Chris Packham, Kate Humble, Martin Hughes-Games and Michaela Strachan reunite and return to Springwatch's home at Ynys-hir, to look back at an amazing year of live broadcasting.
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This is the Ynis-hir reserve in west Wales in the depths of winter,
a glorious place to celebrate the Springwatch Christmas Special.
It's been an upside-down, topsy-turvy,
back-to-front year as far as the weather's been concerned,
and we'll be bringing you the very latest
on how that has affected our wildlife.
Salmon leaping, beavers beavering and ospreys migrating -
what's the latest on our biggest stories from 2011?
We investigate mistletoe.
It may be thought of as a romantic Christmas decoration
but it also has a sinister side,
and Santa Packham gets some rather special Christmas presents.
That national treasure, Mr Bill Oddie, will be providing us
with some wild seasonal party games to enjoy,
and we'll be getting close and very intimate
with some of our favourite British birds.
Won't we, love?
-Look at it in here, it's looking so Christmassy!
Yes, but truly, team, when we're not here, it's a studio now.
-It is a tractor shed because when we arrived, there was a tractor here!
There's still that faint, lingering aroma of manure and diesel.
-Makes you feel at home.
Look, I didn't spend a lot.
Those are Michaela's, those are yours, Kate.
Martin, yours are over here.
-Mine's in the post.
-Here you go!
I don't want a mince pie and an orange!
It's not a Dickensian Christmas!
-I was hoping for a gadget of some kind.
-Sorry about that, Chris.
It's been a great year for wildlife but extraordinary, seasonally.
The spring - so warm and dry, it was incredible.
You know what was amazing? What I noticed at home is, in the woods,
all the wild flowers seemed to come out in a rush.
Usually, the wild garlic will come out
-then there's a break and the bluebells. All together.
And then it changed to summer.
A radical change too, because it became very cool and wet.
It was autumn - some people called it a second summer.
It just went on and on, it was so warm, so hot.
In my back garden on 29th September,
I took a photograph of 14 red admirals on one plant.
The whole garden was full of them!
-Then we waited for the winter, but it's here now!
-It definitely is.
-You can feel it,
it's a mite chilly, especially in our very festive tractor shed.
We love to talk about the weather, and we do it all the time,
but let's go over to the BBC Weather Centre
and get the facts from Jay Wynne.
The rainfall pattern is certainly of interest this year.
Much wetter than you might expect for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
For the bulk of England and Wales, it really was a dry year.
The reason for that is this area of high pressure -
a persistent, blocking high across the near continent -
which has had the effect of driving weather fronts around it,
bringing their rain towards Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Go back to last winter, and I'm sure you remember how cold it was.
Average temperatures well below where they should be,
but don't forget, we did have some mornings where temperatures were -10 or -15C.
All change as we get on into spring of this year.
Actually, it turned out to be the warmest April on record.
A gentle southerly breeze and lots of sunshine to thank for that.
Into the summer, change again.
Cool and wet for many of us, but at least the summertime rain
was good news for the plants and animals across the UK.
More on that coming up later in the programme.
Autumn turned out to be the second-warmest autumn on record.
Still very wet, though,
but most of that rain not falling where we need it.
By the end of this year,
the blocking high across the near continent has disappeared
and that's opened the floodgates for winter storms to come barrelling in
from the Atlantic, bringing wind and rain to all parts of the UK,
but it does look as if Scotland and western parts of the UK
bore the brunt of the worst of it.
Thanks, Jay. I think Chris and Martin have ventured outside.
-Over to you, guys.
-Cast your mind back to spring again.
If you remember, it was very hot. That settled weather over Africa
and northern Europe encouraged some migrants to arrive very early,
including here at Ynis-hir, the beautiful and exotic red star.
What a bird.
-Male red star.
-Gorgeous birds and they all fledged in the end.
they will be back in Africa.
-Whereabouts in Africa will they go?
-That tiny bird.
Not the only striking migrant that we saw here,
we also had the wonderful pied flycatchers as well.
Male ones equally as attractive. We followed two nests
and sadly they both failed, but there was good reason for this.
They were breeding late in the season and there simply wasn't enough food at that time.
At the moment, those birds would have gone back to sub-Saharan Africa.
They'll be heading back here again next year and, fingers crossed,
they'll be successful and we'll be here to see if they are.
What about those oystercatchers? If you remember, in Springwatch,
they were sitting on eggs, and my colleague predicated those eggs would not hatch.
-I disagreed, he was right.
-My predictions normally fail!
-They never did hatch out.
-They were on there for such long time and looking at their behaviour,
it did look to me like the eggs were infertile.
Again, this is a species that is very long-lived.
Oystercatchers live into their 30s, so they will have another chance.
Another strategy that birds have if they do fail is that they can double-breed
and Kate is with a species that double-brooded here this year.
That barn that you're seeing behind me
was home to one of our most fascinating and wonderful Springwatch families this year.
It was our family of barn owls.
I have to tell you this isn't one of our Springwatch barn owls.
Avon, look at the camera.
This is Avon, she is about ten years old.
It's just a good excuse to hold a barn owl in the hand.
When you get that opportunity, I always like to take it.
Let's remind you about our barn owl family.
We had two adults who were incredibly meticulous parents
and there were four chicks, ranging in size from quite big ones
right down, like those Russian doll families, to a really little one,
one that captured your hearts, and you called him Barn Owl Baby,
or Bob for short, and Bob now has his very own Facebook page.
Our barn owl chicks had some fairly big challenges.
They did get very hot in that barn and we saw them all panting,
Bob looking rather worse for wear at one point and we did wonder
if he was going to survive the heat, but luckily he did
and a lot of that was down to their parents
and you can see just how much food they brought in.
Those babies were absolutely stuffed.
That wonderful parenting really did pay off. All four of those chicks,
I'm delighted to be able tell you, did fledge successfully
and that rather reflected what happened with barn owls
throughout the country this year.
Many of them managed to raise over three chicks,
which is higher than average and several of them double-brooded,
and that was thanks to the lovely, warm, dry spring we had,
unlike this wild winter day we're having now,
and the fact it was a very good vole year.
So, Avon, this was definitely a year for the barn owl.
Thousands of you tuned in to watch those barn owls on the live webcams
but the webcams, the message board, the blogs are just one way of communicating with you.
How about direct communication?
How about challenging Chris Packham face to face?
# Merry Christmas I don't want to fight tonight
# Merry Christmas I don't want to fight tonight
# Merry Christmas I don't want to fight tonight. #
Wow, that is pretty special.
Where off you find it, George?
-In my granddad's back garden.
-What were you doing when you found it?
We were chopping logs.
What did you think it was as soon as you saw it?
We thought it was some clever ant, or something.
Then what, did Granddad think about it for a bit?
He thought it was a leafcutter bee.
-You thought this was the nest of a leafcutter bee?
Do you know what? I think you are 100% right!
I'll tell you a bit about these bees.
There are about eight British species of leafcutter bee.
They cut the leaf and make a small... Almost like a cigar,
as they go along so each one of these is a separate cell.
So what happens is, the bee makes the first part, fills it up with
pollen and honey, lays an egg it and uses about four or five circles
that it cuts of leaf to block the end of it
and then it builds the next one, so it would have made this one first
then worked its way all the way up the log to here.
Tell you what, George, I think this is the best example
of a leafcutter bee that I have ever seen.
-With some leaves.
A very remarkable twig, it has all the clues you need
but it is a most unusual tree.
I think there are probably six of them in the country.
-So you might not have bumped into it before.
-Is it a native species?
It's a variant of a native species.
I'm looking at the leaves and they are showing very smooth, clean edges.
-The leaves are no help to you at all.
-No help at all?
-No, you'll have to work from other clues on it.
-The buds just look like oak buds to me.
-They do indeed.
I'm going top concede. Go on, then, Richard, you got me.
-You're absolutely right, it's called a cluster oak.
-A cluster oak?
It's a variant of the ordinary Quercus roba, it's a bit of a cheat,
-really, to expect you to know what it is but I thought you'd enjoy the challenge.
Of course, I was completely unaware of this variant's existence
so thank you for bringing it in.
It was quite a challenge, I have to say, oak and the bees!
-One more for you, Chris.
-Have a quick look at that.
"Dear Autumnwatch, my name is Gary and I'm nine years old.
"'I was out walking with my dog, Darkie, with my dad
"when I found this skull. Please can you tell me what animal it is from?'
Gary, this is the best Christmas present I have had so far,
-these two got me nothing.
-It's a fox's skull.
It's very dog-like if looked at from the top and it has very distinct canine teeth,
small molars at the back.
It's generally the shape and size which tell you this is a fox's skull.
Gary, we've got your address, we'll send it back because you need to treasure this!
I treasure my skulls. Here's one interesting comparison.
This is a badger's skull, you can see it has that great big ridge on the back,
different from the fox and here's my personal favourite, this skull, what do you think it is?
-Looks a bit fierce!
-Obviously smaller than the badger and fox.
-It's my pussy cat, Tabby.
-Stop it! Is it really?
-Yes, he died.
I buried him and I brought him back up because I couldn't bear to be without him.
-Isn't that a lovely skull?
-That's quite sad.
I'll tell you something,
I'm not sure I want the skulls of Itchy and Scratchy
at some stage in the future.
-They are beautiful objects!
I'm going to see a man about a beetle. Excuse me.
I'm going to put you to the test and I'm going to test the viewers
with sounds of the spring. These have already been on the website
and some of you have made guesses, but take a listen to these sounds.
-I think that one's hard.
Got that one.
You should get that one.
Only because of Springwatch.
-Do you know that one?
-Go on, then.
-The last one was a puffin, I know that.
The first one was a buzzard.
There was a red star, which I only know because of Springwatch,
And now I've run out of ideas. That last one is impossible!
All of them were featured on Springwatch. How many did you get?
Have a look.
Here is a little scientific gem for you.
This year, water boatmen like those you've just heard,
have been shown to be the loudest animals on Earth proportional to their body size,
producing sounds at 99.2 decibels,
which is the same volume as you would hear if
you were standing alongside a freight train passing
and the man who recorded our water boatmen out there
is the one and only Chris Watson, sound man extraordinaire.
Did you expect to hear that when you put your microphone in there?
No, it's fantastic, that's what I love about doing this,
it's like fishing for sound.
I just dip my hydrophones, underwater microphones, below the surface
just as the stream enters the lake and it was all revealed, fantastic.
These lesser water boatmen are producing the sound by stridulating,
which is what lots of invertebrates do, isn't it?
-Yes, it's a mechanical song.
-They do it by rubbing bits of their boy together, don't they?
I think I can hear one now! RHYTHMIC CLICKING
I think I can hear some stray stridulating!
-Is that about right, Chris?
-Faster, more rhythm! Get in the groove a bit.
-I like it.
-Think so, pretty quick.
Honestly! We looked into this, and we've got some scanning electron microscope pictures.
Take a look, these were produced by Dr James Windmill and Dr Shira Gordon
from the Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering,
University of Strathclyde,
and also to Dr Jerome Sueur in Paris,
who studied the boatmen as well.
Chris, you can see here, under high magnification, the ridges
and the little hook which is producing the sound. Amazing.
Yeah. The way they come together.
Presumably they come together quite rapidly to produce that sound,
And it's a chorus, there's lots of them there,
not just a single lesser water boatmen, it's a chorus of song.
We were amazed to discover this but equally amazed when,
after the programme, someone contacted us to tell us
that the sound was actually being produced by the animal's penis, which is extraordinary,
and of course it is a mating call that they are doing as well.
For people listening at home, is this something they could do?
Could they go fishing for sound or do you need specialist kit?
No, I'd encourage it. As you would expect, I have a very posh, expensive hydrophone,
but you can go to an electronics store and get a relatively simple contact microphone,
find a way of waterproofing it and try it out in your garden pond at home.
-What, a couple of pounds, ten pound?
-A few pounds.
-Fishing for sound.
-It's an incredible way of revealing sounds of the natural world
that we don't normally have the opportunity of hearing and it's all around us.
Thanks. I like that, fishing for sound. We'll be doing more of that later with some more soundscapes
and Chris wasn't the only expert we had out in field, there were plenty more.
One of the highlights of Springwatch was when Charlie Hamilton James
went to investigate the reintroduction of beavers into Scotland.
The Scottish beaver trial is a five-year project
which is trying to establish whether these once-native creatures can be successfully reintroduced.
It's two years into that project
and Charlie was given unprecedented access
which allowed us to witness beaver behaviour
that we've never seen before.
(I can't quite believe I'm looking at a new species of animal
(and it's right there.)
It's just incredible.
Beavers are rather shy, secretive mammals
with an enormous talent for engineering.
Their skill in felling trees and building dams
create the waterways they need and dramatically change the landscape.
Being largely nocturnal, nightfall was the key time to see them.
Each beaver is microchipped so that it can be easily identified
and Charlie witnessed a health check every beaver undergoes regularly
to see how they are coping with life in Scotland.
Wow! I can't believe how big it is. It's massive!
What's this telling us so far from all these measurements?
In quarantine, you do lose a bit of body condition.
Since the first couple of years of release,
they are putting on weight and getting, as you can tell, in good condition.
Then Frank is free to go about his beavery business.
And Charlie had plenty more tricks up his sleeve
in order to see beaver behaviour at close quarters.
Beavers love apples. So I'm going to try and tempt them with one
by sticking it on a spike like that,
and sticking it in the water,
right in front of the lens.
I can't believe it!
I can't believe it's doing it! I got it straightaway, it's right here.
Oh, my heart!
My heart is going completely wild.
It's ten to three in the morning and suddenly the beaver
just appeared in the canal, and we got it, I was so chuffed.
Next, he tempted them with their favourite nibble, aspen leaves.
That worked, look at that!
Hopefully, when they get out of bed, they will be able to smell
this aspen which we can't smell at all, doesn't smell of anything, just leaves.
Apparently they can distinguish this from all the other trees in the area,
and because there isn't any aspen in this immediate area,
hopefully they'll come straight for it.
I've been reliably informed this guy is called Christian
and what he's trying to do is cut the tree so it falls into the water.
It's safer and easier for him to have the tree in the water.
Oh, there he goes!
Look at the speed!
Never seen a beaver move so fast, but the tree missed him.
He just got out of the way in time.
If you look back... Look, there it goes.
It caught him completely by surprise, he leaps back really fast and then
just gets out the way as fast as he can,
gets into the safely of the water and just gets away with it.
Charlie was having a bit of a laugh here with that tree not falling on the beaver
but in the wild, falling trees are a significant cause
of natural mortality for beavers.
It does happen. What about the trial, because it's not without its fair share of controversy.
Some people believe that beavers modify the environments and greatly enhance biodiversity,
therefore they're good news for nature.
On the other hand, there are people who fear that, when they become wild,
they'll harm forestry, farming and fishing interests. What do you think?
Please feel free to voice your opinions on our website.
We've been catching up on the latest with the trial
and since the summer, a youngster has been born
and here's a photograph of it.
We're not sure which sex it is yet but it's still doing well.
We've also been in touch with the beaver trial
to get some latest footage and this is what they've sent us.
Here are the beavers and they're preparing for winter,
there's lot of tree-felling and stocking-up
for this difficult season.
They're creating a larder of food stores
because they're not a hibernating species and this is new,
we've not seen these Scottish beavers doing this.
They're making repairs to their lodges.
They're doing really well, which is great news, and it's fingers crossed
that the whole beaver trial moves closer to a successful conclusion.
Let's change tack now and move off to one of Wales' most famous islands, Skomer,
where Iolo Williams is getting to grips with puffins.
Through winter, Skomer is a lonely place battered by Atlantic storms.
But things start to liven up in mid-March
when the island's most colourful residents return from a winter
spent feeding far out at sea.
As breeding season approaches,
the puffins start to re-colonise the island.
The birds reunite with their same mate from the previous year
and they get to know each other again with a spot of bill-rubbing,
a kind puffin foreplay.
For birds who have rekindled their relationship,
it's time for a spot of nest-building.
Birds come back to the same part of the island every year.
They can dig a new burrow but usually,
they just make use of an already established one from a previous year.
This is where they'll settle down to make the next of puffins.
The sun is shining and the puffins are out on the water
in their hundreds, so Mike the cameraman and I, are going to see
if we can snorkel after them and have a closer look. Here we go.
Outside the few months of the breeding season,
puffins spend all their lives at sea.
They don't rest on land, they rest on the surface of the water like this.
They are expert divers.
Look at that, zipping past. They really do fly under water.
Sand eels are what the puffins are diving for. They are very oily,
nutritious fish and definitely the puffin's favourite food.
It's a big day when the first puffin is seen on the island with
a beakful of fish because that means the first chick has hatched.
I'm really excited about this because we promised you all week
we'd try and get you a puffling, a young puffin,
and we think we know where there's a burrow with a youngster in it.
Look at that! Got a bit of a dusty head. A little puffling.
Come on, Chris, I know we've got to be pretty quick as well.
Are you going to weigh and measure?
We're measuring the growth rates of the puffins
so we can work out how successful they are doing through the season.
So it's important work? Can I just point out one thing?
Go in on the beak and see that light colour at the end?
That's the egg tooth.
Yes, a small, hard calcium deposit
they use to help them escape from the egg.
-How old is this one?
-About ten days.
-And it'll be in the burrow how long?
Usually be fed for about three or four weeks and then the young
will start to come out of the burrow, start exploring.
This one weighs 85 grams,
they'll be about 300 grams when they come to fledge.
The adults are usually a bit heavier,
about 400 grammes so he's doing well.
You saw the little beak, which is not coloured at all.
A bit of a surprise for most people and that will stay that colour
for the first couple of years of its life.
It will get bigger but they won't develop the colourful bills until they're about two years old.
Ta-ta, puffling. Excellent.
That's got to be just about the cutest thing I've ever seen
and it gives me an excuse to use my favourite word of the week, puffling.
Michaela, can you just image those poor puffins?
They're not on the land but just sitting out right now on the freezing-cold sea.
They've got feathers, Martin, they'll be all right.
-Don't worry about them.
-I'm worried about them.
The unusual weather we had in 2011 didn't just affect birds
but butterflies as well.
The early spring meant that many species emerged substantially earlier than usual
but then we had the coldest summer in 18 years
and that meant that many butterflies suffered.
But 2011 was a good year for butterfly research.
We had the results of the biggest-ever survey of British butterflies
and it showed that three quarters of the butterflies
that breed in this country, their numbers are down.
It feels that way. They're just not around so much.
There was some good news of a different kind, as you seem to care about butterflies.
There was the big butterfly count and 34,000 people took part in that.
But it did confirm numbers were down. Some good news,
small tortoiseshells that you see in the garden,
peacocks as well, they are holding their own
and some very good news, red admirals,
that classic butterfly, their numbers are up 98%,
so some positives.
Although we had that cold summer, we then had the warm autumn
which was very good for rare moths and we had loads of them
migrating to this country, including your favourite.
The hummingbird hawk-moth. It looks like a tiny hummingbird,
like a little gentleman in a too-tight waistcoat.
-A good description!
-There was a survey this year
and we asked you on Unsprung
if you had seen hummingbird hawk-moths near you.
9,600 of you responded, an incredible number.
There were hummingbird hawk-moths all the way from the Orkneys
in the north to the Scilly Isles the south. The whole country had hummingbird hawk-moths.
So a bit of bad new but a bit of good news as well.
That's the natural world. Right, Chris! Kate!
-Brilliant little things.
-They are fantastic, aren't they?
What I call dinky, fantastic to watch buzzing around. It's been a brilliant year for moths
particularly this autumn with warm southerlies blowing migrants
from further south in Europe into the south of England.
Crimson-speckled, best year for 50 years, Oleander hawk-moth,
a monster of a moth, and then something very special
called a Clifden nonpareil,
blue underwings, I wish I'd seen one of those.
Got such fantastic names, moths. An incredibly diverse species.
-there's so many things to look at.
and if you want to encourage these and butterflies to your garden there is plenty you can do.
Think about planting things that produce lots of nectar
but you've got to think about the caterpillars too,
so research which food plants are appropriate for whichever species you may be able to help out.
Another tip is, if you've got any fruit trees in your garden,
leave some of the fallen fruit as they love to feed on that
and try not to use pesticides particularly on or near the plants.
We've got lots of tips on our website. Check those out.
We have also had on our website, some quite tricky little soundscapes.
Let's remind you of the summer one.
That's my favourite.
I knew you would like that one.
They're not easy. I think there's some tricky ones in there, to be honest.
Particularly the second one. If you got the second one, have a drink on me.
Let's take a look and see what they were.
Well, congratulations to all of you who got those questions right.
-That was pretty tough.
-Very, very tough, I'd say.
Now, let's join Iolo again.
This time he's underwater,
exploring the wonderful marine world of Skomer.
The waters are murky, but a lot of the murk in the water
is actually tiny particles of food,
that most of the animals here feed on.
I tell you, the sheer variety of creatures
and colours down here is just mind-blowing.
This is a sea cucumber
and the whole floor here is covered with them.
Spider crab here. This is a small one.
They can grow to be a metre across and more.
This amazing looking thing is a Ross coral or,
to give it its proper name, it's a potato crisp bryozoan.
There's a fancy name for you.
It's a whole series of minute little creatures living together and,
if you look carefully, you can see a real fuzz along the surface.
Those are tentacles, filtering all these nutrients out of the water.
These, and so many other things,
are able to flourish here on Skomer because it is a protected area.
There is no trawling with nets, there are no boats mooring everywhere.
These are beautiful but very, very fragile too.
But there was one animal, above all the others, that I wanted to see.
This is the pink sea fan.
Usually associated with warmer waters,
it's right at the northern edge of its range here on Skomer.
It gives the place that kind of tropical feel to it.
It's a soft coral, quite fragile, it will bend with the swell
and they say that this, in cold water,
grows at almost a centimetre every year,
so this must be 50 to 60 years old.
Look at it. Wrapped in it, is a dogfish egg case, look at that.
Every square centimetre of rock is covered,
either in sponges or anemones or seaweed.
Skomer, what a fantastic place.
If you've never been, put it on your list of things to do for 2012.
Definitely do that.
The reason that the marine life is so special around Skomer,
is that it is a designated marine nature reserve.
And the great news is that there's a petition out at the moment
to protect a larger area of the sea around Skomer.
It's one of 127 possible marine conservation zones
that are being considered around the coast of the UK.
We did hope that this network of marine protected areas
would be finalised by January 2012.
Unfortunately, there have been some delays.
There's a bit more consultation needed.
But we should know what areas of our spectacular marine environment
are going to get protection, by July.
We've got some more marine news, haven't we?
Some of it's good, some of it's not so good.
Basking sharks, not so many sightings of basking sharks in 2011.
Nobody really knows why.
Normally, you see them around the Isle of Man and of the southwest coast of Cornwall.
But, good news, lots of sightings of jellyfish in 2011.
Which you wouldn't think was a good thing
but it did have a fantastic result, didn't it?
It's good for leatherback turtles because they eat jellyfish,
so lots of sightings of those.
Best since 2005, which is fantastic news.
Do you remember on Springwatch, Kate, you had a surfer guy...?
Mickey Smith, loves the waves, got a great response from the viewers,
so, back by popular demand, here is surfer dude Mickey Smith.
I've always been around the sea,
since I was born, I guess.
Ever since, I spend half my life staring out to sea
and the other half swimming around, staring back at that.
Filming and photographing the sea has always come naturally to me.
I like to try and open people's eyes a little bit to different perspectives of life around the sea.
Photographing waves and the ocean has made me
kind of take into account more of the details.
Every single one of those waves is completely individual.
No one wave breaks the same.
It's like this crazy, ever-changing canvas.
I like to set myself the challenge of going out
and trying to capture one beautiful moment
from each time I'm in the sea, you know?
The little things around you, the little details,
the light moving on the surface of the ocean,
the mist hanging in the air after a wave
or the rainbows through the spray off the back of a wave.
Even over a couple of hours, things can change,
a storm front can move through, the sky can go from purple to gold
to black to grey to beautiful blue, you know?
It's like all the stuff is constantly moving.
The elements never stop moving around you and it's nice to feel
like you are part of that and just observe it, you know?
It's an amazing environment, it's so full of life.
Totally mind blowing experience, catching waves with dolphins.
They seem to be really doing it for fun and enjoying themselves.
Sometimes you do meet solo dolphins who are like,
they are just cruising around the coastlines on their own.
There's one called Dusty.
You can tell she just loves riding waves.
She just cant really figure it out
because obviously we are nowhere near as good at it as she is.
She's trying to help us out and teach us a few tricks,
but we're just not cut out for it really.
A lot of the time you see birds using waves.
Obviously, as a wave is moving through the ocean,
a big wave anyway, it must create some kind of updraft
and the birds seem to come along the face of the wave for ages,
just gliding along it.
I can't tell whether they are doing that for fun or whether
they are doing that looking for fish, but it looks pretty fun to me.
I wish I could do it.
I like that feeling of isolation and being around the wilderness,
when it's really raw and there is lots of energy flying around,
all over the place.
I think you end up feeling scared a lot
because you are in an environment that's totally beyond your control.
If there was no fear involved in going in the sea,
it wouldn't half as much fun, most of the time.
You learn good lessons for life in general
from putting yourself in those situations, really.
You can't help but be humbled by that. I think it's good for you.
It's good for you to be taken out of thinking you're in control of your life
and put into a situation where you are not,
and learn to be OK with that.
What a fabulous film.
Now, at this time of year,
it's actually a very good time to go down to the seaside.
Why? Get some drama in your life.
Look at this photograph, taken by John Moncrieff in Shetland.
Look at the drama there.
But also, second thing,
it's a very good time to see some wildlife, unexpected wildlife.
Here is another photograph from John Moncrieff. What's that?
A humpback whale. Photographed just a couple of weeks ago.
In fact, whales have been seen all round the British coast this winter.
And there's a third reason to go to the seaside, go beachcombing.
You might find something special to challenge that erudite man,
that walking encyclopaedia, Mr Chris Packham.
Now that is a very beautiful thing. Where did you find it?
I found it on a pebbly beach in South Wales.
I was looking on the pebbles to see if I could find any shells
and I found the skull. I didn't know what it was.
-Why do you think it's a skull?
-Because of the shape.
That's like the ears, and eye-sockets.
First thing I can say, it isn't a skull.
I think I know why you think it's a skull
and that's because it's symmetrical and because, as you say,
it's got what you think are eye sockets here.
In fact, this is a hip bone.
And those sockets there are where the leg bones of this animal
-would have been placed. It's very light, isn't it?
If you put that on the ground and there was a gust of wind, it would blow away.
Which animals wouldn't want to be heavy?
Probably... maybe fish or birds.
Birds. It's a seabird hip girdle.
It could be a gull. Plenty of seagulls die on beaches.
But it's a very, very beautiful object, isn't it?
For those of you who think that I'm chief geek,
I've got to say, I was outshone by 15-year-old Alex Rhodes.
It's... I'd go for one of the small warblers.
I'm thinking along Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.
I'm thinking, because it's a little more yellow underneath the wing,
I'm going to go for willow warbler.
-Well, you were on the right track.
If you turn it back over, we've really gone into the nitty-gritty details here.
-I like the nitty-gritty, so come on.
Let's take one of these primary feathers.
You can see it's got this lovely little green tinge to it.
it dips in towards the ratchet, so it runs parallel, dips in,
-that's what we call an emargination.
Now, the key difference between a Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff,
forgetting all the other things like song and perhaps body colour,
is the number of emarginations on a primary feather.
That's marvellous, go on.
Primary number six is the key.
We look at that and, you tell me, is there emargination?
There is, just towards the end of it.
OK, so that's pretty much given us the definitive answer.
If there is emargination on the sixth primary, it is a Chiffchaff.
It's a Chiffchaff! An emarginated sixth primary, what a fool I feel!
I love the detail!
That was fantastic! You were out-geeked!
I was out-geeked but I enjoyed being out-geeked.
He was a remarkable young man and I learned something.
There's nothing more exciting than that.
But, moving from a small, charming bird to a much larger
and more magnificent species.
This is Saxon. Thanks very much, Neil, for bringing Saxon in.
What a gorgeous bird, a golden eagle!
It always amazes me just how enormous they are when you get this close.
-It's one thing seeing them in the sky. Two metre wingspan, can we see that?
Will she put her wings out? Oh, look at that!
Is just awesome, isn't it, Chris?
It is an awesome bird. Look at the talons too.
I mean, you just wouldn't want to be predated,
to be quite honest, would you?
-We saw them on Isla.
-Yeah! We had really good views, didn't we?
Top views of a bird in flight, a young bird, which was excellent.
But, of course, we also saw that other bird on the ground,
feeding on a rabbit, which was a top treat as well.
They do pretty well in Isla don't they, Chris?
They are pretty much at carrying capacity,
that means, all of the birds that can live there, are living there.
Western Scotland has been a stronghold for some time
but one of the things we've got to think about these birds is,
because they can feed on such a wide variety of prey,
they once occurred all over the UK, not just the Highlands of Scotland,
but into southern England as well. And, indeed, all over Europe.
And it's really only through human persecution that they've
been pushed to the extremities these days.
-But they are simply stunning.
-It's the top tick.
-It's a top tick to see in the wild!
-It certainly is.
A top tick to see this one here now. Neil, thanks very much indeed.
Moving from one magnificent animal to another,
Charlie Hamilton James went to Scotland with a new piece of technology,
which allowed us some extraordinary views of the Atlantic Salmon.
Now, when a salmon leaps, it's so fast,
it's got be fast to get up that waterfall.
What we've got here, is a super slow motion camera.
This will slow everything right down.
Of course, it doesn't matter how fancy your camera is,
if you are not paying attention, you don't get the shot.
Ah, nearly had that one!
Well, I pressed the button, let's hope I got it.
I certainly did get it
and the slow motion reveals something of how the salmon jump.
As it flies upwards through the air, this fish has its pectoral fins,
those are the ones just behind its gills, tucked in,
clearly making itself as streamlined as possible,
in the hope of making a successful leap.
But the fish hasn't done enough to reach the top
so now it pushes those pectoral fins outwards,
to slow itself down and cushion its blow as it hits the water.
Something I never would have seen with the naked eye.
It's interesting the difference in some of these fish.
Some are huge, some are small, some are silver, some brown.
The brown ones have been in the river longer,
some of them have been here since the spring
and they've been waiting for these autumn rains to fill the rivers up,
to allow them to head up to spawn.
The more silvery fish are more recent.
Some of them might have just come from the sea but
because the rivers are now swollen, they can get up river to spawn.
Woah! Did you see that?
That was massive!
Let's check I got it.
This is clearly one of those fish, straight from the sea.
It's a beautiful, rich mix of silvers, blues and purples.
Amazing shots. Don't you love it?
The sheer effort of those salmon to swim upstream
all in the name of procreation.
And that slow motion really captures that fantastic
journey that they make.
The leap! Right, time for Autumn soundscape.
Quite tricky again, but have a listen to these sounds.
GRUNTING ANIMAL SOUNDS
Number one, not too bad.
Oh, yeah. I think I know what that is.
HONKING ANIMAL SOUNDS
They all start sounding the same.
Very, very difficult sounds. Beck Train, thank you very much.
You got a couple of them right, but not all of them.
Should we find out what they were? How many do you think you got?
-I would say two, confidently. Maybe three.
-Two for me as well.
Number one I definitely got. Here are the answers.
Answer number one, Kate, was Fallow Deer which reminds me
of one of my highlights from Autumnwatch,
which was to go out in the woods with gamekeeper Martin Heaven,
to follow the Fallow Deer rut.
We know we are getting close now because that very distinctive sound,
I don't know if you can hear it, just have a listen,
that sort of bellowing noise, that is the Fallow Deer buck.
And that's him calling the females in.
That was great.
That was excellent.
We actually saw him go past, chase the doe,
and his antlers just looked spectacular.
Listen to him, he's not stopping, he's not giving up on that doe.
Can you see him?
Yeah, I can see him chasing.
Here he comes.
And it's great because those does haven't spotted us yet.
Well, you can pretty much see what's happening here.
The buck is trying to keep the does in this area
because this is his territory.
Every time the does go off, he starts bellowing to call them in
and then tries to push them back .
You do occasionally see a younger male, it's called a prickett,
try and mate one of the does.
This particular prickett is black
and this coloured difference isn't unusual in Fallow Deer.
They don't seem very interested and I'm sure it's not successful,
but they like to have a go.
He's been here for virtually a week.
-Calling like that right through...
-Right through the day?
And the night. He's a real good buck.
For me, it's been a brilliant day out.
It's a wild and wintry scene on the estuary,
very different from what it looked like during Springwatch.
You may remember that Chris and I would stand out on this point
and we would be watching the herons, the heronry was just nearby.
And the buzzards were nesting in the trees, just across there.
But there was one nest that kept us all on the edge of seats.
In fact, it was a historical moment that Springwatch witnessed.
The nest was just across the Dyfi estuary, about half a kilometre away.
That nest, of course, belonged to Nora, an osprey.
She laid three eggs and of those three eggs all hatched.
The first time that ospreys had successfully
bred in Wales for over 100 years.
You can imagine how excited we were on the Springwatch team
but the Wildlife Trust Dyfi Osprey Project were beside themselves
and quite right too.
So, after Springwatch, during the summer,
we got in contact with the world osprey expert, Roy Dennis.
He is the only man in the UK,
licensed to fit the birds with radio transmitters.
Each osprey was given a number and name.
The only female was called Leri
and her brothers were Dulas and Einion.
Those satellite tags enabled Roy to follow every moment of the osprey's
progress as they migrated from here all the way down to West Africa.
I've come to find out how our ospreys are getting on
in their new winter home.
From the GPS data we have for the birds, we think that sadly Leri,
the only female, died soon after she arrived.
But the good news is that Einion and Dulas are both still alive
and currently stopped in different parts of Senegal.
Dulas is out of reach for this trip but I'm crossing the Gambia River
and heading up the Senegalese coast to see if I can find Einion.
Before I do that, I want to see why the ospreys make such a huge effort,
flying well over 3,000 miles, to come here.
So I'm stopping at one of the most famous osprey wintering areas
in West Africa, the Sine Saloum Delta in Senegal.
There's just so much food for ospreys here in these warm,
productive Delta waters.
Once the ospreys have got their breakfast,
most of them are heading over to one particular island,
L'ile Des Oiseaux,
Island Of The Birds.
There are so many ospreys here but I really want to get
a closer look at the ones eating their fish on the beach.
That is a brilliant view of this osprey.
It's a female, really broadly striped at the front.
What is really interesting, is that there is a Slender-Bill Gull,
and the Osprey is allowing the gull to take
some of the fish from its bill, without attacking it.
It's incredible behaviour.
I just have not read about that, I didn't know it occurred,
I've never seen it myself.
But now it's time to get on our way and see if we can find Einion.
Samoan Lagoon is the 7,000 hectare area of mangrove, open lagoon,
tidal mudflats and fish-filled channel.
What we are looking for is a bird with a blue ring on its right leg.
And we should be able to see the aerial of Einion's
satellite transmitter on his back.
Difficult to know whether to look left or right,
behind you or in front of you.
There it is!
Our search is feeling more and more hopeless.
There is one just above us. Is it Einion?
Have we found him at last?
-Yeah, I see it.
There he is, suddenly come up over the mangrove
and coming out here to fish.
Look at this other one.
-We got it.
There is no doubt this is Einion.
As we slow the footage down,
you can just see the satellite transmitter on his back.
Roy, I think you need a hug.
For the local fishermen too, this is an exciting moment.
THEY SPEAK FRENCH
This is really interesting.
These fishermen have seen the osprey all their lives
but never really believed they came from the north of Europe.
And today, they have seen the transmitter on Einion
and it has now convinced them that that story is true.
But I think that that's the important issue
about these transmitters,
they are linking our countries, they are linking Wales with Senegal,
Northern Europe with Gambia and Guinea-Bissau.
It's so important we work together for the conservation of ospreys,
over the whole of our globe.
It was an odyssey, mate. An odyssey.
An osprey odyssey and an odyssey for Roy too.
And some fantastic new technology for science.
We were lucky, really.
It was each huge risk, you know, putting those on because
one third normally make it.
So we did well. We were lucky.
Those youngsters won't come back here next year
but what we're hoping is that the adults will and produce another brood.
-We might go through the whole thing again.
Well, the osprey migration may be impressive,
goes to West Africa, but what about swallows?
A bird that has been featured regularly on Springwatch
goes even further, goes all the way to South Africa.
Now, I was in Cape Town recently, guys, and very near to where I was,
was this amazing reed-bed where 1,000s of them roost, every night.
-And you see them come in, 10,000 they will get up to.
At the moment it's about 8000, I think.
More and more are arriving all the time. They started arriving in November.
And you see them, swirling around and coming in to the reed-beds
-every night for protection.
-I would love to see that!
We see swallows normally singly or in pairs or maybe in small groups
before they start on their migration, leaving here.
But I'd love to see 10,000 sparkling, little, blue birds
all whirring around together, in person.
-To be there would be incredible.
-It's a real spectacle.
What would be incredible, is if we can tag those one day
and follow them all the way back.
It's coming. We will, I think. We've got the tags on the nightingales.
They're getting smaller, so maybe we'll be able to follow them one day.
Well, from swallows back to Santa Packham
and some amazing Christmas presents.
Tell me a bit about it then. Where did you find it?
-I found it on Porth Beach, which is near Newquay, in Cornwall.
It was in the back of a very shallow cave.
If I just flip it over,
because that is perhaps the more interesting side, isn't it?
Have you any idea at all what it is?
We've had every suggestion from a baby hammerhead shark through
to part of a lobster and even a dinosaur foot.
A dinosaur foot? I think that's the most imaginative of the answers.
I don't think the person was particularly serious.
This is basically a pharyngeal tooth,
a throat tooth,
of a species called the Ballan Wrasse.
Ballan Wrasse are fish that you find around the coast of the UK.
They grow to about 60 centimetres long.
-And this is used for grinding up their food.
Because the fish eating things such as crustaceans, crabs,
shrimps, if it's a large fish, maybe even small lobsters.
And it needs to be able to break them up before it can digest them.
I must touch it straight away, if that's all right.
-It can be touched, can it?
-You can touch it, you can lick it.
-Just don't bite it.
-Doesn't have any smell, it's quite inert.
-I'm going down the lines of Coprolite.
-Yes, exactly. But whose?
-Which means it's semi-fossilised poo.
These animals are not extinct, but they have gone extinct locally.
-Extinct in the UK?
-Yes, that's right.
-And this was found in the UK?
This was found in the UK, in Norfolk.
So it could be what we would think of as an exotic animal, then?
I can give you some other examples, if that helps you, from exactly the same place.
I thought this one was the closest to what you would find today in East Africa.
Well, you mention it's still extant in other places in the world.
-Yeah, East Africa.
-In East Africa.
-It's well known for being...
So, then we're thinking a safari-type creature,
and then you've got a whole range of predators, including hyena.
Is it hyena?
-It is, it's spotted hyena.
Now, I've always said that poo was important, and now I can say it's poo-laeontologically important, too!
Chris Packham, a man never happier than
when he's in the presence of poo, don't you find?
Talks about it all the time on Autumnwatch!
Anyway, it's time for our fourth and final soundscape.
It is the winter soundscape. Some of them are quite tricky, aren't they?
They were, yeah. Have a listen to it.
-Have you been eating something?
-Sorry about that!
It's either that, or someone's nodded off.
-Now, that's quite...
-Yeah, I think I'd get that one.
DIFFERENT BIRDS CALL Think cold winter mornings.
HIGH-PITCHED BIRD CALL
-Now that one I'd get.
-You should get...
-That one's really hard. Really hard.
-I'd be surprised if anyone got that one.
PHEASANT CALLS That one's nice and easy.
Well, it is for you, because you live in the countryside, you probably hear it all the time.
I do, I do hear it, but it was surprising, we had lots and lots of people
entering the soundscape competition, but not any of you getting all six right, did we?
A lot of people thought there was a rutting deer in there.
I can tell you now that wasn't a rutting deer...
-..but there was something, I'm just going to go.
-OK, you go off.
I'll tell you, somebody did get three right answers.
Steve, the Black Knight said bull grey seal, blackbird alarm, pheasant.
All those three are right.
He did put in green woodpecker as number four.
I can tell you that wasn't right, and in fact,
Kate is coming up the stairs now with a clue of what number four was.
It was, of course, a tawny owl.
That is a wonderful, iconic winter sound.
KATE IMITATES A TAWNY OWL
This is Troy, just to show you the magnificent bird that makes that sound,
and this is really the time of year, isn't it, Mick, that you hear it all over the place.
In the woods around us, at home, when we take the dogs out last thing at night, they're all calling,
establishing territories, ready for their very early breeding season.
In fact, this is the peak time. It starts in the autumn,
and then winter is the real time that you hear that sound.
During Autumnwatch, Chris and I had a great experience watching a tawny owl in Sheffield in a cemetery.
It was so atmospheric, and we could really hear the different calls, it was brilliant.
So that was one of the answers, but what were the other five?
Well, we'll let you know right now.
GREY SEAL ROARS
TAWNY OWL CALLS
BUTTERFLY MAKES ALARM CALL
A peacock butterfly hibernating alarm call. That was the hardest one.
-That really was tough, yeah.
-I think Packham would get that! Where is he?
Well, not only does he like to rummage around in poo,
but he generally likes rummaging, and he's doing it with Martin.
-You got your probe in?
-The probe's in, Chris, and it's revealing information.
Martin, look at this. I am really, really excited. I've discovered something.
You know that peacock butterfly that we've just heard making that extraordinary sound?
"Ultrasonic clicks produced by the peacock butterfly, a possible bat-repellent mechanism."
Mole and Miller, '75.
"The power spectrum of the click matches the most sensitive area of a bat's audiogram.
The clicks might serve as acoustic equivalents of the attack-retarding eyespot display
in the same species."
Basically, hibernating butterflies are repelling bats, which would otherwise eat them.
I mean, I just can't... It's amazing!
While they are hibernating, they're emitting this sound that is repelling the bat?
-Science is wonderful, mate, isn't it?
-There's more science, here. Have a look at this.
-It's amazing, isn't it?
Now, here is the legendary compost heap that we met in Springwatch,
which was full of grass snakes, and you can see why, as well.
It's cold now, maybe four or five degrees for us, but look.
Even now, in the compost heap, that thermal probe is telling us it's 10 degrees in there.
-Double the heat.
And that's why the snakes came here in the summer,
because this was considerably warmer than the ambient temperature here,
and they came, I think, to lay their eggs in here,
and it was acting as a great incubator for them,
and they would have come from hundreds of metres around here to this one particular spot,
but they're not in there now, even though it's warmer,
because at this time of year, what they're principally interested
in is a stable, low temperature, so they've probably found some rodent burrows somewhere,
perhaps somewhere they've been before. They learn the spots and return to them,
and at a lower constant temperature, it means they've got enough
fat reserves to get through the hibernating process.
So, the grass snakes that were in here,
even the little ones that we missed hatching out, sadly,
they wriggled off and they're all hibernating around us now.
-Now, as well as grass snakes on Springwatch this year,
we also looked at arguably the most charismatic of our snakes, the adder.
An amazing animal, and I met an amazing lady.
So amazing, actually, that she was worthy of the Geek Award!
The adder is Britain's only venomous snake,
and as such, has very few friends amongst the general public,
yet it's actually a very secretive snake, and adder bites on humans are rare.
Their striking zigzag patterning helps them blend into their favourite habitat,
but it's also now being used to identify individuals.
It's as unique to an adder as a fingerprint is to a human.
This remarkable discovery was just one of the insights
into the snake's world made by 74-year-old Sylvia Sheldon.
Sylvia, you have to tell me, how did you get into adders?
I started photographing them, and cutting their heads out
and sticking them in this ancient little book. I was aware that they were very individual.
How many do you think that you've identified over the years?
-Hundreds, yes, hundreds.
-And they're all different?
-And they're all different.
This is one of the most incredible documents that I've ever had the privilege to handle.
I was once able to handle some of Darwin's notes,
and some of Wallace's specimens, but this is right up there.
It's absolutely exquisite. Shall we go and see some real snakes?
I think we should, yes.
It took no time at all for Sylvia to lead me to one of her study snakes.
Yes, this is Marie.
She's only a young female.
Could be her first breeding year.
-How old is young?
-Six and a half.
But if six and a half is young, how old is old?
The oldest one we have on the site, I think she's about 32.
Sylvia's dedication is infectious,
and it's rubbed off on her grandson, Alonso, and her close friend, Chris.
They've now joined her in a new project to radio tag
some of her best-known snakes, and map their daily movements.
Interpreting these maps is helping to reveal much, much more about how adders use their habitat.
-So it started under this tree.
He went up here, and was mating and combating.
This is quite a traveller. This is the Marco Polo of adders!
-So, this is the pond here.
-So he crossed over the stream a bit further up.
This project has just given us so much information about the habitat that adders will use,
and really, it's going to help a lot with management in the future, we hope.
I certainly hope so.
Sylvia's work, and the insight into adder life it's revealing,
is truly worthy of Geek status, so I struck a deal involving, surprise, surprise,
a cup of tea and a stuffed poodle.
Well, Sylvia, you kept your side of the bargain. A fine cup of tea, biscuits at the ready.
You can make your acceptance speech now, I'm going to sit back and enjoy it.
Oh, I feel very privileged to have... Mr Scratchy?
Scratchy, yes, red collar. He's the studious one.
Very privileged to have this award. Thank you, Chris!
Now, I couldn't let Chris have Sylvia all to himself,
and those tags kept revealing fascinating information.
I went to meet her myself.
Now, the Geek Award definitely seemed to bring Sylvia and her team some good luck,
because since the tagging project began, they've been able to track the adders far more easily,
with some surprising results.
-So, Sylvia, this is one of your main study areas, here.
Something rather curious happened with those tags. Tell us about that.
Well, we found just the tags, with no adders on them.
-But these tags, we had to dig around in the undergrowth below ground for them.
They'd rubbed off as they were actively feeding,
seeking prey underground.
-Now that's a revelation, isn't it?
So they're going right underground into the vole runs to hunt them, and nobody knew that.
-Well, we certainly didn't!
But there's another mystery Sylvia wants to solve.
Where do the females have their young, and where do they hibernate?
Time for me to tag Double Diamond, a female that they suspect is pregnant.
-Is it Double Diamond?
-It is, yeah.
So, if this all goes well, we'll actually find out where she hibernates,
-and maybe even where she gives birth.
Alonso, I just want to mention that she is actually, very slowly, coming out!
-I can feel it sliding down!
-Let's put her back. I'll put my gloves on.
Not that I'm bothered at all, but she is actually coming out!
-I can feel her coming through my hand!
-If you take your hand away...
She's watching your every move, isn't she? What a beautiful animal.
-What happened, then?
-They all fell off! But that's not surprising.
Those snakes are moving through that rough undergrowth, you know, she is going to lose a few.
But actually, it's exciting, because Sylvia will not give up,
and she still needs to know, where do they give birth, and where do they hibernate?
We'll be there in Springwatch, and we'll try and find out ourselves.
-What an incredible lady!
-Incredible lady, incredible study.
Marvellous, and she also makes very fine fruitcake as well, Chris!
-You got fruitcake?
-I didn't get any fruitcake.
Now, another animal that likes to head underground was followed by thousands of you
on the Autumnwatch website.
It was, of course, our family of badgers,
and we had a first for the programme,
we put live cameras into a badger's set,
which meant that we could all have a look at their behaviour.
Now, the badger's set was on a farm in Devon,
there were several badgers there.
They were tempted out each night by peanuts and apples,
but we were also able to follow them into the set and see their behaviour there,
where we saw them grooming each other, they made a bed, and most memorable of all,
we heard them snoring!
Just listen to that! For me, that was a magic Autumnwatch moment.
Awww! Snuggly badger.
There's nothing better than a snuggly badger,
but there is another little creature
that is snuggling down for the winter
as we speak, and it is, of course,
our prickly little friend, the hedgehog.
But hedgehogs are seen less and less in our gardens these days.
There just aren't so many of them around, but there are 23 million gardens in the UK.
Have you counted them all yourself?
I've actually got the figure, and it ends in three! I've got the exact number!
But there's about half a million hectares of potential hedgehog habitat in those gardens,
but there's a problem. They're fenced in.
Yes, and that means that hedgehogs are effectively trapped in very small areas,
and they need much more space, so, rather brilliantly, the People's Trust For Endangered Species
came up with an initiative called Hedgehog Street, and they asked you,
the great British public and garden owner, to cut little holes in your garden hedges
so that hedgehogs could move about.
-Has it worked? Has it ever!
-There's been an incredible response.
17,500 of you signed up to Hedgehog Street.
It's such a simple idea, anyone can do it, and yet the effect could be profound.
It really could, and what that means is that our little individual
gardens are now being joined up to become that giant national nature reserve
that really does good, positive things for our wildlife, so thank you very much indeed.
Brilliant, and there's another survey come out,
the People's Trust For Endangered Species, bit of a mouthful, that, excuse me, got my teeth in!
They're doing another survey, another quick snapshot of hedgehogs,
and they'd like you to get involved, please.
It starts on February 1,
and there's the website coming up on your screen now.
-There you are, look, there it is.
-So, sign up for that, and let's help our hedgehogs.
Help our hedgehogs, but don't forget
there are other creatures this winter
that will need your help, including our feathered friends, the birds.
Look at this bird feeder!
It's amazing, there's a constant stream of birds coming down to feed.
Now, Russell Jones has joined us. He's one of the wardens here at the Ynys-hir RSPB reserve.
Russell, obviously this is the time of year it's really important to keep feeding your birds.
Yeah, winter's a vital time to feed. They need the energy to survive the cold weather
that we're going to get, and also so they're in good condition
when it comes to the breeding season as well, so it is vitally important.
I can't believe how they just continue. They're not bothered by us, are they, Chris?
Obviously, we're talking about helping birds, which is incredibly important,
but also you can help yourself get great views of them,
because if you're feeding them, you can get them to come closer to you.
These things are less than a metre away from us, really,
and another interesting thing is birds do change their cultures.
We're all used to seeing blue tits, great tits, greenfinches on our feeders,
but in recent times we've learned how to feed goldfinches by putting out a different food,
Niger seed, and whereas on the continent, for many years,
bullfinches have been going to feeders, they've now started
doing it in the UK, and there's nothing better than a male bullfinch
on your bird feeder, and even longtail tits, in some areas,
have started to come to feeders too, so it's a constant change.
You can get some good comedy moments when the squirrels try and get their seeds, as well.
I don't mind that, I live and let live. I'm happy to share with the squirrels.
I know some people don't like it, but it's Christmas, give them some nuts!
It's also great to get these out in time for the RSPB big garden birdwatch,
-that's the end of January, isn't it?
-Yes, the 28th and 29th.
We want people to watch as many birds as they can within an hour and mark them all down.
-Definitely get involved with that. There's details on the website.
And it's a brilliant study, it's been generating data now for years and years,
showing really significant trends and changes in those sort of things, so it's well worth doing.
And now a piece from Kate, about one of the festive season's most iconic plants.
# Hey, I thought you'd know
# That a kiss under the mistletoe
# With a walk out through the snow. #
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a sprig of mistletoe to kiss under,
but the plant that we think of as quintessentially romantic
actually has a rather sinister alter-ego.
This ancient orchard in Somerset is full of cider trees, and has an abundance of mistletoe.
This has created a habitat with ten times the amount of wildlife to that found in a grass field,
and maintaining it is the responsibility of Neil McDonald.
I don't think I've ever seen so much mistletoe.
Well, Kate, that's true, and we actually have got quite a problem here in this orchard,
where it really has taken a hold, and you can see just how dense it's become.
And, interestingly enough, it produces a white berry, which is very unusual,
and there are not that many birds that associate a white berry with a food source,
but the mistle thrush and black caps do, so it's a very important part for them.
There are one or two other quite rare things that live on mistletoe, too,
the mistletoe marble moth, and one or two weevils,
I think there's five that are very specific to mistletoe itself, so an important habitat to maintain.
The mistletoe gets spread from tree to tree when the birds eat the berries
and excrete the live seeds that stick onto the branches, where they germinate.
Mistletoe is a partial parasite, which means that
although its green leaves provide these apple trees with some energy,
it also sends a root under the bark into its host to gather nutrients there,
and it's this that can drain the tree to such an extent it will eventually kill it.
So, you're really torn, because this is a plant that's destroying your trees,
but you're obviously a man who loves your wildlife,
and it does provide a fantastic resource for some really special species.
It's really trying to get the balance of the two,
because there comes a point where the mistletoe takes over.
If you want to remove mistletoe from a tree, you need to cut the branch from which it is growing on,
and remove the whole branch, not just coppice the mistletoe.
You can see how thick it can make the branch,
and it really does, it doubles it up.
So that bulge in the branch, there,
is actually the roots of the mistletoe pushing up under the bark?
-Isn't that extraordinary?
And you can see two lovely white berries on this one.
-They're almost like pearls, these berries, aren't they?
-Yeah, rather pretty, aren't they?
But actually quite poisonous, and certainly would give you a really nasty tummy ache
if you tried to eat them.
# Mistletoe. #
So, the final question has to be is mistletoe something you kiss under at Christmas?
Should I answer that?
-I'm going to tell you something.
-I've never kissed under mistletoe.
-Doesn't remotely surprised me!
-I'm not surprised at all! Two fascinating mistletoe facts.
There's a male and female plant. The male plant is a little bit more bushy,
and it has yellow flowers in spring time, and here's the other one.
Never let mistletoe touch the ground,
because it hovers between the sky and the earth,
and in the old days, people said if it touched the ground it's earthed, it loses its power,
so cut it and make sure it hangs.
-Doesn't touch the ground.
-Is that not an old wives tale?
-Come on! Bit of romance!
-Did you notice, look, the new tea cosy.
-Thank you very much to Lynn Hardman, that's absolutely gorgeous.
Thank you also to all of those who sent photographs into our Flickr site.
We had some really good ones. I've got some here on this tablet.
Badger in the bluebells, there. Two swans having a head-to-head.
Lots of dynamic action. A beautiful blue butterfly on an orchid.
Nice contrasting colours there. Some deer gambolling over the hill in silhouette.
A lot of action there. Quite a simple photo, and the simplicity, I think, really
adds to a strength in the photo, and then this one of a large, lumbering leviathan,
sinking into the ocean. A solitary animal.
Chris! A large, lumbering leviathan?
-It just came out.
-He's talking about a whale.
-How does he do it?
-It just came out, I'm sorry!
-What about you, though? Any favourites?
-Oh, I love this one.
Where's it gone? There it is. Gorgeous. Very tranquil scene. Avocet, of course.
A very beautiful-looking bird, taken by Peter in Epping Forest. Stop it!
-You were being so nice about all the others!
-I know, I'm sorry.
You've shocked me!
Look at this. Graham Munton. Look at that for colour.
-Don't say a word about those berries.
-I know what you're going to say. Quick, Michaela.
Watch his face on this one, Kate. This is my favourite.
I mean, that is pure cutesy-wootsey festive cheer, look at that, from Bird Woman.
Is that your favourite, Chris?
What do you mean, Michaela? It's perfect.
I know I'm very, very critical, I always am, but I have to say there really were some superb photographs
sent in this year, so keep them coming, ready for next year.
Yes, and thank you very much indeed.
Yes indeed, and now it's time for Bill Oddie's Christmas guide to festive fun.
# Like the ripples on a reservoir. #
I don't believe this, look at this.
This is my bird notebook from 1958,
when I was 17. What have we got here?
"Bartley Reservoir. One black-throated diver."
Oh dear. Look at the date.
25th of December, Christmas Day,
and all I've got to do is go out birdwatching on my own.
How sad is that?
Actually, it's not sad at all, because a black-throated diver's a fantastic bird!
The first I'd ever seen. As a matter of fact, the best Christmas present I'd ever had.
You see, the thing is, nature doesn't close down for Christmas,
and it might just give you something a little bit exciting just when you need it.
So, here are my top five
wild Christmas party games
for all the family.
Why don't you try my number five, Hunt the Hibernators?
To play this, you can stay inside the house,
or maybe just have a little excursion into the garage, or maybe the garden shed.
You are, of course, looking for butterflies.
Easy enough to see when they're flapping around in the sunshine,
but almost impossible when they're hanging up in the dark with their wings folded,
which is exactly how some species spend the winter.
Others winter as pupae in their individual cosy sleeping bags.
And some even migrate.
OK, number four. Search for Songsters.
Rather appropriately, the bird which sings both day and night
and in summer and in winter is the festive fowl himself.
In fact, the summer song is rather more exuberant and cheerful and energetic,
and the winter song is a little more wistful.
Almost sad, perhaps.
At number three, inevitably, it's tracking in the snow,
though odds are that nine tenths of them will turn out to be dogs,
or cats, or cows, or other people looking for animal and bird tracks.
So, bit of advice. Get out early, and the only footprints should be wild.
And get yourself a really good book, or an identification chart like this one,
and even better, perhaps, take a photograph, then go home and look them up on the Internet.
If it doesn't snow, why don't you just try number two, Name the Nest.
Trees almost leafless now, revealing the bare black branches,
and it reveals little clumps.
Every now and again there's a little dark clump.
For example, up there there's quite a big dark clump, which is no doubt a squirrel's drey.
The rest of the clumps of all shapes and sizes are birds' nests.
I reckon that is a wood pigeon's nest.
It's flimsy, it's precarious, which is surprising, because a wood
pigeon is a big, plonky, tubby thing, and if you're wondering, well,
surely the eggs and the babies, don't they fall off, every now and again?
And the answer is yeah, they do.
Now, surely no Yuletide is complete without
the wonder of a Christmas show, and I do not mean soap stars in tights,
I mean something natural, yes.
At number one, it's a Natural Spectacular.
Of course, depending where you are in the country, the cast may vary.
Wild geese in Scotland, wild swans in East Anglia,
waders in Norfolk, gulls on the city dump, and of course, starlings at their roost.
It's a show that will and must go on, whether there is an audience or not.
And why don't you make this your New Year's resolution?
Go out and see the real thing, and when you've done that, go out and see it again.
And again, and again, and again, because after all,
wildlife is not just for Christmas, it's for life.
Top tips from Bill Oddie, surely the perfect antidote to Christmas overindulgence.
Now, you lot didn't get me any presents, so I'm taking these back for a refund!
But very fortunately, some of our viewers have very kindly sent presents.
-Martin, your slippers were ruined during Autumnwatch.
-Julie Hallam has made these for you.
-Made them for me?
They're gorgeous! Right, I'm going to put them on.
And while you're doing that, the Brown family had you in mind,
Chris, and they made you a festive poo necklace.
-That's courtesy of their rabbit!
-I thought you'd love that.
And Michaela, I think you're going to have to have these, because neither Chris or I have pierced ears,
but these earrings come courtesy of the Brown family goshawk.
Pellet earrings, there you are! What you've always wanted.
Absolutely charming! I think I'll keep my pelicans in.
Chris, we've got a classic for you. Eve Russell has sent you these.
Look! Poodles to go on your Christmas tree.
-What more could you want?
-Absolutely brilliant, and you know what?
I reckon I could get these two to sing.
They're still in disgrace.
Well, sadly, we've almost come to the end of the show, but we want to say a huge thank you,
not just for all these magnificent presents,
but for everything that you've contributed to the shows throughout the year.
We really couldn't do them without you.
Look out for Winterwatch, that'll be coming on to your screens
sometime in the New Year, when it gets really cold.
And of course, we've all got our fingers crossed that 2012 will be a fabulous year for British wildlife,
and you can rest assured that if it is, we'll be bringing it to you.
Have a very happy New Year.
ALL: Bye! Happy New Year!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Chris Packham, Kate Humble, Martin Hughes-Games and Michaela Strachan reunite and return to Springwatch's home at Ynys-hir, the RSPB's beautiful reserve in Wales, to look back at an amazing year of live broadcasting. They revisit all the wildlife highlights from this year's series, and give extra insight into some of the remarkable stories and animal behaviours the team revealed. Plus updates on the wildlife stories that made the headlines, and viewers get the chance to challenge Chris Packham in his Chris-mas Grotto.