22/02/2012 Winterwatch


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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


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