Episode 7 Springwatch

Episode 7

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It's Wednesday, so that means... We've got 90 whole minutes of


wonderful wildlife. Including punk herons. A gluttonous buzzard And an


insect that builds its own disguise. And that and this little guy too.


Hello and welcome to Springwatch, coming to you from the beautiful


wooded slopes of the RSPB reserve in Wales. Tonight we've got all the


usual ingredients, the best of British wildlife coming to you live


in real time. You can't beat that, so stay tuned. If you were watching


yesterday, you watched an extraordinary draum yawn fold in


our pied flycatcher nest. What happened today? We'll tell you


later in the programme. We need your help to solve a mystery, what


is scaring our barn owls? The spiky quiffs and the naughty undertones


of these herons are going to allow to us bring fantastic music into


the show a bit later on. They're teenagers and they kick each other,


that's a clue. Normally at this time, I'm setting a quiz for you.


We're going to do it differently tonight. We'd like you to ask us


questions. If there's any question, any question about anything that


comes up tonight, then ask us. We'll try to answer the questions


live as it happens. What can you do? Ask them on the web, on Twitter


or on our Facebook site. Get them coming in. If we can't answer them


on this programme, we'll try to answer them on Unsprung. Talking of


that, hop it. Get it ready. I hope he'll leave a trail of breadcrumbs.


As well as all, that we have got everybody's Welshman Iolo Williams


on an island not too far from here. Welcome to magnificent Skomer


Island. Today is United Nations world oceans day, when we should


all be celebrating the wealth of our seas. That's exactly what we're


going to be doing here on Skomer as well as catching up with our


puffins. We're looking forward to that. If


you were watching last night's programme, you'll know that we had


a very real drama here. Some of the birds that we've been watching over


the last couple of weeks, well, they got into all sorts of trouble.


It was our pied flycatchers and It was our pied flycatchers and


this is what we saw happening until last night. This was the female.


She had been looking, not entirely well. Her chicks were OK. She was


feeding them. Then she left them for a long time. Sadly one of those


chicks perished. She came back with food. Sadly she left them for so


long that they'd got rather chilled. As you could see they weren't


taking the food then. The male came in and tried to feed. Sadly another


chick had died. By the end of last night's programme we just had two


of the four chicks surviving. However, we finished the programme


feeling cautiously optimistic because the male had been in and


fed and the female was still brooding them, but in the middle of


the night, she started to lock a bit twitchy, as you can see here.


She left the chicks again. Now this was very bad news. She shouldn't


have been leaving them in the middle of the night, particularly


if they were already feeling a little bit cold. She was back.


Still brooding. We kept everything crossed that maybe they were OK.


But as you can see here, this was this morning. Three chick has died


and one was looking very, very unhealthy indeed. On the brink. She


continued to come in. She's got food. Obviously they're not at this


stage able to appeal for that food. She has nothing to do with it. She


tried to brood them. I'm afraid that the last chick had frankly,


run out of energy and despite the fact this she was now trying to


keep it warm, when we looked at them at about 6.30am, it had died.


This is what's happened through the rest of the day. Both parents are


confused by what's happened in here. She's continued to come in and


brood them. The male has been in and out a couple of times. But


sadly, those chicks have finished and the nest is over for this year


at least. It is a great tragedy, nobody wants to watch the great


loss of an entire family like that. The confusing thing is that we've


seen chicks die over the years. We've been doing Springwatch for a


very long time. It's just one of those things that happened, but


they seemed so robust, when we first met this family. They do. I


have to tell you that 30% of all the pied flycatcher broods that


hatch are destined to fail before they fledge. Weather is one


contender for why. We haven't had weather that's too rough. It hasn't


affected the abundance of food. The adult washlers have been in and out


with food. The female's body weight, goes back a few days, as to when


the male wasn't attending. You think, she's got a lot of energy


into producing this. She'd laid the eggs, sat there brooding them, unk


baiting them until they've hatched. Not able to feed at maximum


efficiency. What she was hoping for is that as soon as they hatched,


the male would help out, so she could build up her reserves again.


But it didn't happen. If the male had been more atentive, she could


have fed herself. The chicks would be carrying on being fed by the


male. Instead, she had this huge pressure to keep the chicks fed,


but at the same time, was losing weight herself, needing to feed


herself, which meant that she left the chicks for longer periods.


they got chilled. In the end she's going to make the decision that she


looks after herself. She's an adult breeding member of the population,


that's the most valuable part of any population. She had to feed


herself up and as a result, the chicks have sadly been sacrificed


this year. Fingers crossed she'll be back this year and successfully


rear a brood. That nest was full of bad news but we had fascinating


behaviour in another nest. This is what we saw last night. Our barn


owls were coming back to the nest with plenty of food. There's voles


and mice being brought in. When this one comes in, they kick off at


something. This is very, very strange. The chicks are looking


like there's a threat out there. Then the female or adult bird, at


least, is making this really distinct warning or alarm call,


very typical of barn owls. This hissing, they will also go into a


powerful display. They fold their wings forward and sway from side to


side if they get really upset. You can also hear a clicking sound that


the chicks and adults are making. This is typical of tawny owls and


barn owls. What's really interesting is that she is clearly


looking at something, there is something and unfortunately


whatever that something is or was was out of sight of our cameras. We


just didn't know what she was looking at, but then we remembered


something that the story developers recorded last week. Have a look at


this, it's the chicks and they are making that same sort of alarm call,


just listen to this: (HISS) You can see again fixated on something, as


is the adult bird. They're looking down out of the window. They're not


looking at the camera. It sounds like they're trying to inflate a


Zeppelin or something. This is antagonistic behaviour. Something


is outside. If you were listening carefully, just before they got


agitated can you hear this sound... That might have been the thing that


set them off. I honestly don't know what that sound is. We've asked


everyone around here. None of the other tholjists know what it is


either. Frankly, if you do, let us know.


Do you think you know what that is that might have antagonised those


chicks? Contact us on the website. You could contact us via Twitter or


the Facebook pace as well. Now we've got a bit of news about the


Ospreys. We certainly have. Great news, as you saw yesterday. For the


first time in more than 447 -- 400 years three chicks have hatched.


They've been fed today Kate. They were worried about them. It was a


first time breeder this parent. They've all been fed and doing


really well. We will keep you updated. We will. Now as Iolo


Williams said, it is world ocean day today. He is going to be


celebrating the beauty of the seas around Britain. Let's just remind


you where he is. We're just off the coast of mid-Wales. He's a little


bit further south, just off the tip of the coast. If you want to be


more precise, he is extractly at that point there.


Over to you. Warm welcome back here to Skomer


Island, where it has been a stunning day. I've escaped for a


while. I've come down to north while. I've come down to north


haven to this lovely beach. This is probably the most cosy and peaceful


part of the whole island. It's also a wonderful place for me


to introduce you to Skomer's amazing marine life. Now the seas


around the island and the nearby Marlowe's peninsula, are one of


only three marine nature reserves in the whole of the UK and


deservedly so. The strong currents and upWellings mix nutrients into a


soup. You have the gulf stream, this warm current of water that


comes all the way from the Caribbean. This is where it hits


Europe. You have a mixture of cold water loving species and species


that we would generally associate with the Mediterranean. When I had


the opportunity to go diving beneath the waves, I grasped it


thing is under water might not be as clear as I'd like it to be. When


the visibility is good, it is out of this world, but I'm just hoping


the murk in the water is tiny particles of food that most of the


animals here feed on. 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.


But a lot of the animals that Skomer's rich in could easily be


taken for plants at first sight. They're brightly coloured and don't


move. They wait for the currents of the sea to bring their food to them.


These are yellow anemones, one of several species found around the


coast of Skomer. They simply grow another anemone, hence the carpet


Ross coral or a potato crisp rhyosome. It's a series of minute


creatures living together. You can see a pale fuzz along the service,


those are the tentacles filtering these nutrients out of the water


and these other things are able to flourish here on Skomer because it


is a protected area. There's 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 at the northern edge of its range.


It gives the place a tropical feel to it. It's a soft coral, quite


fragile. It will bend with the swell. They say this in cold water


grows at most a centimetre every year. This must be 50, 60 years old


here. Wrapped in it is a dog fish egg case. Look at that.


Every square sentiment -- centimetre of rock is covers in


It's like diving in tropical waters. Some of the things I've seen down


there, I've never seen before and I never, ever thought you'd find them


here off the seas of Skomer. It's an incredible place. If you get the


I have to tell you that was a wonderful experience. A huge thank


you to Phil and the marine nature reserve team there and, of course,


rich seas mean a rich Skomer island. When you come back to us, we are


not going to stay on dry land and wait for the puffins to come to us.


Oh no, we are going to go out there to look for the puffins.


How wonderful, I have to say I was extremely jealous of that dive. It


looked fantastic. Getting cold and wet in Welsh water! The wildlife


and the animals and plants there are mind-blowing. We look forward


to joining Iolo later. We have come down to what we are calling heron


point. The studio is half a kilometre back there. We are here


and beyond the trees over there is where our herons are. You can't


quite see the nest because of the foliage but we can cut to them live.


Let's see what they're up to. are getting fairly typical views of


this. We see two hunched young herons looking, well, a little bit


brassed off with the weather. They're sulking really. Their heads


are are under their wings. They're going to stay nice and warm.


They've been very active. They have been very active. They don't just


sit hunched lying that all day long. Have a look at what they've been up


to over the last day or so. As you can see, one looks like it's


just taken off and fledged, but, Chris, both of them have really


been trying out their wings and amazing legs. They are jumping


right up and about in the trees, using air currents to help them


because they're not accomplished fliers. They keep coming back to


the nest, this is where they're getting the food from the adult and


they know they're safe from predators. But they're great little


characters these herons, I like them. I like the quiff. You have a


still a bit... -- a style a bit. used to be. This has inspired us,


we thought why not play the greatest pop record of all time, as


defined by John Peel and underlined by the Undertones, I give you


# A teenager dreams so hard to beat # Every time she walks down the


street # Another girl in the neighbourhood


# Wish she was mine, she looks so good


# I wanna hold you, hold you tight # Get teenager kicks right through


Nothing beats that! Not my choice, Kevin Carter suggested that one


actually. Did he? Well done Kevin. Exhausted! Now, they haven't just


been falling around in the nest, there is the serious business of


learning how to feed. Our wildlife cameraman caught this wonderful bit


of behaviour, these are our fledgeling herons, doing what they


do best, stabbing those great beaks into it's water to find food. But


not very successfully. No, they're getting bits of grass and weed and


mud at the moment. But what will happen is they'll probably follow


the adults to an area where there is a rich supply of food and the


side of a small fish will catch air air attention -- will catch their


attention. They'll realise the reward is sa meal for themselves.


It's a case of practice makes perfect and I am glad to see


they're out there doing that. will be fed by the adults, they're


not just going to be relying on mud and leaves? Not at the moment.


That's why they're back on the nest. We will see the adults carrying, or


still regurtitating food into that nest. It's not just the herons,


again beyond the trees, we have our Buzzards. Let's see what's going on


there. There is the adult bird. Fresh greenery that's come in


recently. We have been noticing this over the time we have been on


air, bringing in fresh green leaves which you think, Chris, might have


some sort of effect to keep insects or parasites away. There's got to


be a reason for it. No Buzzard is going to spend its valuable time


snapping off fresh greenary, carrying it back to the nest and


putting it there. We think, in some birds of prey, that when they


trample the leaves they give give off chemicals which have - insect


icidle qualities. Now, as you saw there, the chick


was quite well hidden, both by the adult bird and all those fresh oak


leaves, but if you have been watching on our webcams, which you


can do by going to our website, you will have seen the remarkable


transformation that has happened to our chicks since we have been on


air. This was just before we came on air


when the cameras went first on the nest.


This is now, today. Look at that, from one grey fluffy


Downey chick, to a bird that's looking not far off atkuplthood --


adulthood. They have a couple of down coats before they get real


feathers. They don't want to invest too much material in feathers early


on because they want the skeleton to grow. When they get rid of the


down coats the real feathers come true and we started to see them.


Vicky wanted to know, a great question, how do feathers grow?


They come out like hair, don't they? It's a follicle like our


hair? You are exactly right. Birds have thin skin. But in that skin


and growing from the time they first emerge from the egg, at the


embryo stage, they have a series of follicles all over the body that


produce feathers. Initially the feather is a living thing, it's


full of blood and keeps carrying material to make the feather there,


so at the moment the young Buzzard will be fragile. If you snap the


feathers off it will bleed and they would die and it would have to grow


another one but when the growth is finished it's all sealed off, the


feather is dead tissue, like our fingernail as it were. When they


moult them they grow a new one. If a feather does get lost that


stimulates the follicle to start a new one. Quite complicated.


feathery bit of the feather, that's all sort of curled up in the


follicle itself or in the quickly? It's curled up in like a waxy


sheath. At the moment you might see birds preening and hen they shake


dust comes out,. There you are, I hope that helps you, I hope that


answers the question. They've been growing furiously. It's had a


I love that film, thank you very much to our editors for putting


that together. Now you are going to be really impressed. Go on. I have


done a pie chart all of my own! Look at that! I just think - now


you are going to be impressed, look, we have looked at what the Buzzard


has been eating, roughly the same amount of mammals and small birds,


a little panchant for the frog and toad. And grass snakes. Are you


impressed? I am, if you should ever want to be loved by anyone, put me


on the list. Look, it's fantastic. It's statistically accurate, ten


out of ten. But the presentation, Kate, I mean, frankly, look it's a


bit scrappy. It's not even round. What is that? That's a mouse.


a good start. That was my humble pie pie chart. It was a humble pie


chart. I think you can do better. am off. I have upset her now. I


shouldn't have screwed that up. Let's move on to another film.


Charlie elder is a man who wanted to see all of the British birds


that were on the amber and red list, those which are critically


endangered but there was one that A worrying number of British birds


have suffered alarming declines over the last 20 or 30 years. A lot


of people talk about saving birds for the next generation, but with


some of these species the worry is they might be lost within our life


Times. One in five British birds are


currently considered threatened, not just rare birds, but also a


number of common birds. Birds like house sparrows, Starlings and heron


gulls. To help conservationists prioritise


which species need the most help, all of the UK's birds are placed on


one of three lists, either the green, amber or red list. Those on


the red list are the ones in the most trouble.


The red list became a very big part of my life. I decided to set out in


my free time to find every bird on the red list and also to find out


why these birds were in trouble. My quest took me all around the


British Isles and led to me writing a book about my endeavours. I


wanted to highlight the plight of the birds.


As I was nearing the end of my travels, the red list was revised


from the 40 that I had originally set out to see, to 52 and over the


last year or so I have been trying to see all the new additions to the


list but there's one bird that's been added to the list that I would


love to see and that's the hawFinch, it's a notoriously elusive bird


that I could spend ages travelling around Britain staring at tree-tops


so I am going to have to rely on expert help here angery Lewis has


been -- Gerry Lewis, I am pinning my hopes on him. I am excited, this


is a striking and handsome bird. It's not often I look forward to


getting up at 5.00am. The hawfinch is Britain's biggest


finch and it's able to crack open cherry stones with that formidable


powerful beak. Gerry coaxes them down with this carpet of sunflower


seeds. That's amazing. A brilliant view.


They can pick out the size of the bill. That's fantastic.


Once caught in the net, Gerry carefully retraoefs the bird for --


retrieves the bird for processing and is going to let me hold it.


OK, got him. Wow.


That's incredible. You certainly feel a bit wary


holding one. Especially as I am not experienced and you see the size of


that bill. If you put your hand right in the bag and then just let


go of the pweurbd. -- bird. Oh, he tried me there,


look, two indents there. To be almost pecked by a hawfinch


is an honour, this one is a handsome male and his bill is a blu


y grey colour. It's coming into the breeding season. That purply colour.


Gerry inspects the condition, weighs and measures all the birds


he catches. You are going to let him join his


mates then? Yeah, do you want to... He looks a feisty one!


Gerry's work is vital, if we are to understand why hawfinchs, sadly,


now find themselves on the red list. They got a pretty powerful flight.


That was wonderful. Thank you.


There willing something sad for me about my old bird books becoming


out of date, simply because many of the birds in them no longer lived


in Britain. As much as I love seeing these birds up close, my


hope for the future is that the red list decreases in the coming years.


After all, my travels had been about celebrating these inspiring


Profound and poignant stuff. I'm sorry. It's no good to me now. You


really want to see me cry, don't you. Any way... Hawfinchs are


fantastic birds. A few days ago, I was at home, I was going to be


watching a game of football, office on the line, saying one of our


viewers, Kirsty Clayton had rung up and said she had fantastic birds in


her garden. The game was kicked into touch and it was worth it.


Result, not only a cup of tea, chocolate cake! Better than


football. Kirsty, how long have these birds been here? I noticed


them last summer. They were calling and feeding and stuff. Male just


come out bull finch. For me a big scoring bird. I'm going to give it


7.8 and that's a very high score. Obviously, you're a fan too.


Absolutely. What is it about them? Their plumage is really amazing.


They're bright, beautiful. They go like an old couple together.


They're very monogamous. There's a likelihood that these are the


couple that were in your garden last year. Where are they nesting?


There's a camellia hedge just there. I went past and I heard tweeting,


they were reaching up out of it with their fluffy heads. What a


treat. In true Springwatch fashion, we couldn't resist putting in a


nest cam to try and record the chicks. We got some awesome shots.


They're out collecting food for the young at the moment. They feed them


through regurgitation. They're basically seed feeders. They're


after soft fruits. They peel away the outside. They're not interested


in the covering. They're after the seeds inside. Their monstrous bill


is that they can snap these open easily. The young are nowhere near


as attractive as the adults. They're little monsters. Are they?


They're grotesque. All beak, bulgy eyed, but at the moment looking


rough. They're in the nest for about 16 days and then they'll


fledge. Their flight skills will develop for until Mr and Mrs


Sparrowhawk arrives and probably take a couple of them. The thought,


personally, of a male sparrowhawk eating a male bull finch is


perversely a frequent fantasy of mine. Perhaps I didn't ought to


have told Kirsty that. Perhaps it's time for a piece of cake.


I think she really regretted asking you round. She looked mortified.


But those chicks, don't they look like dinosaurs. They do. Very


powerful bill. The crushing power of a hawfinch is 43 kilograms in a


bird, that's the equiff lebt of us having jaws to crush with the power


of 60 tons. They must come pretty close to that I think. Martin, have


you got news? I have got to say, quickly, I had three pairs of bull


finches on my apple tree. They ate all the buds, but it's worth it,


isn't it? Certainly is. Plant more trees. I will. Our barmyi birds


nest challenge. They have been A robins' nest. Yes, this one


they'll never get caught short. They're in a toilet site. They're


from David Barnes. Are they flushing their faecal sacks? Stop


it. This one, lovely Great Tit, little bit under the arm. Brilliant.


We would like more please. It's quite a challenge. The bar is very,


very high. Please keep them coming in, if you wo. Have we had any


questions from our viewers? We have. They started to come in almost


immediately. We're running short of time. We'll do one quickly. This is


from Julia on Twitter. "Where did barn owls live before we built


barns?" Quickly, hollow trees. When a tree breaks over, I found a barn


owl's nest in a willow tree that snapped off. It would have been


natural calfities. A few of them would have nested in caves and


cliff ledges as well. We have unsprung straight after this. We'll


answer more then. Now back to Skomer.


Welcome back, live to Skomer Island. Now earlier on, I mentioned the


fact that it's because of the rich seas with plenty of fish that


Skomer Island supports hundreds of thousands of sea birds. For


evidence of that, you've only got to look over my shoulder. You've


got rafts of hundreds of puffins, bobbing up and down on the water.


They do this every evening here in the shelter of north haven. Some


will be preening, making sure their feathers are in peak condition,


vitally important for a bird who spends most of its life out to sea.


They might head out to sea again or head into their burrows. The other


day I was able to swim out into the middle of these birds for a close


Conditions are perfect this evening. The sun is shining and the puffins


are out on the water in their hundreds. Mike, the cameraman and I,


are going to see if we can snorkle up to them and have a closer look.


If you're patient and move slowly, you really can get right in amongst


the birds. Outside the few months of the breeding season puffins


spend all their life on the sea. They rest on the surface of the


water like this, not on land. And they're expert divers. Look at that,


zipping past, they really do fly Sand eels are what they are diving


for. They thrive in the sandy sea bed around Skomer. They're a very


oily, nutritious fish and definitely the puffins' favourite


food. Happiness is a beak full of sand


Isn't that amazing. Now puffins are only small birds. Everyone come


together island expects to see a bigger bird. They're not much


bigger than a blackbird. They dive five or ten metres, sometimes up to


30. They're after sand eels. What is a sand eel? Well, that is a sand


eel. Not an eel, but a snake-like fish. That body is to burrow into


sand to escape from its predators. There are plenty of sandy bays out


here so these eels are abundant. How does a puffin catch a sand eel


and then catch even more? This is where I go into Chris Packham geek


mode. This is a puffin. That is a puffin's bill. One of the key


things is that bill doesn't open on a hinge like a blackbird or robins'


bill. It has a special bone, the quad rant bone, which allows the


mandibles to open parallel to each other. There are small hooks along


the edges of that beak. There are barbs on the tongue and also


backward-pointing hooks on the roof of the puffins' bill too. That


allows it to dive and catch fish. That bill really is like a Swiss


army knife. There's a tool in there for absolutely everything! Now, I'm


going to need your help here, fast quiz - what do you think is the


maximum number of sand eels ever seen and photographed in a puffins'


bill? 20, 25, 30? No, it's actually 61. An incredible 61! We spoil our


wildlife cameramen here and Steve has spent the last couple of days


taking shots of puffins. Have a look at this: Look at that


lovely bird, it looks like it has sand eels and sprats in there.


That's quite a catch. It's a big day when the first puffin is seen


on the island with a beak full of fish, because that means the first


chick has hatched. But even the few days we've been here, we've been


seeing more and more adult puffins flying in with fish in their beaks,


so by now, probably most of the puffin eggs on the island will have


Well done sto Steve, lovely stuff there. Later on, we're going to be


looking at how sea birds are faring here on Skomer and in the UK, but


now it's back to you. Thank you very much. Absolutely


fantastic footage that. You know the thing he was saying about the


beak, I'd often wondered why and I didn't know, that's the best thing


about hanging around with other good naturalists, you constantly


learn new things. I've been out geeked tonight! Someone else we've


inspired to want to learn something about nature is an extremely


unlikely candidate. It's Phil our cameraman. Wave to everybody. Go on


put your hand in front. There he is. He has had his heart stolen by a


bird not an unusual occurrence, but this particular bird is one, which


one is it? Bobbers. Bobbers, dippers to you and me. One of the


things that Phil wants to know about bobbers or dippers is why


they bob or dip? Actually one of our viewers has written in.


Fascinating stuff. Listen carefully, John chambers says "I have a theory


concerning dipping activity. These birds live in what is effectively a


white noise environment. The action of dipping may be a mechanism used


phase displacement of the white noise, generated by the water, to


identify prey or predator." He admits that the mathematics is


hairy. But in effect, coherent sounds exhibit different


characteristics to white noise, when the sensors, the ears, are


moved. Stand by a water fall, he says, shake your head and the sound


of the water will take on a different character. Coherent


sounds tend to be not so masked by the white noise of the water. So


what he's saying is that they're dipping so they can hear better.


But John, other birds like owls bob their heads so that they can hear


more accurately, where a sound is coming from. I'm thinking that


bobbing your head doesn't take much energy, but bobbing your whole body


up and down, as I'm finding out, requires a lot more energy. If it


was just about sound, why not just the head? Things like sandpipers,


they bob, and they don't live in such a noisy environment. No, and


wagtails wag, and that's got nothing to do with their ears


because it's their tail. I think it's a good theory. Thank you very


much indeed. We love theories on this programme. We like them when


they say things like "phase displacement and hairy mathematics".


Keep those coming in. You are probably desperate to know how our


dipper fledglings are doing. I know Phil is. Let's look at the footage


that our wildlife cameraman has got over the last day or so. Here they


are. There are three fledglings out of this nest. The adults very much


in attendance with the beak full of caddisfly. You'll admit, they're


absolutely thriving. They're doing extremely well. Lots of food down


there. Again an adult coming in. Super picture as well. I have to


say rather attractive young dipper there, look at that. Really lovely.


This one is showing quite independent ten densies at this


tender age. It tends to be more on its own. The adult knows exactly


where it is and is looking after it. It is starting to feed a bit for


itself. This is interesting. This is amazing. These animals are


supremely adapted for an aquatic lifestyle, even as soon as they


leave the nest. We've seen them, here's the adult doing what dippers


do, turning over stones. This is a youngster, only a few days out of


the nest already looking beneath the surface. Can you see sometimes


a white flash going across their eye. This is the nictating membrane,


it's a tough contact lens that stops sand in the water getting in


their eyes. Swimming and bobbing about, fantastic. You know, I


learned today when I was reading in my books that if dippers get


disturbed when they're in the nest, only seven days old, they're not


meant to fledge until 22 days old, they can pop out and already swim


and dive beneath the surface at seven days old! That is incredible.


As you saw, that river is very rich and full of food. We got some


lovely underwater footage of what it is our dipper chicks are looking


Well, there's so much food in the woods here, a lot gets washed into


the water when it rains, lots of insects so so lots of food for fish.


The fish eat them but it's a rich environment and on the surface of


the stone there, Kate, is a caddisfly and they form up to 75%


of the dippers' diet so they're very important and these streams


are packed full of them. In fact, we have some right here. These are


live caddisflies although they look like bits of stick and the reason


for that is that they build these wonderful sort of cases around them.


We have some film of them doing exactly that. It's amazing, cryst,


that they pull -- Chris, that they pull together lots of things.


use a web, not unlike a spider's web and they steupb it over their -


- spin it over their back. This is serving two purposes, it's


protecting the soft body of the caddisfly and it's fantastic


camouflage and caddis is a name for a strip of cloth and people selling


cloth in the middle ages used to wear it over their bodies and


that's where the name comes from. Absolutely brilliant. I like that


sort of information, it's a bit geeky, which brings us on to this,


the Springwatch Geek Award, this is to celebrate the depth of knowledge


some naturalists have. It's adorned by Mr Scratchy, the one and only


and every year, so far, we have met a number of naturalists who we


think are worthy of this award. Now, it's time to meet another who


certainly is. In a country park in Wiltshire,


there is a man who could have found the answer to a real wildlife


The emergency has been centred on the busy honeybe, a truly fantastic


insect. Bees are vital to our way of life. They're one of the great


pollenators of British plants, including many of our food crops.


Yet, since 1992 in the UK the honey bee has been under attack from an


alien invader which threatens the honey bee's very existence. The man


that may have the answer to this problem is Ron Hustings. Ron has


been researching a blight that's been having a terrible impab on


British bees, and he has got to know them very well. Well, every


good geek needs a shed or a lab and you have a lab here, Ron. Sort of.


Very nice. What about the the Mythes then -- mites then?


wanted to see the mites, there's a few for you.


Oh my goodness me! How many are in here do you think?


50,000. 50,000 mites in this small tub and you have put them in there


there... They've all been under my microscope. It's difficult to see


them, although I am in awe of 50,000 mites in a tub. There's the


detail. That's what we are looking at. Wow, look at that. That's an


alien, if ever you have seen it. This, presumably, is the point of


menace. That's what sucks the blood of the baby bee. It's what we could


call a proper infestation. Very much so. It's decimated the honey


bee population. Ron's own bees were infected with this mite but his


close examinations with to reveal incredible results.


Underneath all my hives, Chris, we have a special tray that that


collects the debris that falls. I also noticed that there are little


vermites on there and I collected them and examined them and found a


lot of them were damaged. Damaged? I am sure it was done by the bees


grooming them off. They're mutually grooming these off. Monkey fashion.


We found another breakthrough and I condition show you it because it's


so minute but I have a picture here. Ron, I am fortunate to be shown


lots of photographs of natural subjects. I don't normally have to


ask which way up it goes. This is not a triumph when it comes to


photography, but I am assuming it's fascinating. They are the antennae


of larvae bees. They're being ripped off by the bee. They're


removing it because it's infected? It's never going to be any good to


the colony so they get rid of it now. What we have is a strain of


bees, or a group of bees carrying genes which make them cleaner bees?


Exactly. They're grooming off the mites and removing the infected


larvae before they're useless to the colony? That's correct. Ron's


next experiment was to move one of these cleaner Queens to an adjacent


hive. This Queen bred cleaner drones and instances of the mite


fell dramatically. So Ron had proved that this behaviour was


genetic, rather than learned. Amazingly, Ron is now breeding


cleaner Queen bees to try and alleviate the whole mite problem.


Look at that. That works, doesn't it? What about these hooks either


side here? Those are micro manipulators, they allow me to open


the Queen gently, carefully, not to damage her, and open ready for


inseplation of semen. I would inseminate the semen into that


Queen. Eight. I normally give it the seven. Astonishing. Absolutely


astonishing, Ron. Of course, what it guarantees is that you can get


your grooming gene, which you have collected from the male in the


semen, into this Queen? That's right. The theory is that we are


going to put as many drones as we can until we have got, as it were,


Swindon being a gene pool of hygienic bees. Swindon. Swindon


saves the world of bees to the work of Ron. On that account, I am going


to present you with an extraordinary prize. It's under the


microscope, take a look through here. Seriously. Look at that.


It's Mr Scratchy. That's the uber geek.


What a fantastic bloke. I have to tell you, when I saw his 50,000


mites in that tub, the geek award was his. And the impact that he


could have for anyone that keeps bees. I am constantly bat battling,


so good on you, please keep working. Drop Drop proof that geeks -- top


proof that geeks can change the world. Some questions, one on


Twitter: How many chicks can a heron have? That's easy, they can


have about four or five is a usual clutch but they will often lose


them, so two or three is the usual number to fledge. One last quick


one, why do some fledgings have no tail? They wait to grow them until


they get out of the nest. Let's head over to Iolo on Skomer.


Welcome back. Now, I bet you are sitting at home comfy in your chair,


wondering how that dashing chap on Skomer finds his way into your


living room? Well, I tell you, Toby the cameraman is filming me, that


goes by cable through all this here, it's fired across to a van on the


mainland, beamed up to a satellite miles above us, beamed back down to


us here and then to your living room. The wonders of modern


technology. Now, over the past couple of days we have been


following the puffins here on Skomer and they've been carrying


fish back to the nest. So it would appear that the population is


healthy, but is it? Well, the man to answer that is warden Chris


Taylor. Hello, Chris. Puffins on Skomer, how many have you got and


are they doing doing well? puffins on Skomer, they've been


busy the last couple of years, so 1988 there was about 8,000 puffins


on the island, now that population expanded to about 12,500, so it's a


good sign they're doing fabulously. We have looked at a host of other


birds here as well, how are they doing? I think the real stars of


the show are the guillemots, the population is under 0,000. There --


20,000. It shows there must be so much food to sustain that


population. And manx Sheerwater. Are they doing all right? They seem


to be. I am sure as you know, it's a tricky species to monitor and


record. But we estimate about 120,000 breeding pairs, so lots


that we monitor year on year. thank you very much. That really is


wonderful news from Skomer. How about the rest of the UK? I posed


that question to Professor Tim Guildford of Oxford University over


there in the wardens' library. Fantastic old records here, Tim.


It's interesting to look back over the decades, over 100 years almost,


of records, particularly of sea birds. Now, from my time here I


have learned that on Skomer our sea birds appear to be doing rather


well. What's the picture for the rest of the UK? There is clearly a


difference between what's happening, appears to be happening in


Pembrokeshire and what's happening in the north of Britain. Do we know


why? What is the difference to our birds here, go to different areas,


more fish in the sea? Down here in Pembrokeshire the sand eel


productivity seems to have been good and puffins are enjoying that.


Poor breeding success in the puffins, and this is almost


certainly because the sand eels and other small fish they depend on are


not as available so they're starting to try and eat other


things which are not good for bringing up their chicks. It's a


complex issue though, because I know here in Pembrokeshire the


populations of some of the birds have built up on the back of


collapse of the commercial fishing industry, for example. That must


affect sea birds throughout the UK, if not throughout the world. That's


right. I mean, it would be nice to believe that just because sea bird


populations are growing or looking healthy, that this is a sign that


the oceans are necessarily healthy, but it's not always like that.


Because they may be freed from competition because there's been


overfishing of their competitors, the big fish that eat the little


fish that they depend on and as the fisheries recover, then the


competitors are become and the sea birds start to suffer. So we need


to be very careful in our interpretation of what's happening.


How about the future then? If you were able to look ahead 20, 30, 40


years, do you see a flourishing population of sea birds in the UK


and here on Skomer? I really hope so. I think they're so important,


but, I think we will see changes. Some of those will be positive,


probably, but some will be negative. One thing that I think that we can


be fairly sure of is that the climate is slowly changing, and


that this will lead to changes in marine resources and this will


inevitably lead to changes in sea bird populations. I don't think


it's all doom and gloom but we certainly need to understand what's


going to happen. It's a very difficult issue, but


there ar couple of things we can all do. We need to be careful where


we buy our fish from. Is it coming from a sustainable well managed


source? Also, don't throw plastics into the sea, that affects not just


fish but other wildlife too. If you want more information on this


complex issue then please go to our website.


Well, that's it from here, for now, I am going to hand you back. But I


will still be here for UnSprung. See you then.


Thank you very much. Now, if you were watching at the


top of the programme we set you a challenge. We were struggling to


identify this sound: It had upset our baby barn owls.


Has anyone come up with any suggestions? Very exciting, they're


coming in all the time. Someone thinks it's a magpie. Another


thought it was a deathwatch beetle. John, my wife trying to start her


Mini! We asked our expert sound recordist here, he thinks that it's


actually being made by those young owls, so we have set them a


challenge. We put a microphone and camera all around the barn owl nest


and hopefully overnight we might find out what is going on. But you


can keep watching on our webcams by going to our website.


Tomorrow, Christopher? We asked you a question, is it Steve McQueen and


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