Episode 6 Springwatch

Episode 6

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On Springwatch tonight: There's been tragedy in the woods. On the


estuary, some cracking news about a surprised new arrival. In the barn,


Bob our barn owl baby, appears to have bitten on more than he can


Welcome to Springwatch. Coming to you live from the somewhat damp


Ynyshir RSPB reserve in Wales. We will promise you real wildlife,


perhaps with real rain, which is why I have the sense to be wearing


a hat! My colleagues are going to get drenched. We will be showing


you the best of British wildlife. Catching up on some very important


things. If you were watching yesterday, for the first time in


400 years, we saw osprey chicks in this part of the world. They didn't


get a square meal. We will be finding out to see if they are


still alive today. We got an exciting glimpse of a marvellous


mammal right here on the reserve, on this body of water right by our


studio. More on them later. It's been a day of serious and ongoing


drama at our pied flycatcher nest. Lots to catch up with there. First,


Martin... The quiz. Let's do the quiz. A little bit different. First


part of the question is what are these? Because you are all getting


so good, there is another bit. What bird that we have featured on


Springwatch is associated with these. Get your answers in now to


the website - bbc.co.uk/springwatch. That is a difficult one. Without


further ado, let's go across the Skomer to our guest naturalist this


week, the one and only Iolo Williams. We have had another


fantastic day here on Skomer. The sun has shone and the wildlife has


been magnificent. Later on we will be introducing you to some exciting


new animals. Thank you very much. Lots to look


forward to there. Now, we must go straight to the woods and a story


that we have been following from the edge of our seats, really, all


day. This morning, when we came to work, the story developers told us


that sadly one of the pied fly chicks had died. You can see it


there in the bottom of the nest. The other three looking quite


robust at this stage. Of course, we wanted to find out what was going


on and, Chris, they have been amassing some information for us.


They have been keeping really good notes so we have been able to


generate this bar chart. This is from yesterday. In the morning,


both the male and female were feeding very well, nearly 30 times


in an hour. During the course of the day yesterday, the feeding rate


fell off so by the evening they were only coming in a couple of


times in an hour. That is a significantly huge loss in food


when it comes to the youngsters. is. Yesterday, I don't know whether


it was getting chilly where you were. But it dropped to nine


degrees yesterday evening here. What was causing the feeding rate


to drop off? We looked again at the female. This is from yesterday. The


story developers noticed this strange behaviour, this quivering


and she doesn't look well. No. It wasn't only that. She is suffering.


She disappeared for 55 minutes last night at about 5.45 leaving the


chicks with no food and no brooding at all. That meant we had then lost


this one chick. By this morning, she was back, she was bringing in


food so we thought maybe the other three will be OK. Look at what is


happening. None of them are opening their gapes... She wants to feed


them. She is pushing her head towards them with the food. They


are not giving her the signal which she needs, the target opening of


the mouth. They do it after she's brooded them when they are nice and


warm. Again, the male comes in. There is no gaping from the


youngsters. He is frustrated, he is chucking away so he goes out again.


Every time they get chilled, they don't react to when the adults come


in with food and so the problem gets worse and worse. Once again,


it is demonstrated here with the female. She does sort of seem to


get on and brood them and they do make a recovery, the two of them


have here. You can see the second chick, another chick, not looking


good there. When she comes in to brood this time, there seems to be


something going on with her eye. She doesn't look right. Rethsing an


eye is one thing, but I have -- resting an eye is one thing, but I


have looked at her, and sometime she is is brooding with a wing


stuck out at a weird angle. This was 5.00 and she did come in.


chicks. However, and this is the The male came in and fed one of


them. He's been in again since we have been on air. We are keeping a


very close eye on them. Let's go to them live now. There's the box. If


we go inside the nest now, we can see her - she's - we have one chick


poking its head out, Chris, but at least she is brooding. She looks a


bit more settled. Earlier on, she was looking very uncomfortable.


Let's keep watching. The chick still has energy. What we have to


look at is the feeding rate has decreased whatever today. The big


question remains, I think, have they enough energy to get through


the night particularly if she keeps leaving them cold like this? Yes.


They will need to get through the evening and hopefully get some food


first thing. That other chick is not looking so bright. No, it is


only one of them that is getting the food. The one at the top of the


screen is not as lively. Look, fingers crossed for that last chick.


If it can get through tonight, and if there is a problem with those


adults, if they can get the feeding going in the morning, it might make


it. We will keep... We have bad news down here in the woods. We


have to say just down the road we have some really good news.


Yesterday, we visited the osprey project to see that their eggs were


hatching. The parents have laid three eggs and two of them hatched


yesterday. Fantastic news. It was the first time in 406 years that


ospreys had hatched in this part of the world. This morning, the news


got better. We didn't think that that third egg was actually going


to hatch at all. It was another moment! It was. It hatched and


things got better still. The female, remember this is her first clutch


struggling to feed them yesterday. We were worried would they make it?


11.45, the male brought in a nice fat sea trout. She broke it into


small pieces and successfully fed all three of the chicks. So at the


moment, they are all doing really well. It is just such fantastic


news. I know a guy who is going to be pleased about this. We in our


lifetime have seen a great increase in the number of raptors. I bet


Iolo never thought he would see ospreys in his heartland? What


about that, mate. You must be For a Welsh naturalist like me, it


has to be the best news to come out of Wales for the past 20 years.


Welcome back to Skomer island where it's become a bit blustery. If you


look over St Bride's Bay here, see the oil tankers, beyond them a


storm has hit the mainland. If you think about it, it's been very


difficult for Springwatch to get all of us out here so just for you


at home, we thought we would give you a glimpse of just what it takes


to bring me, the crew and all of It's a big, very complex operation


but it is well worth it. It means that I get back to my favourite


island in the whole world and my friends, the puffins. They are the


only ones that will talk to me! You will know the most common bird on


the island is the Manx shearwater. There are 250,000 birds here, but


by day you don't see them. That is because they are underground in


these burrows. Some of these burrows have been numbered. That is


because there is a great deal of research going on out here at this


very moment. The most important burrow of all is this one, number


26. That is because this is where we have our burrow-cam. Just below


my fingers now is a sitting bird, so let's have a look at some


footage we shot earlier. Here is the bird tidying the nest. They do


bring in nesting material like grass and twigs and make some


attempt to keep it tidy. In fact, we have some shots here from about


2.00am, ten days or so ago. Just look here, the bird is leaving the


burrow. We thought it was for a change-over. It is leaving its egg.


It is doing that to nip outside for a minute, to defecate. They will


incubate that egg for the best part of two months. It would get really


smelly in there if they didn't. Yes, we showed you some footage of Manx


shearwaters fighting over a burrow. We have had a lot of people asking


us what makes a good burrow. It is a good question. Quite a difficult


one to answer. There are many issues here, a couple of them - one


is length. If it is a short burrow, you might get a great black-backed


gull grabbing the chick. The most important thing is to have a


constant temperature. If it is hot or cold, that is no good. For the


development of the egg, it is much better to have a constant


temperature. The Manx shearwaters, they only spend six months of the


year here. Where do they go for the other six months? That is a


question that Tim Gilford has been trying to answer. Yesterday, when


he went out to work, they took me. -- he took me. Which one is it?


It's a funny job you have got, Tim. It is a lovely job. Wow. Look at


that. Fantastic. This probably is the third year we have been


tracking this bird. It has come back to the same burrow? Same


burrow, same mate. This is a little light logging device. It has a


light sensor. This stores information about day length and


time every day of the year. From that, you can work out where the


bird has been and gone? Like the ancient mariners, if you know the


time of dawn and dusk, you know the day length, you can work out where


you are anywhere on Earth. You need to download the data from that.


That is 12 months' data? It is. is like a couple of jump leads.


is downloading now. Excellent. little logger stores information


about whether the bird's leg is submerged in water or whether it is


in the air. So we can start to see how much time these birds spend


resting during the winter, how much time they spend feeding. How much


time they spend flying as well. This is important, isn't it? We


talk about conserving these birds here, but they are only here for a


short time. Most of the time they are on the open ocean? These are


truly ocean-going birds. We are lucky enough to see them for a very


short period, really. Yes. Once the download is complete, Tim and the


team take the bird's vital statistics and there is enough time


for me to get a closer look. If I quickly show you this bird, it's


built for life on the open ocean. The legs are at the back of the


body. That helps to push them along on the water. If you look at the


beak, see these tubes? That is a gland that helps to take salt out


of seawater so they can and do spend months and several years when


they are young out on the open ocean. I really don't want to hold


her any more. I will put her back. Straight back into the nest chamber.


That should be fine. Massive thanks to Tim and Holly. They have gone


off to number crunch so hopefully we will have some exciting results


for you later on. We will be heading for the heart of the island


when you come back to us. Thank you very much, Iolo. We will


have some of our own technology later in the programme. Isn't it


fascinating that those birds not just come back to the same island,


or to the same area, but the same burrow? I know. They will live more


than 30 years and do that for 30 years! Extraordinary. Cutting-edge


stuff from Skomer. As you can see, Chris and I have come down to the


woods and this is where our pied flycatcher nest is. It is just off


to the right of us down through the trees there. Now, I want to check


have we had any news on the pied fly? She's not back. Let's go to


her live now. She's not back. So worrying, Chris? We have the two


chicks still alive, she's been off that nest seven or eight minutes.


It is 8.15. They are still active in the woods. I saw a male, so they


are still out at the moment, possibly hunting, so there is a


chance they will go back and brood them. We will follow that. We will.


Another bird that has been, well he's captured your heart, is of


course Bob our barn owl baby. Let's go live to the owl nest which is


just behind us in a barn and there we are, we can see one of the


chicks there, Chris. But all of them are looking very good. This


view here, you can see they are all looking healthy, dozing at the


moment because they have been stuffed full of food. We have been


watching them and I have to say there is no shortage of food coming


in at all from the adults. They have been stashing it! If we do


have a couple of rough days, really wet, they have got plenty in


reserve to feed the youngsters, so that is a real treat. I have to


tell you, some of you might have seen this at midnight last night,


Bob, your favourite barn owl baby, enjoyed a real feast. Look at this.


We have looked at it very closely. It appears to be an adult male wood


mouse. Everything must go. Look, it's all going down in one thing.


It is the biggest plate of spaghetti with the biggest meatball


at the end of it! It is. It took him a few minutes to get it down.


Three-and-a-half minutes for him to swallow this wood mouse. This is


the thing that made me laugh so much, he is getting the last toe


down his gullet when what happens? Watch this. I know. The adult


arrives. In she comes, it is like, "Oh no, don't make us eat any


more!" It is great news because they did cause all of us, I know it


did you too, a lot of concern when the temperatures rocketed and they


all looked very unhealthy and a bit floppy. As you can see, really


fighting fit now and eating like a good u' u -- like a good 'un. The


thing we have noticed is just how productive they are. They are full


of life, full of birds, insects, which translates into bird food.


Amazing strar that of life here. You have -- strata of life here.


You have everything from the ground upwards. The place is buzzing here


in the daytime. It is. We have a sound recordist working with us


this year, a gentleman by the name of Chris Watson. Old fans of


Springwatch will remember Chris. He likes to get up extremely early in


the morning with his sound equipment and he thought that these


woods would be the perfect place to record a dawn chorus. He proved to


Isn't that just the most glorious sound? I know. It is not unusual to


go out at any time in woodland in early May in the South of England


and hear that sort of noise. By this time, it is only happening as


you go further north. We have still got a bit of it lingering here in


Wales, North of England and Scotland, top tip, if you get any


sunshine, and it is quite still, get up at 3.30. It is worth it. If


you do it once in your life, it will be worth it. Very quick bit of


news. We have heard that the female pied flycatcher is back on the nest.


There she is. Did she feed? Does anyone know? Did she bring in food?


No, she didn't feed. But she is back on the nest. We will keep an


eye on her. OK. From one woodland bird to another, and one which is a


great contributor to the dawn chorus, take a look at this. This


is the wood warbler. Listen to this. An exquisite song. We have the


grasshopper warbler, which has an amazing song, but is a bit dowdy.


This one ticks both boxes. Another first for Springwatch. Now that


very bird that you saw there was a male, it was filmed by Mark Yates,


the sound recorded by our wonderful Chris Watson and that was a male


attending this nest. Let's go to it live. We have, for the first time


on Springwatch, a wood warbler's nest. It is tucked away. It is like


a little tunnel down in the moss and in that tiny little hideaway


there were six eggs, they have all hatched and, Chris, isn't this the


most delightful family? It is. They have been coming back 48 times an


hour and feeding these chicks. In the space of a week, those chicks


will weigh the same as an adult. way! They will. Because they are


nesting on the ground, which is quite vulnerable, they need to be


ready to go to perhaps erupt out of the nest if they are disturbed so


they need to be big and strong to do that. They won't leave unless


they are disturbed until about 12 days. They will weigh more than the


adult by then. That is incredible. Chris is right. It has been like


watching a relay, with both adults coming in-and-out and maybe because


it is quite buggy at this time in the evening, this is prime hunting


time. Chris Watson, the sound recordist. He's a real champion of


sound, a man who loves it as much as most people love looking at


things. There is one species he has not been able to get close to,


until this spring when he went out to do just that. Wooh! Wooh! I get


to travel the world recording the voices of nature. There is one


animal that is special to me that has a really spectacular call


during its breeding season and I have always wanted to record it but


I have never managed to get my microphones close enough to the


action. This animal lives right on my doorstep here in Northumberland.


It has a special connection with the coastline, it goes back over


1,000 years. I have come to meet the Reverend Westmoreland who I


hope can tell me some more. They there are, Cuddy's ducks. Cuthbert


lived on the islands just offshore here. That's right. They are the


best thing about that window, really. Traditionally, it is


understood that Cuthbert got the birds so tame on Inner Farne that


they would come to his hand. fact, Cuthbert grew so fond of the


Eider ducks he decreed they should be officially protected. We think


it is the first example in history of man safeguarding an animal.


There are over 1,500 pairs of Eider ducks that live along the


Northumberland coast. Eiders are true sea ducks in that they spend


most of their life out on the open sea. At this time of year, the end


of February, they return to the coast ready for the breeding season.


I know now it is my best opportunity to get close to these


Eider ducks whilst they are courting. It is the males that make


this wonderful cooing call to attract the females and it is that


mating call I am so keen to record. I'm meeting Paul Morrison who is


going to help me track down the Eider ducks. We plan to head out


around the coast but amazingly these Eider ducks seem to be all


around us right here in the marina. It is amazing. I have got on the


boat and we are surrounded by Eiders, males and females. It is


beautifully calm and quiet and still, so perfect recording


conditions without going out there. Listen to that. I have seen these


birds and I have heard them in the far distance. I have never been


close enough to record it in close perspective. Listen to that. Using


a pair of very small microphones, I'm hoping to get some real close


intimate recordings. So quiet please, recording. COOING That is


fantastic. Doesn't get any better than that. They were so close I


The male Eider ducks don't just rely on their voice to attract the


females, they make sure they look good, too. At this time of year,


their breeding plumage is stunning. Look at these birds in close-up.


The green on their neck, the pitch- black on their head and sides so


you can hardly see their eyes. This beautiful rosy hue on their chest.


The females are very well camouflaged and not very impressed


with the boys' earths. Just what a great sound when you hear it so


close. It is like nothing else. -- boys' efforts. Just what a great


sound when you hear it so close. It is like nothing else. So rich.


Glorious birds. It is a glorious sound. It is. The males are


stunning. That green... It is the only bird I can properly


impersonate. COOING Anyone could do it! Will you stop? You may remember


if you were watching last week, the three of us set ourselves a


challenge to see if we could capture some exciting mammals on


these camera traps so I put one down by the river to see if I could


get an otter. Martin tried in the woods to try and get a stoat or a


weasel. Chris... I got a pole- dancing squirrel! He put it at the


bottom of the bird feeder which doesn't count. Can I tell you...


You did cheat! I didn't. No, I didn't. How did I cheat? Look, look,


it may be a little bit hard to see, but there are two dark animals, two,


TWO, there, and that is enough evidence to send Mark Yates


scampering to the side of the river and this is what he caught on


camera. Absolutely glorious images of not one otter, but TWO and THREE


otters. This is a mum and cubs and I love this scene. I know, Chris,


you are going to diss what I am saying. It looks like they are just


enjoying a play in that sparkly sunshine. They are. They are


probably, you are going to tell me, she is teaching them how to hunt.


It might look like a painting, but they are diving down to the bottom


and there they will encounter prey as they are learning about where it


lives and they might have a nibble at it. Whatever! But I have so won


that competition. Thank you, Mark. Look, we have been neglecting one


of our cameras. Which one? badger-cam. Shall we have a look?


Let us have a look at what it has been getting. Is this a badger?


Surely. No, it is a small fox cub, Chris. A bit of a surprise. Here is


the - what was that, a bat? A mouse. About to be nailed! It is eating an


insect or a beetle. Are you ready? Here is the most exciting bit. Look


carefully. It's the magic of mustard lids, the wonders of


weasels. Fantastic to see that. So... Enough of badger-cam. Let's


cut to the real action. The best thing on Springwatch this year


without a doubt. It is snake-cam. Look what we got today. A slow worm.


Not a worm, really. It is a lizard without legs. It is, indeed. You


see them on compost heaps. They go for the same reason that the snakes


are there. It is heading dangerously close to the grass


snake. Is there any threat to it? No grass snakes won't eat these.


They are amphibian and fish-feeders. They will take the odd small mammal.


Smooth snakes would have gobbled this up. This slow worm is safe.


you think there is any advantage to it being in the same compost heap


with a lot of grass snakes is there safety in numbers? Sadly not if the


buzzard is around! As we have seen. Look, let's get to the snakes. Look


at what we have seen also with our female snakes here. This is


fascinating. Somewhere between 10 and 40 eggs, it is difficult to say


how many snakes. Mark thought he saw 20 at once. You can imagine the


mass of eggs down in there. There's some head twitching going on. That


is the males. They twitch their heads. Here is a male beside a


female. It is a narrower head. The females are more robust. Mating


should have finished in April. They have come here to lay the eggs as a


result of that. The males are just curious. Look at this. They will


twitch like that and they are scenting to see if there is a


female still left there. One left. Why not? Come in and try! Look at


that. It is a fantastic vision to get, that camera. I have big hopes


next year for our first wood lice- cam! Shall we recap the quiz?


Let's have another look. What are these? Most importantly, what bird


that we have featured is associated with these? Let's have a look. Can


we have a look at some answers? That was a unfortunate close-up of


that watch! It's a beauty. Stickleback nests. Kingfishers love


them. Not quite right. Allison, "Little bones from a barn owl


spraint." Pellets. Could be. Lots of people think barn owl pellets.


Lots of people have got it right. Already! We will give you the


answer for those of you who haven't guessed later in the programme. Now,


let's go back to Skomer and to Iolo Williams. Welcome back to Skomer


island. So far, we have concentrated on the birds and we


have neglected the mammals. One mammal in particular. If you walk


around the island, you are sure to see rabbits. There is one just


behind me as I speak. I have been coming to the island for over 25


years and I have never seen rabbit population as high as it is now.


It's cyclical, it will build-up and it is hit by RHV and then there is


a crash and the recovery begins all over again. It was introduced here


600 years ago. It was farmed for its fur and its meat but today, the


rabbit has an important role in the ecology of the island. The puffins


generally ignore the rabbits, but they will nest in old rabbit


burrows and other birds benefit, too. The rabbits graze the grass


very short and this keeps the ground clear for some ground-


nesting birds. There is a downside to all these rabbits. It's been so


dry this year that the grass has been struggling for water and then


the rabbits can overgraze. So a high population of rabbits can lead


to overgrazing. Look at this patch on my left. This can lead to


erosion. When the population crashes, that gives the vegetation,


it gives the grass that opportunity to recover. Nowadays, all you have


living here is a handful of wardens and a few research staff. They live


in this building here. If you look back into the past, man has had a


significant impact here on the island and the evidence is in the


plants. What do I mean? Come over here and have a look at this. This


is a bluebell and it gives us a clue to the past. It's spring, the


island is carpeted with huge fields of bluebells. It's a beautiful


sight but unusual. Bluebells are a woodland plant and this shows us


that Skomer was once wooded and those woods were cut down by people.


There have been people on Skomer for perhaps as long as 5,000 years.


You could still see the remains of ancient field walls and farm


buildings today. And can you believe this, there are so many


Manx shearwaters, the people used to plough the birds into the soil


as fertiliser. What a place this must have been to live!


Isn't it amazing to think one time this was all woodland. Now of


course, it is an artificial habitat, but none the less still beautiful,


just because it is man-made doesn't mean to say it can't be stunning


because after all, we are part of this ecosystem. I referred to


bluebells earlier. The wood has gone but the bluebells still need


shade and this it gets from bracken that covers large swathes of the


island. Have a look at this, another Springwatch first. Believe


it or not, there is an owl in this shot. There it is. That is a short-


eared owl - beautifully camouflaged. We have been following these birds


for the last month or so. They hunt mostly during the daytime and they


really are lovely flyers. It is a very buoyant moth-like flight.


Generally, short-eared owls only breed on moorland in the north of


Britain. You get 20 or 30 breeding pairs on the Welsh mainland but on


Skomer they get four pairs breeding every year on average. They are


adept at hunting. They have amazing eyesight but their hearing is very


good. That dish-shaped face helps carry sound to them. Look at that.


Amazing precision to go in there and catch the small prey. What a


gorgeous bird, incredibly buoyant. It reminds me of the old vampire


films when you had a plastic bat, that is a short-eared owl. What are


they hunting? They are hunting a unique mammal. We will spoil you


here because when cou come back later, we will not only -- when you


come back later, we will not only show you the mammal, we will show


you a short-eared owl's nest. Well worth waiting for. You will know


that many of the pairs of birds, the individual pairs, have been


suffering their own trials and tribulations. Of course, out there,


in the wider countryside, entire species are suffering this. One of


them is a bird that's very close to If there is one defining sound of


spring, then this is it, the call of the cuckoo. You know, over the


last 25 years, cuckoo numbers have been declining drastically. They


are now down by 65% and this was made really evident in 2009 when


our Springwatch viewers let us know how few they were hearing in one of


our biggest surveys yet. The problem doesn't seem to be with the


cuckoo's host species, birds like the Reed warbler, their population


seems to be stable. Maybe it is not down to a lack of their favourite


food either. So what is going wrong? We have to find out because


this species is in very serious decline. You might wonder why we


haven't found out where they are going in the winter. 6,000 cuckoos


have been ringed. We have only had one ringing recovery from sub-


Saharan Africa. They are all important and critical wintering


grounds. The one UK bird went to Cameroon. We need to find out more


about these birds, when they disappear from Britain. To do that,


the British Trust for Ornithology have put this in the hands of a


fantastic scientist, Chris Hewson. We are hoping the cuckoo is going


to fly towards the lure. When it does that, it will be so keen on


getting there that it will fly into the net without seeing it. We will


put tags on them to track their migration. They are not limited by


battery life. We are hoping to track the birds for at least a year,


or two years. The cuckoo's annual cycle is so poorly known, we


haven't got an idea of what might be happening in Europe and by


tracking their migration, we are hoping we can learn more about what


they need at different times of the year and how their annual cycle


fits together so we can work out what might be the causes of their


decline. If we don't find out what is going on, and hopefully find a


way of doing something about it, we could see the cuckoos becoming


extinct. Those gadgets don't come cheap. They cost �2,500 each. I can


also tell you, that you might have contributed to the funding. The BBC


wildlife fund put up �20,000 into this project and also it's been


helped by Essex and Suffolk Water. We will find out so much and so


quickly if we can track these birds. They have named a couple after


myself and Martin. Chris has moved from up here down to the coast of


Sussex here. Martin has moved from here in central East Anglia to


Norfolk and that is as far as he's gone so far. I know you are fond of


Norfolk, but isn't it time you started migrating?! I'm resting


there. I am building up my reserves. I will leap into the lead!


slightly disappointed there is no Kate! What is fascinating, a third


cuckoo was hanging about at the beginning of last week near the BTO


headquarters in Norfolk. On Thursday, he went offline. Then on


Sunday he popped up about 100 miles south of Paris. Amazing. I thought


it was an aberration. He's a one- year-old cuckoo and he has started


migrating early. Fantastic. We can follow their progress. We can


follow their progress on the website. You can follow the cuckoos


to who knows where. We have come out to admire our bird feeder that


is feeding a squirrel. How many people recognise that particular


sight! That is Chris's pole-dancing squirrel. Martin, you have been


doing a little bit of digging around. We always say you should


feed your birds. I feed my birds. I know you do, too. Chris does his.


But are we doing the right thing? had quite a shock earlier this year.


I read a paper and sometimes it is good to challenge even your most


cherished beliefs. I expect that you like me probably feed the birds


that come into your garden. It is a lovely thing to do. Have we all


been making a huge mistake? Are we actually helping the birds by


feeding them, or are we actually Last year, some researchers


published that showed that when-of- you fed bluetits and great tits,


they produced less chicks. Shocking research. So is it really such a


good thing to feed our garden birds? To get some answers, I'm


going to meet the man that carried out the study. Tim, a great


privilege to meet the author of this paper that gave me such a


terrible shock. Have I been doing the wrong thing, feeding the birds


in my garden? Absolutely not. However, what this study shows up


is that there can be some affects of feeding that we weren't


expecting and we are trying to work out why that might sometimes happen.


How come it looked like the breeding success went down when you


fed these birds? So, this study was conducted at the University of


Birmingham. We would have liked to have conducted this study in


gardens. We studied the birds in the woodland. Our surrogate garden


birds were bluetits and great tits. Some received extra food. What we


found surprisingly was that the fed birds laid slightly smaller


clutchers than those that hadn't received any extra food. That was


the shock. The clutch size went down! Yes. I think that what we


need to do is to consider this in context. The majority of food


studies have shown a positive effect. We still need to find out a


bit more about this. The weight of evidence suggests that keep on


feeding your birds because it is likely to have a positive effect on


their breeding and survival over the winter period. Phew. It seems


the results are an aberration. Perhaps because the birds are


already in a food-rich woodland. Over half of UK households now feed


garden birds and the figures are astonishing. The industry has grown


from nothing to be worth over �200 million. Chris has researched and


developed wild bird food for 25 years. He has his own explanation


for the odd results of Tim's research. What was happening was


something we have been saying for years, don't feed birds and put


nestboxs in the same place. The birds in the supplementary feather


area were having to defend their territories therefore didn't look


after their chicks as well, didn't produce as many and that is what


happened. So what is the lesson for me as someone who loves to feed


birds in the garden from that study? What should I do more of or


less of? Put your feeders out. Put nestboxs as far away from the


feeders as you can. Chris's explanation seems plausible. This


has raised all sorts of other questions for me. Does feeding


birds in our gardens attract predators? I have some interesting


news for you. There is no explicit link between feeding birds and...


Wait a minute... With lots of birds coming in, it is creating almost a


honeypot for predators. Yeah. we find is that by providing a


reliable, regular food resource, it means many of them can pick and


choose when they feed. They are choosing the safest times to feed.


But here is another thought. Could the bird feed itself be harming the


environment in ways we hadn't previously thought of? We are


buying all this food for our birds. But it is coming from all around


the world. These are Chinese. Whereabouts are these ones from?


Nicaragua. The carbon footprint must be enormous? It is


surprisingly little because they come in by ship. We try and source


as much as we can in the UK. Peanuts don't grow successfully in


the UK. Having looked at all the issues, the positives seem to far


outweigh the negatives. The 50,000 tonnes of seed we put out every


year are helping British birds. Black caps, bluetits and goldfinchs


have all increased in recent decades. All things considered, it


is still an excellent idea to feed your garden birds. My life would be


much the poorer without that stream of colour, the characters, the


drama that the feeders bring. What a relief! I thought I was


going to have to ditch my feeders. I was really worried. The wonderful


thing about bird feeders, it is like lazy birdwatching. You see


more species - I saw bramblings because they came to the feeders.


If there are any concerns that you have about feeding birds, or you


want any advice, go to bbc.co.uk/springwatch. I know there


are some of you who must find what we just said really irritating...


Not you! You are not online and you don't use the internet. We do get


lots of letters saying, "I don't use it." If you would like to start


using the internet, getting on the web, there is a campaign called the


First Click Campaign and there is a telephone number you can ring. What


is the telephone number? It is One more time - 08000 150 950.


Excellent idea. If you do get online, it means you can send in


lovely films like this one that was sent in by David Denton. The great


tits in his household get so large they get stuck! I love that. That


is very good. Please keep your footage coming in. We want them!


Shall we answer the quiz? We should. Here we go. One more look at them.


Remember, what are they? They are caddisfly larvae. Now, and...


is amazing. Which of our Springwatch characters are


associated with those? Have a look at this film and you will get the


answer immediately. It is of course our dippers. There is the adult.


She is removing a caddisfly from the shell of it to feed to the


chick. There, you can see it. can just see it. There is a better


shot coming up. There you are. Fantastic. So, Martin, who got it


right? Becky, the answers, please. Ian Fletcher on Twitter. Let's head


back for the promise of some wonderful things on Skomer. Welcome


back to Skomer. I have found myself a lovely seat here hidden amongst


the bracken. Earlier, we introduced you to the short-eared owl. I asked


what was it hunting? It is hunting a mammal that feeds on bracken. The


man who took me to meet this animal, Tim Healey, has been studying it


for a very long time. We are coming on to the study area I have been


using for a good many years now. Let's see what we have got. What we


have got is an adult male vole. Slightly lighter colour on the back.


This is the Skomer vole? That's right, the Skomer bank vole.


this a unique species? It is a sub- species. We only found this one


here on the island. It is not sufficiently different to the one


on the mainland to be a different species! Where have these come


from? We don't know. They were probably introduced by man at some


point since the last Ice Age. They must have been here a good long


time. They have been here long enough to be a sub-species but not


long enough to be a separate species? That's right. They are


quite calm in the hand. This is thought to be because the only


predators here are birds. There is no ground-living predators. If


birds are hunting you, you stay still. Do you know how many Skomer


voles we have got on the island? have done surveys of the whole


island. We estimate it at around 25,000 animals. A healthy


population? Yes. They are doing fine. Remarkably tame this one.


Want to have a go with him? Yes, if he will come on my hand. This is


the first time I have seen a live one. You have been coming out to


Skomer for a long, long time to do this work? This is my 41st year


here. I did my PhD on this little animal. What are you learning now?


What we are after is numbers. should let the young chappy here go.


I will give you the honour. Thank you. We will see if he will head


off. A huge thank you there to Tim. I bet all of you at home went "ahh".


Now, that has got to be one of the longest running small mammal


surveys anywhere in the UK. Fair play to Tim, he does it in his


spare time. The vole is one of four mammals found on the island. The


rabbit, the wood mouse and the common shrew. It may be because of


a lack of competition that vole numbers are so high here on the


island. They are five times higher than vole numbers on the mainland.


Good for the vole and good for a vole-hunting specialist like the


short-eared owl. We have given you a lot of special things from Skomer.


This is really special. Our wildlife cameramen have been busy


and have pinpointed the owl's nest. Thanks to a special licence from


the Countryside Council for Wales, we have been able to put a hidden


camera on that nest. Have a look at this. Look at that. That cave-like


nest hidden away in amongst the bracken and the gorse. There are


the chicks with their lovely black faces. An adult coming in here with


a vole. The male passing the vole to the female and in there, I think


she's got five chicks in all. We will have a better look now. There


she is with that vole. That is a Skomer vole. That will break Tim's


heart! But when there's plentiful supply of food - and they stack


them around the edge of the nest. If we see the chicks, they will


come in - there they are. There is the biggest one. You have Bob the


barn owl. That ate a wood mouse in two-and-a-half minutes. This one


ate the Skomer vole in almost exactly five minutes. Gobbling that


is the equivalent of me shoving a whole Welsh lamb in my mouth! You


see the other chicks, they are huddled together for warmth. I have


seen quite a few short-eared owl nests and I have to tell you that


really is one of the koziest. It is safe, out of the -- cosiest. It is


safe, out of the wind and out of the rain. What a fantastic bird and


what wonderful footage. Unfortunately, that is all we have


time for from Skomer tonight. Let's have one last look around here. You


see St Bride's Bay. A last tourist boat coming round to see the


puffins. All the puffins massed here. There is a gull walking


around hoping to pick up a few fish, or maybe a small puffin. We will


see that. Our cameraman, Steve, has taken a few shots. What are you


getting? A few last shots of the puffin. The sea parrot with its


bright red blue and yellow bill and that tear-like eye. Well, we will


be learning more about the puffins tomorrow. I will be diving below


the waves over there so for now, from Skomer island, puffin paradise,


back to you in Ynyshir. Thank you very much. I think he


outowled us! Those owls were fantastic! Those chicks have such a


beautiful face. Let's go and look at some of our live cameras. It is


getting dark and we can look at our grasshopper warbler nest. There we


are. There she is! A quick last look at our heron. There they are.


Buzzards? Look at the chick, it is enormous! I was watching, it's just


enjoyed a rabbit supper! With chips?! Sorry. We will keep an eye


on all of our cameras. You can do that by going to our website -


bbc.co.uk/springwatch. Tomorrow, our show starts at 7.30. A Bute of


a bird, a bird with a bill that strikes -- a brute of a bird, a


bird with a bill that strikes fear. We will be bringing you the latest


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