you will like it.
The next place, if the weather closes in,
it could get a little bit wild.
Oh, well. We'll see.
We're heading towards the Monadhliath mountains
on the very edge of the National Park.
I've heard that it's the best place to track down mountain or
a blue hares, our only Arctic mammal.
Right, we could potentially see hare at any point...
And they're white now, are they?
They won't be in full winter coat,
because when they are in full winter coat
-and they're pure white, they stand out on this landscape...
..which makes them very vulnerable to golden eagles and foxes.
They're also Britain's only native hare and may have been here
since the last Ice Age.
Do they eat the grass? What do they eat?
Heather makes up most of their diet but they'll browse
on other plant species if there's any willow or juniper.
I thought I saw some movement straight ahead. I'm sure I didn't.
I'm sure it wasn't anything.
They don't want to be seen by any predator.
-Don't they want to get on television?
-Not today, it seems.
One of the great things about watching wildlife is that you
never know what you are going to spot next.
-See right up on the ridge, the red deer?
-Actually on the ridge?
-So right at the very, very top.
-There you go.
Oh, there's even more just below the horizon.
-A couple of stags to the right.
-Yes, I see. Yes. Yes, yes, yes.
Red deer are our largest deer species,
found mainly in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
It's lovely to see the red deer, even though that's not what
-we came here for. Mind you, they are long way up.
-What is that, a mile?
-Must be approaching a mile, yeah.
-There we go, John.
-A fair number.
Up the hill?
-Yes, white specks.
-Yes, yes, yes.
Oh, yes, I see them. Oh, yes.
They're very handsome creatures, aren't they?
But I'd like to get John even closer to the hares.
Bit of off-roading.
OK, nice and slow. There you go. There you go.
-Doesn't seem too fearful.
Please tell me this is another one of our native species that
you haven't ever seen before.
It looks at us. It's assessing us.
They think, "Actually, they're not a threat."
-Look at that.
-Off it goes.
Their powerful hind legs propel them forward at speeds of up to 40mph,
fast enough to give them a chance of escaping any predator.
Lovely to see it. Absolutely lovely.
And so close. And so clearly.
Beautiful animal. Beautiful.
I once did a ride over the mountains in Afghanistan
in the Hindu Kush on horses.
-It was cold like this.
The only problem was that the men who were guiding us
wanted to rob us, perhaps kill us.
So it was quite tricky. But this is no less beautiful than those views.
It was worth the whole thing.
I just feel kind of liberated looking out over these mountains.
I... It's such an uplifting feeling.
I can't believe that people aren't here,
that it's not full of tourists bashing about taking pictures.
'We're back in Glenfeshie, where we saw our red squirrel.
'I've heard that after the wildcat, it's also a great
'place for spotting Britain's second rarest carnivore.'
There is...a nano per cent of a chance
that we'll actually see a pine marten.
But if we go into the forest and put the camera traps up
and we can leave them working overnight...
Like the wildcat, they are incredibly difficult to find.
If we did have that nano chance of seeing it,
how would I know that I'd seen one?
-Cat size, domestic cat...
-..but they're quite weaselly...
-Sort of long?
-Long and low.
Beautiful deep brown creamy bib.
They look like little bears at times.
They are arboreal, but they come down to the ground.
-So would they live in the trees, in nests or something?
-No, they'll nest in rock hollows or hollow trees.
They hunt squirrels?
-They'll hunt squirrels...
-..birds if they can catch them.
They are a formidable predator because the pine marten can
-hunt a huge range of prey on the ground and up in the trees.
-I think we're going to just head off..
-..into the night.
Into the dark... deep, dark forest.
'Up until about 1800, pine martens were widespread throughout Britain.
'Now there are only around 4,000 left, mainly in Scotland.'
Are they threatened in any way?
Loss of woodland, loss of habitat, combined with this
-pressure of persecution...
-..that almost wiped them out.
This looks like the perfect spot.
-That should be fine.
-This is for the camera?
-I'm going to put the camera trap here.
-And there's a nice...
-In the hopes that the pine marten will...
Why should it go there, though?
This is why it should go there.
-Because I have two of a pine marten's favourite foods.
-They can't resist it.
You sure this isn't part of some Disney film?
Peanuts and honey, who could resist? Actually, I don't know if I can.
-It's rather good, actually.
-That is really good.
A very thick honey as well, so...
I'm going to use the honey like a glue. HE LAUGHS
-Yeah, for the peanuts?
-For the peanuts.
It's pouring with rain now. I hope it doesn't wash it off.
And nothing else will come along and eat this?
I suppose a badger would tuck into this quite happily.
A fox would come, maybe, yeah, if it's hungry enough.
Well, we'll know, if we've got the camera.
-We will know, yeah.
-So we'll know who the guilty party is.
It'll be exciting to come back and find all of this gone.
-OK, I'm the camera...
-..you're the pine marten.
You're going to stand on your hind legs.
I think he's going to look around and think, "What on earth is this
"delicious honey-peanutty treat doing here in the dead of night?"
He's probably not going to think about that too much,
he's just going to think, "I love this stuff and..."
MAKES LIP-SMACKING SOUNDS
-Don't eat it all!
-Well, I'm just having a lick.
I didn't even get a peanut! This is like Halloween. JOHN LAUGHS
And... Oh, actually, it's quite nice. Mmm.
So I'm hoping, I imagine if a pine marten finds this,
it's going to eat the whole lot.
-Let's hope this works.
-I've got a good feeling about this.
That we're in prime pine marten habitat.
But who knows what we'll see.
If we come back tomorrow and it's gone...
-that's a good sign.
OK, great. Let's find our way home.
'All we can do now is keep our fingers crossed
'and wait for tomorrow.'
It's the final day of our journey into the wild.
And I'm hoping to show John a very special animal.
So we head south towards the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre
at Glenmore, which covers over 10,000 acres.
It's a 20-minute walk to the 150-strong reindeer herd.
All right, once we're on the hill, it's...
These reindeer are originally from Sweden
and are the UK's only free-ranging herd.
They are on the move constantly.
They're one of those species that migrates,
-but open tundra's what we tend to associate with reindeer.
The reason that they were brought back here was because,
actually, this habitat
very closely matches the habitat from which they came.
Reindeer were indigenous to the UK until about 8,000 years ago.
One theory is that overhunting combined with
the warming of the planet led to their extinction.
The Cairngorms are the only place in the UK cold enough for them
to survive all year round.
-Have you ever been close to a reindeer before?
-I've never seen one.
-Well, there you go, there's your first reindeer.
My God, yes!
Good morning, reindeer.
Well, they are, I suppose,
-one of those creatures that are completely unmistakable.
Nobody who's ever seen a Christmas card could fail
-to know where we are.
Can I touch the antlers and things? Or do they...?
I think, yes. No, I think as long as they can see your hand coming in...
They won't mind? Yes.
I've actually got some food here.
Let me just...
'These deer are very tame.'
There you go.
They know I've got the good stuff.
'And used to being hand-fed.'
There you go.
-This is a calf from last year.
It's an animal that is designed to cope
with these sub-zero temperatures.
In -40, you've got a herd of reindeer out on the open tundra,
so they have to be able to cope with those conditions.
'It's bitter today and the wind makes it feel even colder.'
Their coat is incredibly, incredibly warm. They are very well insulated.
Their noses are completely covered in fur.
'Reindeer are the only deer species where both male
'and female have antlers.'
Their antlers, why are they covered in fur?
That's just bone so it's, erm...
Why do you have to keep that warm?
The reason for that is, every single year,
the reindeer lose their antlers,
so this massive impressive rack is grown every single year,
and for them to grow fast,
they're covered in this velvet, it's called.
This is just engorged with blood.
'It might look painful, but what's left is just the membrane
'from when the antlers were growing.'
Aren't they lovely? They're a beautiful animal.
They're an animal that's been domesticated for thousands of years.
We were able to domesticate them and herd them,
take the products from them that we wanted.
Which are milk, meat?
-Do we eat reindeer meat?
The skins themselves, clothing made out of skins.
Antler was very useful for making tools out of them.
-I've seen shelters made out of reindeer skins.
If you have a frozen surface and you put down a reindeer skin
and sleep on top of that, your body warmth will heat up the skin
and you won't get any of that cold from underneath.
I have to say it is bloody cold.
I don't know what it is.
In the wind, it's really cold.
Yeah, they won't be feeling any of this.
This is the good times.
Come on, boy.
You see, if you look at their feet.
Yeah, the feet, the splaying of the feet
is really interesting, isn't it?
If you're walking through a snowy landscape,
as you're sinking in with every footfall, you're going
to use part of your energy just covering getting around.
They're just lovely animals, aren't they?
I can see why people are fond of them.
-Are you feeling festive?
We're out of food.
That's the last bit, I'm afraid.
'I'd like to show John another animal
'which thrives in this cold climate.'
'It wins the prize hands down for Britain's toughest bird.'
The interesting thing about ptarmigan is that they choose
to live at the tops of these mountains.
You find them in these mountains over 3,000 feet.
If we want to get up quickly, as high as we can,
the best way to do it is use the available transport.
Let's not make things more difficult than they already are.
'So we're taking the funicular railway,
'the only one in Scotland, to the top of Cairngorm.
'At just over 4,000 feet, it's the sixth largest mountain in the UK.
'And a snow sports mecca.'
With every metre of altitude we're heading up into ptarmigan territory.
-You can just see the trees are starting to thin out.
It almost feels like we're stepping from autumn into winter.
You see now the heather's practically gone.
It's gone, hasn't it?
-Into the snow line.
My God, what a view.
Right, you're going to feel...
Welcome to the Arctic.
'This is officially the coldest, windiest
'and snowiest place to spend the winter in the UK.'
The weather conditions that you get up in the Cairngorms
is as bad as it gets the United kingdom.
What sort of speed is the wind, do you think?
There's a weather gauge and it's gusting at 60mph,
but that weather gauge is in a sheltered location,
so it could be 75.
'It's November and by now most creatures have headed down to
'lower altitude in search of food and shelter.
'The Ptarmigan is one of the few exceptions.'
On a day like this, they'll be hunkered,
may well be hunkered down but they've still got to eat.
When the weather is bad like this, it is a real reminder for them
and with the snow covering that winter is on its way.
-Look, look, look.
-Just right there. Do you see it?
It's right in front of us.
'The ptarmigan is a member of the grouse family.'
-Do you see how well camouflaged they are?
'They put on weight throughout the year and in winter
'try and conserve as much energy as possible.'
-We're not having to hide from them. They have got nothing to fear.
They don't see us as predators.
Oh, there you go.
-On the other side of the fence, on the ground to the right.
A little covey of them there.
-How come they've got this weird name?
It comes from a Gaelic word which means "the croaker"
and they make a croaking sound.
MIMICS THE CROAK
-When do they do that?
-They often do that when they fly.
Look at them, though...
I really thought we were going to have to walk bloody miles.
-So did I.
I've been whining, or at least I try not to whine
and I try and keep up.
I'm so grateful to these little animals for being here.
I mean, it's good of them.
There's a white one. It's almost completely white.
With just a little bit of stuff over its wings.
'Ptarmigan are the only birds in Britain to turn
'white during the winter.'
Until they move, they're so well camouflaged.
-You couldn't tell.
-You can't tell.
Then the one that it's quite close to
is still quite dark, isn't it?
Look there, that one looks, just kind of walking along.
It's bits of white on it.
'Cold weather and shorter days trigger hormonal changes
'that give rise to its dense, white plumage.'
You can see how dumpy they are.
That's all about conserving heat.
Obviously, they've got their body fat,
but it's those feathers that are giving them that insulation.
I just marvel at their ability to survive up here.
Through the winter, it's -25 up here
and these little birds can survive.
-Human beings, you'd just perish.
-Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
I mean, apart from anything else,
we might get swept off the mountainside by the wind.
I mean, they're pecking away, aren't they?
They're getting stuff through the snow.
'When it's snowy,
'they look for areas where the wind has cleared the ground.'
On a day like this, they're reluctant to fly
just because it's so windy.
-They're expert fliers.
-They'll find themselves in Edinburgh if they fly.
You've got such admiration for these characters, haven't you?
-Are they one of your favourite birds?
I love them, I really do. They're my favourite British bird
and actually probably my favourite bird of all.
I always love seeing them
and I'm very glad that we've seen them without too much hardship.
'We head back down on the funicular railway before we're blown away.'
-There we go.
-So what are we doing now?
Where will we go?
While we've been exploring the Cairngorms, our camera traps have
hopefully been doing their magic back down at the wildcat locations.
-We're going to head back south.
And, yeah, pick them up and review them and see what's on them.
-I do hope there is something.
-I really do. Yeah, me too.
-I'm very excited.
'It's pitch-black by the time we reach the Angus Glens.
'I just hope I can find the camera traps.'
They're still here, which is good.
John is, I think, very surprised at the successes that we've had,
but the cherry on what's already been a very lovely cake...
..will be a wildcat on one of these camera traps.
Fingers and toes crossed.
'We've already picked up the pine marten camera traps,
'so head off to a nearby hotel to view the footage.'
Pick a card, any card.
How are you feeling about this?
Actually rather excited.
It's like Christmas morning.
That's us framing up.
So that's still... There I am.
And these are clips with something on them?
These are when it's been triggered.
So whether I triggered it 12 times.
Six times, seven times.
Oh, hang on.
Let's have a look.
Something's triggered it.
-You never know, it might have been...
-Movement of something.
..a sort of bat flying through.
-I think there's one more.
-There's one more.
Right, let's see, John.
-That's a lot of.
-That's a lot, isn't it?
-That's a lot of clips.
-This is all the setting up.
-That is your pine marten.
That is a real...
-Is that what they look like?
Look at it.
-Two of them!
So my hands have actually got the shakes here.
I wasn't expecting that, actually.
Look at that.
Bloody brilliant! Look, they're really...
So how was my description, a bearlike cat?
Yeah, absolutely right, yes.
Very sharp teeth.
Their eyes obviously don't shine, that's the infrared light
-Look at that.
-They're perfectly relaxed, as well.
Look at him, what a handsome beast he is.
And that branch was as thick as my wrist
and he's just balancing perfectly.
It's the honey he's interested in, though.
-Look he's licking, isn't he?
-A honey addict.
-He's been very thorough.
-He is eating the peanuts, but he's...
-Oh, he heard something there.
-They don't... Oh, look!
-Look, another one.
That's what he was...
Oh, that jump.
Look at this one, this one's face is a little bit different.
It's sharper, isn't it, and more...
It could be siblings.
Or, it could be a mother and one of its young.
Whatever the relationship is between these two,
this is the more dominant one because that other one would
have stayed there and polished off all of that honey.
Yes, and did a runner when this one arrived. Yeah, yes.
Look at that tail.
-Yeah, and see how he's balancing and...
-Well, we did it.
-We certainly did.
And we didn't have to get cold and wet
and spend half the night sitting in the forest.
Look at that.
That is a beautiful jay, isn't it?
-He's after the peanuts.
'But the million-dollar question is, do we have a wildcat on camera?
'I would be ecstatic if we did.'
-That's not good.
-That's not good.
-Just one entry.
That is very disappointing.
Dash, dash, dash.
-Is that it, or do we?
-No, I've got another two.
-That is disappointing.
-That's the cat urine going in.
Wasn't strong enough, you see.
We blitzed that place, look.
Can you blame them for not wanting to come along
and sniff cat urine? I mean...
To be fair, it did absolutely pong.
But, I think, I've see it work before as an enticement.
-What a shame.
One more card from a different location.
That other site that we had a trap out at.
'Remember Roo, the project manager we met?
'Well, these cards are from his camera traps.'
Oh, no, there's lots of them.
Don't get excited, because I've got excited like this before
-and it's been movement of the branches.
-This is three minutes.
-That must be the branch there, mustn't it?
This is 3:16 in the morning.
-Oh, look at this.
-What is that?
-It's definitely a wildcat.
-It certainly is.
Well, the back of a wildcat.
-Often, well, almost always, we find the back of wildcat.
-You need to find the front.
-We need to find the front.
-Look at that.
-Look at that.
-And it's a beauty.
-Look see the stripes down its neck.
A stripe down into his tail.
That is certainly a wildcat, a really good example of a wildcat.
Look at that.
What a beauty.
I mean, the thing is, you know, we saw them,
of course, in the wildlife park,
which was wonderful, heart-stopping.
But, this is a real, live...
-..out in the wild and it's alive
and it's having a great time.
-A wildcat. A very wild...
-A wild wildcat.
-A wild wildcat.
Look at the head lamps.
It's gone for the grouse.
-Like a leopard.
-Oh, oh, oh.
That is beautiful.
Oh, God, this makes it all worthwhile,
it really, really, really does.
See, with the claws, clinging on...?
Climbing trees is not a problem for these animals.
-What about that!
In daylight, in colour.
-Look at the belly on it.
It's not getting enough exercise.
What a handsome creature that is.
I came here really because I wanted to see a wildcat
and I've seen the real thing, but this is more of the real thing,
because this is what they look like in the wild.
A wild wildcat.
What a pleasure it is to see that.
-You did it.
-No, we did it.
What a success. The whole thing was a huge success.
It means one hell of a lot to me.
You quite possibly picked the toughest species
at the toughest time of year. So to come away
with these results is fantastic.
Thanks so much for showing me all these things.
It's really given me something to invigorate my entire life.
-Let's do it again. Let's go somewhere warm, tropical.
Gordon and John are in the beautiful Cairngorms in search of the rarest and most elusive creature in the UK - the Scottish wildcat. John has yearned to see one since childhood, so the pressure is on Gordon to come up with one in just three days.
On their journey, they also make their way up the mountains on the lookout for reindeer and one of the hardiest little birds, the ptarmigan. Red squirrels inhabit the pine forests as does another elusive creature that John would love to see - the pine marten. Gordon has his work cut out for him, but John is a fascinating companion with many tales to tell to fill the hours as they wait for the wildlife to appear.