Compilation - Wildlife Winners and Losers Countryfile


Compilation - Wildlife Winners and Losers

Ellie Harrison explores the plight of some of Britain's most endangered animals and looks back at some classic Countryfile moments.


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Transcript


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From the mountain tops to the valley bottoms, it is

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home to an astonishing array of wildlife.

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Habitat loss, climate change and invading species all

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taking their toll on some of our best-loved creatures.

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From red squirrels to water voles, our wildlife is feeling the heat.

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But with a little help, things can be turned around.

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In this wildlife edition of Countryfile,

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we'll be looking at the fortunes of some of our most endangered species.

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And some of the animals lost a long time ago,

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We'll also be having another look at some of the wildlife winners

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and losers we featured on Countryfile in the past.

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you'd probably have big teeth like that, as well.

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Can't help but feel a bit of an adrenaline tingle as you go in.

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I've come to the Wildwood Trust in Kent, an animal charity that's

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the perfect backdrop to explore our wildlife winners and losers.

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just a few miles inland from Herne Bay on the Kent coast.

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It's been going since the late '90s and

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since that time has been in the vanguard of wildlife conservation.

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and wild cats are just some of the endangered animals to be found here.

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But there's one animal really making waves. The beaver.

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but were hunted to extinction 400 years ago.

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Slowly but surely, they are making a comeback.

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So Pete, what's the national picture for where we are with our beavers?

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Well, beavers have been returned in a number of projects,

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There's the wonderful project of Knapdale

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and of course then there's the River Tay,

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where they've escaped from some captive situations and over

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and thinking that they're disrupting our river management.

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What's the reply to that? The beaver will save us money.

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They can help get rid of pollutants, nitrates, phosphates,

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But of course, they cause little problems to individual landowners

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When beavers burrow into river banks and open up little

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wildlife ponds, they create a beautiful nature reserve

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all along the river where it's wild, so that's fantastic for wildlife.

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And there's one particular creature that Pete reckons will become

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We'll find out which that is in just a few minutes.

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Before then, let's take a look back at the time Julia ventured

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out into the snowy Yorkshire Dales in search of one of our most

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I'm meeting wildlife photographer Simon Phillpotts at a spot

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Hi, Julia. Hiya. I'm ready for my masterclass.

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Lovely to meet you as well. So you've got all the kit, I see.

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Yes, we're already to go, so that one is yours, the big one there.

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Is it really? Yeah. Oh, I feel very privileged.

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I'm also hoping to get my first snap of a red squirrel.

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No, not really. This is the best location in terms of light

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because it's quite open woodland and the squirrels really don't mind.

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As long as they can come and find their food, they're happy.

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Yes, well, this is actually quite a young pine forest, so in terms

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of natural food, a lot of the cones aren't fully developed yet, so they

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do need some supplementary feeding to help them through the winter.

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Is this camera idiot-proof? Yeah, we're all ready to go.

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Now, all you're going to have to do is make sure you get the centre

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focus point on the squirrel, then you can fire away.

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But the birds are definitely enjoying the free banquet.

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Here he goes. Oh, come on, little cheeky thing.

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In just a few minutes, three or four are running around.

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They're quick movers, aren't they? They do a sort of a smash-and-grab.

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They come and get the nut and then they're off.

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They'll just come and grab a hazelnut and then they'll take it away

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and put it in a private store, hidden away from all the other squirrels.

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They're so quick, all I seem to catch are a bushy red tail.

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It would be nice if at least one posed for me!

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There we go. If only he would just turn around!

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Oh, that's a beautiful pose. Showing off now! Oh, yes. They do.

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But what's the future for red squirrels in Yorkshire?

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At the moment, greys are mainly southerners,

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whilst the reds cling on to more northern locations.

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A front-line now runs right through the Yorkshire Dales.

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Simon is part of a new group that wants to make

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more of the area's red squirrel territory.

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Another member of the group living right on the grey squirrel

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So, Anthony, this is such a new squirrel group,

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you haven't even got a name yet. We haven't, we haven't.

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So how long have you been here? We've been here just on 20 years now.

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And what was the squirrel landscape like when you arrived?

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When we arrived, we had red squirrels up the Dale that way. Yes.

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We had grey squirrels on that side of us

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and we took the view that if we could control the greys,

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and if we were really lucky, we might get a red here.

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Four years ago, we seemed to have got rid of all the greys

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Shortly after that, we had two reds, then we started having litters here.

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These are the squirrels from that litter, filmed just before the snow.

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Anthony has helped this farm become a red squirrel stronghold.

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What is the aim of the group? What's your ambition?

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We want to get as many of the sort of local people involved as possible

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so that we can do three things, really.

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One is to monitor the greys and the reds.

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The second is to help control the greys and then third thing is

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to feed and encourage the reds to spread out into the community.

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One of the most important things that they want to do is encourage

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locals to report their sightings of both grey and red squirrels.

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Today, Matt Neal from the Yorkshire Dales National Park has

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come along to help Anthony set up his own squirrel-monitoring system.

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Hello there. Hello, hi. Right. That looks like a feeder.

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The idea of the feeder is to try and attract squirrels to this location.

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The idea is we're going to try and find out

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if we've got red squirrels or grey squirrels visiting this location.

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And have you seen one of these in action before? We haven't.

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We haven't had one of these here before.

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now for the hi tech monitoring device - a bit of plastic pipe.

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And then we've got our sticky pad, OK, so we take the backing off now.

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And then we push that just up inside in this end.

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Like so. And you can just see the sticky pad at that end. Yeah. OK?

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So as the squirrel comes along the branch,

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Matt's brought along a sample from another site.

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Yeah, there's lots of shading going on, isn't there?

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Yeah, so we take them away and examine these parts under

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a microscope and then that tells us whether it's a red or grey squirrel.

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These kinds of systems are just so important, aren't they, for you?

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They are, because if we know if we've got red

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squirrels or grey squirrels in an area, then that helps us and

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other bodies advise landowners on the best way to manage woodlands.

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Future habitat management is going to be one of the key measures

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to ensuring we have a sustainable red squirrel population.

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This little box is going to be a fantastic monitoring

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system to find out, if indeed there are any greys left in the area,

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how many there are and whether or not it's going to stay red.

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Plenty of young reds have been seen near the project site this year.

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Back at the Wildwood Trust animal reserve in Kent, I'm finding out

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that bringing back beavers could benefit other wildlife.

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Could that mean dormice? Red squirrels?

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Actually, it's a river bank favourite. Here's Pete Smith again.

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They create this, so along every river bank in the country,

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when we have beavers back, they will create areas like this.

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You've got reed beds, you've got wet woodland,

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you've got a complex variety of plants and this is what...

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All the rare creatures. We have got great crested newts in this pond.

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We've got emperor dragonfly, we've got water vole.

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With the water voles, with this kind of habitat,

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and all the other predators of water voles,

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so if you want to save water voles, this is the type of habitat we need.

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Water voles need all the help they can get.

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They're one of our biggest wildlife losers,

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with numbers down more than 90% since the 1970s.

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But wildlife CAN be brought back from the brink, as Matt found out

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in Dorset when he headed straight for the man-made caves on the coast.

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These are the extraordinary Beer Quarry Caves, and for millennia

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people have quarried the soft limestone here.

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It was the Romans who first took advantage of this natural resource

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and this seam continued to be exploited up until the 1920s.

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Its 75 acres of caverns are testimony to the blood, sweat

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and tears of generations of men, and now the quarry's closed its doors

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the moist air and constant temperature has enticed another

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opportunist to take up residence here.

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Greater horseshoe bats, in their hundreds.

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They're one of the biggest bat species in Britain

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and are recognisable by their horseshoe-shaped nose leaf.

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But all is not well with the great horseshoe.

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Over the past 100 years their numbers have dropped by 90%,

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making them an increasingly rare sight.

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Every year, around 200 greater horseshoes can be

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in the whole of the UK, which means that this place is

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one of the most important hibernaculums in the whole country.

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And they're not the only species to have taken up roost.

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No less than ten of the UK's 17 species of bat have been found here.

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And for the past five years Dr Fiona Mathews

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from Exeter University has been keeping a close eye on them.

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Do you want to come up and have a look? Is that a bat?

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and it is absolutely covered in little dewdrops

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of condensation so it looks like a Christmas tree decoration, really.

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It's condensation that's caught on its fur

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and the bat has chosen to come and hibernate down here

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because it's really damp, and the damper it is,

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the less often the bat needs to wake up and go and have a drink,

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so it's actually an adaptation, if you like, to hibernation.

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and this time it doesn't have the dewdrops on it.

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It's probably been awake more recently and shaken them off. Right.

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What these guys are doing is they're trying to surround themselves

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We know that these sort will tend to hibernate at the front of the caves

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so they're looking for a temperature that is pretty much like your

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average fridge because they really don't want to be disturbed.

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And then you get things like the greater horseshoe bats,

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in huge numbers, and they'll choose a warmer temperature of cave

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and they'll be on the move quite often during the winter

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so they'll be feeding every few days. Right.

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Because they're so endangered, we think that their numbers

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have probably declined because these guys are really, really dependent on

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old pastures and basically the sort of things that are disappearing in

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the British landscape and what we've been doing is a ringing project.

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You see here, it's got a little metal ring on its forearm

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and find out where it is that we've seen this bat before.

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you'd probably have teeth like that as well! Yeah!

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It's got this horseshoe-shaped flap of skin on its nose.

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Well, listen, little man, I think we should let you

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more horseshoe bats have taken up residence.

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Here at Wildwood, they're making space for water voles.

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Each of these cages has a little family of water voles in them.

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And I'm here to help conservationist Vicky Johnson do a little

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Wow, Vicky. There are a lot of enclosures here. There are.

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There are quite a few. It's about 100, 100 enclosures at the moment.

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All full of water voles? Yeah, pretty much.

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We've got about 250 in captivity at the moment.

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It's this time of year when Vicky clears out the cages

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It's only once animals are given a clean

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bill of health that they'll be returned to the wild.

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So where are the offspring of these water voles going to go to?

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Well, hopefully these will become part of a reintroduction project.

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OK, so we've roused the first of the water voles.

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So that we can give them a health check, we've got

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to gently encourage them into these cardboard tubes.

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Hopefully they'll mistake them for burrows and scurry straight in.

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And then you kind of have to listen out for the ping.

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Right, if we keep pushing those tubes in... OK.

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I heard a little metal ping, did I? Or...I made that up. That's it.

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Fabulous. Quite small compared to... Yeah. This is one of this year's.

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Oh, I see. So this is young. This is one of the youngsters, yeah.

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So now we're just going to check it over.

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We'll just check the gender and then we'll give it a little wait

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Yeah, that's a little female. So we write that on here. Female. Lovely.

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And we'll just check over the teeth and the eyes.

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Yeah, those eyes look really healthy. Lovely dark fur.

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Incredibly dark, actually. So this one's got good teeth.

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You're happy about the condition? Yeah. The eyes look fine as well.

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Is it all there? Yeah. Yeah! Here's Mum.

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and you can see the size difference between her and the youngsters.

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Yeah. But I still just like to give her a check over

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so we'll just pop her back in the tube.

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Have we got a good chance of bringing back water voles

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Definitely. Um, we've sort of found now that hopefully

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the numbers are kind of starting to stabilise.

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Water voles need a river bank habitat to thrive

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Here's James and a chance to hear again how one strange little beetle

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is desperately clinging to life along the banks

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The tansy beetle is right at the top of our most endangered species list.

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Appropriately in these parts, it's known as the jewel of York.

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Once widespread in Britain, it's now confined to a few isolated colonies

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along just one small stretch of the River Ouse.

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It relies entirely on this little guy here for its survival.

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It's a plant called tansy and it's from this which it gets its name.

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The problem is, right along this stretch of river,

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the plant is finding it really difficult

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to cling on to the banks, and that is devastating news for the beetle.

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Unseasonal flooding has eroded the river banks,

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washing away tansy plants and, with it, both the adult beetles

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Last summer, the entire British tansy beetle population was halved.

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TBAG, the Tansy Beetle Action Group, is trying to reverse

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this dramatic decline by shoring up the beetle's habitats in the area.

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And there are two TBAG members who've taken the task of rescuing

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Dr Geoff Oxford from the University of York and his wife Roma

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have been breeding the tansy beetles in their kitchen.

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Guys, I've never seen an endangered insect breeding station before

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OK, so... bucket with tansy growing in it

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and in the net we have adult beetles. OK.

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And at this time of year they are mating and laying bright yellow eggs.

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Roma gives the larvae the best possible chance of survival.

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She keeps them in separate pots, and that's for a very good reason.

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The tansy beetle eats tansy beetle eggs. It's a really annoying habit...

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And also it doesn't do great things for the beetles themselves.

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To protect their offspring from being eaten, tansy beetles

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have evolved to lay their eggs away from the tansy plant.

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Well, in here, no problem, but in the wild they've only got four days

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But nothing's simple for this beetle.

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Although tansy is a highly scented plant,

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the tansy beetle can't detect it from any sort of distance.

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It only knows it's tansy when it steps on it.

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So when they're wandering between tansy clumps,

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they don't know where they're going, they just wander at random.

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So these won't fly away when this is opened?

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But they do not fly. They walk everywhere. So they can't fly. No.

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They can't sense any of the plants they want to eat at a distance. No.

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Yes. I'm beginning to see why this thing is becoming extinct!

:22:29.:22:35.

to reintroduce tansy beetles into the wild is well under way.

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where they're on public view in the museum garden.

:22:42.:22:51.

Alison, you're the garden manager here. Explain this to me.

:22:52.:22:54.

I was expecting wall-to-wall monoculture tansy

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but there's all sorts of stuff going on in here.

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Yeah, that's right. Well, these beds were specifically planted

:23:00.:23:02.

and what we're trying to do is recreate the sort of natural

:23:03.:23:06.

environment they would have on the banks of the River Ouse.

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Tansy is their main food plant in Britain

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but on the Continent they're found on all sorts of other plants

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and it's actually really good to have a nice mix of species.

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It's the fruition of the project...is to establish a proper

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breeding colony here, so to actually see them mating is fantastic.

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I'd never even heard of the tansy beetle, with its crazy

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iridescent colours and very weird evolutionary finickiness.

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But with the fantastic work of the TBAG project, hopefully

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these little guys will be around for generations to come.

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And the latest news is that tansy beetle numbers are stable.

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This little dormouse was found with its brothers

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and sisters abandoned in a plant pot at a garden centre.

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He should be hibernating by now but keeper Judy Hill is keeping him

:24:24.:24:27.

They're not heavy enough to go into hibernation

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and survive a winter, so now that they are off their milk,

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they've been weaned, they are here in a nice warm room

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to overwinter with a view to going out next spring.

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So, you're going to keep them awake all winter to get them fed up?

:24:48.:24:49.

Oh, and doing a good job of it there with that nut.

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While this one carries on to feed, there's a chance to see again

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one of our most remarkable wildlife success stories in recent years.

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And it all happened here in the Cotswolds back in 2011.

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Matt and Julia were on the trail of a long-vanished butterfly -

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Eggs from another site had been brought here

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in the hope of re-colonising this former stronghold.

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Did Matt and Julia get lucky and see a large blue?

:25:22.:25:28.

They haven't been seen at this spot in the Cotswolds in over 50 years.

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Several attempts to reintroduce them have failed

:25:33.:25:35.

but scientists are hopeful that they've got it right this time.

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The site is top secret but we've got exclusive access

:25:39.:25:41.

and today's the day that the butterflies should start to emerge.

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Tell me what you are doing this time last summer here, David.

:25:46.:25:52.

Well, what we were doing, we were actually making an experimental

:25:53.:25:56.

and to do that we collected eggs from Somerset and reared the caterpillars

:25:57.:26:04.

Each day at about four o'clock, you'd bring them down on the site

:26:05.:26:11.

and then, using a paintbrush, gently move them onto the ground.

:26:12.:26:16.

So you're laying eggs, basically? In effect, yes. Painstaking work.

:26:17.:26:23.

To give ourselves the best chance of seeing them, Matt and I

:26:24.:26:26.

He's a few fields away with self-confessed butterfly geek

:26:27.:26:30.

You've got to be patient, haven't you? Very patient.

:26:31.:26:39.

Come on, you blues. This is looking pretty good. Sheltered. Nice.

:26:40.:26:52.

Oh, here we go. Meadow brown. Meadow brown, meadow brown.

:26:53.:26:58.

We've got something there, Patrick. Yeah, we've got a small blue here.

:26:59.:27:13.

OK, we've seen the small blue, the common blue.

:27:14.:27:25.

Lots of blue butterflies but no large blues.

:27:26.:27:28.

Nothing so far, Matt, yes. Not a sausage. Definitely not a butterfly.

:27:29.:27:33.

Are you feeling up here? Left? Right? Straight up? I think up here. OK.

:27:34.:27:50.

but still no sign of the butterfly we're all here to see.

:27:51.:28:02.

And just when you're about to give up... Look! There's one there. Where?

:28:03.:28:08.

Can you see? Sitting in the bush. Oh, yes!

:28:09.:28:12.

Our search is over. They're here. Success!

:28:13.:28:18.

Well, what to me is so pleasing is this is the first time that

:28:19.:28:27.

a large blue has been live on this site for over 50 years.

:28:28.:28:33.

Baker boy, we've got one! Come down the hill.

:28:34.:28:37.

Julia, you would not believe how close Patrick

:28:38.:28:40.

and I are to a large blue right now. It's unbelievable.

:28:41.:28:46.

Fantastic! You've got one as well? Amazing!

:28:47.:28:49.

'And we're just observing one basking.'

:28:50.:28:52.

It's just closing its wings now. Honestly, I'm like inches away.

:28:53.:28:57.

'Ditto that. All right, come down when you're ready.'

:28:58.:29:01.

OK, so this butterfly didn't officially exist all through our

:29:02.:29:04.

childhood and this is the closest I've ever got one in my life.

:29:05.:29:08.

I can't tell you how thrilling that is.

:29:09.:29:10.

And its wings are still soft, so this butterfly keeps its wings soft

:29:11.:29:14.

so it can emerge from the nest underground, from the ants' nest.

:29:15.:29:18.

And this guy's wings are still all soft and floppy from that

:29:19.:29:21.

emergence cos it's only just come out this morning.

:29:22.:29:26.

Where are we looking? Where are we looking? Right there.

:29:27.:29:29.

In the hazel bush. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah! It's a good feeling, isn't it?

:29:30.:29:34.

It must be a fantastic feeling for you! It's a fantastic feeling.

:29:35.:29:37.

Absolutely fantastic. All of your hard work paid off.

:29:38.:29:40.

Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. This time, it has.

:29:41.:29:45.

And Patrick, as a self-confessed butterfly geek,

:29:46.:29:48.

what's this moment like for you? Oh, it's so exciting.

:29:49.:29:51.

Since we featured the Large Blue back in 2011,

:29:52.:30:06.

There are now plans to reintroduce them

:30:07.:30:10.

at two further sites in the Cotswolds.

:30:11.:30:13.

They are clearly one of our wildlife winners.

:30:14.:30:18.

But here's an animal that shouldn't be here.

:30:19.:30:21.

It's controversial, but wild boars are at large in our countryside.

:30:22.:30:25.

so that means appealing to these boars' bellies.

:30:26.:30:33.

I've got some very festive apples and sweet chestnuts in here.

:30:34.:30:40.

Here we go... See what these guys make of it.

:30:41.:30:48.

For wild boar, this is haute cuisine.

:30:49.:30:52.

But these animals will eat almost anything,

:30:53.:30:54.

If you want to see how a wild boar works,

:30:55.:31:00.

You've got to see how this guy works!

:31:01.:31:07.

So, we're going to present an apple...

:31:08.:31:10.

and if he's good, he'll show us his teeth.

:31:11.:31:12.

Look at that! Those tusks! Strewth!

:31:13.:31:16.

You wouldn't be on the wrong side of that. No, no.

:31:17.:31:18.

So, wild boar are already out there in the wild. Should we be worried?

:31:19.:31:24.

No! There's probably 1,000 wild boar in Kent and Sussex.

:31:25.:31:28.

They've probably been living here since the '80s -

:31:29.:31:34.

And they're now, you know, popping up all over the country.

:31:35.:31:39.

'They especially love woodland, where they can forage for nuts,

:31:40.:31:44.

'and this could make them useful tools in shaping the landscape.'

:31:45.:31:48.

have got a relationship with the oak tree.

:31:49.:31:53.

The oak tree will lose all its genetic diversity

:31:54.:31:56.

because without these chaps they don't get their seeds spread.

:31:57.:31:59.

The acorns don't get spread around. They lose their genetic diversity.

:32:00.:32:03.

So you've an amazing relationship between transferring seeds around,

:32:04.:32:07.

in places where wild boar have snuffled around.

:32:08.:32:14.

So a lot of the diversity of our woodlands depends on wild boar.

:32:15.:32:19.

So, boars are back, but they are controversial.

:32:20.:32:23.

Could we see even more controversial re-introductions

:32:24.:32:27.

I'll have the answer to that in just a few minutes -

:32:28.:32:32.

but first, a big story about a little bird.

:32:33.:32:35.

Some conservation success I saw for myself back in August.

:32:36.:32:43.

And it all centred on Portsmouth harbour

:32:44.:32:45.

and these old oyster beds in particular.

:32:46.:32:51.

Back in the 1900s, this would have been a hive of fishing activity,

:32:52.:32:56.

but pollution brought business to a standstill

:32:57.:32:58.

Today this man-made farm now plays host to thousands of birds

:32:59.:33:05.

Including one of our rarest sea birds - the little tern.

:33:06.:33:13.

The RSPB are using rather unusual methods to try and protect it.

:33:14.:33:20.

And that's where this beast comes in!

:33:21.:33:22.

STOPS ENGINE Thank you!

:33:23.:33:25.

And it's on this surface that little terns like to nest.

:33:26.:33:30.

But because they're fairly particular,

:33:31.:33:33.

All bagged up, I head to the oyster beds with RSPB warden Wes Smith.

:33:34.:33:48.

They better appreciate it! I'm sure they will.

:33:49.:33:51.

Right. We're going to get this lot across to the island here,

:33:52.:33:56.

and create some perfect nesting material for the little terns.

:33:57.:34:01.

Little terns only visit the UK in the summer

:34:02.:34:03.

This is the perfect time to do it, right now.

:34:04.:34:09.

We actually had two circling overhead today... Wow!

:34:10.:34:13.

The little tern has been in decline right across Europe.

:34:14.:34:19.

8% of the UK's entire population are found right here.

:34:20.:34:25.

Why this island as opposed to anywhere else along this coast?

:34:26.:34:29.

on some of the islands which are very suitable for them.

:34:30.:34:38.

tend to get bullied, pushed out the main cluster.

:34:39.:34:43.

So, this one here - if we can get it just at this timing -

:34:44.:34:45.

it will be absolutely perfect for them.

:34:46.:34:50.

Finally, it's time to help volunteer warden Chris Cockburn

:34:51.:34:53.

cover the newly weeded surface with shells,

:34:54.:34:57.

then some hard landscaping is needed.

:34:58.:35:01.

What's with the bricks, Chris? Well, this looks very uniform.

:35:02.:35:06.

So, you're a little term, you're coming back your nest...

:35:07.:35:08.

Are we just playing a bit of boules with the bricks, are we? Yeah.

:35:09.:35:15.

A bit of set dressing, to try and really encourage them in?

:35:16.:35:20.

So, if you've got little terns nesting here,

:35:21.:35:22.

So they can fly over - "Ah, that's my brick, now where was my nest?"

:35:23.:35:28.

And this is where we're very cunning... Oh?

:35:29.:35:30.

We're going to put down some decoys to see if we can attract them.

:35:31.:35:33.

So, these handmade jobs - they're life-size...

:35:34.:35:36.

Shows how small they are! They are.

:35:37.:35:39.

That's why they're called little terns. Yeah, yeah.

:35:40.:35:41.

And does this work? Putting a decoy in?

:35:42.:35:44.

In America they've moved a colony of 2,000 birds.

:35:45.:35:48.

Taken a little while but... By using decoys? Using decoys.

:35:49.:35:51.

With the decoys set, the only thing left to do is wait.

:35:52.:35:58.

will transform these derelict oyster beds,

:35:59.:36:03.

about come face-to-face with an animal of a very different order.

:36:04.:36:18.

And I'm really glad I'm this side of the wire.

:36:19.:36:32.

Hard to believe anything so wild ever roamed our landscape,

:36:33.:36:35.

They were here up until 1,500 years ago,

:36:36.:36:40.

but lynx still live wild in parts of Europe now.

:36:41.:36:46.

And some people would like to see them

:36:47.:36:48.

roaming wild and free here again, too. Is that good idea, though?

:36:49.:36:53.

when he went on the trail of lynx last December.

:36:54.:37:06.

Once upon a time the great woodlands of Britain

:37:07.:37:14.

were home to a supreme hunter - the European lynx.

:37:15.:37:21.

There is talk of reintroducing these amazing creatures back into the wild.

:37:22.:37:27.

So, what would we be letting ourselves in for?

:37:28.:37:30.

To find out, I've come to the Cairngorms Highland Park

:37:31.:37:32.

A few months ago they welcomed two additions to the lynx family,

:37:33.:37:43.

a pair of lynx kittens, the first to be born here in 20 years.

:37:44.:37:52.

Can't help but feel a bit of an adrenaline tingle as you go in.

:37:53.:37:55.

The barrier's removed - but this is how it could be!

:37:56.:38:03.

The European lynx is the largest of the lynx family,

:38:04.:38:06.

You're very used to this in here? Oh, yeah!

:38:07.:38:11.

They are formidable hunters, but apart from a few scratches,

:38:12.:38:16.

there are no records of attacks on humans anywhere in the world.

:38:17.:38:23.

Although we've got brooms at the ready

:38:24.:38:25.

The trick here is to provide them with a challenge for their dinner,

:38:26.:38:37.

That should be all right. That should be great!

:38:38.:38:43.

They're fed with venison and some pheasants from a nearby estate.

:38:44.:38:47.

Only locally sourced food will do for this hungry clan!

:38:48.:38:51.

They're what we'd call stealth hunters.

:38:52.:38:56.

Because they're forest dwellers they tend to

:38:57.:38:58.

hold a position for a very long time and then ambush their prey.

:38:59.:39:01.

So, it's a sudden spring - a sudden attack? Yes.

:39:02.:39:06.

It's not like we'd see on the Serengeti, with the lions chasing...?

:39:07.:39:09.

These are very different in their methods of stalking their prey.

:39:10.:39:15.

And how much food do they get through in the wild?

:39:16.:39:18.

per animal they'd take up to 50 to 60 roe deer a year.

:39:19.:39:25.

50 to 60... Which is quite a lot! Yeah, it is quite a lot.

:39:26.:39:28.

They do however leave pieces behind. That's also part of the ecosystem.

:39:29.:39:31.

That's feeding other animals, even down to slugs and beetles.

:39:32.:39:42.

So why did they disappear from the British countryside

:39:43.:39:45.

Well, recent research points the finger at us.

:39:46.:39:50.

thanks to deforestation and hunting over a millennium ago.

:39:51.:39:58.

lynx have been reintroduced in several European countries,

:39:59.:40:04.

including Switzerland, France, Germany and Poland -

:40:05.:40:07.

has been rumbling around for some time.

:40:08.:40:14.

In fact, there are European directives that encourage

:40:15.:40:17.

So could we really see these big cats stalking across the land once again?

:40:18.:40:30.

Well, conservationist Roy Dennis thinks so.

:40:31.:40:33.

I've come to Glenfeshie in the Highlands to find out why.

:40:34.:40:36.

So do the Scottish Highlands provide a good home for the lynx?

:40:37.:40:40.

we've enough food, enough places to live.

:40:41.:40:45.

It's solely a social and political issue,

:40:46.:40:48.

but why should we reintroduce this big cat?

:40:49.:40:54.

I think there's two reasons. One is ecological -

:40:55.:40:57.

we need it there as part of the system.

:40:58.:40:59.

And as someone who goes around the world -

:41:00.:41:03.

I get embarrassed when they ask me what we've done at home.

:41:04.:41:14.

Roy thinks lynx could help balance the ecology of our countryside,

:41:15.:41:18.

As we heard on Countryfile earlier this year,

:41:19.:41:23.

deer have an appetite for young trees and vegetation.

:41:24.:41:26.

In Scotland, to give their forests a chance to grow,

:41:27.:41:30.

they've had to cull thousands of the animals every year.

:41:31.:41:33.

But a top predator like the lynx could naturally do the job for them.

:41:34.:41:38.

Could it really happen here? Yeah, I think so.

:41:39.:41:40.

And I think that the community that chose it

:41:41.:41:43.

would become one of the famous places of Britain.

:41:44.:41:47.

Bringing the lynx back would be highly controversial.

:41:48.:41:56.

Some farmers and gamekeepers have serious concerns

:41:57.:41:59.

about the impact on wildlife and livestock.

:42:00.:42:02.

It's unlikely that we'll be seeing lynx back in the Highlands

:42:03.:42:05.

The debate about bringing back predators like the lynx

:42:06.:42:13.

imagine coming face-to-face with a wolf without the fence.

:42:14.:42:22.

Well, that's exactly what I'm about to do.

:42:23.:42:24.

This might be my last chance to tell you

:42:25.:42:26.

about the Countryfile calendar for 2014,

:42:27.:42:28.

which you've still got time to get hold of

:42:29.:42:31.

with its theme of Our Living Landscape.

:42:32.:42:35.

The calendar costs ?9 and comes with free delivery.

:42:36.:42:39.

If you'd like one, then please visit the Countryfile website -

:42:40.:42:42.

there you'll find all the details you need to order your copy.

:42:43.:42:46.

And remember that ?4 of the cost of each calendar

:42:47.:42:49.

Think of me when you're putting that on your wall,

:42:50.:42:53.

because I'm about to head into the unknown.

:42:54.:42:57.

Oh, my Lord, this feels really scary.

:42:58.:43:11.

I've stepped into the lair of a real-life pack of wild wolves.

:43:12.:43:22.

Wildwood chief Pete Smith assures me it'll be OK.

:43:23.:43:26.

I do feel quite vulnerable out in the open like this.

:43:27.:43:35.

Any sign of them, Pete? Yes.

:43:36.:43:38.

If you follow my eyes, you can see them flitting through the trees.

:43:39.:43:42.

Now, of course, that flit through the trees is what... There you go!

:43:43.:43:46.

Yeah. Makes me feel like they're circling you. They are.

:43:47.:43:50.

That's what our relationship with wolves probably was

:43:51.:43:53.

We never saw them, apart from that flick through the trees,

:43:54.:43:58.

you might hear a distant howl now and again...

:43:59.:44:03.

So they never actively predated upon humans when they were here?

:44:04.:44:06.

the number of wolf attacks on humans is minuscule.

:44:07.:44:11.

The risks to you today is not coming in here,

:44:12.:44:15.

it's getting out of the shower in the morning,

:44:16.:44:17.

it's banging your head on the bathtub, and the car journey in.

:44:18.:44:20.

That's the statistical risk. Right.

:44:21.:44:22.

that amazing feeling of being so close to raw nature.

:44:23.:44:31.

The wolves are curious, but they're hanging back.

:44:32.:44:35.

It doesn't stop me feeling slightly on edge.

:44:36.:44:40.

It's quite enjoyable, in a strange way.

:44:41.:44:48.

That feeling that you could be... in danger somehow.

:44:49.:44:51.

just because we're so safe these days, I suppose.

:44:52.:45:05.

I don't know, excitement and danger in your heart,

:45:06.:45:11.

when you see one just staring at you, as I did just now.

:45:12.:45:15.

There is something primordial about this closeness.

:45:16.:45:18.

There are those who'd like to see the wolves reintroduced.

:45:19.:45:21.

but there are truly wild carnivores here already,

:45:22.:45:27.

In a moment I'm going to be getting into another cage

:45:28.:45:34.

But first, let's find out what the weather has in store

:45:35.:45:42.

Good evening. The weather's been quite beastly of late. Unfortunately

:45:43.:46:01.

that disturbed weathers is set to continue until the end of 2013 and

:46:02.:46:05.

indeed beyond. But it has been kinder to us this weekend. A lovely

:46:06.:46:09.

day today, but powering in off the Atlantic this next band of cloud. It

:46:10.:46:13.

is clearly going to give us all wet weather and windy weather. Hopefully

:46:14.:46:19.

not so much to cause further issues in eastern issues. -- in eastern

:46:20.:46:29.

areas. An amber warning, 6 mm of rain. Warnings for rain in Northern

:46:30.:46:34.

Ireland, Wales and the South West. We've got warnings of lively gusts

:46:35.:46:42.

of winds for England and Wales. Even inland at 60 miles per hour could

:46:43.:46:47.

cause damage. A wet and windy evening and night. It will be with

:46:48.:46:51.

us for tomorrow morning's rush, for many the return to work.

:46:52.:46:57.

It really is going to be powering down in parts of the south and west

:46:58.:47:03.

of Scotland. Snow across the Grampians, Ayrshire and Dumfries and

:47:04.:47:07.

Galloway we are particularly concerned. Hopefully over by morning

:47:08.:47:12.

for Northern Ireland. Aterrorous conditions on the roads in northern

:47:13.:47:15.

England. Much of Wales and southern England with the wind and rain

:47:16.:47:19.

combined, a lot of spray and surface water. At least it will be mild.

:47:20.:47:24.

There'll be a lot of fog over the hills. Gradually the rain eases east

:47:25.:47:31.

wards. Hopefully it will be over for many parts by lunchtime. The winds

:47:32.:47:37.

will drop as the rain clears away. 7 to 11. Sunshine coming through. Not

:47:38.:47:43.

a bad end to the day. But atrocious weather in between. Only a brief gap

:47:44.:47:52.

before rain and strong wind moves in for New Year's Eve. A narrower band

:47:53.:47:56.

of rain, but there could be heavy rain along the weather system on top

:47:57.:48:01.

of tonight and tomorrow's rain. We start to get the compounding

:48:02.:48:05.

problems again. It should have cleared for many by midnight into

:48:06.:48:10.

2014 but there'll be showers following along behind. Not totally

:48:11.:48:14.

dry. Certainly not promising that. The unfortunately as we head into

:48:15.:48:18.

New Year's Day, once again looking towards the next area of low

:48:19.:48:21.

pressure to be steaming in off the Atlantic. With it some very windy

:48:22.:48:26.

weather. The two combine to give atrocious travel conditions. Again

:48:27.:48:31.

with another inch or two of rain forecast in many areas, warnings are

:48:32.:48:36.

in force. It comes hot on the heels of the rain of tonight, tomorrow and

:48:37.:48:42.

new New Year's Eve's rain. We are in a broad wind coming in off the

:48:43.:48:45.

Atlantic. Sunshine and showers. Perhaps a breather. We'll keep an

:48:46.:48:51.

eye on low pressure in the Atlantic for the end of the week. Perhaps

:48:52.:48:54.

Thursday is a breather, but there'll be more showers on the South Coast,

:48:55.:48:59.

particularly the north and west, with that westerly wind. It stays

:49:00.:49:04.

mild but by Friday there is the potential for low pressure off the

:49:05.:49:07.

Atlantic and bring more wind and rain.

:49:08.:49:11.

If you do have plans, stay tuned to the forecast.

:49:12.:49:15.

You can get the warnings from the website too. We are going to see

:49:16.:49:18.

more rain and gale-force winds, which could bring

:49:19.:49:29.

I'm in Kent, at the Wildwood Trust's animal reserve near Herne Bay.

:49:30.:49:33.

about our wildlife winners and losers.

:49:34.:49:38.

Rare butterflies and beautiful beetles.

:49:39.:49:45.

There is one creature for whom it is getting critical -

:49:46.:49:48.

They're only found now in the remotest parts of the Highlands

:49:49.:49:59.

Wildcats can breed with ordinary domestic cats and the result

:50:00.:50:09.

is that the pure strain of wildcat is becoming rarer and rarer.

:50:10.:50:17.

Here, they're breeding purebred wildcats.

:50:18.:50:19.

this female gave birth to a kitten she couldn't look after.

:50:20.:50:25.

So the kitten ended up here, along with another young wildcat.

:50:26.:50:31.

Keeper Sally Barnes has become its surrogate mother.

:50:32.:50:34.

So, you've been rearing her from how old?

:50:35.:50:37.

From three days old. And she's now four months.

:50:38.:50:40.

That must be doing night shifts as well, then.

:50:41.:50:42.

Yeah, so, three days I would be getting up every two hours

:50:43.:50:46.

and then it was every four, then every six,

:50:47.:50:48.

and just gone from there, really, so... Like a newborn baby, almost.

:50:49.:50:51.

and Isla responds to Sally as her mother.

:50:52.:51:01.

Meanwhile, Isla's real mum is just a cage away.

:51:02.:51:04.

Clearly not an animal to be messed with.

:51:05.:51:10.

Is there a danger, then, that she's going to become far too humanised?

:51:11.:51:14.

I mean, she's still very young and they say about

:51:15.:51:18.

two years old they might turn into the wildcat they're supposed to be.

:51:19.:51:21.

So we have to see what happens around then. There we go.

:51:22.:51:25.

She's very friendly with you. Yeah. And the audience.

:51:26.:51:36.

'John the sound man is well used to this.

:51:37.:51:39.

'His microphone is just about wildcat proof.'

:51:40.:51:43.

It's remarkable how much like domestic cats they look.

:51:44.:51:46.

The only thing I can see that's different

:51:47.:51:48.

just from first glance is how thick the tail is.

:51:49.:51:50.

They're much more muscular in appearance. They're bigger,

:51:51.:51:54.

have longer legs, their face is a little bit wider,

:51:55.:51:57.

their jaw is wider and, like you said about the tail, it has

:51:58.:52:00.

got really thick, wide rings on it and the big, black tip at the end.

:52:01.:52:04.

That's a bit of a giveaway. They're the main differences. Her general...

:52:05.:52:09.

Her general play is much more aggressive.

:52:10.:52:12.

'Isla's older cage-mate is clearly too grown-up

:52:13.:52:15.

What is the picture like nationally? How are they doing?

:52:16.:52:20.

They're not doing very well, actually.

:52:21.:52:22.

They're becoming more and more endangered

:52:23.:52:23.

and there are a few programmes now trying to conserve them.

:52:24.:52:26.

They reckon there's only about 400 left in the world

:52:27.:52:28.

and we don't actually know how many of those are pure,

:52:29.:52:30.

cos there's a lot of things that threaten them at the moment -

:52:31.:52:33.

hybridisation with domestic cats, feline diseases,

:52:34.:52:36.

human prosecution, general things like roads as well.

:52:37.:52:39.

but it is possible to turn things around.

:52:40.:52:50.

A magnificent bird brought back from the brink.

:52:51.:52:56.

John's been following the story for 20 years so it was only fitting

:52:57.:53:00.

that he was in the Lake District to see the last ever release.

:53:01.:53:06.

seeing a buzzard soaring overhead is a pretty common sight.

:53:07.:53:12.

and truly magnificent large bird is back in our skies again.

:53:13.:53:19.

By the late 1800s, red kites had been hunted to extinction in both

:53:20.:53:23.

England and Scotland, with just a small pocket surviving in Wales.

:53:24.:53:29.

and conservationists protected this remaining population

:53:30.:53:35.

and, 100 years later, the Red Kite Reintroduction Programme was born.

:53:36.:53:40.

I first reported on it for Countryfile back in 1993.

:53:41.:53:45.

This is the airport at Madrid, the Spanish capital, and I'm just

:53:46.:53:48.

boarding a flight to London, escorting a rather unusual passenger.

:53:49.:53:52.

It's this rare and beautiful bird of prey - a red kite.

:53:53.:53:57.

I was lucky enough to be there as some of the first birds

:53:58.:54:00.

in the project were released in the Chiltern Hills in Buckinghamshire.

:54:01.:54:05.

At the time, red kites had been declared

:54:06.:54:08.

a globally threatened species. But not any longer in the UK.

:54:09.:54:11.

There are now more than 1800 breeding pairs spread across the country.

:54:12.:54:15.

But the scheme had some early difficulties in the Chilterns.

:54:16.:54:21.

People put down food for them - one reason for unnaturally high numbers

:54:22.:54:25.

of red kites - and, when scavenging, they became as cheeky as seagulls.

:54:26.:54:34.

Have you learned any lessons from those initial releases?

:54:35.:54:37.

I mean, the programme has been running for 23, 24 years

:54:38.:54:41.

people have been learning, they've been adapting what they do.

:54:42.:54:47.

But some of the concerns you have from other releases don't

:54:48.:54:49.

Obviously, the Chilterns is a fairly heavily populated area

:54:50.:54:54.

and the birds are interacting with busy roads and a lot of people.

:54:55.:54:57.

Up here, as you can see behind us, it's not quite as heavily populated.

:54:58.:55:01.

and you've got an agricultural industry, livestock-based,

:55:02.:55:06.

quite a lot of wildlife around about here,

:55:07.:55:08.

so you've got a different dynamic going on which I don't think will

:55:09.:55:12.

cause some of the problems you've got in other parts of the country.

:55:13.:55:15.

Grizedale is the final chapter. It's the last bit of the jigsaw, really.

:55:16.:55:19.

We've released 60 birds over the last two years

:55:20.:55:23.

and, any time now, the next 30 birds are about to be released.

:55:24.:55:28.

The first two years are doing really well.

:55:29.:55:31.

We've got birds around the area seen on a regular basis and we've also

:55:32.:55:35.

got one or two birds that are also travelling out to other populations.

:55:36.:55:39.

It's hoped the Grizedale birds will create

:55:40.:55:41.

a stronghold for the species in the Northwest

:55:42.:55:44.

and that one day they'll join up with other colonies around the country.

:55:45.:55:52.

I'm on my way now to a secret location

:55:53.:55:55.

where the last 30 red kites to be released in England are being kept.

:55:56.:56:01.

We've got special access but I'm told it's touch-and-go

:56:02.:56:04.

Their keeper Ian Yoxall and his team have been careful to minimise

:56:05.:56:14.

human contact to stop the birds getting used to people.

:56:15.:56:17.

but Ian is allowing me to come very close to one of the birds.

:56:18.:56:27.

Ian, here's one that will soon be flying up in the sky, eh?

:56:28.:56:30.

That's right, John, yeah. Soon to be released, this one.

:56:31.:56:33.

What's the significance of the number 21?

:56:34.:56:35.

Right, well, 21 is obviously individual to the bird -

:56:36.:56:39.

it is bird 21. Yeah. This is year code, which is red for 2012.

:56:40.:56:44.

This wing tag on the right wing also has an orange bar,

:56:45.:56:48.

which designates the area code, which is orange for Cumbria.

:56:49.:56:51.

So the idea is that if anybody watches it,

:56:52.:56:54.

sees it from the ground, they will let you know... That's right, yeah.

:56:55.:56:57.

They can get all the information from one wing tag

:56:58.:57:00.

and hopefully that information will come back to either

:57:01.:57:02.

the Forestry Commission or RSPB or organisations like that.

:57:03.:57:07.

So, for the moment, for number 21, it's back to the cage, is it?

:57:08.:57:11.

It is, unfortunately, yeah, for another day or two.

:57:12.:57:16.

The birds had to wait until the vet was completely happy

:57:17.:57:19.

they were all fit and well for take-off.

:57:20.:57:24.

the red kites finally got their taste of freedom.

:57:25.:57:28.

They'd been brought here as chicks from another release site

:57:29.:57:31.

and they should disperse far and wide.

:57:32.:57:33.

the hope is they'll head back home to Grizedale to breed.

:57:34.:57:38.

Well, when I first got involved with the red kite project all those

:57:39.:57:42.

years ago, I don't think anybody then would have ever believed that,

:57:43.:57:46.

nearly two decades later, thousands of these beautiful birds would be

:57:47.:57:50.

gliding on the wind all over the country. It must be one of

:57:51.:57:54.

the most successful wildlife reintroduction programmes ever seen.

:57:55.:57:59.

'A conservation story there to bring extra cheer at this time of year.

:58:00.:58:04.

'for this little Scottish wildcat kitten?'

:58:05.:58:08.

So, Sally, what are the plans for this one then?

:58:09.:58:11.

The plan for her is to keep her happy in here with the other one

:58:12.:58:14.

so she can learn some wildcat ways from the other kitten

:58:15.:58:16.

and then hopefully she can mate with a male one day

:58:17.:58:19.

and have her own litter and then we'll have to see where that goes.

:58:20.:58:22.

It'd be nice to actually release her into the wild one day.

:58:23.:58:25.

That would be an amazing outcome, wouldn't it?

:58:26.:58:27.

Well, I wish her a very healthy and happy New Year.

:58:28.:58:31.

Thank you for joining us at Wildwood.

:58:32.:58:37.

Ellie Harrison explores the plight of some of our most endangered animals. From water voles to wildcats, Ellie finds out what is being done to bring them back from the brink. She looks at plans to reintroduce big cats like the lynx, and finds out more about the beavers and wild boar already at large in the British countryside.

Ellie spends the day at a wildlife sanctuary in Kent, where she helps get the water voles ready for their winter health check. She ventures into the lair of a wild wolf pack, and she gets up close to a wildcat kitten that has already had a fight for life.

During her time at the sanctuary, Ellie looks back at some of the wildlife winners and losers that have featured on the programme in the past. These include Julia Bradbury's visit to the Yorkshire Dales to take perfect pictures of red squirrels in the snow, and Matt Baker's journey underground to see how old man-made caves are providing the perfect habitat for horseshoe bats.

There is also another look at John Craven's visit to the Lakes to see for himself the final chapter in the 20-year reintroduction of red kites.


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