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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A time of renewal, regrowth,
as the landscape bursts back to life.
On today's programme, we travel the length and breadth
of the British Isles to bring you a snapshot of spring.
From farmland and fell to shingle and shore,
we discover signs of new life as the season unfurls.
I'm ringing in the new season on the Channel Islands.
My dear, you are number 395.
We'll keep an eye out for you on the future.
Ellie goes dolphin spotting, as they return to safe waters to breed.
Oh, yes, they're right ahead of us.
Nothing captures the spirit of spring more then a meadow
full of flowers, and these are some of the rarest in Britain.
For the next hour, we'll bring you the best in season.
It's absolutely gorgeous.
Spring is such a lovely time of year.
And there's new life everywhere on the farm.
A bird's-eye view of spring.
As the days begin to lengthen, the sun gathers its strength.
The warmer weather brings with it the arrival of many migrant
birds returning to our shores,
flying thousands of miles from warmer climates back
to their breeding grounds for the promise of new life.
On their flight path to mainland Britain, many of the birds
will pass through Alderney, the northernmost Channel Island.
Now, for the first time,
a bird observatory is being set up on Alderney by the Wildlife Trust.
It will be the most southerly of its kind in the British Isles.
As an experienced and licensed bird ringer,
John Horton is volunteering as the observatory's warden.
France is just eight miles away.
We can virtually see the migrant birds coming over from France
and watch migration visibly pass overhead.
But John's also a spring migrant.
Just eight weeks ago, he flew in with his partner, Cathy.
They packed up their lives in the big city to start anew
here on the island.
I was working as a police officer in the Metropolitan Police,
which I've been for the last 15 years, and one of my roles
for the police has been wildlife crimes investigator.
I was working as a receptionist and, yeah, I thought
everything was how it was going to be.
The difference between sitting here listening to the sounds
of the birds and the sea,
it couldn't be further away from the hubbub of being in London.
I can see how island life for John and Cathy
couldn't be more of a contrast.
From nicking criminals, John's now netting birds.
And don't worry, these little fellas aren't distressed.
It's just a harmless way of monitoring survival rates
and bird migration.
What time were you up first thing this morning?
Well, I'm up at five every morning to check the weather to see
if it's suitable to go out and open the nets.
-Looks like quite a nice spot for a work station, John.
This is ringing HQ.
First, John fits the birds with an identification band.
OK, you've got a male redstart.
The ring number is AK9504.
The bird's measurements are taken and then recorded.
A wing of 76.
02 on the fat muscle.
This bird's in reasonably good condition.
It might hang around, build up a bit more fat and then turn
that into muscle before it goes on the next part of its journey.
And then the birds are released...
..with the hope that they'll be recorded again within
the existing network of bird observatories,
19 of which are strung across the British Isles.
It's a male subalpine warbler.
He's now got an Alderney Observatory ring.
We can see where he goes and how long he takes to get there.
He can go.
John has had a very busy couple of months
but not even he could have expected the staggering number of birds
that pass through this tiny three-mile-long island.
Is it fair to say, John, that you've been catching
and ringing a lot more birds than you ever, ever expected?
Yeah, the numbers of migrant birds passing through
Alderney has been absolutely phenomenal.
We've ringed over 3,000 birds in just over seven weeks,
which is extraordinarily high figures.
The variety and volume has been amazing.
Oh, that's just majestic, isn't it?
Why are we seeing big numbers here?
Although we don't understand migration entirely yet,
it's certainly the case that birds follow the continental
coastlines in order to migrate.
Alderney's just that little bit further north than the French
coastline, so it's a very short hop for the birds,
so have a quick visit here and refuel.
And there's an abundance of wild flowers here as well.
There is. There is.
It's just a magnificent island for wildlife.
There's over 1,000 species of flowering wild flower,
so the insect life that must accompany that will be phenomenal
and probably is another reason why so many birds enjoy coming
through Alderney for a fatten-up to help them on their way.
When do you expect the numbers to start dying down?
We're not at the peak yet, and that's the extraordinary thing.
Species like white throat,
they're only just beginning to start to come through
and they'll be coming through in their hundreds, if not thousands.
The peak will be probably the next week, so we should be seeing
even more birds, but there's only so many I can cope with.
-It's a fine female blackcap.
73 on the wing.
My dear, you are number 395.
We'll keep an eye out for you in the future. Off you go.
We're heading to the Suffolk coast now to Orford Ness,
a vast and haunting nature reserve...
..hunted over by barn owls.
Brown hares box in the marshland.
And wildlife cameraman Richard Taylor-Jones is up at first light
to watch the best of the spring show.
I've been here many times before,
and it's got to be one of my favourite places on earth
because of this wonderful mix of post-apocalyptic landscape
and beautiful British wildlife.
The military history of the site started in about 1913
when the marshes here were drained to form airfields.
And it then went on to become one of our most top-secret atomic
weapons testing stations and a Cold War listening point.
However, the military upped sticks
and, a few decades ago,
these buildings were just left to rot.
These days, the National Trust looks after Orford Ness
and bombs have given way to birds,
and ballistic missiles to boxing hares.
OK, just over here in front of me...
is one of Orford Ness'...
..most famous residents.
The brown hare.
It's a really unusual sight,
seeing these animals out on the shingle here.
You're used to seeing them in grassy fields,
but they do really, really well in this environment.
It's an absolutely ideal habitat, really, for them.
It's big and flat, wide-open space.
This is lovely because he's just getting closer and closer.
I say he because...he's sniffing the ground quite a lot...
..and at this time of year, being in the spring,
the females will be in season and he'll be picking up her trace
and trying to follow where she is
because a female in season is a female that he can mate with.
But, of course, she doesn't give in easily if he does find her.
So, we get that that lovely mad March hare boxing that goes on,
the female pushing away the male's advances.
Testing how fit he is, essentially.
Just noticed, actually, that the male's looking quite alert.
I wonder if he has spotted another male
or I guess it could be another female.
There we go, three all in one shot.
Now, one of these is going to be a female,
and if she's going to be harassed by the males, she'll tell...
Here we go. Up on her back feet, they're boxing away.
This is the female telling the males to stay away.
A real, proper fisticuffs here.
Oh, this is just lovely.
And there we go, she's done her job and she's seen him off.
That is some of the best boxing I have ever seen.
Well, I've just come down to the more marshy area
here at Orford Ness and a lapwing's popped up in the air
so she's on a nest right next to the path. Can you see in there?
Just four lovely brown, chocolaty eggs, speckled to be camouflaged.
So, I'm just going to get away, set up the camera
and hopefully she'll come back and cover them up.
Got a bird of prey. It looks to me like a marsh harrier.
This is a bird that would quite happily
take lapwing chicks as a nice snack.
And there are a pair of lapwing dive-bombing it.
Look at this. This is a real aerial battle here.
This is what spring's all about for the birds out here
and this is life or death. They get one chance, most of them,
and so a predator like this comes along,
and all the lapwing will just team up...
..and try and drive the predator away.
The lapwing is now coming back to her nest.
The sun's coming down here at Orford Ness and that means one thing -
it's deer o'clock, and I don't know if you can hear these lovely
rasping calls that are just drifting across the pools here.
But that sound is the sound of Chinese water deer.
Collectors brought them here in the early 20th century,
and some accidentally escaped and others were deliberately released
to our countryside for sport.
People used to hunt them. They've done very well since then.
They've spread across a lot of the east of England and, actually,
we now have 10% of the world's population.
In their native habitat of Korea and China,
they're actually an endangered species.
What a wonderful way to end the day,
watching this deer species here making a new life for itself
in a landscape where mankind once plotted to take life away.
And now from the east of England to the west of Wales.
This is Cardigan Bay.
And something is stirring below the surface. Something magical.
These protected waters off the west coast of Wales have
the biggest population of bottlenose dolphins in Europe.
In fact, this is one of the best places in the world
to see them in the wild.
Having said that, although it looks quite calm in the harbour here,
out there, it is really choppy,
so I just hope they're not going to be camera shy today.
Every spring, the dolphins return to the sheltered waters of the bay
to calve their young, so it's an ideal time
to take stock of the population.
I'm joining a team who are doing just that.
For 25 years,
the Sea Watch Foundation has been working to conserve
and protect whales, dolphins and porpoises in our seas.
Just getting that bit down.
'Our skipper, Dafydd Lewis,
'has been sailing these waters for more than ten years.
'Apparently, if he can't find dolphins, no-one can.'
The area that we're in now is quite a bit of a hot spot,
where we're at the end of a headland,
it churns the seabeds up, basically,
where it stirs the food up for the smaller fish,
the larger fish eat them
and then the dolphins eat the larger fish, so going up the food chain.
But this time of year now,
the waters are still relatively cold, so the fish are obviously
in deeper waters, so the dolphins are in deeper waters chasing them.
So we just need a little bit of luck on our side today?
We need a lot of it today, with the weather as it is.
Katrin Lohrengel came from Germany to study the bottlenose dolphins
of Cardigan Bay and has seen plenty already this spring.
These dolphins are some of the largest out there,
with extra layers of blubber to cope with the chilly waters of Wales.
Katrin, you run the monitoring programme here.
What's involved in the work?
So, during the summer season, we do most of our fieldwork,
which is when we go out on the boats and photograph the animals,
so we do a line transect service,
where we follow a set route and we try and record all the animals
that we see during that time.
Sometimes, when we don't have a full day to go out on the sea,
if the conditions aren't good enough,
we'll go to hot spots where we think we'll find the dolphins.
So, our main aim is to get photographic images
of the dorsal fins, which we use to identify individuals.
The vast majority that are in our catalogue are quite heavily marked.
They'll have nicks and notches along the edge of their dorsal fin,
and we can use that to tell different individuals apart.
The scarring on the dorsal fins is caused by the dolphins
biting one another,
and it's the more aggressive males who tend to be the most marked.
So, this is from our first survey of the season.
This is about two weeks ago.
We had a very large group of animals,
about 16 animals overall, including four calves.
If I'm lucky enough to spot one myself,
biologist Kathy James will want to hear all about it.
She coordinates sightings from around the UK.
So, you're using sightings to build up a map of where the population is?
Yeah. It's not just us that are taking these sightings,
it's people all around the UK, so members of the public
that contribute their sightings to the scheme
and that's fantastic because we don't have the people power
to do that within the organisation.
So, even though the public aren't necessarily trained,
-they can still give you good data?
So, we've got some people out there who are fantastic cetacean experts -
cetaceans are your whales, dolphins and porpoises -
and then we've got people who are just out walking their dog
and they see something in the water and they let us know.
They say, "Oh, my word, I've seen something. What was it?"
And we try and talk them through the species,
so you don't have to know anything at all about it, really,
-you just have to have the enthusiasm and want to report it.
The Sea Watch project is one of the largest and longest-running
sighting schemes in the world, with more than 60,000 entries.
Whether submitted by experts or holiday-makers,
all sightings help to identify species hot spots
and to establish special areas of conservation, like Cardigan Bay.
The team have been using images of the dolphins in their studies
for years, but just this spring, they're deploying something new.
What is that new thing, Katrin?
We've recently acquired a drone.
How is this going to change things for you?
It'll allow us to approach the animals without necessarily
affecting their behaviour. So, dolphins might respond
positively or negatively to a boat, depending on what they're doing.
To get a really good idea of how they're interacting with each other,
it might be quite helpful to be able to see them from above.
With an unseasonably cold wind gusting at a high rate of knots,
Katrin's small drone remains grounded.
Just our luck.
But after four hours at sea with the elements conspiring against us,
my luck suddenly changes for the better.
Oh, yes, right ahead of us! Right ahead of us.
But I'm afraid that was it.
Just a glimpse of disappearing fins and tails,
and gone so quickly we couldn't even get a decent shot from the boat.
In spite of the wind and waves,
I've had a fantastic day with a dedicated
crew of conservationists, whose work will continue to
protect our marine mammals this spring and beyond.
Well, that was slightly choppier than I expected it. Thank you.
So, while I shake off these sea legs, John's on terra firma
in one of our precious hay meadows, where spring truly has sprung.
Morning light over an ancient lowland meadow in Wiltshire,
one of the finest in the whole of Europe.
And now that spring is here, this place has burst into bloom.
Not only is it one of our largest remaining
traditional hay meadows,
it's also home to the largest population of this rare flower,
the snake's head fritillary.
In fact, this meadow is a living link to our rural past.
It's one of those precious corners of our countryside
where the very rare is commonplace.
97% of our classic hay meadows have been lost in the past century.
But this one is thriving,
alongside part of the upper reaches of the River Thames.
Lying just outside the Saxon village of Cricklade,
the 110 acres of North Meadow Nature Reserve are carpeted with
an astounding 80% of Britain's snake's head fritillaries.
According to folklore, these striking flowers followed the
Roman legions across the country,
springing forth from their footprints.
And that's not as fanciful as it might sound because the old
Roman way, Ermin Street, used to run just alongside this meadow.
To discover more about these flowers,
I'm meeting ecologist Emma Rothero.
Along with a team of volunteers,
she's making a detailed study of them here in North Meadow.
I suppose the best place to get a good look at them
is down at ground level. And how did it get its name, then?
Well, it's a really extraordinary plant, isn't it?
It is called snake's head
because of the way it comes up out of the ground
with its flower like that, so it looks like a snake's head,
and then fritillary we think comes from the Latin "fritillus",
which roughly translates as dye spots,
and I think that refers to its very chequered pattern there.
There are some really fun local names - dead man's bell,
a folfalar in Staffordshire is another example,
so people have given them exciting names
because they're such an exciting plant.
Now, most of them are purply colour, aren't they?
But I have seen some white ones as well here.
Yes, there's about 10% of the site has white plants as opposed to pink.
-We think they're the same species.
-You call these pink?
-I call them pink.
-Pink or purple.
Well, this is a water meadow.
In fact, there's still quite a lot of flooding around, isn't there?
I would have thought that would have been a threat rather than
a help to the snake's head?
Well, it's a really interesting point.
The snake's head fritillary seems to like growing in flood plains
that are well drained, and so this habitat suits it
really, really nicely, and the snake's head fritillary
and all the other species that are found here are really
a product of a very sustainable agricultural system.
We've got very few flood meadows left.
It's a terrible shame. I mean, this is an incredibly rare habitat.
There's less than 1,200 hectares left in the whole of the country,
and because we think that about 40% of our rivers
are no longer in connection with their flood plain,
if we were to try and recreate some more of this,
we could manage flood plains WITH nature rather than against it.
So, what you're saying is, if we had more places like this,
we might have less flooding in urban areas?
Yes, potentially, because it helps to spread the floodwater out
and takes the flood peak off areas downstream.
North Meadow has remained largely unchanged for centuries.
Every year, when hay-making is finished,
the land has been turned over to grazing,
and that's always protected the meadow
from drainage work and ploughing.
These days, volunteers help to monitor
the rare and diverse range of plants.
North Meadow became a national nature reserve 45 years ago
and among the things you can spot here are the delicate cuckoo flower
and the vibrant marsh marigold.
But today, Emma and her team are carrying out their annual survey
into the general wellbeing of the star of the show,
the snake's head fritillary.
So, we're going to place this very carefully
over this highly technical bamboo cane.
-Oh, right. Like that?
Yeah, that's it.
With our one-metre-square grid in place,
we painstakingly log every fritillary we can see,
including the tiny single-leaf newcomers,
and then we record their height.
And that's up to about 19cm there.
Across the meadow, there are 200 such squares,
accurately placed in the same spot year after year,
thanks to the canes and the precision guidance of GPS.
How long have you been doing this for?
This is our 19th year.
-So, it's quite a long-term study.
-And what has it told you?
Well, what we can see is that the numbers of fritillaries
on this site are generally increasing, particularly
the numbers of flowering plants are generally increasing.
So, all in all, things are looking pretty good?
-They are, here, yeah.
The work now being done by both Natural England and Emma
and her friends from the Flood Plain Meadows Partnership
should ensure that this beguiling landscape continues to be
safeguarded as living, flowering history.
Now, a quick thank you, because many of you have been inspired by spring
and have sent us your photos of signs of new life via social media.
Beautiful seasonal scenes that paint a picture of the landscape
coming back to life.
I would say I'm more productive during spring.
If it was just winter, I wouldn't be able to paint.
In Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire, there's an artist who loves
nothing more than to commit the unfurling season to paper.
My name's Michelle Campbell. I'm an artist and an illustrator.
I love the colours coming out, the blossoms.
I love the woodland. Everything is inspiring to me and my work.
I'm working on a piece at the moment called the Arrival of Spring.
I like to work in minute detail.
I can just sit on a painting for hours and I listen to the
birds outside. It just takes me into another world, really.
So, we have bullfinches,
Nuthatch. Wrens. Starlings.
Blackbirds, which are my favourite birds.
They're just a happy bird. Their song's so colourful.
I like to use a lot of colours.
Because I'm normally quite serious, really,
because it's always work, work, work.
So my humour has to come out somewhere.
So it comes out in my paintings. I like them to be fun anyway.
I like people to be...
to look at them and think, "That's really nice!"
On Adam's farm, the signs of spring are blossoming everywhere.
The crops are growing,
wildlife is flourishing
and the season is starting to show its true colours.
And this year, more than any other, Adam seems to be overrun
with new additions.
Spring is such a lovely time of year,
when the weather's warming up, the blossom's on the trees,
the little buds are starting to come out on the deciduous trees
and there's new life everywhere on the farm.
All the sheep have given birth now and the lambs are growing well.
Just about every animal on the farm is getting in on the spring action.
We've got some piglets...
and some very special newcomers that you might remember.
I've got a Hungarian wire-haired vizsla housedog called Boo
and these are three of her puppies.
They were born six weeks ago
but they're old enough now to enjoy the garden.
The pups are still suckling from Boo.
They're still drinking some of her milk.
But I'm also supplementary feeding them here with milk and meat
and they're doing really well on it.
But they're so active, they've hardly got time to eat.
They're rushing off into the bushes,
trashing the flowerbed,
they're all fighting with each other and playing -
really discovering the great outdoors.
My hens might be having fun with the puppies today
but normally their duties are much more serious.
They have delicious eggs to lay for us and we also breed from them.
We hatched them out in this incubator, really,
to make it more efficient
so that chickens don't have to sit on all their own eggs,
and in the wild, a bird would roll its eggs
so that the embryo doesn't stick to the side of the shell,
otherwise that causes abnormalities in the chick.
So, in here, this rocks the eggs in the incubator every few hours
and then, after 21 days, the chicks will hatch out.
It's remarkable how quickly that happens.
And with a duckling, it's 28 days.
And there's some little ducklings in the bottom here.
This one has hatched out of its egg.
It's now ready to go under the lamp.
It's absolutely gorgeous.
Really sweet little fluffy duckling.
So, I'll now put that under the lamp with its mates.
But this lot are small fry compared to where I'm heading.
Eggs are a firm favourite for us Brits.
We eat a staggering amount, around 30 million every day.
But we'd be hard pushed to eat as many of these.
Spring is the start of the ostrich laying season.
Just one ostrich egg is the equivalent to 24 chicken eggs.
Coming from the world's largest bird,
it's hardly surprising they're the world's largest eggs.
Nick Dean holds a dangerous wild animal licence
to farm these flightless birds in Cambridgeshire.
-My word. Are we safe?
-We are, yeah. We'll be fine today.
-They're big birds.
-They are. Yeah.
They're 7-8 foot tall. 25st.
Goodness me. And how fast can they run?
They can run at about 40-45 miles an hour, faster than we can.
How on earth do you manage to farm them, then,
if you want to do something to one of them?
Well, we have to catch them first, obviously.
We tend to use a crook just to get it by the neck and then we hold
the beak and then we can pull a hood over the head.
Once the hood's over the head and they can't see,
they just stand there and we can walk either side of them
and walk them to where we need to take them.
They're extraordinary-looking animals. They've got huge eyes.
Hurts a little bit!
-How dangerous are they?
-Well, they could be very dangerous.
I mean, if you look at the size of their feet, if they do kick,
they'll jump up forwards and kick, so you've not only got
the weight of the bird, but the strength of the muscles.
-It wouldn't be very pleasant.
And those great big feet with two toes.
-And a big claw in the middle.
-A little bit like a dinosaur.
-They are, yeah. Very prehistoric.
That's what I like about them, I think.
They are probably one of the closest things to dinosaurs left.
And why do you keep them?
Do you farm them for their meat or their feathers? Ow!
We farm them mainly for breeding.
We breed them to sell to other people that keep ostriches.
We sell the eggs for people to eat.
We blow the eggs for people who want blown eggs.
How many eggs are they laying, then, in a year?
They lay in between 30 and 40 each, the females.
So, not very many. I mean, a chicken will lay 300 eggs a year.
They lay... Probably every three days we get an egg.
And they start to lay in the spring like a lot of British wildlife?
They started earlier this year. They started...
Oh! Right in the ear!
They started laying this year, early April.
And I suppose, when you come to collecting the eggs, what do you do?
Do you just walk in and pick them up off the ground?
Where do they lay them?
-We walk or we run very fast!
-Don't they like you taking them?
They don't, no. The boys don't.
I'd normally come in in the quad or in the car
-and we'd collect the eggs and drive out quickly.
And so is it the males that sit on the eggs or the females?
The males sit on them at night
and the females sit on them during the day time.
-So they share the duties?
-They do, yeah.
So, can we see if we can collect some eggs somewhere?
Yeah, let's go and see if we can find some.
Where will they be? Just dotted around the field?
-They should be in a pile over there where they lay them.
So, she's got some eggs there.
Yeah, she gets up every hour or two
and she'll just turn them around and sit back down again.
So, is it safe to collect these?
It is, but we have to watch the boys.
The girls are fine, but the boys sometimes take offence.
What do we do? Just walk in and pick them up?
-We'll just walk in and pick them up, we should be fine.
We're just going to take your eggs away, Mrs. Is that all right?
Come on, then. Good girl. Good girl.
I've never collected ostrich eggs before.
They're heavy, aren't they? That's quite a weight.
Yeah, about 1.5 kilos.
There's a boy there. How's it going to get around him?
I'll hide them behind my back!
We'll walk off. We'll be fine.
All right, all right, fella. Don't worry about it.
Just pinching your eggs.
How do you protect yourself against an ostrich who's angry?
I just hold the stick up.
As long as the stick's higher than their head, they're normally OK.
I know we can't outrun them,
so let's rely on the stick.
-You've got quite a menagerie here, Nick.
-Oh, we have, yeah.
-What are these?
-These are emus.
We breed emus, we breed rheas, alpacas, llamas and reindeer.
Goodness me, you've got all sorts!
DEEP BOOMING NOISE
-Strange noise they make.
That's a girl. That's their drumming. That's their mating call.
EMU MAKES DRUMMING SOUND
Let's move on.
These are the incubators.
Goodness me, they're a bit bigger than the ones I've got.
-They take 72 ostrich eggs.
-We just plonk these in, do we?
-Plonk these in to the holes up there, yeah.
-How long will they take before they hatch?
The incubator will turn the egg once an hour.
And then we take them out three days before they're due to hatch
and they go in to the hatcher.
And what have you got over here?
Emu chicks. They hatched last week.
They're lovely. Really stripy.
-Is that just their camouflage, I suppose?
-It is, yeah.
They stay like that until they're probably eight weeks old.
-Is that an emu egg?
-Yeah, that's an emu egg.
-Unusual colour, aren't they?
-And do they manage to chip their way out?
-Not like a chicken, no.
-They actually use brute force and kick themselves out.
So a chick would peck away, wouldn't it, all the way around?
-These just boot their way out.
-Boot their way out.
-That's the same with an ostrich?
-And do you ever eat the ostrich eggs?
Would you like to try one?
-Well, I would, yeah.
-Shall we fry one up?
-Shall we do that?
-Yeah, let's go.
-All right, I'll leave this here.
Nick heats up an extra large paella pan and adds plenty of cooking oil.
Normally, I like two, fried, sunny-side up...
but on this occasion, I think I'll just have the one.
Oh, look at that! Beautiful!
-It really is huge, isn't it?
-Massive, isn't it?
It's the equivalent of 24 standard chicken eggs.
I tell you what, shall we try one next to a chicken egg?
-Yeah, let's do a comparison.
-OK, let's go.
-Look at that. And that's a normal sized chicken egg?
Look at the difference.
Have you ever tried boiling one?
No, but I understand it takes about 90 minutes.
By the time the yolk's cooked in the middle,
you've got a rubbery compound on the outside, so, no.
-Not very nice.
Well, that looks pretty well-cooked now. Shall we give it a go?
Yeah, let's give it a go. Let's try it with some toast, shall we?
-I'd eat that.
-It's like a chicken egg, isn't it?
Exactly the same.
It's really quite delicious. I'm going to have some more.
Thanks very much, Nick. It's been fascinating to meet you
and delicious to eat my first ostrich egg.
-Nice to see you.
I'm also in search of seasonal food but on a rather more modest scale.
I'm in Cornwall and that is Newlyn, where the warmer waters of spring
herald the start of shellfish season.
Fishing has always been vital to the survival of the Cornish
and, for the last 600 years,
Newlyn has played an integral part in that.
Today, it's regarded as one of the top ports in the country,
home to one of our largest fishing fleets
landing some of our best-quality fish.
This place is steeped in history and the heritage here means
the fishermen are some of the most experienced there are.
But I'm about to meet a couple of chaps who are doing things
a little bit differently and breathing new life
and a bit of digital wizardry into this age-old tradition.
Meet Andrew Stevens and Lewis Mitchell.
They call themselves Dreckly Fish.
In these parts, dreckly means it'll happen soonish,
but for these boys, speed is of the essence.
They sell their catch directly to customers,
even whilst they're pulling it out of the sea, via Twitter.
This is so beautiful, Andrew. This is absolutely stunning.
How long have you been fishing?
-You want to know?
-I do, yeah.
But we were getting the same money 20 years ago.
So, you basically got rid of the middleman,
is that what's happened?
We haven't fell out with anybody.
It's just that we fancied having a go at our own enterprise.
In bypassing the fish market,
the boys can get their catch from coast to customer within hours.
And today, lobster is on the menu.
But not for you, mate.
If we have a lobster in the first pot,
that's what we call a Jack Henry start.
Why Jack Henry start?
Well, there used to be a grumpy old fisherman
and that's... Everybody used to say, that's a Jack Henry start, right.
How many lobster do you get on a normal day?
Oh, that would be telling, that would.
But a good day can be 80.
That's a very good day, that.
On a bad day, it could be two or nothing.
So, we just really don't know what we're going to get today.
Here we go.
Is there one in there?
-There you are.
Look at that.
So that's what we call a Jack Henry start, that is.
That is a beast.
Let's get the product onto the market.
First, we need a photo
to show buyers on social media what's available.
Do you just take it in the pot?
Yeah, I just take a photograph like that.
Let's take a picture of it straightaway.
I think that's worth putting online straightaway, don't you?
The pictures are uploaded straight from the boat
and by selling high quality to select buyers,
the fewer they have to catch to make a living.
Good for all-round sustainability.
So you offer them up to your special customers first?
-I see, I see.
-So you need to get on the in-list.
Oh. There you go.
-It's that fast.
-That's how quickly it works. Wow!
-Yeah, that's it. So...
Is today a good day? It seems like we've got a good catch.
Oh, you're a lucky charm!
Then it's back to the harbour
to get these beauties packed up and shipped out.
Today, their third musketeer, Francis Harris, is on packing duty.
-There were go.
-Lovely, thank you.
-See you later, Lewis.
-OK, on the scales and weigh them up.
-Right, let's get packing.
-A bit of seaweed in the bottom.
-Seaweed, that's unusual.
Why would you pack it with seaweed?
Keeps them moist, damp in transit, which is important.
Look at that. Wouldn't you like to eat that?
-I would love to eat that, yes. In they go.
-Pack them in.
A nice bit of seaweed on top again. Snuggle them down.
Snuggle them down.
What kind of feedback have you had from your customers?
We've been accused of selling
crabs on steroids and selling lobsters with attitude.
That will do. A couple of gel packs.
Guaranteed to be in London for lunch tomorrow.
But now I'm off to meet one of the fishermen's loyal customers,
just a mile away.
Bruce Rennie is king of the fish dish
and today, he's making our fishermen lunch.
A spring salad with lobster as the star of the show.
The temperature's the critical part of cooking this dish
because that's what makes it nice and soft.
-And for you, this is an absolute gift, isn't it?
-I love it.
It's why I do purely seafood because of the location we're in,
where we're at and it's just... It's the best.
Lobster, sliced heritage tomatoes...
-The secret water.
'A drizzle of chilled tomato and basil presse...'
This kind of makes it between a soup and a salad
but it really adds a nice zing to everything.
'..and a few edible flowers for a true taste of spring.
'Bet the boys will love that!'
We'll see how that goes.
'The full recipe is on our website:'
Have you ever had your lobster look like that, for starters?
Not with primroses, no!
Right! Well, I don't know about you,
but I'm desperate to try this. Shall we give it a go?
-What do you think?
Absolutely beautiful. Superb.
So sweet, just melts in the mouth.
It's incredible, Bruce, it really is.
That is absolutely divine.
I've never ate a primrose before!
We're heading to Cumbria now to meet a man
who's at the end of a 12-month love affair.
I have to admit, I fell hook, line and sinker for her.
The object of film-maker Terry Abraham's affections
is a mountain.
But she's not his first.
After spending a year documenting the life of England's highest peak,
Scafell Pike, Terry has spent the last year
capturing the ever-changing moods
of one of Britain's most-loved mountains, Blencathra.
It might sound romanticised
but spring is a very special time of year here for me.
The snows are disappearing,
you've got the green and the warmth coming down the valleys,
but it's that contrast with those last throes of winter up on the tops
to the life coming back I really like.
There's nothing I like more than exploring and wandering places
out on the fells where most people don't venture.
I often joke I'm sure I was born a shepherd in a previous life
but I liken that now to being a Herdwick,
those guardians of the fells,
out here in all weathers and all seasons.
They always bring a smile, don't they, little lambs?
CAMERA SHUTTER CLICKS
This time of year, in the spring,
the best time to be out to appreciate Blencathra is dawn.
Air clarity in spring tends to be very dry.
Gin-clear, as I like to call it.
But night-time, wow.
The night sky is unbelievable.
You'll see the Milky Way gliding over Blencathra,
see constellations that you've probably never seen before.
And it just goes to prove that here, Blencathra,
is just as beautiful at night as it is in the day.
I'm at my happiest out watching that dancing light
as the clouds roll in from the Irish Sea.
I can see why poets, writers and painters keep flocking here.
There's just something about this mountain
that just stirs the heart and soul.
Before I became a film-maker I was just a regular Joe Schmo, really.
But there's nowhere else I'd rather be than out here on the fell.
I don't know how many times I've ascended and descended Blencathra.
The number of hours, the number of miles I've covered,
I couldn't possibly tell you.
But every single one of them has been an absolute joy.
Good evening, Keith, how are you?
I needed that.
This week, we've been celebrating spring.
I'm on Alderney, the most northerly of the Channel Islands.
Here, spring blossoms early,
with rare gems like the spotted rock rose,
that sheds its delicate petals in the warmth of the midday sun.
The island is rich in natural history.
It's a bird-watchers' paradise
and a brand-new bird observatory is being set up
to monitor numbers and migration.
But there are also smaller wings that do very well here.
The island is home to the unusual Glanville Fritillary caterpillar,
which in spring can be found
greedily preparing for its transformation into a butterfly.
But it's moths that Alderney is really famous for.
And there's one man on the island who knows them better than most.
Now in his 80th year, David Wedd has devoted his life to them.
So, talk us through what you've caught, David.
These are called Hebrew Characters and you can see why -
-because of the markings on them.
What about this one? Cos this looks beautiful on here.
That's called an Early Grey.
Oh, my word, look at that!
That's an Emperor moth. That's female.
Female Emperor moth.
She is beautiful.
It's amazing that she's not just flying away.
She won't fly until she's paired
and she's laid at least half of the eggs.
-You can see the very fat body.
So what's the process, then, of her pairing
and how does she decide who she wants her mate to be?
Well, she is supposed to be able to attract males from two miles away
Normally, it's the first one that gets to her will mate.
She'll lay a lot of the eggs where she hatches
and then, when she's light enough, she'll fly for a night or two.
-So she won't live more than a few days.
Just as we're talking, David, what's this?
That's a moth called an Angle Shade.
Do you know all of the species that are on this island?
I think I know the ones on the island, yes.
How many are we talking about?
We've got about, um, 800 or 900 kinds here,
but I mean, that's not all that many, is it?
Well, it is to know, 800 or 900! I think that's pretty impressive.
And when did you first get into moths?
-When I was four.
-Well, nearly 75 years ago!
-There you go!
'I've seen some impressive winged creatures here today
'but there's one more surprise still to come.'
Matt? I think we might have something a bit special here,
-if you'd like to come and help with the ringing.
David, I'll leave you to it. Nice to see you. All right. Got to go!
'John, the bird observatory's warden that I met earlier,
'has netted some more rare treasure.'
-This is, with the lime green on the rump there...
Bonelli's warbler. Great name.
Er, and that'll be quite a rare vagrant to the British Isles.
How rare are we talking?
-Probably only two or three records a year, if that...
-..of this species in the UK.
-We've got to get this right, then.
Particularly spring records will be very unusual
because most of the records are in the autumn.
You're a special little visitor, then!
It is very unusual.
-And you think North Africa, that's where this will have come from?
He's overshot a little bit to come this far north.
Another really nice record for the observatory
and this little chap can go back in the direction he's supposed to be.
Well, I think he just wanted to appear on Countryfile.
Off you go, my friend.
Well, on that wonderful and rather unexpected note,
that's all we've got time for from our celebration of spring.
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.