Spring Special Countryfile


Spring Special

A snapshot of spring across Britain, featuring dolphins in Cardigan Bay, the start of the shellfish season and a visit to one of the UK's last remaining hay meadows.


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Transcript


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Spring.

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A time of renewal, regrowth,

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as the landscape bursts back to life.

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On today's programme, we travel the length and breadth

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of the British Isles to bring you a snapshot of spring.

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From farmland and fell to shingle and shore,

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we discover signs of new life as the season unfurls.

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I'm ringing in the new season on the Channel Islands.

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My dear, you are number 395.

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We'll keep an eye out for you on the future.

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Ellie goes dolphin spotting, as they return to safe waters to breed.

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Oh, yes, they're right ahead of us.

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Really big!

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Nothing captures the spirit of spring more then a meadow

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full of flowers, and these are some of the rarest in Britain.

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For the next hour, we'll bring you the best in season.

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-Yes!

-They are.

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New beginnings.

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It's absolutely gorgeous.

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Spring is such a lovely time of year.

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And there's new life everywhere on the farm.

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A bird's-eye view of spring.

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As the days begin to lengthen, the sun gathers its strength.

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The warmer weather brings with it the arrival of many migrant

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birds returning to our shores,

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flying thousands of miles from warmer climates back

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to their breeding grounds for the promise of new life.

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On their flight path to mainland Britain, many of the birds

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will pass through Alderney, the northernmost Channel Island.

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Now, for the first time,

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a bird observatory is being set up on Alderney by the Wildlife Trust.

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It will be the most southerly of its kind in the British Isles.

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As an experienced and licensed bird ringer,

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John Horton is volunteering as the observatory's warden.

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France is just eight miles away.

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We can virtually see the migrant birds coming over from France

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and watch migration visibly pass overhead.

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But John's also a spring migrant.

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Just eight weeks ago, he flew in with his partner, Cathy.

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They packed up their lives in the big city to start anew

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here on the island.

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I was working as a police officer in the Metropolitan Police,

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which I've been for the last 15 years, and one of my roles

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for the police has been wildlife crimes investigator.

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I was working as a receptionist and, yeah, I thought

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everything was how it was going to be.

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The difference between sitting here listening to the sounds

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of the birds and the sea,

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it couldn't be further away from the hubbub of being in London.

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I can see how island life for John and Cathy

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couldn't be more of a contrast.

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From nicking criminals, John's now netting birds.

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And don't worry, these little fellas aren't distressed.

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It's just a harmless way of monitoring survival rates

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and bird migration.

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What time were you up first thing this morning?

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Well, I'm up at five every morning to check the weather to see

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if it's suitable to go out and open the nets.

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-Looks like quite a nice spot for a work station, John.

-It is.

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This is ringing HQ.

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First, John fits the birds with an identification band.

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OK, you've got a male redstart.

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The ring number is AK9504.

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The bird's measurements are taken and then recorded.

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A wing of 76.

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HE BLOWS

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02 on the fat muscle.

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This bird's in reasonably good condition.

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It might hang around, build up a bit more fat and then turn

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that into muscle before it goes on the next part of its journey.

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And then the birds are released...

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..with the hope that they'll be recorded again within

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the existing network of bird observatories,

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19 of which are strung across the British Isles.

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It's a male subalpine warbler.

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He's now got an Alderney Observatory ring.

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We can see where he goes and how long he takes to get there.

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He can go.

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Splendid.

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John has had a very busy couple of months

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but not even he could have expected the staggering number of birds

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that pass through this tiny three-mile-long island.

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Is it fair to say, John, that you've been catching

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and ringing a lot more birds than you ever, ever expected?

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Yeah, the numbers of migrant birds passing through

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Alderney has been absolutely phenomenal.

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We've ringed over 3,000 birds in just over seven weeks,

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which is extraordinarily high figures.

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The variety and volume has been amazing.

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Oh, that's just majestic, isn't it?

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Why are we seeing big numbers here?

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Although we don't understand migration entirely yet,

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it's certainly the case that birds follow the continental

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coastlines in order to migrate.

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Alderney's just that little bit further north than the French

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coastline, so it's a very short hop for the birds,

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so have a quick visit here and refuel.

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And there's an abundance of wild flowers here as well.

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There is. There is.

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It's just a magnificent island for wildlife.

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There's over 1,000 species of flowering wild flower,

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so the insect life that must accompany that will be phenomenal

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and probably is another reason why so many birds enjoy coming

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through Alderney for a fatten-up to help them on their way.

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When do you expect the numbers to start dying down?

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We're not at the peak yet, and that's the extraordinary thing.

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Species like white throat,

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they're only just beginning to start to come through

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and they'll be coming through in their hundreds, if not thousands.

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The peak will be probably the next week, so we should be seeing

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even more birds, but there's only so many I can cope with.

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-It's a fine female blackcap.

-Yeah.

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JOHN BLOWS

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73 on the wing.

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OK.

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My dear, you are number 395.

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We'll keep an eye out for you in the future. Off you go.

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We're heading to the Suffolk coast now to Orford Ness,

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a vast and haunting nature reserve...

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..hunted over by barn owls.

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Brown hares box in the marshland.

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And wildlife cameraman Richard Taylor-Jones is up at first light

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to watch the best of the spring show.

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I've been here many times before,

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and it's got to be one of my favourite places on earth

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because of this wonderful mix of post-apocalyptic landscape

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and beautiful British wildlife.

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The military history of the site started in about 1913

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when the marshes here were drained to form airfields.

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And it then went on to become one of our most top-secret atomic

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weapons testing stations and a Cold War listening point.

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However, the military upped sticks

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and, a few decades ago,

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these buildings were just left to rot.

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These days, the National Trust looks after Orford Ness

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and bombs have given way to birds,

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and ballistic missiles to boxing hares.

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OK, just over here in front of me...

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is one of Orford Ness'...

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..most famous residents.

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The brown hare.

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It's a really unusual sight,

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seeing these animals out on the shingle here.

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You're used to seeing them in grassy fields,

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but they do really, really well in this environment.

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It's an absolutely ideal habitat, really, for them.

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It's big and flat, wide-open space.

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This is lovely because he's just getting closer and closer.

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I say he because...he's sniffing the ground quite a lot...

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..and at this time of year, being in the spring,

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the females will be in season and he'll be picking up her trace

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and trying to follow where she is

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because a female in season is a female that he can mate with.

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But, of course, she doesn't give in easily if he does find her.

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So, we get that that lovely mad March hare boxing that goes on,

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the female pushing away the male's advances.

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Testing how fit he is, essentially.

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Just noticed, actually, that the male's looking quite alert.

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I wonder if he has spotted another male

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or I guess it could be another female.

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There we go, three all in one shot.

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Now, one of these is going to be a female,

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and if she's going to be harassed by the males, she'll tell...

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Here we go. Up on her back feet, they're boxing away.

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This is the female telling the males to stay away.

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A real, proper fisticuffs here.

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Oh, this is just lovely.

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And there we go, she's done her job and she's seen him off.

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That is some of the best boxing I have ever seen.

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BIRDS CRY

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Well, I've just come down to the more marshy area

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here at Orford Ness and a lapwing's popped up in the air

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so she's on a nest right next to the path. Can you see in there?

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Just four lovely brown, chocolaty eggs, speckled to be camouflaged.

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So, I'm just going to get away, set up the camera

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and hopefully she'll come back and cover them up.

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Got a bird of prey. It looks to me like a marsh harrier.

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This is a bird that would quite happily

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take lapwing chicks as a nice snack.

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And there are a pair of lapwing dive-bombing it.

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Look at this. This is a real aerial battle here.

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This is what spring's all about for the birds out here

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and this is life or death. They get one chance, most of them,

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and so a predator like this comes along,

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and all the lapwing will just team up...

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..and try and drive the predator away.

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The lapwing is now coming back to her nest.

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The sun's coming down here at Orford Ness and that means one thing -

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it's deer o'clock, and I don't know if you can hear these lovely

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rasping calls that are just drifting across the pools here.

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PIERCING CRIES

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But that sound is the sound of Chinese water deer.

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Collectors brought them here in the early 20th century,

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and some accidentally escaped and others were deliberately released

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to our countryside for sport.

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People used to hunt them. They've done very well since then.

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They've spread across a lot of the east of England and, actually,

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we now have 10% of the world's population.

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In their native habitat of Korea and China,

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they're actually an endangered species.

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PIERCING CRIES

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What a wonderful way to end the day,

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watching this deer species here making a new life for itself

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in a landscape where mankind once plotted to take life away.

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And now from the east of England to the west of Wales.

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This is Cardigan Bay.

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And something is stirring below the surface. Something magical.

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These protected waters off the west coast of Wales have

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the biggest population of bottlenose dolphins in Europe.

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In fact, this is one of the best places in the world

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to see them in the wild.

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Having said that, although it looks quite calm in the harbour here,

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out there, it is really choppy,

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so I just hope they're not going to be camera shy today.

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Every spring, the dolphins return to the sheltered waters of the bay

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to calve their young, so it's an ideal time

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to take stock of the population.

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I'm joining a team who are doing just that.

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For 25 years,

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the Sea Watch Foundation has been working to conserve

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and protect whales, dolphins and porpoises in our seas.

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Just getting that bit down.

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'Our skipper, Dafydd Lewis,

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'has been sailing these waters for more than ten years.

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'Apparently, if he can't find dolphins, no-one can.'

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The area that we're in now is quite a bit of a hot spot,

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where we're at the end of a headland,

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it churns the seabeds up, basically,

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where it stirs the food up for the smaller fish,

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the larger fish eat them

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and then the dolphins eat the larger fish, so going up the food chain.

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But this time of year now,

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the waters are still relatively cold, so the fish are obviously

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in deeper waters, so the dolphins are in deeper waters chasing them.

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So we just need a little bit of luck on our side today?

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We need a lot of it today, with the weather as it is.

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Katrin Lohrengel came from Germany to study the bottlenose dolphins

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of Cardigan Bay and has seen plenty already this spring.

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These dolphins are some of the largest out there,

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with extra layers of blubber to cope with the chilly waters of Wales.

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Katrin, you run the monitoring programme here.

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What's involved in the work?

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So, during the summer season, we do most of our fieldwork,

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which is when we go out on the boats and photograph the animals,

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so we do a line transect service,

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where we follow a set route and we try and record all the animals

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that we see during that time.

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Sometimes, when we don't have a full day to go out on the sea,

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if the conditions aren't good enough,

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we'll go to hot spots where we think we'll find the dolphins.

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So, our main aim is to get photographic images

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of the dorsal fins, which we use to identify individuals.

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The vast majority that are in our catalogue are quite heavily marked.

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They'll have nicks and notches along the edge of their dorsal fin,

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and we can use that to tell different individuals apart.

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The scarring on the dorsal fins is caused by the dolphins

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biting one another,

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and it's the more aggressive males who tend to be the most marked.

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So, this is from our first survey of the season.

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This is about two weeks ago.

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We had a very large group of animals,

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about 16 animals overall, including four calves.

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Ah! Amazing.

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If I'm lucky enough to spot one myself,

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biologist Kathy James will want to hear all about it.

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She coordinates sightings from around the UK.

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So, you're using sightings to build up a map of where the population is?

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Yeah. It's not just us that are taking these sightings,

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it's people all around the UK, so members of the public

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that contribute their sightings to the scheme

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and that's fantastic because we don't have the people power

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to do that within the organisation.

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So, even though the public aren't necessarily trained,

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-they can still give you good data?

-Yeah, absolutely.

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So, we've got some people out there who are fantastic cetacean experts -

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cetaceans are your whales, dolphins and porpoises -

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and then we've got people who are just out walking their dog

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and they see something in the water and they let us know.

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They say, "Oh, my word, I've seen something. What was it?"

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And we try and talk them through the species,

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so you don't have to know anything at all about it, really,

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-you just have to have the enthusiasm and want to report it.

-Yeah.

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The Sea Watch project is one of the largest and longest-running

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sighting schemes in the world, with more than 60,000 entries.

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Whether submitted by experts or holiday-makers,

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all sightings help to identify species hot spots

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and to establish special areas of conservation, like Cardigan Bay.

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The team have been using images of the dolphins in their studies

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for years, but just this spring, they're deploying something new.

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What is that new thing, Katrin?

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We've recently acquired a drone.

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How is this going to change things for you?

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It'll allow us to approach the animals without necessarily

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affecting their behaviour. So, dolphins might respond

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positively or negatively to a boat, depending on what they're doing.

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To get a really good idea of how they're interacting with each other,

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it might be quite helpful to be able to see them from above.

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With an unseasonably cold wind gusting at a high rate of knots,

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Katrin's small drone remains grounded.

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Just our luck.

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But after four hours at sea with the elements conspiring against us,

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my luck suddenly changes for the better.

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Oh, yes, right ahead of us! Right ahead of us.

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Really big.

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But I'm afraid that was it.

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Just a glimpse of disappearing fins and tails,

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and gone so quickly we couldn't even get a decent shot from the boat.

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In spite of the wind and waves,

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I've had a fantastic day with a dedicated

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crew of conservationists, whose work will continue to

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protect our marine mammals this spring and beyond.

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Well, that was slightly choppier than I expected it. Thank you.

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So, while I shake off these sea legs, John's on terra firma

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in one of our precious hay meadows, where spring truly has sprung.

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Morning light over an ancient lowland meadow in Wiltshire,

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one of the finest in the whole of Europe.

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And now that spring is here, this place has burst into bloom.

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Not only is it one of our largest remaining

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traditional hay meadows,

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it's also home to the largest population of this rare flower,

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the snake's head fritillary.

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In fact, this meadow is a living link to our rural past.

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It's one of those precious corners of our countryside

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where the very rare is commonplace.

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97% of our classic hay meadows have been lost in the past century.

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But this one is thriving,

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alongside part of the upper reaches of the River Thames.

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Lying just outside the Saxon village of Cricklade,

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the 110 acres of North Meadow Nature Reserve are carpeted with

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an astounding 80% of Britain's snake's head fritillaries.

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According to folklore, these striking flowers followed the

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Roman legions across the country,

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springing forth from their footprints.

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And that's not as fanciful as it might sound because the old

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Roman way, Ermin Street, used to run just alongside this meadow.

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To discover more about these flowers,

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I'm meeting ecologist Emma Rothero.

0:22:230:22:26

Along with a team of volunteers,

0:22:260:22:28

she's making a detailed study of them here in North Meadow.

0:22:280:22:33

I suppose the best place to get a good look at them

0:22:330:22:35

is down at ground level. And how did it get its name, then?

0:22:350:22:39

Well, it's a really extraordinary plant, isn't it?

0:22:390:22:41

It is called snake's head

0:22:410:22:43

because of the way it comes up out of the ground

0:22:430:22:45

with its flower like that, so it looks like a snake's head,

0:22:450:22:48

and then fritillary we think comes from the Latin "fritillus",

0:22:480:22:51

which roughly translates as dye spots,

0:22:510:22:54

and I think that refers to its very chequered pattern there.

0:22:540:22:57

There are some really fun local names - dead man's bell,

0:22:570:23:01

chequered warrior,

0:23:010:23:02

a folfalar in Staffordshire is another example,

0:23:020:23:05

so people have given them exciting names

0:23:050:23:08

because they're such an exciting plant.

0:23:080:23:10

Now, most of them are purply colour, aren't they?

0:23:100:23:13

But I have seen some white ones as well here.

0:23:130:23:15

Yes, there's about 10% of the site has white plants as opposed to pink.

0:23:150:23:19

-We think they're the same species.

-You call these pink?

0:23:190:23:21

-I call them pink.

-Pink or purple.

0:23:210:23:24

Fritillary coloured!

0:23:240:23:26

Well, this is a water meadow.

0:23:280:23:30

In fact, there's still quite a lot of flooding around, isn't there?

0:23:300:23:33

I would have thought that would have been a threat rather than

0:23:330:23:36

a help to the snake's head?

0:23:360:23:38

Well, it's a really interesting point.

0:23:380:23:40

The snake's head fritillary seems to like growing in flood plains

0:23:400:23:43

that are well drained, and so this habitat suits it

0:23:430:23:46

really, really nicely, and the snake's head fritillary

0:23:460:23:49

and all the other species that are found here are really

0:23:490:23:52

a product of a very sustainable agricultural system.

0:23:520:23:55

We've got very few flood meadows left.

0:23:550:23:57

It's a terrible shame. I mean, this is an incredibly rare habitat.

0:23:570:24:01

There's less than 1,200 hectares left in the whole of the country,

0:24:010:24:04

and because we think that about 40% of our rivers

0:24:040:24:07

are no longer in connection with their flood plain,

0:24:070:24:09

if we were to try and recreate some more of this,

0:24:090:24:12

we could manage flood plains WITH nature rather than against it.

0:24:120:24:16

So, what you're saying is, if we had more places like this,

0:24:160:24:19

we might have less flooding in urban areas?

0:24:190:24:21

Yes, potentially, because it helps to spread the floodwater out

0:24:210:24:25

and takes the flood peak off areas downstream.

0:24:250:24:27

North Meadow has remained largely unchanged for centuries.

0:24:300:24:33

Every year, when hay-making is finished,

0:24:330:24:36

the land has been turned over to grazing,

0:24:360:24:39

and that's always protected the meadow

0:24:390:24:41

from drainage work and ploughing.

0:24:410:24:43

These days, volunteers help to monitor

0:24:530:24:56

the rare and diverse range of plants.

0:24:560:24:58

North Meadow became a national nature reserve 45 years ago

0:24:580:25:02

and among the things you can spot here are the delicate cuckoo flower

0:25:020:25:07

and the vibrant marsh marigold.

0:25:070:25:09

27cm.

0:25:100:25:12

But today, Emma and her team are carrying out their annual survey

0:25:120:25:17

into the general wellbeing of the star of the show,

0:25:170:25:20

the snake's head fritillary.

0:25:200:25:22

So, we're going to place this very carefully

0:25:220:25:25

over this highly technical bamboo cane.

0:25:250:25:27

-Oh, right. Like that?

-Yeah, perfect.

0:25:270:25:29

Yeah, that's it.

0:25:290:25:31

With our one-metre-square grid in place,

0:25:320:25:35

we painstakingly log every fritillary we can see,

0:25:350:25:39

including the tiny single-leaf newcomers,

0:25:390:25:42

and then we record their height.

0:25:420:25:45

And that's up to about 19cm there.

0:25:450:25:47

Across the meadow, there are 200 such squares,

0:25:490:25:53

accurately placed in the same spot year after year,

0:25:530:25:57

thanks to the canes and the precision guidance of GPS.

0:25:570:26:01

How long have you been doing this for?

0:26:010:26:03

This is our 19th year.

0:26:030:26:05

-Wow.

-So, it's quite a long-term study.

-And what has it told you?

0:26:050:26:10

Well, what we can see is that the numbers of fritillaries

0:26:100:26:13

on this site are generally increasing, particularly

0:26:130:26:16

the numbers of flowering plants are generally increasing.

0:26:160:26:19

So, all in all, things are looking pretty good?

0:26:190:26:22

-They are, here, yeah.

-Good.

0:26:220:26:24

The work now being done by both Natural England and Emma

0:26:280:26:31

and her friends from the Flood Plain Meadows Partnership

0:26:310:26:35

should ensure that this beguiling landscape continues to be

0:26:350:26:38

safeguarded as living, flowering history.

0:26:380:26:42

Now, a quick thank you, because many of you have been inspired by spring

0:26:480:26:52

and have sent us your photos of signs of new life via social media.

0:26:520:26:57

Beautiful seasonal scenes that paint a picture of the landscape

0:26:570:27:01

coming back to life.

0:27:010:27:03

I would say I'm more productive during spring.

0:27:230:27:26

If it was just winter, I wouldn't be able to paint.

0:27:260:27:30

In Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, there's an artist who loves

0:27:300:27:33

nothing more than to commit the unfurling season to paper.

0:27:330:27:37

My name's Michelle Campbell. I'm an artist and an illustrator.

0:27:370:27:41

I love the colours coming out, the blossoms.

0:27:460:27:50

I love the woodland. Everything is inspiring to me and my work.

0:27:500:27:55

I'm working on a piece at the moment called the Arrival of Spring.

0:27:570:28:01

I like to work in minute detail.

0:28:070:28:11

I can just sit on a painting for hours and I listen to the

0:28:110:28:15

birds outside. It just takes me into another world, really.

0:28:150:28:19

So, we have bullfinches,

0:28:200:28:24

robins,

0:28:240:28:26

chaffinches.

0:28:260:28:28

Nuthatch. Wrens. Starlings.

0:28:290:28:34

Blackbirds, which are my favourite birds.

0:28:340:28:37

They're just a happy bird. Their song's so colourful.

0:28:370:28:40

BIRDSONG

0:28:400:28:43

I like to use a lot of colours.

0:28:430:28:46

Because I'm normally quite serious, really,

0:28:460:28:48

because it's always work, work, work.

0:28:480:28:51

So my humour has to come out somewhere.

0:28:510:28:54

So it comes out in my paintings. I like them to be fun anyway.

0:28:550:28:59

I like people to be...

0:28:590:29:01

to look at them and think, "That's really nice!"

0:29:010:29:05

On Adam's farm, the signs of spring are blossoming everywhere.

0:29:230:29:27

The crops are growing,

0:29:320:29:34

wildlife is flourishing

0:29:340:29:36

and the season is starting to show its true colours.

0:29:360:29:39

And this year, more than any other, Adam seems to be overrun

0:29:390:29:44

with new additions.

0:29:440:29:45

Spring is such a lovely time of year,

0:29:480:29:50

when the weather's warming up, the blossom's on the trees,

0:29:500:29:54

the little buds are starting to come out on the deciduous trees

0:29:540:29:59

and there's new life everywhere on the farm.

0:29:590:30:01

All the sheep have given birth now and the lambs are growing well.

0:30:010:30:04

Just about every animal on the farm is getting in on the spring action.

0:30:110:30:15

We've got some piglets...

0:30:150:30:17

chicks...

0:30:170:30:19

ducklings...

0:30:190:30:20

calves...

0:30:200:30:23

and some very special newcomers that you might remember.

0:30:230:30:26

I've got a Hungarian wire-haired vizsla housedog called Boo

0:30:280:30:31

and these are three of her puppies.

0:30:310:30:33

They were born six weeks ago

0:30:330:30:35

but they're old enough now to enjoy the garden.

0:30:350:30:37

The pups are still suckling from Boo.

0:30:450:30:47

They're still drinking some of her milk.

0:30:470:30:48

But I'm also supplementary feeding them here with milk and meat

0:30:480:30:52

and they're doing really well on it.

0:30:520:30:54

But they're so active, they've hardly got time to eat.

0:30:540:30:56

They're rushing off into the bushes,

0:30:560:30:58

trashing the flowerbed,

0:30:580:31:00

they're all fighting with each other and playing -

0:31:000:31:02

really discovering the great outdoors.

0:31:020:31:04

My hens might be having fun with the puppies today

0:31:070:31:10

but normally their duties are much more serious.

0:31:100:31:13

They have delicious eggs to lay for us and we also breed from them.

0:31:130:31:17

We hatched them out in this incubator, really,

0:31:210:31:23

to make it more efficient

0:31:230:31:25

so that chickens don't have to sit on all their own eggs,

0:31:250:31:28

and in the wild, a bird would roll its eggs

0:31:280:31:31

so that the embryo doesn't stick to the side of the shell,

0:31:310:31:34

otherwise that causes abnormalities in the chick.

0:31:340:31:37

So, in here, this rocks the eggs in the incubator every few hours

0:31:370:31:42

and then, after 21 days, the chicks will hatch out.

0:31:420:31:46

It's remarkable how quickly that happens.

0:31:460:31:49

And with a duckling, it's 28 days.

0:31:490:31:51

And there's some little ducklings in the bottom here.

0:31:510:31:55

This one has hatched out of its egg.

0:31:550:31:57

It's now ready to go under the lamp.

0:31:590:32:03

It's absolutely gorgeous.

0:32:030:32:05

Really sweet little fluffy duckling.

0:32:050:32:08

So, I'll now put that under the lamp with its mates.

0:32:080:32:11

But this lot are small fry compared to where I'm heading.

0:32:150:32:18

Eggs are a firm favourite for us Brits.

0:32:210:32:23

We eat a staggering amount, around 30 million every day.

0:32:230:32:28

But we'd be hard pushed to eat as many of these.

0:32:300:32:33

Spring is the start of the ostrich laying season.

0:32:330:32:36

Just one ostrich egg is the equivalent to 24 chicken eggs.

0:32:360:32:40

Coming from the world's largest bird,

0:32:400:32:42

it's hardly surprising they're the world's largest eggs.

0:32:420:32:46

Nick Dean holds a dangerous wild animal licence

0:32:460:32:48

to farm these flightless birds in Cambridgeshire.

0:32:480:32:50

-Hi, Nick.

-Hi, Adam.

-Ostriches.

-Yeah.

0:32:500:32:52

-My word. Are we safe?

-We are, yeah. We'll be fine today.

0:32:520:32:55

-They're big birds.

-They are. Yeah.

0:32:550:32:57

They're 7-8 foot tall. 25st.

0:32:570:33:00

Goodness me. And how fast can they run?

0:33:000:33:02

They can run at about 40-45 miles an hour, faster than we can.

0:33:020:33:04

How on earth do you manage to farm them, then,

0:33:040:33:06

if you want to do something to one of them?

0:33:060:33:08

Well, we have to catch them first, obviously.

0:33:080:33:10

We tend to use a crook just to get it by the neck and then we hold

0:33:100:33:13

the beak and then we can pull a hood over the head.

0:33:130:33:15

Once the hood's over the head and they can't see,

0:33:150:33:17

they just stand there and we can walk either side of them

0:33:170:33:19

and walk them to where we need to take them.

0:33:190:33:21

They're extraordinary-looking animals. They've got huge eyes.

0:33:210:33:24

-Yeah.

-Ow!

0:33:240:33:25

Hurts a little bit!

0:33:260:33:29

-How dangerous are they?

-Well, they could be very dangerous.

0:33:290:33:33

I mean, if you look at the size of their feet, if they do kick,

0:33:330:33:36

they'll jump up forwards and kick, so you've not only got

0:33:360:33:38

the weight of the bird, but the strength of the muscles.

0:33:380:33:41

-It wouldn't be very pleasant.

-Huge legs.

0:33:410:33:44

And those great big feet with two toes.

0:33:440:33:46

-And a big claw in the middle.

-Horrible.

0:33:460:33:49

-A little bit like a dinosaur.

-They are, yeah. Very prehistoric.

0:33:490:33:51

That's what I like about them, I think.

0:33:510:33:53

They are probably one of the closest things to dinosaurs left.

0:33:530:33:56

And why do you keep them?

0:33:560:33:57

Do you farm them for their meat or their feathers? Ow!

0:33:570:33:59

We farm them mainly for breeding.

0:33:590:34:01

We breed them to sell to other people that keep ostriches.

0:34:010:34:03

We sell the eggs for people to eat.

0:34:030:34:05

We blow the eggs for people who want blown eggs.

0:34:050:34:07

How many eggs are they laying, then, in a year?

0:34:080:34:10

They lay in between 30 and 40 each, the females.

0:34:100:34:13

So, not very many. I mean, a chicken will lay 300 eggs a year.

0:34:130:34:16

They lay... Probably every three days we get an egg.

0:34:160:34:19

And they start to lay in the spring like a lot of British wildlife?

0:34:190:34:21

They started earlier this year. They started...

0:34:210:34:24

Oh! Right in the ear!

0:34:240:34:25

THEY LAUGH

0:34:250:34:28

They started laying this year, early April.

0:34:280:34:30

And I suppose, when you come to collecting the eggs, what do you do?

0:34:300:34:33

Do you just walk in and pick them up off the ground?

0:34:330:34:35

Where do they lay them?

0:34:350:34:37

-We walk or we run very fast!

-Don't they like you taking them?

0:34:370:34:39

They don't, no. The boys don't.

0:34:390:34:41

I'd normally come in in the quad or in the car

0:34:410:34:43

-and we'd collect the eggs and drive out quickly.

-Goodness me.

0:34:430:34:47

And so is it the males that sit on the eggs or the females?

0:34:470:34:51

The males sit on them at night

0:34:510:34:53

and the females sit on them during the day time.

0:34:530:34:55

-So they share the duties?

-They do, yeah.

0:34:550:34:57

So, can we see if we can collect some eggs somewhere?

0:34:570:34:59

Yeah, let's go and see if we can find some.

0:34:590:35:01

Where will they be? Just dotted around the field?

0:35:010:35:03

-They should be in a pile over there where they lay them.

-OK.

0:35:030:35:06

So, she's got some eggs there.

0:35:060:35:08

Yeah, she gets up every hour or two

0:35:080:35:10

and she'll just turn them around and sit back down again.

0:35:100:35:13

Incredible.

0:35:130:35:14

So, is it safe to collect these?

0:35:140:35:16

It is, but we have to watch the boys.

0:35:160:35:17

The girls are fine, but the boys sometimes take offence.

0:35:170:35:20

What do we do? Just walk in and pick them up?

0:35:200:35:22

-We'll just walk in and pick them up, we should be fine.

-OK.

0:35:220:35:24

We're just going to take your eggs away, Mrs. Is that all right?

0:35:240:35:27

Come on, then. Good girl. Good girl.

0:35:270:35:29

I've never collected ostrich eggs before.

0:35:290:35:31

They're heavy, aren't they? That's quite a weight.

0:35:310:35:33

Yeah, about 1.5 kilos.

0:35:330:35:34

There's a boy there. How's it going to get around him?

0:35:340:35:37

I'll hide them behind my back!

0:35:370:35:38

We'll walk off. We'll be fine.

0:35:380:35:41

All right, all right, fella. Don't worry about it.

0:35:410:35:44

Just pinching your eggs.

0:35:440:35:46

How do you protect yourself against an ostrich who's angry?

0:35:480:35:51

I just hold the stick up.

0:35:510:35:52

As long as the stick's higher than their head, they're normally OK.

0:35:520:35:55

I know we can't outrun them,

0:35:550:35:56

so let's rely on the stick.

0:35:560:35:58

-You've got quite a menagerie here, Nick.

-Oh, we have, yeah.

0:36:080:36:11

-What are these?

-These are emus.

0:36:110:36:12

We breed emus, we breed rheas, alpacas, llamas and reindeer.

0:36:120:36:20

Goodness me, you've got all sorts!

0:36:200:36:22

DEEP BOOMING NOISE

0:36:220:36:24

-Strange noise they make.

-They do.

0:36:240:36:25

That's a girl. That's their drumming. That's their mating call.

0:36:250:36:28

EMU MAKES DRUMMING SOUND

0:36:280:36:30

Let's move on.

0:36:300:36:32

These are the incubators.

0:36:390:36:40

Goodness me, they're a bit bigger than the ones I've got.

0:36:400:36:43

-They take 72 ostrich eggs.

-We just plonk these in, do we?

0:36:430:36:46

-Plonk these in to the holes up there, yeah.

-Specially designed.

0:36:460:36:51

-How long will they take before they hatch?

-42 days.

0:36:510:36:54

The incubator will turn the egg once an hour.

0:36:540:36:56

And then we take them out three days before they're due to hatch

0:36:560:36:59

and they go in to the hatcher.

0:36:590:37:00

And what have you got over here?

0:37:000:37:02

Emu chicks. They hatched last week.

0:37:020:37:04

They're lovely. Really stripy.

0:37:040:37:07

-Is that just their camouflage, I suppose?

-It is, yeah.

0:37:070:37:09

They stay like that until they're probably eight weeks old.

0:37:090:37:13

-Is that an emu egg?

-Yeah, that's an emu egg.

0:37:130:37:15

-Amazing colour.

-Unusual colour, aren't they?

0:37:150:37:18

-And do they manage to chip their way out?

-Not like a chicken, no.

0:37:180:37:21

-They actually use brute force and kick themselves out.

-Do they?

0:37:210:37:23

So a chick would peck away, wouldn't it, all the way around?

0:37:230:37:26

-These just boot their way out.

-Boot their way out.

0:37:260:37:28

-That's the same with an ostrich?

-Yeah.

-Incredible.

0:37:280:37:31

-And do you ever eat the ostrich eggs?

-We do.

0:37:310:37:34

Would you like to try one?

0:37:340:37:35

-Well, I would, yeah.

-Shall we fry one up?

-Shall we do that?

0:37:350:37:37

-Yeah, let's go.

-All right, I'll leave this here.

0:37:370:37:40

Nick heats up an extra large paella pan and adds plenty of cooking oil.

0:37:450:37:49

Normally, I like two, fried, sunny-side up...

0:37:530:37:56

but on this occasion, I think I'll just have the one.

0:37:560:37:59

Oh, look at that! Beautiful!

0:37:590:38:01

-It really is huge, isn't it?

-Massive, isn't it?

0:38:080:38:10

It's the equivalent of 24 standard chicken eggs.

0:38:100:38:12

I tell you what, shall we try one next to a chicken egg?

0:38:120:38:15

-Yeah, let's do a comparison.

-OK, let's go.

0:38:150:38:17

-Look at that. And that's a normal sized chicken egg?

-That is.

0:38:190:38:21

Look at the difference.

0:38:210:38:23

Have you ever tried boiling one?

0:38:230:38:25

No, but I understand it takes about 90 minutes.

0:38:250:38:27

By the time the yolk's cooked in the middle,

0:38:270:38:29

you've got a rubbery compound on the outside, so, no.

0:38:290:38:32

-Not very nice.

-Not recommended.

0:38:320:38:33

Well, that looks pretty well-cooked now. Shall we give it a go?

0:38:330:38:36

Yeah, let's give it a go. Let's try it with some toast, shall we?

0:38:360:38:39

-Not bad.

-I'd eat that.

0:38:500:38:51

-It's like a chicken egg, isn't it?

-Yeah.

0:38:510:38:54

Exactly the same.

0:38:540:38:56

It's really quite delicious. I'm going to have some more.

0:38:560:38:59

Thanks very much, Nick. It's been fascinating to meet you

0:39:010:39:04

and delicious to eat my first ostrich egg.

0:39:040:39:06

-Nice to see you.

-Fabulous.

0:39:060:39:07

I'm also in search of seasonal food but on a rather more modest scale.

0:39:180:39:22

I'm in Cornwall and that is Newlyn, where the warmer waters of spring

0:39:240:39:29

herald the start of shellfish season.

0:39:290:39:31

Fishing has always been vital to the survival of the Cornish

0:39:360:39:40

and, for the last 600 years,

0:39:400:39:43

Newlyn has played an integral part in that.

0:39:430:39:46

Today, it's regarded as one of the top ports in the country,

0:39:480:39:51

home to one of our largest fishing fleets

0:39:510:39:54

landing some of our best-quality fish.

0:39:540:39:56

This place is steeped in history and the heritage here means

0:39:580:40:02

the fishermen are some of the most experienced there are.

0:40:020:40:05

But I'm about to meet a couple of chaps who are doing things

0:40:050:40:07

a little bit differently and breathing new life

0:40:070:40:10

and a bit of digital wizardry into this age-old tradition.

0:40:100:40:13

Meet Andrew Stevens and Lewis Mitchell.

0:40:210:40:24

Hello, chaps.

0:40:250:40:27

They call themselves Dreckly Fish.

0:40:270:40:29

In these parts, dreckly means it'll happen soonish,

0:40:290:40:32

but for these boys, speed is of the essence.

0:40:320:40:35

They sell their catch directly to customers,

0:40:350:40:38

even whilst they're pulling it out of the sea, via Twitter.

0:40:380:40:42

This is so beautiful, Andrew. This is absolutely stunning.

0:40:420:40:45

How long have you been fishing?

0:40:450:40:46

-You want to know?

-I do, yeah.

0:40:460:40:48

40-odd years.

0:40:500:40:51

But we were getting the same money 20 years ago.

0:40:510:40:55

Nothing's changed.

0:40:560:40:57

So, you basically got rid of the middleman,

0:40:570:40:59

is that what's happened?

0:40:590:41:01

We haven't fell out with anybody.

0:41:010:41:02

It's just that we fancied having a go at our own enterprise.

0:41:020:41:06

In bypassing the fish market,

0:41:060:41:08

the boys can get their catch from coast to customer within hours.

0:41:080:41:13

And today, lobster is on the menu.

0:41:130:41:16

But not for you, mate.

0:41:160:41:18

If we have a lobster in the first pot,

0:41:180:41:20

that's what we call a Jack Henry start.

0:41:200:41:22

Why Jack Henry start?

0:41:220:41:24

Well, there used to be a grumpy old fisherman

0:41:240:41:26

and that's... Everybody used to say, that's a Jack Henry start, right.

0:41:260:41:30

How many lobster do you get on a normal day?

0:41:330:41:35

Oh, that would be telling, that would.

0:41:350:41:38

But a good day can be 80.

0:41:380:41:39

That's a very good day, that.

0:41:390:41:41

On a bad day, it could be two or nothing.

0:41:410:41:44

So, we just really don't know what we're going to get today.

0:41:440:41:46

Here we go.

0:41:460:41:48

Is there one in there?

0:41:490:41:50

-Yep.

-Yes!

-There you are.

0:41:500:41:53

Look at that.

0:41:530:41:55

So that's what we call a Jack Henry start, that is.

0:41:550:41:57

That is a beast.

0:41:570:41:59

Let's get the product onto the market.

0:42:000:42:03

First, we need a photo

0:42:030:42:04

to show buyers on social media what's available.

0:42:040:42:06

Do you just take it in the pot?

0:42:060:42:08

Yeah, I just take a photograph like that.

0:42:080:42:11

Let's take a picture of it straightaway.

0:42:110:42:13

I think that's worth putting online straightaway, don't you?

0:42:130:42:16

The pictures are uploaded straight from the boat

0:42:200:42:22

and by selling high quality to select buyers,

0:42:220:42:25

the fewer they have to catch to make a living.

0:42:250:42:27

Good for all-round sustainability.

0:42:270:42:29

So you offer them up to your special customers first?

0:42:310:42:34

-We do.

-OK.

-Yeah.

-I see, I see.

0:42:340:42:36

-So you need to get on the in-list.

-PHONE RINGS

0:42:360:42:38

Oh. There you go.

0:42:380:42:40

-That fast?

-It's that fast.

0:42:400:42:42

-That's how quickly it works. Wow!

-Yeah, that's it. So...

0:42:420:42:45

Is today a good day? It seems like we've got a good catch.

0:42:470:42:50

Oh, you're a lucky charm!

0:42:500:42:52

Then it's back to the harbour

0:42:550:42:56

to get these beauties packed up and shipped out.

0:42:560:42:59

Today, their third musketeer, Francis Harris, is on packing duty.

0:43:010:43:05

-There were go.

-Lovely, thank you.

-See you later, Lewis.

0:43:060:43:09

-OK, on the scales and weigh them up.

-OK.

0:43:090:43:12

-8.1.

-Right, let's get packing.

-Right.

0:43:140:43:17

-A bit of seaweed in the bottom.

-Seaweed, that's unusual.

0:43:190:43:22

Why would you pack it with seaweed?

0:43:220:43:24

Keeps them moist, damp in transit, which is important.

0:43:240:43:27

Look at that. Wouldn't you like to eat that?

0:43:270:43:29

-I would love to eat that, yes. In they go.

-Pack them in.

0:43:290:43:32

A nice bit of seaweed on top again. Snuggle them down.

0:43:340:43:37

Snuggle them down.

0:43:370:43:39

What kind of feedback have you had from your customers?

0:43:390:43:42

We've been accused of selling

0:43:420:43:46

crabs on steroids and selling lobsters with attitude.

0:43:460:43:50

That will do. A couple of gel packs.

0:43:500:43:52

Guaranteed to be in London for lunch tomorrow.

0:43:520:43:55

But now I'm off to meet one of the fishermen's loyal customers,

0:44:010:44:05

just a mile away.

0:44:050:44:06

Bruce Rennie is king of the fish dish

0:44:070:44:10

and today, he's making our fishermen lunch.

0:44:100:44:12

A spring salad with lobster as the star of the show.

0:44:140:44:17

The temperature's the critical part of cooking this dish

0:44:200:44:23

because that's what makes it nice and soft.

0:44:230:44:25

-And for you, this is an absolute gift, isn't it?

-I love it.

0:44:250:44:27

It's why I do purely seafood because of the location we're in,

0:44:270:44:30

where we're at and it's just... It's the best.

0:44:300:44:33

Lobster, sliced heritage tomatoes...

0:44:370:44:40

-The secret water.

-Yeah.

0:44:430:44:45

'A drizzle of chilled tomato and basil presse...'

0:44:450:44:48

This kind of makes it between a soup and a salad

0:44:480:44:50

but it really adds a nice zing to everything.

0:44:500:44:53

'..and a few edible flowers for a true taste of spring.

0:44:530:44:56

'Bet the boys will love that!'

0:44:560:44:58

We'll see how that goes.

0:44:580:45:00

'The full recipe is on our website:'

0:45:020:45:04

Hello, gentlemen.

0:45:090:45:11

Have you ever had your lobster look like that, for starters?

0:45:110:45:15

Not with primroses, no!

0:45:150:45:16

Right! Well, I don't know about you,

0:45:160:45:18

but I'm desperate to try this. Shall we give it a go?

0:45:180:45:21

-Mmm.

-Mmm!

0:45:240:45:26

-Very nice.

-What do you think?

-Beautiful.

0:45:260:45:29

Absolutely beautiful. Superb.

0:45:290:45:32

So sweet, just melts in the mouth.

0:45:320:45:34

It's incredible, Bruce, it really is.

0:45:360:45:39

That is absolutely divine.

0:45:390:45:41

I've never ate a primrose before!

0:45:410:45:43

We're heading to Cumbria now to meet a man

0:45:530:45:56

who's at the end of a 12-month love affair.

0:45:560:45:59

I have to admit, I fell hook, line and sinker for her.

0:46:030:46:07

The object of film-maker Terry Abraham's affections

0:46:120:46:16

is a mountain.

0:46:160:46:17

But she's not his first.

0:46:170:46:20

After spending a year documenting the life of England's highest peak,

0:46:200:46:24

Scafell Pike, Terry has spent the last year

0:46:240:46:27

capturing the ever-changing moods

0:46:270:46:29

of one of Britain's most-loved mountains, Blencathra.

0:46:290:46:33

It might sound romanticised

0:46:360:46:37

but spring is a very special time of year here for me.

0:46:370:46:40

The snows are disappearing,

0:46:400:46:42

you've got the green and the warmth coming down the valleys,

0:46:420:46:45

but it's that contrast with those last throes of winter up on the tops

0:46:450:46:50

to the life coming back I really like.

0:46:500:46:53

There's nothing I like more than exploring and wandering places

0:46:550:46:58

out on the fells where most people don't venture.

0:46:580:47:02

I often joke I'm sure I was born a shepherd in a previous life

0:47:030:47:07

but I liken that now to being a Herdwick,

0:47:070:47:10

those guardians of the fells,

0:47:100:47:12

out here in all weathers and all seasons.

0:47:120:47:15

They always bring a smile, don't they, little lambs?

0:47:150:47:17

CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKS

0:47:170:47:19

This time of year, in the spring,

0:47:260:47:29

the best time to be out to appreciate Blencathra is dawn.

0:47:290:47:32

Air clarity in spring tends to be very dry.

0:47:370:47:40

Gin-clear, as I like to call it.

0:47:400:47:42

But night-time, wow.

0:47:520:47:54

The night sky is unbelievable.

0:47:570:47:58

You'll see the Milky Way gliding over Blencathra,

0:47:580:48:01

see constellations that you've probably never seen before.

0:48:010:48:04

And it just goes to prove that here, Blencathra,

0:48:040:48:08

is just as beautiful at night as it is in the day.

0:48:080:48:11

I'm at my happiest out watching that dancing light

0:48:180:48:22

as the clouds roll in from the Irish Sea.

0:48:220:48:24

I can see why poets, writers and painters keep flocking here.

0:48:240:48:29

There's just something about this mountain

0:48:320:48:36

that just stirs the heart and soul.

0:48:360:48:39

Before I became a film-maker I was just a regular Joe Schmo, really.

0:48:440:48:49

But there's nowhere else I'd rather be than out here on the fell.

0:48:490:48:52

I don't know how many times I've ascended and descended Blencathra.

0:48:520:48:55

The number of hours, the number of miles I've covered,

0:48:550:48:59

I couldn't possibly tell you.

0:48:590:49:01

But every single one of them has been an absolute joy.

0:49:010:49:04

Good evening, Keith, how are you?

0:49:060:49:08

I needed that.

0:49:130:49:15

This week, we've been celebrating spring.

0:49:570:50:00

I'm on Alderney, the most northerly of the Channel Islands.

0:50:040:50:08

Here, spring blossoms early,

0:50:110:50:13

with rare gems like the spotted rock rose,

0:50:130:50:16

that sheds its delicate petals in the warmth of the midday sun.

0:50:160:50:20

The island is rich in natural history.

0:50:220:50:24

It's a bird-watchers' paradise

0:50:260:50:28

and a brand-new bird observatory is being set up

0:50:280:50:30

to monitor numbers and migration.

0:50:300:50:33

But there are also smaller wings that do very well here.

0:50:330:50:37

The island is home to the unusual Glanville Fritillary caterpillar,

0:50:380:50:42

which in spring can be found

0:50:420:50:44

greedily preparing for its transformation into a butterfly.

0:50:440:50:48

But it's moths that Alderney is really famous for.

0:50:500:50:54

And there's one man on the island who knows them better than most.

0:50:540:50:58

Now in his 80th year, David Wedd has devoted his life to them.

0:50:580:51:03

So, talk us through what you've caught, David.

0:51:030:51:06

These are called Hebrew Characters and you can see why -

0:51:060:51:09

-because of the markings on them.

-Yep.

0:51:090:51:12

What about this one? Cos this looks beautiful on here.

0:51:130:51:16

That's called an Early Grey.

0:51:160:51:19

Oh, my word, look at that!

0:51:190:51:22

That's an Emperor moth. That's female.

0:51:230:51:25

Female Emperor moth.

0:51:250:51:27

She is beautiful.

0:51:280:51:31

It's amazing that she's not just flying away.

0:51:330:51:35

She won't fly until she's paired

0:51:350:51:38

and she's laid at least half of the eggs.

0:51:380:51:40

-You can see the very fat body.

-Right.

0:51:400:51:43

So what's the process, then, of her pairing

0:51:430:51:46

and how does she decide who she wants her mate to be?

0:51:460:51:50

Well, she is supposed to be able to attract males from two miles away

0:51:500:51:53

-by pheromones.

-Right.

0:51:530:51:55

Normally, it's the first one that gets to her will mate.

0:51:550:51:58

She'll lay a lot of the eggs where she hatches

0:51:580:52:02

and then, when she's light enough, she'll fly for a night or two.

0:52:020:52:05

-So she won't live more than a few days.

-Right.

0:52:050:52:08

Just as we're talking, David, what's this?

0:52:090:52:12

That's a moth called an Angle Shade.

0:52:120:52:14

Do you know all of the species that are on this island?

0:52:140:52:17

I think I know the ones on the island, yes.

0:52:170:52:19

How many are we talking about?

0:52:190:52:21

We've got about, um, 800 or 900 kinds here,

0:52:210:52:25

but I mean, that's not all that many, is it?

0:52:250:52:27

Well, it is to know, 800 or 900! I think that's pretty impressive.

0:52:270:52:31

And when did you first get into moths?

0:52:310:52:33

-When I was four.

-Right!

0:52:330:52:35

-Well, nearly 75 years ago!

-There you go!

0:52:350:52:41

'I've seen some impressive winged creatures here today

0:52:410:52:44

'but there's one more surprise still to come.'

0:52:440:52:47

Matt? I think we might have something a bit special here,

0:52:480:52:52

-if you'd like to come and help with the ringing.

-Yes, OK!

0:52:520:52:54

David, I'll leave you to it. Nice to see you. All right. Got to go!

0:52:540:52:59

'John, the bird observatory's warden that I met earlier,

0:53:010:53:04

'has netted some more rare treasure.'

0:53:040:53:06

-This is, with the lime green on the rump there...

-Yeah?

0:53:080:53:11

..Bonelli's warbler.

0:53:110:53:13

Bonelli's warbler. Great name.

0:53:140:53:18

Er, and that'll be quite a rare vagrant to the British Isles.

0:53:180:53:23

How rare are we talking?

0:53:230:53:24

-Probably only two or three records a year, if that...

-Whoa!

0:53:240:53:28

-..of this species in the UK.

-We've got to get this right, then.

0:53:280:53:31

Particularly spring records will be very unusual

0:53:310:53:34

because most of the records are in the autumn.

0:53:340:53:37

You're a special little visitor, then!

0:53:370:53:39

It is very unusual.

0:53:390:53:41

-And you think North Africa, that's where this will have come from?

-Yep!

0:53:410:53:44

He's overshot a little bit to come this far north.

0:53:440:53:46

-Congratulations!

-Fantastic!

0:53:460:53:48

Another really nice record for the observatory

0:53:480:53:52

and this little chap can go back in the direction he's supposed to be.

0:53:520:53:56

Well, I think he just wanted to appear on Countryfile.

0:53:560:53:59

-Perhaps!

-THEY LAUGH

0:53:590:54:02

Off you go, my friend.

0:54:020:54:05

Well, on that wonderful and rather unexpected note,

0:54:070:54:11

that's all we've got time for from our celebration of spring.

0:54:110:54:14

A special edition of Coutryfile travelling the length and breadth of Britain to provide a snapshot of new life emerging in spring. There is a look at dolphins in Cardigan Bay and the start of the shellfish season, as well as visits to one of the UK's last remaining hay meadows, a Roman fort in Alderney and the largest vegetated shingle spit in Europe.


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