Chris Packham, Kate Humble and Martin Hughes-Games are in the Brecon Beacons National Park to reveal how the UK's wildlife is faring after plummeting temperatures this winter.
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Welcome to Winterwatch. For the next hour, we are going to bring
you the very best of Britain's wintry wildlife, coming here from
the beautiful Brecon Beacons here in South Wales. And we are here on
the most glorious day to celebrate, and yes, I did say celebrate, went
up. As you will find out, there are masses to see and do as long as you
wrap up warm. So what happens to our wildlife in winter? How does it
manage to survive this harsh, unforgiving season?
Winter. It is the season of extremes. It is the coldest, the
windiest, the wettest and also the darkest time of the year, and yet
it can also be the most beautiful. It is a truly challenging few
months for our wildlife, a real test of the fittest, but as ABBA,
nature has devised ingenious solutions to allow our wildlife to
overcome the trials of winter -- as Winter brings some of our greatest
wildlife spectacles. So why not get the thermals on, get out and so cut
some of the wonders of the season? -- so Cup.
This says that winter is in a glorious season? -- who says. We
have been out on the trail of some of Britain's finest winter wildlife.
Charlie Hamilton James has been enjoying fabulous views of one of
our favourite animals. Maya Plass helped Martin to survive a -- sold
Lavery and mystery. Gordon Buchanan braved the cold to find out how one
of the our toughest birds makes it through the winter. Michaela
Strachan caught up with our swallows, who have flown 6,000
miles to South Africa. As always, we will be trying to answer some of
your questions and look at some of your spectacular photographs.
all of this, we wanted a spectacular location and we have
got one. Behind us there, capped with snow, Brecon Beacons National
Park. The highest mountain in southern Britain, Pen-y-Fan, 886
metres. For every 100m that you go up, it is said that it dropped one
degree centigrade and it is pretty chilly up there. A tough place to
be wildlife. Perhaps surprisingly, winter is actually a great time to
go wildlife watching. One of the best places to go this time of year
is an estuary. Chris showed me why. Martin, I have brought you here to
celebrate something quintessentially British. By the
patriotic? Do you know, I am. This here is the Diamond Jubilee. The
Olympics. -- this year. It the British Olympics will be the best
there has ever been. We invented everything from Parliament to punk
rock and we make the best motor bikes are the world. You forgot two
things. Spik fires and Geoff Hurst. And I am patriotic as well --
Spitfires. What I had actually brought you here to see his great
British mud. Mud? Go on, then, in we go. How is it? Martin, this mutt
is globally important, -- mud. Because of the Gulf Stream, a body
of warm water that reaches right up to the top a bystander and sweets
that the British coast, keeping our waters unfroze and and relatively
ball back reaches the top of ice land and sweeps down. As a result,
hundreds and 1,000 -- thousands, millions of birds come here to
exploit this resource. This very rich resource. Actually, Chris,
12.5 million wildfowl use our estuaries, marshes and mudflats
every winter. Half of the entire world population of golden plovers
come here. Almost three-quarters of the world's knot make the most of
our mud. And an unbelievable 91% of black-tailed godwits come to our
shores this time of year. But why do all these birds find our
This mud has a very high calorific value. There is a sort of scale, it
is a chocolate bar scale. Take this chocolate bar. One cubic metre of
mud can contain up to 38 chocolate- covered bars of calories. By Jude
Law of science? A chocolate bar scale -- don't you just love
science? This cubic metre of mud also contains an idiotic presenter
who has trodden into it. This could end very badly. It is not about
chocolate for the birds. This is absolutely packed with invertebrate
life. Shellfish, worms, you name it, it is in that. The problem is, they
have got to get it out. How are they going to get it out? Let's go
and look at some birds getting it out.
The key thing is of, of course, all of these birds have different
beaches. They are all after different things in the mud at
different depths. That means they can all feed in the same place at
the same time, but by feeding on different things at different
depths. So even in one foot of mud, different species will exploit
different bits. And the way they find it is fantastic. Some of them
have super-sensitive tips to their bill. You imagine a bird's billed
as being tough, but the tip of it can be quite soft and flexible, and
it is filled with a mass of nerves that can send any movement in the
mud. Others can even pick up electrical current in the mud that
are made as the creatures move through it. It is a whole range of
methods they have to get food dead. Sometimes they just put it in, have
a little feel and move on. Sometimes they will throw it in and
out of the mud. -- mud. I have tapped -- seen Italian mud, it is
rubbish. I have seen the enemies mutter, it is rubbish. A Brazilian
mud? This is the mud that really counts. The mud of that matters.
Great British mud! The mud of that matters. Where were you for that?
We were near Lymington in Hampshire. But the thing about the UK, there
is a lot of estuaries, Exe, the Wash, Morecambe Bay. Wherever you
are, there is an estuary nature. Slimbridge is fantastic, the
headquarters of the wildfowl Trust in Gloucestershire. Ian Llewellyn
spent the day there recently. Just bear that in mind, one day, and
Apology for the loss of subtitles for 86 seconds
Absolutely glorious. I love a steaming a cormorant. But we have
also had some pictures sent in by the viewers, and one bird has
cropped up time and time again. Here they are, this one... And Al,
clearly, but not one we I used to seeing. -- and Al. This is a short-
eared owl, and this winter, there has been a huge influx. Sometimes
they were coming in from the coast 40 or 50 at a time from Scandinavia
and we are seeing irruptive migration, not a regular migration
that happens every year, it requires special conditions. What
we think might have happened is there has been a very good breeding
season in Scandinavia, lots of lemmings, lots of small mammal prey,
then it got cold and they have got to go somewhere and they have come
to the UK. We have had lots of to the UK. We have had lots of
pictures coming. This one is really nice. Shame about the wire! Look at
this one, that is gorgeous. Nice grass, reflecting the colours and
the bird is beautifully lit. It is the bird is beautifully lit. It is
not just you who have been out capturing short-eared owls on
camera, our cameraman did the same. Have a look at this fabulous
footage of a short-eared owl hunting, by the looks of things.
really buoyant flight. That is what those long wings all about. They
are not nocturnal, they will hunt in daylight. It has spotted
something and it immediately swoops down, with its wings back so it
would damage them. It has either heard it or it has seen it and it
plunges down into the grass. It is a small mammal of some kind. When
you see it taking off, initially it is in its peak and then its swaps
it to its feet and makes its way off to eat it, possibly away from
it being stolen by another bird. real winter treat for us, but you
may think why on earth are these birds making the effort to come
here, when it is not exactly tropical? Bear in mind that in
Scandinavia and continental Europe, it is even colder than theirs. So
this is like a summer holiday for a short-eared owl. -- called the
bandits. -- colder than this. This is the weather station at the
Every day at 9 o'clock on the dot, measurements are taken and they are
sent to the Met Office. Let's have a look and see what the temperature
is now. It is minus 5.5 and I can tell you, it is extremely Parky.
That has not been the story of winter so far. November was the
warmest on record, it really was. December was the mildest for five
years, and extraordinarily, in Aberdeen Shia on Boxing Day, it was
a positively tropical 15C. We could do with a bit of that now. But what
has all this warmth meant for our wildlife? George told us that on
Christmas Day, 12:30pm, he saw a red admirable -- Red Admiral fly
past the window. He called his wife and daughter to confirm. A lot of
you have seen them. They should by rights be hibernating, but in the
warm, they will be out flying around. Now it is so cold, let's
hope they have all gone to sleep. Thank you, Martin. This month,
everything changed. Gone were the balmy days of December and January
and along came sub-zero temperatures, frost and some snow.
And very pretty it was as well. The landscape at last started to look
like a proper winter Wonderland. did for a few days, it was
fantastic. It was quite a relief after all of that much and drizzle
in December. -- mud. Where did it come from? Europe finally got cold.
Up in fin land, it got them to minus 36. Even in Germany, it was
down into the minus 20s and this had a big impact. Many bird species
finally got the push from continental Europe and came over
here to the UK. Everyone was out of bed with their cameras getting some
splendid pictures, which was sent That is what is fantastic about
winter, get great wildlife pictures. But some have been in touch to see
that birds have not been coming to your gardens budget trick in
December when it pours so warm. The reason is there was a lot of food
available through the countryside. So any birds could still find worms.
But of course that changed this month when the cold snap came in. I
noticed birds coming into the tedious in my garden. Although the
cold snap has been quite short so far, do you think it could have a
detrimental affect on birds? Generally it needs to be cold for a
longer period. The data has been analysed and some of the smaller
species, those prone to losing heat more quickly, did suffer. Robins
and song thrushes, even hedge birds down by 21%. But after the
prolonged period we had a mild spring last year and then we have
records because the birds were so productive. Chaffinches had their
best ever breeding seasons in the spring. So nature balanced out.
did. And I think unless we get a very long called period now, it
will not be as bad as the past two winters. While some species in this
country have adapted to deal would these very cold conditions. Gordon
Buchanan headed to the Cairngorms It is a true Arctic specialist. The
ptarmigan. It has adapted to live in extreme conditions of the high
mountains and is the UK's toughest bird bone reputation. I have been
given special permission to camp up here. Winter days are short and I
have to be out at first light. But putting up a tent in a gale-force
wind is not easy. Warmth is one of those simple
pleasures we take for granted! Incredible to think that these
ptarmigan are living out their. I'm going to try to get some rest.
In the morning the weather has closed in. I took all this
equipment into my tent, former clothing, and an having a
increasing appreciation for what these ptarmigan are up against. I'm
definitely not warm and cosy! There we go, I knew we were going
to see one. Perfect. These ptarmigan have evolved to exist
appear in many ways, it even their feet are feathered. They kind of
act like snowshoes. You can see the Anne Picking and the vegetation. It
is this kind of Alpine, shrubby kind of plant that they are feeding
on. They will actually store food in their crop so during the cold
nights they can sit there and regurgitate and feeding through the
night. The thing that does it for me but these birds is their ability
to change colour. As the mountain top is covered in snow lit
ptarmigan also change their colour. When the weather is really bad they
will actually dig little snow holes and tuck themselves in down there.
Ptarmigan and I definitely one of my favourite birds. It is
incredible that they can exist up here all year round. And what I
learned after last night is that they belong here and I do not!
That is one tough bird! Tough bloke as well! We are hiding in the
centre! I have got something to show you. It is slightly
embarrassing, but at least we can have a close look at one. I
inherited this, it was shot by my father! That was 50 years ago. How
do they change the colour of their feathers? Well the feather itself
cannot change colour, it is dead material, but they moult their
feathers in wintertime. Let's move on! Since that time when your
father was able to shoot that, if they were a lot more abundant.
Barbara it wants to know more about why some animals change the colour
of their fur in winter. Well like the birds it is a moulding process,
they have to physically changed their fur. And they produce a cult
which is not rich in pigment. Their ears can remain black so they can
keep them warm, basically. The length of the day is what triggers
it. The temperature controls the speed at which they turn colour but
it is also genetically controlled as well. If you take a southern
stoat up to Scotland and leave it on the top of the mountain it will
not turn colour because it is not genetically programmed to do that.
Some animals in the winter are able to change them stumps physically
but others change their behaviour. -- themselves. Some bird species
gathered together in huge groups at this time of year, in their tens of
thousands, like these rocks. It is fantastic sight for us but also has
some important advantages for the birds. For a start there are more
pairs of eyes on the lookout. But it is also about warmth. In winter
wagtails often come into the city centre looking for a warm place to
spend the night. And hundreds of Pied wagtails are making the most
of the escaped heat from this building. But the most impressive
have to beat starlings. Their vast swimming murmurations on winter
evenings are magnificent. They roost in large groups like these on
Aberystwyth peer. They can reduce their overnight heat loss by up to
one-third simply by huddling together. Not all birds will do
that, some will leave the shores in pursuit of much warmer weather.
Mikaela Strachan did the same thing. -- Michaela. We sent her on the
trail of one of our summer species. I mean South Africa on my way to
find out where one of our favourite little birds migrates to in our
winter. I'm joining local bird watcher Andrew Pickles in am
massive reed bed where the birds spend the night. Andrew is an
experienced birdwatcher and hopes to catch some swallows to shed some
light on their epic migration. This is the spot. I think we will put up
the next in a straight line down there. How many birds to expect?
could be up to 1.5 million. What kind of time to expect them?
would say any time from about a quarter to seven onwards.
So we have got a bit of time. What about predators? Yes we have a
bird that migrates with the swallows, and he is sensible, he
migrates with his prey! So we're all set up? Yes we just need to put
on recording of their roosting call which hopefully will attract them
into the nets. This is amazing, it is starting. Oh
my goodness! Literally within two minutes, suddenly all of them have
come over us. The sky becomes full. Look at that! They're just in and
out. They're just everywhere. huge numbers.
You have caught masses tonight. I make that 51. That is not bad.
What happens to them now? They will remain in those bags overnight.
it just too dark to ring them and release them tonight? Yes. They are
quite content. Are we ready to go? I will take the birds.
How long have you been ringing these birds of this most? About
three to four years. And what have you learnt? Well for the swallows
we have learnt their migration routes, these swallows can live up
to 10 or 11 years of age. That is a lot of flying. If you think about
it they travel to Europe and back every year for 10 years. One of
your British birds has been here! So if there is one there is going
to be 100. The important thing is to check the state of its primary
feathers. As soon as they arrive from Europe they will start malting.
When they get to the Last Feather then we know they're getting ready
to migrate. If the female bird does not return within a few days, the
male will find himself another mate! That is harsh! But it is
incredible that they fly back to the same spot year after year.
Reconnect this one go. -- we can't let.
I guess without any of that ringing going on you would not for one
minute think that they have flown all the way from Europe to South
Africa. Not at all. For the size of the bird it is hard to imagine that
they could fly that kind of distance. Good luck!
Michaela has got the right idea, going south for the winter! Well
those swallows will quite shortly be heading north. We should see
them returning to Britain Roundabout April. Yes some of the
early ones at the end of March. then there are the Ospreys. We went
to follow the young Ospreys in the autumn. And those youngsters will
not least but the adults will start heading back. The youngsters will
stay in West Africa and then start to make their way back in the next
One of the other species we were looking at last year was the
cuckoos. They have been fitted with new technology, satellite tax,
which meant we could see where they had gone for the winter. They have
been down here in central West Africa. They are beginning to get
fidgety. Martin the cuckoo has been rumbling about, he has moved 90
miles north. Perhaps not starting his migration, perhaps looking for
his car keys. In the springtime, for the first time ever, we are
going to find out the route that these birds take back to Europe and
hopefully back to the UK and we will bring you update on that.
will, but what do you do if you can't fly south? What do you do if
you have to stay here? You tough it out. One of the ways to do that is
to simply go to sleep. Take a leaf out of the Book of hedgehogs, bats
and dormice. They will sleep their way through the cold snap and wake
of a very sensibly when it starts to get warmer. We have had an
interesting question, what happens to things like insects and
invertebrates, how do they get through the winter? Many of them
hibernate as well. Many of the adult butterflies, tortoise shell,
red admiral, brimstone, they will hibernate as adult in Stakes. -- in
sex. They will start to become active in the spring when they
start to lay their eggs. But that inspects -- other adult insects
don't hibernate as adults, but as La they, and hide away from the
stove. Some of them have compounds within them like an defies that
stop them from a freezing -- anti- freeze. Then you have queen wasps
and bumblebees, they are fertilised females and only they survive from
the colony and in the springtime, they are some of the first one she
will see out, looking for a safe spot to stopover in the new year.
You may think it's the perfect time of the year to be hibernating, but
going to the seaside in the depths of winter? Surely not. Martin might
just change your mind. This is Salcombe in Devon. I used
to come here every year five family holiday, a houseboat. Out there.
And in summer, it is packed with people. But in the depths of winter,
it is a very different story, almost deserted. So the people are
gone, what about the wildlife? To uncover some of the secret of the
seashore in winter, I'm joining marine biologist Maya Plass, who
knows just where to look. Why are we on an old pontoon?
Pontoons are the best place to look for things. Underneath this will be
all sorts of amazing creatures, it is like a barrier Reef seen. Stick
your head right over. There are tons of things. Loads of really
beautiful anemones. There is a crab. A velvet swimming crab. And behind
that, there is a coral, called Dead man's fingers. I am amazed that the
richness. And it is called. It is. There is one down there, a sponge
called mermaids globe. The they had such lovely names. Apart from dead
man's fingers. The sea is cold in winter and the
water tends to be clear as there's less algae and plankton. And low
tide reveals a miscellany of marine marvels. There is a welcome.
that just a shell? It is a live one. It has bid for Caird. It is holding
itself in the mud. -- it has bit put out. That is how they glide
around. That stops it from drying - - drying up, and if any predators
try and get into eat the flesh, it is a protective device. I just
thought it was an empty shell. Shall we put him back? Yes, put him
back. Another really good place is to
look here. These are rare eggs. They are. That is actually the egg
capsule of what we just saw. In the spring Bunce, perfectly formed ones
will come out. -- spring guns. is a mollusc egg, that squishy
thing. So even in the depths of winter, there's plenty of wildlife
around, but we were not expecting this, something neither of us have
ever seen before. Is it natural or There it was. A couple of times.
That was nearly one metre. Come on, Maya. What the heck is squirting
this war to read? All around here, you have evidence of some of the
bivalves, a type of Shell, a type of snail, and they bury into the
water. They filter water out and as they squirt the water out into the
water, at high-tide, you wouldn't see it, but now you will see it
squirting out. You will see it with a razor clams and things. There's
only one way to finally solve this mystery. I can see something.
is that? Look. Shall we give it a Isn't that amazing? What a bizarre
structure. You think that is out all the time? It looks like it. I
think it is called a gaper. We have solved the mystery. That is the
mystery squirt of. By day out with Maya Is a perfect
example of what makes a seaside in winter so special -- my day out. It
is just full of surprises. Chris, Chris, Chris. Look at that,
Martyn. A just out of the blue, there it is. Here we are in Wales,
the perfect thing in -- on a better day it is... A red kite. The emblem
of these Brecon Hills. It is quartering, looking for small
mammals, I'm unlucky rabbit, perhaps. That is what they will do
even in the middle of winter. If you are red, due can see things
like that. They -- out you can see things.
Another creature you might seek out and about in winter, especially
near a river, is an otter. Charlie Hamilton James heard about an otter
family on an urban river and has his own theory about why such
younger cubs a might be around this time of year. -- might be around.
So hard to spot in this murky water. It is so nice, there is a bit of
It is so nice, there is a bit of tend to have their cubs in winter,
because they are going to stick around with their mother, they have
had this summer whether hunting is easy and they have honed their
skills by the time the winter comes -- aware of the hunting is easy.
And then they can make it on their own. I would say that covers three
or four months old. -- that young cub. It has another few months with
its mother and it has to learn the skills of being an otter. It isn't
just fishing, it is learning to fight, learning to hold territory,
learning what a good territory is. A whole load of stuff that this
tiny otter has got to learn from Maugham. They have gone quite a
long way away, so I suggest we go and find them -- learned from a
mother. I am quite surprised to see that
mother and a Moore with one club, because I had heard reports of one
with two. Either she has lost one of her young or there is another
there is a lovely Kingfisher. She has a bright red lower beak, which
means she is female, and she is in great condition. Look at that,
I am not sure if it is the same ones I have already seen. It looks
smaller, that one. There is a very high-pitched whistle. The reason is,
three otters. Beautiful. They are far too small to be catching food
for themselves. They are totally reliant on their mother to do the
fishing for them. So she has quite a lot of pressure on, she has to
catch food not just for herself but for these two. When you bear in
mind, and adult otter is putting away about one kilo of fish a day,
that is quite a lot of work to do to feed everyone.
You can hear sirens. It is a busy main road just there. I am about
100m from the supermarket car-park. Another siren. This is the modern
otter. Living in cities. Coming out in the day. Getting used to people.
This is basically exactly what foxes did in the 1970s and eighties,
when they became urbanised and came into cities. Now the otters are
I have nipped down the road from the mountain centre to meet Wynn
Morgan from the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Charlie said it is a great time of year not just to see otters but
other sort of revolt wildlife, including a bird I know you will
love and I certainly know, and it it is -- it is dippers. Is this a
good river for them? It is fantastic, it is fast flowing, you
can see how clear the water is, it is ideal. They are just such
is ideal. They are just such handsome birds, and much more
robust than you think. Quite chunky little things. He is just purged on
that rock with that lovely white breast showing. -- purged. Here he
his days patrolling? It is several hundred metres of river. Yes,
between the three bridges, I would say. The family of dippers we were
watching it Springwatch nested right in a waterfall. There is no
water for I can see, but where do they nest along here? That
waterfall. We put nest boxes up. We have one on the bridge, and one on
the bottom Bridge. I have brought one with me, we need to put one on
the middle Bridge. A I can feel work coming on. I can see why
looking pretty fit. There is no such thing as a quiet afternoon's
bird-watching! I will get my drill ladder? I was hoping he would, but
There we go, a nice new nest site for the dippers and if you want to
do the same for your garden birds, let's go back to Chris and Martin,
who have lots of advice for you. So if I am thinking of putting up a
bird box in the garden, what should I be thinking about? Doing it now.
Now is the time to get them up because birds will be prospecting
at this time of year to make sure there are nest holes available in
their territory so they can start straight away. And where do we put
them? It is very garden specific, so you have to use commonsense, but
don't put them where they are very exposed and will get lots of bad
weather but equally don't put them in the sunshine, where you will
cook the eggs and the young in the sun. And put them away from where
there might be predators, Catt, sparrowhawks. They like bushes to
be close by, so they birds can land and fly in and come out safely.
they don't get used one year, do you leave them or what? Move them.
It is very difficult to get your head into that of a blue tit or a
great tit. I have tried it, I have drunk eight pints and climbed into
a box. It is just not in the right place, move it the next winter and
shifted until eventually you are in the same thought pattern as the
birds -- shift it. I have a question. I took this box from my
garden only yesterday, what has done this? This has been opened by
a grey squirrel. Grey squirrel are quite serious predators, really,
art -- of young birds and even eggs in a nestbox like this. Woodpeckers
will open them as well, they tend to open them at the bottom, but
there are no Peck mark, this has been chewed by a squirrel. I had a
way you can overcome this problem. You put a little metal plate on
here and that. The squirrels from their large in the hole. -- that
will stop. Get yourself a played like this, you can stick them on to
any nestbox. Bath played. We have been putting them up already. Al
wildlife cameraman has been out and hopefully he has put them in the
right place so we can bring you some super pictures in time for
Winter it may look like a quiet and dormant time in the woodland. When
it is cold and windy the leaves can get damaged so many of the plants
that grow via survive the winter in a resting stage.
Most of the trees we have in the UK are deciduous which means that they
lose their leaves to stop them from freezing. But Prince agreed to
reduce water loss. That is not to say that there are not signs of
life. Here are the buds just waiting for the temperature and the
like to be right before they burst out. Trees produce their buds at
the end of summer, they would not have the energy to produce complex
structures like this during the winter. During the autumn and
winter the buds are small and insignificant but in the spring
they swell up just before they are ready to open. Before the tree's
shade out the floor of the woodland there is a window of opportunity
and the flowers race to make the most of that light. Primroses,
bluebells are sure signs that spring has arrived. But the first
of the year are the snowdrops and this year they have been especially
early, the first actually coming out in mid-December. Snowdrops are
not strictly speaking and native species. But they have become
ingrained in our culture as a sign that the winter is ending. It is
thought they came from Italy in the 15th century. The tip of the
flowering stem is covered with a protective leaf, so it can push up
through the soil without the flour getting damaged in the process.
Typically this species spreads by bulbs dividing. But it may also be
pollinated if it is warm enough and you have insects like bumble bees
and even flies that active. When the temperature reaches 10 degrees
the petals will open up horizontally and then the insects
can see the pattering on the petals that will attract them to the
nectar and get them to carry the pollen. There are a beautiful plant
and at the moment they have got the woodland pretty much to themselves.
But spring is on its way so they had better make the most of it.
Snowdrops are lovely it this time of year, they bring a smile to your
face. Now plants are dormant in the winter which means that it is a
good time of year to plan things like trees. I have, little further
down into the bracken is. You want to plant this cheap to replace that
rather splendid one that has come down in the winter storms. It is
important that the ground has not frozen? Exactly. We are also making
a square hole. If you dig a round hole the roads would just go round
instead of spreading out. So better to do it in a rectangle. Well I'm
going to watch you admiringly! How deep does it need to be? Just about
the depth of the pot. Trees are not really very deep rooted. The club's
owner took off the top we will put in the bottom because they contain
nutrients. -- the clods. probably know that this is the
Jubilee year, at the Queen has been on the throne for 60 years and the
Woodland Trust want to mug that occasion and leave a fantastic
Legacy by encouraging all of us to plant trees. They would like 6
million trees to be planted throughout the UK this year. And
ideally they would like 1 million of those to be planted this month.
So if you want to find out more and make sure that the tree you plant
counts as part of this wonderful national jubilee celebration, then
you can find all the details on our website. There's something else you
can do this winter it just as rewarding. But you'll have to get
up before dawn. If you set your alarm clock a little earlier, get
yourself a cup of tea and step out site. You could be in for a winter
a surprise. 6:30am. Wildlife sound recorders Chris Watson has agreed
to drop round to my house to help unravel the dawn chorus in the back
garden. We can instantly identify a robin,
it is beautiful stop Chris has brought along some kit that will
help pinpoint individual bird songs. That is the tawny owl. Fantastic.
And that is a cockerel! Why do they tend to sink at first light?
think they're singing now because actually it is too dark to feed.
They have just woken up so what they need to do is defend their
territory. The need to sing so all the neighbours know, I'm still here,
it still defending this territory. Some of the songs are fantastic and
complicated, like that of the Robin. The females like complexity? It is
a complex sound because they're giving multiple messages. Telling
rival males, do not come here. And also giving come on messages to the
female at the same time. And we are no work here understanding it.
someone like me not that great with birdsong, this is a good time of
year because, as the trees are bare, I can see more easily what is
producing the song. And also of the migrants have arrived so what we're
here in other resident birds. So it is a good time to start.
As it gets lighter the dawn chorus subsides. Like us, the birds are
getting hungry. So we now listening to what might feathered friends are
chatting about. Listen to this.
You're instantly engaged in that world. The microphone is in a place
where we would never be because we would affect their behaviour. You
can hear the power of those wings. That massive leap in Hanson's the
whole thing. These birds are constantly communicating. What
we're hearing now is not a song but contact calls. And of course now
they're not territorial. They have had to come to a temporary truce
because they're sharing this food supply. The great thing is that
these sounds are happening all the time. You can appreciate now the
mount of vocalisation. I'm so glad, this is where I do the washing up
every morning. You can just watch them. But now all I can hear them
as well. Do you mind if I keep this?! I will hire it out!
They're eating the out of house and Home! They clear that entire
feature every single day. And it is because you're doing something
right. You're clearly putting out a lot of really good food. And that
is quite an important thing at this time of year. The birds want to get
as fit and healthy as possible before the breeding season. So
putting out a good range of foods, I'm putting out meal worms now.
Peanuts, sunflower seeds, that type of thing, is really going to be
doing your birds of favour. And another thing on these cold and
frosty mornings is to make sure that they have fresh water.
One other thing we have noticed, the first signs of breeding. We
know just one little blue tit flying around the Land Rover and
especially at the mirrors. What is going on? It is just vanity! No, I
have seen this in other birds. Often individual males become
preoccupied with their own reflection because they believe it
is another male. It is a territorial display. It may be
February but this is an amorous month as many of our animals and
birds are proving. They're all kinds of ways to rule
your lover but surely the most elaborate is that of the great
crested grebe. In February they dance, if not quite cheek to cheek,
then the key to beak. This romances and brings the pair together making
sure that they are committed parents. Frogs and toads, what they
lack in romance they make up for in tenacity. The risk life and limb to
return to the pond where they were born. The male frog can hang on in
his tight embrace for several days to make sure he is the one to
fertilise her eggs. But he has got competition. Looks like this lot
are having a ball! Hazel trees are much less picky. For them, love
really is in the air. Hazel catkins are actually clusters of male
flowers. Their release millions of grains of pollen into the air.
These tiny love packages are at the mercy of the wind, ready to be
caught by the tufts of the female flowers. The final result is a
tasty hazelnut, planted neatly in the soil by a forgetful scroll.
Foxes probably count as one of the loudest lovers of the winter. But
notes suite serenades when Foxes are courting. The blood curdling
howls of the Vixens at night is enough to make the hair on the back
of your neck stand up. The vixen is receptive for just three days so
there is a frenzy of activity at this time of the year. Matings
brief but the pair may be stuck with each other for hours
afterwards because their genitals locked together. This strategy
ensures that the dog fox has the best chance of being the daddy!
Last leek Hare's take the award for the feisty EST partners of winter.
They may be called the Mad March hares but you can see these boxing
matches much earlier in the year. You might assume that these
fearless fighters are males but actually it is the feisty female,
fending off the advances of the male. She's only ready to mate for
a few hours every six weeks. So the rest of the time, any male food
gets too close will have his years box. That is girl power! All of
that goes to show that love is in their hair!
Well we hope we have managed to convince you that winter is
Chris Packham, Kate Humble and Martin Hughes-Games are at the Brecon Beacons National Park to reveal how the UK's wildlife is faring this winter. The mild start followed by plummeting temperatures are setting a real challenge. The team find out how plants and animals are managing to survive, and what viewers can do to help.
They also report on a surprising influx of owls, why the ptarmigan could be the UK's toughest bird, and show why winter is actually the best time of year to see some of the country's biggest wildlife spectacles.
Meanwhile, Michaela Strachan reports from a swallow roost in South Africa, where millions of birds have arrived from the UK and beyond to escape the northern winter altogether.