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Hello and welcome to Hands on Nature.

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I'm Chris Packham and this is your user's guide

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to the very best of the UK's wildlife.

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Who needs far-flung exotic places? Just look at this!

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But today you will need a stout pair of boots and a waterproof coat,

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because we're going to be taking a closer look at our uplands.

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Meet the mountain specialist

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trying to give me the slip in its highland home.

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Mike Dilger grapples with the American invader,

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that's over-sized and over here.

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If that was in the water, it'd actually be lying up like this

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with its claws in the air, basically saying, "get off!"

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And there's a surprise for Janet Sumner in a southern upland.

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Such a special moment, I'd no idea they lived up trees!

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This amazing landscape is the Cairngorm National Park

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and it includes some of the highest mountains in the UK.

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And just look at it, it's pretty impressive.

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But this habitat is a harsh and a hostile one and to survive here

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you've got to be really tough.

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After all, the conditions could be described as Arctic.

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Now, if you know what to look for in this big country, you can enjoy

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a pretty amazing highland wildlife experience.

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So many mountains, so little time - so pick one where things are made

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a bit easier for you.

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And Cairn Gorm is probably the best.

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Not least because a road comes half way up and there's a railway

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which takes you almost to the top, but if you want to get the best

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out of the wildlife here, and there are some super species,

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I'm afraid you've got to do things the old-fashioned, hard way.

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The Cairngorms are Britain's premier mountain range, in scale,

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altitude and sheer wilderness.

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Mostly around 4,000 feet high, it's a harsh and unforgiving landscape.

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But look closely and there is life here.

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If you know where to look there are plants and animals aplenty.

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And in the hunt for three of them - two specialist highland birds,

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the ptarmigan and snow bunting, together with the mountain hare,

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and giving me a hand is Cairngorm ranger, Nick Bullivant.

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And within minutes we're in luck.

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Amongst the boulders we spot a mountain hare.

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The wind ruffling his fur.

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They keep those black ear tips all year, but all the rest...

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It goes white in winter.

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I've never seen them white. They go completely white?

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-Yeah.

-Just the ear tips?

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Keeps them out of harm's way because

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-hares and ptarmigan try to keep out of the way of golden eagles.

-Yeah.

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-They're everywhere.

-They are everywhere.

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They're not what we need in terms of a montane specialist, are they?

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Where's our snow bunting and ptarmigan?

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Hare combo with large fries and a Diet Coke.

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Small plastic toy to take away.

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So back to our hunt, and at least there's a trail to follow.

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Now, you're gonna love this, I promise you

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you're going to love it and if you don't, I guarantee your kids will.

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Because now we're gonna take a look at poo.

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Because poo is important, poo can tell you exactly what's

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living wherever you found it. And this is a collection I've made today.

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This lovely little round pellet here,

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is mountain hare poo.

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Just like a rabbit, slightly flatter, dropped singly,

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and it's this colour when it's dry, and it's this colour when it's wet.

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This one here is quite small for the animal, normally it's much larger.

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It's dark, often black, it's full of hair.

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The blackness tells you it's a carnivore,

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so does the fact that it's full of hair, and this is fox poo,

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and it has a characteristic scent.

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But I think this one's been a bit washed out, so it's lacking that.

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This, though, is one of my favourites.

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These lovely little pellets here are ptarmigan poo.

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And if you look into them, you can see all the plant material

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the bird's been eating.

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They're together because they sit down in one spot and just poo there.

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There are lovely plants - it's a garden centre at 3,000 feet.

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Nick, I keep spotting lots of this little pink flower here.

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-D'you know what it is?

-Yes, it's trailing azalea.

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-Azalea?

-It's actually azalea.

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-Like a garden azalea?

-Yes.

-Tiny, isn't it?

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Living in a big landscape, there's no point in being big,

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-it would just get blown away.

-Yes.

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-Exquisite, actually, when it's magnified like that.

-Yes, yes.

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Here's a little tip, turn your binoculars upside down and

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they become a handy magnifying glass. But you've got to get really close.

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Still no sign of the ptarmigan, a bird so uniquely adapted to

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mountain life and camouflaged so well that it looks like a rock, and this,

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need I say it, is a landscape dominated by rocks.

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Birds, sometimes I can go off them, Nick.

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Have you had no luck either?

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-Still looking.

-Feather, what d'you think, it's not a wood pigeon up here, is it?

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No, it's an under feather from a ptarmigan, I would say.

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And this, is the best piece of evidence yet.

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Yeah.

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-That's ptarmigan egg, isn't it?

-Yes.

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And it's been predated by a bird, look. Something's pecked into that.

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So it has, yeah.

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No toothmark here to suggest it would be a mammal.

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-What do you think - crow?

-You do get crows coming up

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after bits of bread and stuff, that people have dropped.

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They'll stay around if they can find anything like this to...

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Just the one though. They do have quite a large clutch, don't they?

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-Yeah.

-Eight, nine, ten?

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You see seven, eight, nine.

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And we've got one. That's it.

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-You've got one?

-Yeah, rock at the back edge...

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I got it, I've got it, I've got it!

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The camouflage is absolutely remarkable, isn't it?

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-How did you see it, because it was moving?

-Yeah, that's the only thing.

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Superb, superb.

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Basically, a bird that's supremely adapted to this environment,

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they've even got fluffy feet, haven't they, to keep them warm.

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Yes, that's right.

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Ptarmigan and grouse both have that.

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And reduced amount of feeling in the soles of their feet as well.

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They'll sit around in the snow quite happily.

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Then we spotted this female had chicks.

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The young are very vulnerable at first, it takes a while for them

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to build up that tolerance and I think it'd be quite a loss at first.

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But we do see seven and eight going around.

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Unfortunately, if you come across them and you scatter them,

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it takes the mother bird a while to collect them all up again.

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That was brilliant, I honestly thought we'd had it.

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I thought it was an eggshell, a feather and quite a lot of poo.

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Which is a very poor substitute for the real thing.

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So, with two of our three targets ticked off,

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could we find the elusive snow bunting?

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Well, just as the day was drawing to a close, listen to this. BIRD SINGS

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Ahh, look at that. Just look at it.

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Look at it, look at it, look at it.

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Look at him singing!

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This is ornithological nirvana.

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That's a male snow bunting, and not only is it extremely rare,

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there's only a handful of pairs here in the Highland, it's also

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a beautiful little bird. That's a full adult - he's hopping around

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all over the place. It's a full adult male, it's got that white head,

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every now and again, look at that.

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You see that little jagged bit on his beak which

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he uses for breaking open the seeds.

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What a dainty, dapper little bird!

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It's a great place, harsh, hostile, even a little hostile for us today,

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but nevertheless, a unique environment, isn't it?

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It's difficult to think how fragile it is.

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It doesn't look fragile on the face of it, but...

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it doesn't take much of the climate change

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and losing all the snow patches earlier and earlier.

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A lot of the plants and animals we've seen today

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are really struggling, because they are not getting the winter breaks

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they used to get.

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There's one thing wrong with this place -

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that little tea room that should be just there

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with Earl Grey and shortbread.

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-Lovely idea! Let's go and find it.

-We'll have to go down,

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the business opportunities being wasted, seriously.

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We should branch out,

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branch out.

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Cairn Gorm mountain is 10 miles from Aviemore. There's a mountain railway,

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but you can't leave the summit building, so walking is best.

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Call into the Cairn Gorm ranger base for wildlife and weather advice

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and don't forget there's more information on our website:

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OK, here's the health warning.

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This place is much bigger than the English Lake District, and although

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it can look terribly peaceful, even now in the middle of summer,

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June, there's snow up here. So imagine what it's like in the winter.

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If you're going to venture out here use some common sense.

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Plenty of waterproof clothing, spare warm clothing, even a blanket.

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And get a compass, and make sure you know how to use it. A whistle, so if you get lost...

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..you can attract attention.

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But perhaps most important of all, tell someone

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exactly where you're going and when you expect to come back.

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As I've said, it is much common sense, but it's worth using it.

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Still, enough of that.

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Coming up - Janet's on an adventure into an upland forest

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and comes under ant attack.

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It's an incredibly strong smell of vinegar.

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Right, now we're heading south to the English Pennines,

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a place which has one of the most bizarre landscapes.

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You see, Yorkshire is given over to a lot of limestone,

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and that comes with an incredible mix of plants and animals.

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Mike Dilger started his trip at

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the iconic, the amazing, the fabulous Malham Cove.

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At 80 metres high, by 300 metres across, the cliffs at Malham Cove

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scale quite comfortably into the top 10 geological wonders of Britain.

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Check out the view.

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The cove is a fantastic day out. It's such great walking country

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and if you want to get to the top, you've got to start at the bottom.

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And if you come in the summer months, May, June, July,

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the RSPB and the National Park have set telescopes up here

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for one of our most charismatic birds of prey.

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The peregrine falcon. And if you come down, you can have a free peek.

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Every where you look there's limestone,

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in fact much of Yorkshire's famous drystone walls are made of it.

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300 million years ago, this area would have been

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covered by a shallow tropical sea.

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And the bodies of the dead sea creatures have formed

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the limestone that makes for such a stunning place to visit today.

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Looks as hard as rock, doesn't it?

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But isn't, because one of the key features of limestone is,

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it's really susceptible to weathering. And this erosion causes

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limestone pavements, which is what I'm off to discover now.

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And some of the best limestone pavements are a few miles

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to the north-east at the Ingleborough nature reserve.

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What a brilliant lunar landscape.

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I reckon this is the closest thing you'll get to the moon in Britain.

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When you have a look around, the whole site is covered

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by these massive slabs of rock.

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They've got huge pitted fissures running throughout the whole site.

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I know one of them is called a clint and the other one is called a gryke.

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I can't remember which one's which, but I do know a man that does.

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Phil Eckersley from English Nature is going to help me out.

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Hi, Phil, have you got a nice spot there?

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Yes, Mike, I've found a brilliant spot for flowers.

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Wonderful. Now, put my mind at rest,

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clints, grykes, I just can't remember which one's which?

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It's dead easy, the clints are the big rocks on the top...

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-What we're sitting on?

-That's right. And the grykes are

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these very thin fissures we can see in front of us here.

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And the fissures or the grykes are brilliant for plants.

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-Look at all these ferns down here.

-We've got this limestone fern

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-and this is another species down here.

-What else have you got?

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We've got dog's mercury, which is a real woodland plant.

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Nothing beats it in my book for a really showy plant.

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It's a real corker.

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So the diversity is absolutely superb.

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It's bizarre, when you look on top, in front of us and behind us,

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there's very little growing on top, and it's a micro-climate.

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It's completely different down here. Why?

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It's a question of the two woodland conditions in lots of ways.

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You've got very deep fissures, it's very shady in there, quite humid.

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Sometimes a bit warmer than the top of the limestone pavement.

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There's also some soil there which is washed down from above,

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so you've got perfect conditions for a wide diversity of plants to grow.

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I've brought my little DV camera here, so if I turn it on,

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we should be able to kind of film some nice plants actually.

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And if you use a camera, it avoids the risk of falling into the grykes.

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But there are great plants growing on top of the limestone, too,

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and Tim Thom from the National Park was on hand to show me

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one of the best sites near Grassington.

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It has to be said, when you get down on one level, there's only

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one colour that dominates, but it's not buttercup.

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No, it's rock rose, which is a real speciality

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of the limestone here and it's looking fabulous today.

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Fantastic, lovely papery petals, aren't they?

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-Very delicate.

-When you get close down,

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-you suddenly realise there is a lot more species down there.

-Yeah.

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You've got to have a good look.

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You've got thyme here, which is the real...

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The smell of it, as you crush it or walk across it,

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that kind of Mediterranean herb smell, it's fantastic.

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Spaghetti bolognese.

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And this delicate one, it's beautiful.

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Yes, this is fairy flax,

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a tiny little flower, but absolutely stunning, a wonderful little plant.

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-They all love the lime conditions, and also the dry, stony conditions.

-The very thin soil.

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Yes, virtually no soil, a few centimetres, then you're down to this really hard base rock.

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Of course, Tim, it's not just good for flowers,

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it's good for insects and I think I've got a speciality of the site.

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Yeah, it's the northern brown argus butterfly.

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-That's the one.

-Which is a real, unique butterfly for the Dales.

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This sunshine that bringing it now.

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But all is not sweetness and light in the Yorkshire Dales.

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There's a battle under way in some of these upland rivers.

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And it's one that's not going our way.

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Hopefully, if you let the water go a bit still after you've got in,

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you can sometimes see a...

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Sitting very quiet on the bottom.

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Something sticking out from under a rock,

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have a look first, and then start

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lifting some of the bigger rocks over.

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We're looking for signs of a deadly alien invader

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that's escaped from fish farms and entered the river system.

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Wait until it clears and see if you've got one there.

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Right, here we are.

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-Have you got one?

-Yeah.

-I knew you'd be the first to find one.

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-Here we go.

-Oh, look at that.

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-We were looking for crayfish weren't we?

-Yes, exactly.

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-But this is not welcome?

-No, this is the American signal crayfish.

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-It's oversexed, oversized and over here?

-Much more aggressive

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than our own crayfish.

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-Crikey!

-You can see what it's doing there.

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It's curling its back. If that was in the water, it would be lying up

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like this with its claws in the air, basically saying, "Get off,

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-"I'll beat you up."

-A very aggressive posture.

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-Yeah.

-We've got our own native crayfish, the white-clawed crayfish,

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but how are these doing our native crayfish in?

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They are bigger and more aggressive,

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they're directly competing with our own crayfish, they'll attack them,

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and eat them.

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The other problem, Tim, is they carry a plague.

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Yeah, these guys have all sorts of weapons and they've got

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this biological weapon, which is called crayfish plague.

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These carry it, but they're immune to it, but our British crayfish

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are very susceptible. And if you get crayfish plague in a river,

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it can wipe out the entire population of British crayfish within weeks.

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Our under-fire British crayfish are just about hanging on

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in streams and tributaries, but to see them

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we'll have to wait until dark, as that's when they come out to hunt.

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These British survivors have been tagged so their progress can be monitored.

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-Hey, here we go.

-That's the native, British white-clawed crayfish.

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A lot smaller, as you can see.

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These guys really are just not tough enough to cope

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with the invasion of the signal crayfish.

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At the moment, they're safe,

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although we've started recording signal crayfish in the bottom end of the beck.

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So, really given what we know from other rivers, it's only

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a matter of time before signal crayfish make their way up here.

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Let's hope the tide turns in their favour.

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But what a landscape, and if you want to explore limestone country,

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then it extends across the Yorkshire Dales and into Lancashire.

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Access to Malham Cove is free, and you can get more information

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from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Visitor Centre in Malham.

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More details are on our website.

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OK, up here in the north of the British Isles, and especially at this

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altitude, it's very much a question of survival when it comes to nature.

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Down in the south of England, conditions are different -

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the hills are lower and the climate is much milder

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and you get a much greater range of plants and animals.

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Janet Sumner started her journey

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on top of Dartmoor, the largest area of moorland in the south of England.

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Dartmoor National Park, the largest and wildest area

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of open country in southern England, and one of the few southern uplands.

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Most of the park's 368 square miles lie on a granite plateau which rises

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to 2,000 feet above sea level.

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It was nearly 300 million years ago, that molten rock

0:20:170:20:21

started to rise up to the surface here, but it didn't quite make it.

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It cooled down really slowly over time, and gave us these beautiful,

0:20:250:20:28

big crystals which are so characteristic of granite rock.

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I'm sat on Hey Tor, which is one of 160 windows

0:20:360:20:40

into that once molten world.

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Now, the reason the granite's exposed today, is that thousands of years of weather

0:20:430:20:48

have stripped away the overlying rocks

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and it's left the most fantastic feature.

0:20:510:20:55

To explore the diverse nature of the moor, I'm starting out here at

0:20:550:20:59

1500ft and I'll be dropping down through ever-changing habitat.

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Now, altitude makes a big difference to nature and as a rule of thumb

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for every 300ft that I'd go down, it'll get one degree warmer.

0:21:080:21:13

Only the very hardiest breeds of livestock can survive

0:21:170:21:22

the winter conditions up here, like these guys, the Dartmoor ponies.

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They help to maintain the moor by munching, and they'll eat anything.

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Grass, heather,

0:21:310:21:33

they'll even eat gorse after bashing it to get the prickles off.

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All this munching is crucial to keep the moor as it is

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otherwise it would soon return to shrub and woodland.

0:21:420:21:45

Now, I mentioned the importance of temperature and altitude,

0:21:470:21:51

well, look down there, that huge wood is set in a valley.

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It's only a few miles away, but it's 800 or 900ft lower

0:21:550:21:59

and there we'll find breeding birds

0:21:590:22:01

that would really struggle to survive up here.

0:22:010:22:04

This is Yarner Wood, and in spring

0:22:130:22:16

it's a great place for nesting birds.

0:22:160:22:18

Including a little migrant

0:22:180:22:20

that flies thousands of miles from West Africa to use the nest boxes.

0:22:200:22:24

All under the watchful gaze of warden, Phil Page.

0:22:240:22:28

Here is a classic example of a bird of oak woodland in upland Britain.

0:22:280:22:33

It's a pied flycatcher.

0:22:330:22:35

That's the female on the branch there?

0:22:350:22:38

-She's much greyer than the male?

-I would say browner, really.

0:22:380:22:42

There he is, he's gorgeous.

0:22:420:22:43

He'll be singing to proclaim - this is my territory.

0:22:430:22:48

We can't really get any closer than this can we?

0:22:480:22:51

No, this is a safe distance. But because we're on a path,

0:22:510:22:53

they're pretty used to people.

0:22:530:22:55

That's another thing - we've got the right clothes on.

0:22:550:22:58

But you'd be amazed at the number of people who come to see birds

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and they've got reds and yellows and birds are sensitive to colours.

0:23:020:23:06

If you want to see the birds, you've got to wear the right clothing.

0:23:060:23:10

-Look, there's a tree creeper.

-Oh yes, I see it!

0:23:100:23:13

It's working its way up the tree.

0:23:130:23:15

-So he's turning the bark over to get to the insects?

-Yes, yes.

-Fantastic.

0:23:150:23:20

-The other one which behaves in a similar way is the nuthatch.

-Which comes DOWN the tree?

-Yes.

0:23:200:23:25

The tree creeper goes up.

0:23:250:23:28

Some of the nest boxes are providing a warm home

0:23:290:23:33

for a group of tiny mammals.

0:23:330:23:35

Have a look in here and see what we've got in this one.

0:23:400:23:45

Ah ha.

0:23:450:23:47

Dormice, not just one dormouse, but several dormice in here.

0:23:470:23:53

-Here we go.

-It's just come out and scurried off up the tree.

0:23:530:23:57

I can't believe it.

0:23:570:23:59

That's such a special moment, I've never seen a dormouse before

0:23:590:24:03

and I had no idea they lived up trees. And the sad thing is,

0:24:030:24:07

they're in decline all over the country, except for Devon.

0:24:070:24:09

They're doing really well here, thank goodness.

0:24:090:24:12

Now, because of their rarity, you can't handle dormice unless you have a special licence like Phil.

0:24:120:24:18

So it's time to put them back and allow them to return

0:24:180:24:21

to their favourite occupation - sleeping.

0:24:210:24:23

Now, for a truly remarkable creature.

0:24:270:24:30

We often walk past lots of nature, simply because it's on a different scale, like this for instance.

0:24:300:24:36

It's a wood ant's nest and you could easily walk past it, but there are

0:24:360:24:40

hundreds of them in this wood, with an estimated 200 million ants

0:24:400:24:44

living in them. It seems like most of them are right here.

0:24:440:24:48

They're actually repairing this nest at the moment, which is why there's loads and loads of activity.

0:24:540:24:59

Now, they don't sting, but as well as biting, they'll actually squirt

0:24:590:25:03

formic acid out of their bottoms and they do that when they're alarmed.

0:25:030:25:07

I can alarm them with his pencil.

0:25:070:25:09

It's an incredibly strong smell of vinegar.

0:25:130:25:17

That's enough to scare off the birds.

0:25:170:25:20

The birds won't be able to eat these ants.

0:25:200:25:23

I have now reached the lowest part of my journey,

0:25:250:25:30

the Bovey River Valley. Dartmoor ecologist Sue Goodfellow

0:25:300:25:34

is going to show me something special,

0:25:340:25:36

something I could easily miss.

0:25:360:25:38

Here's a good tree.

0:25:390:25:41

We've got quite a variety of species here and you can see their different

0:25:410:25:45

shapes and structures.

0:25:450:25:47

And these are the lichens we're looking for, the chaps we've come to find? So, what's this one called?

0:25:470:25:53

That's the knicker elastic lichen.

0:25:530:25:56

OK, well, I've got a piece I picked up on the path and I'm going to test

0:25:560:25:59

to see if it's really worth its name.

0:25:590:26:02

I'm going to pull it very gently apart...

0:26:020:26:06

There, you can actually see the knicker elastic in there. Fantastic.

0:26:060:26:11

OK, so we've got knicker elastic, what else have we got?

0:26:110:26:15

Um, this is Cladonia.

0:26:150:26:17

If you look at it through that, see what you can see.

0:26:170:26:20

Now, lichen are an amazing combination of two types of life,

0:26:200:26:24

fungi and algae. And close up you can see a little red tip, from where

0:26:240:26:28

fungal spores will fly off to find new algae and create a new lichen.

0:26:280:26:33

There are many species along the valley,

0:26:330:26:36

all sensitive to the quality and condition of the air around us.

0:26:360:26:40

What is it with you and lichens?

0:26:400:26:44

Well, they're beautiful and they also tell us

0:26:440:26:47

so much about the environment.

0:26:470:26:48

They're clues to what's happened in the past, and what's around us now.

0:26:480:26:54

You can tell what the air is like. You can tell how much it rains,

0:26:540:26:58

you can tell what's happened to the structure the lichen is growing on.

0:26:580:27:02

They're absolutely fascinating.

0:27:020:27:04

Now, if you've not got your own personal lichen guide like Sue,

0:27:060:27:10

you want to get yourself one of these, a leaflet or book

0:27:100:27:14

that'll help you identify the different kind of lichens.

0:27:140:27:17

Now, I've actually found oak moss, and I know for a fact,

0:27:170:27:22

this was used as a fixative in the perfume industry.

0:27:220:27:26

That means it's ground up and the perfume scents are added to it.

0:27:260:27:31

It's this stuff that keeps the smell of the perfume on your skin.

0:27:310:27:35

If you're not completely sure,

0:27:350:27:39

the best thing to do is to...

0:27:390:27:41

get a snap of it,

0:27:410:27:43

take it home and identify it properly.

0:27:430:27:47

Yarner Wood is part of the East Dartmoor Woods and Heath Reserve

0:27:470:27:52

which includes moorland and the Bovey River Valley.

0:27:520:27:55

It's two miles from Bovey Tracey in Devon.

0:27:550:27:57

There's plenty to see all year round and it's free.

0:27:570:28:00

If you're into spotting lichen, the Field Studies Council at Shrewsbury

0:28:000:28:04

has produced an inexpensive guide.

0:28:040:28:07

Sadly, that's all we have time for.

0:28:090:28:11

Time for me to take one more picture. If you've heard that once,

0:28:110:28:16

I'm sure you've heard it a thousand times.

0:28:160:28:18

Nevertheless... SHUTTER CLICKS

0:28:180:28:21

..it's got to be worth it.

0:28:210:28:23

Excellent. See you next time for some more Hands On Nature...

0:28:230:28:27

..when Mike Dilger enjoys the delights of the Somerset Levels.

0:28:280:28:32

That's Britain's heaviest bird taking off.

0:28:340:28:37

And Sanjida O'Connell takes a walk on the wild side.

0:28:370:28:40

The reason I've come here is to see a rather mysterious creature

0:28:400:28:44

which sounds a bit like this...

0:28:440:28:46

DEEP HOOT

0:28:460:28:48

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:490:28:52

Chris Packham presents a guide to the UK's wildlife hotspots. He heads for the uplands to show how to spot the mysterious mountain animals of the Cairngorms. Janet Sumner visits Dartmoor for a close encounter with wood ants and doormice.


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