30/11/2005 Hands on Nature


30/11/2005

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Transcript


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Hello and welcome to Hands On Nature.

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I'm Chris Packham and this is your guide to getting to and enjoying

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the very best wildlife locations across the UK.

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We're going to be on the coast and just off it

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exploring some of the finest habitats you can find in the British Isles.

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I'll be braving Scottish seas, looking for minke whales.

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Mike Dilger explores Northumberland's fantastic rock pools.

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Every rock I turn over's got crabs under.

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And Janet Sumner discovers there's plenty of life on southern England's Jurassic Coast.

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This little piece of Utopia is Mull in Scotland.

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Just to prove it's that, look behind me.

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These dainty little sand martins are nesting at the top of a beach.

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Where else could you find that in the UK?

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Most of our beaches are far too disturbed, but not here.

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Mull's coastline is a wildlife heaven.

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Sea eagles, otters, in springtime a host of wild flowers.

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The animals I have come to look for today hang around in pods and I guarantee they'll get you excited

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and, given the conditions today, I reckon my chances of finding them

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are pretty good.

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You know those endless top ten lists, things you must do before you die?

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I can guarantee that up there with naked paragliding is the desire to see dolphins or whales.

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The thing is, seeing some of these remarkable creatures

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is a really achievable thing throughout the course of the year

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and in Britain you can do it with your clothes on.

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In fact, you normally do it with rather a lot of clothes on.

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The Isle of Mull is a real whale hotspot and here you can even see them without getting your feet wet.

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Now, I know it's a statement of the obvious, very obvious indeed, but unless you are excruciatingly lucky,

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you could sit up here staring at this water for quite a few hours,

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so for some mild distraction, pick up a book about whales and dolphins.

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This one shows views of the animals taken from the surface,

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just the sort of view you're going to get from up here.

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No smiley faces - you don't get to see smiley faces if you're on top of the water, here.

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But what about the best days to come?

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Bright, sunny days aren't much good. There's too much glare off the water.

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And days when it's too choppy aren't good either

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because then every white topped wave looks like it's the result of a dolphin's fin.

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One last tip. I know it sounds absurd, but keep your ears open

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because you can often hear whales and dolphins when they are blowing.

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On a quiet day, you'll pick up on that.

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And in the seas around the west coast of Scotland you'll find plenty of dolphins and porpoises, too.

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But if you are on Mull, Tobermory is a good place

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to start your adventure and there are plenty of operators to take you out.

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This is whale-watching, Western Isles of Scotland style, and just look at it - sunshine, dramatic scenery,

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blue seas and the potential to see 24 different types of whale and dolphin.

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I'm on the hunt for one of the smallest and least known whales -

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the minke, or stinky minke as it's known because of its fishy breath.

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I know the ocean's a big place and looking for whales can be like

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looking for a bin bag bobbing around in the middle of nowhere but there are clues to whale activity.

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Just up ahead of us there are some gannets diving into the sea, which is a pretty spectacular sight.

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We mustn't be distracted by the birds

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but you've got to keep your eye on seabirds because often, when there's a group of them on the surface,

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it could be that there is a minke feeding there.

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When they feed, they often spill food and the gulls pick it up.

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The minkes were proving elusive. All was not lost though

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because on this trip, serious whale research is undertaken too. Skipper James Fairbairn roped me in.

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Another good thing about these whale-watching safaris

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is they are not just an excuse for gratuitous whale eye candy.

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You learn things too, particularly about why the whales are here.

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-That's all down to their food, isn't it, James?

-Yes, that's right.

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-What's this? Plankton net?

-Yes.

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It's got a very fine mesh and we use it to catch plankton so we can show people what the whales are after.

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Bottom of the food chain, rich water. Let's see.

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OK. See how clear it is. Still see the net.

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-Doesn't put up much of a fight, does it, plankton? Hardly a sporting fish, is it?

-Not really.

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Because basically what you've got there is a whale, isn't it?

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A whale's mouth, trawling.

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That's absolutely right.

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Doing exactly the same thing it would when it was feeding.

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Let's have a look. What have we got here?

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-This is zooplankton, isn't it?

-That's right.

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-This is whale food, isn't it?

-That's right. Exactly what the whale...

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-A pint of whale food. I wouldn't down it myself.

-Full of protein.

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I'm vegetarian!

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Unfortunately, plankton was to be our only catch of the day.

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Not a sniff of a minke, let alone its fishy breath.

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So, it was minke one, whale watchers nil.

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Still time, though, to check out the jellyfish before returning

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to Tobermory to get ready to try again the next day.

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Another day, another chance to see a minke.

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Whale-watching operators claim a high success rate around Mull

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so this had to be our day.

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As part of the research project, the minkes are photographed.

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It means their movements can be monitored and it's something that you can get involved in as well.

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I bet 99% of your punters want to go home with a photo, don't they?

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What tips can you offer for cetaceal photography?

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The most important thing is to just always keep an eye on what you're looking at.

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When you're holding the camera a lot of people find

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they tend to naturally close an eye, put their other eye inside the lens, the viewfinder,

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whereas the most important thing is to keep that eye open.

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You can always guide the camera in the right place...

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And be poised as well so you're looking with this eye and immediately up...

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-You've got 1½ seconds whilst it's breaking the surface.

-If that.

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We're both armed with great big telephotos. What about little snappy cameras?

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-Do they ever come close enough to use those?

-Oh yeah.

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I think actually you don't need to have this sort of equipment. This is more for photo identification.

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If you want a photo to take home, these little snappy ones you get are just as good.

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Now by this time things were, frankly, rather tense and the minkes were still refusing to play ball.

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But there was a big clue - the seabirds were back on the surface

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and strange things were happening under the water.

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There it is right here.

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-Look at that!

-Finally, a minke.

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It's here again, it's under the bow.

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There it is right here.

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Then the whale just got closer and closer to the boat.

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It was unbelievable.

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This is one of around 65 individual minkes that have been identified in these waters.

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Just about to come up again.

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Look at that!

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Oh!

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-If you're thinking of going to Canada, Iceland or Norway forget it!

-Here...

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There is is, guys, down here, right underneath us.

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Wow!

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Really checking us out. It's going to the stern.

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Honestly, I've seen a few whales around the world,

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but never has one shown this much attention to the boat.

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It must have criss-crossed under the boat 10, 12 times now.

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Fabulous views, looking down through this clear water. You can see every detail.

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Doesn't look like a bin bag floating on the surface -

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it looks like a proper animal. James, what can you tell us about this one?

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It's a young one. The juveniles are much more curious than the adults. The adults tend to stay away.

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-What do you think?

-It's amazing.

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I've seen minke maybe a handful of times,

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but to keep going backwards and forwards so slowly, so controlled, it blew me away.

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-It's almost like it was a pet.

-Yeah.

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It's like it performed for us.

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It knew we were here, and it performed.

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And you couldn't ask for anything else, could you?

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People go all the way to the Bahamas, Nova Scotia, California...

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but, look - calm sea, blue sky, sunshine, minke whale, pet minke, swimming under the boat.

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What are you talking about? Save your money. Mull is the place to come.

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-Vote for Mull!

-Mull!

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There are daily ferries to Mull. It's a 45-minute crossing from Oban.

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More details on our website.

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I've been chasing birds since the age of 12. It's perfectly natural.

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This spot on the side of Loch Frisa takes the British biscuit

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when it comes to the best place for birdwatching

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because from here you can see white-tailed sea eagles.

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And that's a dream come true for a birder such as myself

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because in 1975, there were none, then a reintroduction programme began and now, there are 30 pairs.

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And you can watch one of them from this seat and from this hide.

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This is Scotland's biggest and rarest bird of prey.

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There are plenty of wildlife tours that can help you get great views of them.

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And you can't miss them - with a 6ft wing span, they're like a flying door.

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You see? I'm not the only one who thinks this place is brilliant.

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And that could be you.

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Coming shortly, Janet Sumner takes a step back in time and discovers some real gems from the long distant past.

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Has anybody got any flowers?

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What have you got?

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Ichthyosaur vertebra!

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You know, there's one stretch of Britain's coastline

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that doesn't get the praise it's due and I simply don't know why.

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The word majestic can only have been invented to describe Northumberland's coast.

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It's got great history, great castles, beautiful beaches, glorious sand dunes and a wealth of wildlife,

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as Mike Dilger discovered when he set out on his coastal journey from Holy Island.

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The Northumbrian coast is one of Britain's hidden gems, as rich in wildlife as it is beautiful.

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And it's simply brilliant for rockpooling.

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This is a pretty nice place to hang out for the day.

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If you want to live here, it's a completely different ball game.

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You have to be a super tough creature.

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Not only do you have the pounding waves,

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you have to cope with extreme heat and extreme cold when you're in the water

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and the sea water itself is really salty.

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So to live here full time, you've got to be pretty special.

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Now today is a spring tide which means, in a couple of hours,

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this massive expanse behind me is going to be uncovered, revealing lots of lovely rock pools.

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I've got all the gear with me.

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I've got my bootees, my jam jar for my specimens

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and a little net to catch them in.

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It's like being a kid again.

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So I've enlisted the help of all the kids from Holy Island's only school

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and local marine biologist Jane Lancaster.

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-Are you ready?

-YEAH!

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-Who's going to find the biggest crab?

-ME!

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Go get 'em! Give us a shout when you find something.

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On a spring tide when the sea is at its lowest ebb, the rocky shore

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is a great place to discover all sorts of aquatic treasures.

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And most importantly, if you do find something, look at it and then put it back where you found it.

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I found a crab shell.

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Molly's found a little hermit crab.

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Can you see his pincers?

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He's a crab, but he hasn't got his own shell,

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he's got somebody else's shell that he lives in. Pop him in there.

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Molly! Watch out - the crab'll be back.

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The same crab - it's there and it nipped me.

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Be a bit careful. They've got nasty nippers. This is a shore crab.

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CHILDREN SQUEAL

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Fantastic.

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-These are the most common type on the shore.

-Trying to get nipped...

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This is an edible crab. You can tell it's an edible crab because it's got like a pie crust on the outside.

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-But the real prize is this amazing one.

-A spider crab.

-That's right.

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-This is a spider crab.

-Look at that.

-Do they nip you?

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They're not so bad at nipping you.

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This is seaweed and they allow seaweed to grow on them so that it's like camouflage.

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Look at that, he's a bit of an ugly chap, isn't he?

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But very charismatic. He can't help it, I'm sure.

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Let's see what else we can find.

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This is one of the commonest fishes you'll find in rock pools.

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You can't normally see them because they move so quickly.

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So whoever caught this one did very well. He's called a shanny, a classic rock pool fish.

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You can find things on the lower shore just by peeling back seaweed.

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We've got two sea hares.

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They're called sea hares because they have these hare or rabbit-like ears at the front.

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-What exactly are they?

-They're just a marine slug.

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Treat them very carefully, guys.

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-Be careful, guys, they're very delicate, they are.

-Can I feel it?

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-He squirted ink at me!

-Put your hand in the water to get that ink off.

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When you annoy these, they squirt purple ink at you. That's a method of defence.

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When an attacker comes along, that puts the predator off because they can't see them properly.

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In about 15 minutes, we found 20 different species, which is just a tremendous return.

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This coastline is spectacular. Just a little farther south is Bamburgh,

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which has one of the most stunningly beautiful beaches in Britain.

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And it's a very different rock pooling experience.

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-I have to say, what a sensational view.

-Amazing, isn't it?

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Man-made AND natural structures.

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But compared to the little mini ponds, this is like a swimming pool or marine aquarium.

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This is totally different and one of the reasons is that these areas are never cut off from the tide.

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They're called surge gulleys because when the tide comes in, it surges up.

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It never dries out so you can see things in here that you'd normally only see if you were a diver.

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Now, always take a few sensible precautions.

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Don't do this on your own. Tell someone when you're expected back

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and, even better, if it really takes your fancy, get some help from your local scuba club.

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And just look at what great fun you can have.

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Every rock I turn over has got crabs under. Most of them are edible.

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Jane, that was just the best time.

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There are so many fish and I couldn't catch one to bring back to you. I'm really sorry.

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All too fast?

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I did get a few little bits and bobs.

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I know this isn't much, but they are beautiful when they're under water.

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They're like a little blob of lime green jelly.

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It's an egg mass of a little worm called a green leaf worm.

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They look a bit like a rag worm.

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-And you recognise these two critters.

-We've got a beautiful purple Henry, here.

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You tend to find the biggest ones in the deeper pools, like this.

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And we've got a nice sea hare.

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He's been squirting purple ink, hasn't he?

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He probably got a little bit excited or a bit afraid and slimed me.

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-He's looking a bit disgruntled.

-He is!

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What a terrific place! It's a complete revelation.

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And such a rich diversity of animals and plants. I know where I'm coming on my next holiday -

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rock pooling in the north coast of England.

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Check out our web pages for more information.

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OK. It's time for some real wildlife.

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185 million years worth.

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We want to show you the weird and wonderful wildlife past and present of the Jurassic Coast.

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It runs for 95 miles along the south coast of England.

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Janet Sumner decided to focus her attention on the beautiful county of Dorset.

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Welcome to Charmouth in Dorset, one of the best beaches in the country for finding fossils.

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Look at this - in less than five minutes I've found two belemnite fossils.

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They're about 185 million years old.

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Related to the squid family, they died out about the same time as the dinosaurs.

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You don't have to be an expert.

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These fossils are literally rolling around on the beach,

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just waiting for you to pick them up.

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This is part of the Jurassic Coast of Dorset and East Devon,

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a stretch of coastline that has some amazing geological features

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including rocks formed during the time of the dinosaurs.

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It's England's only Natural World Heritage Site band includes the stunning Lulworth Cove.

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The fossilised forest just a mile or so from the cove

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is THE most the complete record of a Jurassic forest in the world.

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The evidence of the wood has long since gone.

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It's been eroded by the weather.

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But what's left are these huge, fossilised algal rings.

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This is algae that grew around the trunks of the trees

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when the forest was flooded about 150 million years ago.

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This is the iconic view of Dorset that appears on all the postcards.

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It is Durdle Door and, believe me, it is worth seeing in the flesh.

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The plants in this cove are growing in one of the hottest, driest and saltiest environments in the UK

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and they need some very special adaptations to be able to survive this hostile environment.

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This is sea lavender.

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There's lots of species of this around the UK coast, but only this one grows in Dorset.

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It's got thick, rubbery leaves to protect it from salt

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and tiny purple flowers spikes to stop it losing too much moisture.

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You can see why it gets its name because it does look like lavender.

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This is rock samphire. It's a succulent

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and its leaves are reduced down to spikes

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and it uses these to store water. If I break a bit off, you can actually see the water in the stem.

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I've come up here to meet Maddy Pfaff who's the head ranger for the Lulworth Estate

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She's going to be my guide to this stretch of coast.

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Maddy, the scenery is just absolutely knockout.

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Isn't it wonderful? This is Durdle Door and we have got Lulworth Cove a mile down the coastline.

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Most people come here to enjoy a day out on the beach

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but we are also surrounded by the most amazingly diverse wildlife.

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Maddy, this is a really pretty little plant.

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It is. These plants in front of us

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are both bedstraws. The white one is hedge bedstraw

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and the yellow one is ladies bedstraw.

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They're called bedstraw because they were used to pack ladies' mattresses with in days gone by.

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It's got...it's like honey or something. A really strong smell.

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It would have been really nice to have a mattress packed with that.

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This is another one of these really useful plants which has had

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a human association throughout the ages. Give it a smell.

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It smells of cat pee.

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It is called fleabane.

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It was strewn over the floors of houses, dried, trodden on and it got rid of the fleas.

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If I was a self-respecting flea I would not go anywhere near that! It stinks!

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If these clifftop areas had been sprayed with fertiliser,

0:23:380:23:42

only a few dominant plants would flourish.

0:23:420:23:44

But there's a wonderful diversity of plants here and where you have plants, you have butterflies.

0:23:460:23:52

This is a marble white butterfly.

0:23:550:23:57

There are loads of them around in July and they love this type of coastline.

0:23:570:24:01

Especially they like the long grasses because that's where they lay their eggs.

0:24:010:24:05

And they fly along, a bit like a bomber, and drop their eggs on to selected grasses.

0:24:050:24:10

This is Bindon Hill which is a fantastic place to see butterflies.

0:24:120:24:16

There are about 32 species which live and breed up here.

0:24:160:24:19

The great big ones that we've seen flying around, the orange ones, they're Dark Green Fritillaries.

0:24:190:24:25

Why are they called dark green when they're actually orange?

0:24:250:24:28

That's because, on the underwing, they have a dark greenish shimmer

0:24:280:24:32

which distinguishes them from the other types of fritillary.

0:24:320:24:36

There are also lots of moths here including the day-flying, six spot Burnet Moth.

0:24:360:24:42

We've got Adonis Blue butterflies, Common Blue butterflies,

0:24:420:24:46

and the Small Blue butterfly which absolutely loves this kidney vetch, which is what it lays its eggs on.

0:24:460:24:52

Now, there's one butterfly that's extra-special.

0:24:520:24:57

It's a bit brown, dull and not very colourful, but it's the rarest one of them all.

0:24:570:25:02

It's the Lulworth Skipper and it was given that name because it was discovered here

0:25:020:25:08

and this is the only place in Britain that you find it.

0:25:080:25:12

For all the beauty of the living creatures on this part of the coast, what makes this place so special

0:25:130:25:19

are the things that lived on the land and under the sea here millions of years ago.

0:25:190:25:23

I've come back to Charmouth for a little fossil hunting competition

0:25:230:25:27

with Meirel Whaites, the warden for this part of the coast.

0:25:270:25:30

What is it about fossils that just captures our imagination so much?

0:25:300:25:35

I think it's the fact that you can walk along the British coastline, come onto a beach like this

0:25:350:25:42

and pick up something that nobody else has touched or even seen in 185 million years.

0:25:420:25:46

Especially with the children, that is the big wow factor.

0:25:460:25:50

Give me some tips about finding really good fossils.

0:25:500:25:52

When I come out on the beach, I always carry a hammer.

0:25:520:25:55

But during the summer months, you are better off looking amongst the pebbles and the gravel.

0:25:550:26:00

Your eyes are your best tools, and your hands.

0:26:000:26:04

That's why children are so good - their eyes are younger!

0:26:040:26:07

-So let's start our challenge and may the best woman win!

-We'll see!

0:26:070:26:11

The best time to look is on a falling low tide when the sea has churned up lots of goodies.

0:26:110:26:18

Everyone's hoping to find a souvenir of sea creatures that lived

0:26:190:26:24

in warm, shallow tropical seas millions of years ago.

0:26:240:26:27

-I found a few but they're not very good, so has anybody got a really good fossil?

-I've got an ammonite.

0:26:270:26:34

That's brilliant. That's perfect. Has anybody got anything else?

0:26:340:26:38

What have you got? ..An ichthyosaur vertebra. Fantastic.

0:26:380:26:44

OK, Meirel, time to tally up. I think I've actually done quite well.

0:26:450:26:51

I've got belemnites...

0:26:510:26:55

a really, really good ammonite, but my prize...

0:26:550:26:58

is a vertebra from a marine reptile.

0:26:580:27:03

-I reckon that is an ichthyosaur. Am I right?

-You're pretty much right.

0:27:030:27:07

Right, I've got rock ammonites, a piece of fossil wood,

0:27:070:27:11

a nice calcite ammonite that I've hammered open,

0:27:110:27:14

a bigger ammonite than yours and the belemnites as well.

0:27:140:27:19

I've got to confess, actually, I cheated.

0:27:190:27:22

How did you cheat out on the beach?

0:27:220:27:25

I nicked two best fossils from the kids.

0:27:250:27:28

I told you the kids are the best fossil hunters.

0:27:280:27:32

Fossiling is really addictive

0:27:320:27:34

and I'll be back to Charmouth again to see what I can find on the beach.

0:27:340:27:39

More details on our website.

0:27:570:28:00

If you do decide to visit Mull, and I mean look at it - it's irresistible

0:28:020:28:07

before you come, check out all of those people offering trips on land and sea.

0:28:070:28:12

Check with tourist information or have a quick scan of the web.

0:28:120:28:16

I guarantee you'll find something that takes your fancy.

0:28:160:28:20

That's it from Hands On Nature. See you again next time...

0:28:200:28:23

..when Janet Sumner will be meeting some hard-working Dartmoor residents.

0:28:250:28:30

They can carry up to 20 times their own body weight.

0:28:300:28:34

It's amazing, isn't it?

0:28:340:28:35

I'll head for Scotland, searching for one of our toughest little animals.

0:28:350:28:41

This is ornithological nirvana.

0:28:410:28:44

Chris Packham and his team go whale watching off the Scottish coast and reveal the secrets of one of the country's top rockpooling locations.


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