Chris Packham and Kate Humble bring us the latest live updates from our Springwatch animal stars, from herons to red kites, as the real-life dramas unfold.
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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
Chris Packham and Kate Humble bring us the latest live updates from our Springwatch animal stars - from herons to red kites - as the real-life dramas unfold.
Martin Hughes-Games has the best of the wild animal antics that Springwatch viewers have filmed themselves.
On Skomer Island in south Wales, Iolo Williams updates us on the puffins and reveals the strange night-time goings-on of another seabird, the Manx shearwater.