Episode 1 Winterwatch


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Episode 1

Winterwatch returns to RSPB Arne in Dorset to check in with the latest in the world of British wildlife. Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games present.


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Winter is here, and it's time for some of the UK's greatest wildlife

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spectacles. It's a challenging time of the year for wildlife and to

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survive, animals like this gorgeous fox we've been observing the last

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few days, have to be resourceful and adaptable. I'm on a mission to try

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to find one of Britain's magically allusive animals, but it's bitterly

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cold, there's fog everywhere. It can only mean one thing, it's

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Winterwatch! Hello, and welcome to Winterwatch

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2017. Coming to you live from the wonderful RSPB Arne in Dorset. I've

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said this before but I can say it again. We have a crack cracking

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series of shows coming up, all sorts of interesting stuff, tonight even

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chemistry and particle physics. We are in amazing part of the country

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not just for wildlife but whether as well. It rarely snows here, because

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it is surrounded by North Woods, so there is a sort of microclimate, it

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is relatively mild, so they told us. It's going to be -3 tonight. --

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surrounded by Poole Harbour. The last few days it's been glorious,

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beautiful sunshine, beautiful sunrises and sunsets but it has been

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frosty, said wildlife has had to keep itself warm, especially in the

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morning. We have puffer jackets, Robbins have to puff themselves up.

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The deer Cavanda frosty start of the morning, you can see the frost on

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their fur. And when the pond freezes over this egret has a tricky

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business stepping out onto the water. This morning not just frost

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but fog, it has stayed all day we will probably have it tomorrow

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morning. The mission we've chosen to accept is the same as always, to

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bring you the very best of British wildlife and to explain how it is

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coping with this particular season, how to get through this harsh

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weather and harsh conditions. We've been filming things all the country

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and we've bugged our nature reserve with lots of wild cameras. Let's go

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live to a couple of them now. We have them out on some carcasses.

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This is a deer carcass in the woods. This is an amazing resource at this

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time of year, all of that meat is food for a great range of creatures.

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Another one we have out on the heathland. They have been really

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busy. We've seen all sorts of things on these carcasses in the last few

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days and I'm sure we will through the course of the week. We've had an

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amazing variety of wildlife already. We will give you just a taster of

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now we've had buzzards, the bird you would expect the carcass at this

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time of year. Widespread and common, taking full advantage of that free

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resorts. We've seen a lot of fox action as well. We will show you

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more of that later on in this show. And this is interesting, because

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this is a much paler bird, it looks like a different species but it is

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another, and bothered. A lot of action and we will be unpacking that

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as the days go on. If you are a regular viewer you will know for

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Springwatch we go to the same location for several years and four

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Autumnwatch we go somewhere else and winter we move on. This time we were

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here in autumn and we have come back for winter. Why was that?

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When we were here in October, the deer ratting and that leads were

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turning. Now the right is over. The leaves

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have been replaced by a crown of frost. And the safe haven of North

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Arne is as cool as ever. On the mudflats, 25,000 new arrivals since

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autumn. The marshes are hugely important for raptors. All I hear

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because this area is like no other part of the country. A mosaic of

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habitats creates a unique microclimate full of species, all

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seeking refuge during the cold winter months.

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This has to be one of the finest places to experience the best of

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British wildlife, this winter. What a place. Beautiful place. It is

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a remarkable part of the UK and one of the most biodiversity but we said

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in Autumnwatch that within a column to the's radius of where are you can

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find more species of bird, mammal and plant than anywhere else in the

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country. Absolutely remarkable. But where are we? Let's take a look.

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Here is the UK. If we zoom in and we are right in the middle of the south

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coast, sandwiched between Weymouth and Bournemouth. I have here a

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closer map. This is Bournemouth over here. Then you have Poole Harbour

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here. Weymouth further down here. You can see this huge natural

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harbour here, which is just beyond the trees over that, it's that that

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surrounds this peninsula, and this peninsular is our nature reserve.

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It's a very big reserve, spread out. We've sent our intrepid Martin to

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another part of the reserve and he's really set himself a challenge

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tonight. It's along the lines of a bird in the hand is worth two in the

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bush. It was going to be a tough challenge anyway, made tougher

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to my because it is foggy. How you doing, Martin? We are doing

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very well. It is a little bit nippy down here. I will tell you a quick

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story. I was on holiday wants, walking by the River Severn on the

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Welsh side and I looked down and saw something... I will try and

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demonstrate it to you. Like a little glowing dairy or some sort of

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jewellery on the ground. I thought, what on earth is that? I reached

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down and as Mike and got down to it it suddenly resolved itself into a

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bird. Beautiful colours, exactly the same as the leaves. It flew off and

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it was a woodcock. If you look at some of our beautiful Flickr

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photographs of woodcock you will forgive me. The lovely colours of

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the feathers, that match perfectly believes, the autumnal leaves. This

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last one. You can hardly see it there. They are fabulous birds. They

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rely on that camouflage to lie up during the day. They are almost like

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ghosts, because they only come out at dawn and dusk, so when you do see

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them, if you do, they are shadows against the half-light.

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Unfortunately, woodcock are in a lot of trouble at the moment, their

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numbers have been crashing for some time and the very latest trust for

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ornithology figures from 2003-13 show a 29% decline in breeding

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woodcock. So they need our help. Luckily, Arne at this time of year

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is a real hotspot for woodcock. We had our thermal out the last couple

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of nights looking to see we can see them. There they are. Of course, you

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couldn't see this at all if you are standing there. You can see this

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very dumpy little bird with a long bill. Out at night, feeding for

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worms, digging around. In the morning they will flit back into the

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woods in the half-light. So what we are going to try and do is almost

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impossibly, we're going to try and catch a woodcock tonight and ring

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it. That's all part of the research to try and increase our knowledge

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about this bird. How are we going to do that? First of all we need an

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expert, a licensed expert and here he is. Nice to see. Luke, you are a

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licensed volunteer wringer. You have your net and you have your torch.

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Yes. You have this bit which I'm fascinated by. Can you explain what

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this is all about? Woodcock can hear everything, their hearing is

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fantastic. They can hear our footsteps. Wear out in the darkness

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and they will be listening out for predators. We need something to

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dampen the sound of that on this box will play a nice little tune of

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running river to try and dampen down the sound of our footsteps. Can you

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make it work? Yes. Look at that, there it goes.

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That reminds me, I need to go to the loo! We are going to go out now,

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seriously, and try to see if there... We know there have been

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woodcock in this field. We have to leave our film crew behind. There

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are seven people standing here. We Luke and I can go out but we have

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got an advantage, because we have the thermal camera over there. Let's

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have a look and see if we can see anything...

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It's quite foggy so it's having a job to see through that, what you

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reckon, I can't see anything at the moment? Not a thing at all. That

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won't dampen spirits, we will try. Definitely. He's a skilled man. This

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place is brilliant for waders like woodcock but also for lovely

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avocets. They flocked here. What is about this area that makes it so

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good for waders? A couple of weeks ago I came down here to and find

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out. I've headed over the water to the

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National Trust Brownsea Island Timmy biologist Doctor Ross, who's been

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studying what makes this area so attractive for wintering avocets. We

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can see the avocets there. They will have a job today getting anything

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through the eyes but I guess I will wait until it melts and then start

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to feed. So graceful. Due to. Right very cryptic. Black and white. What

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will you telling me, your theory? Birds that forage socially tend to

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have more striking plumage like that. It could be they are

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black-and-white, striking, making them easier for avocets to see when

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they are foraging together. I think they probably have better eyesight

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than other waders. They don't just probe with their beaks, avocets can

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search for things by feeling. A multitalented bird. Indeed. So why

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is this place so special for avocets?

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The answer lies beneath our feet. This is perfect mud. When you are

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stuck you know it's the right place. Ready? I'm slowly sinking in. It's

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going to go in and water will come out the side that. That is so neat!

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Now mud is coming out so I will close the valve. That creates a

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vacuum, so when you Paul Best mud out, which isn't that easy... --

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when you pull this mud out. The mud should come out of the end with some

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vigorous shaking. Here it comes! I can actually see things in their

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already. Is that it now or do we take another one? We can take a few

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more if you fancy it. Can we? OK. Catherine has spent three years

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sampling the mud here, so she's an expat. I haven't quite got the

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technique. Can you feel it coming? No, I can't feel it coming at all.

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Try faster. LAUGHTER There we go, nice. Shall we go and

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see what we have in the banks? Let's do it. LAUGHTER

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I am stuck, too. Fascinated to see how you do this.

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Catherine has found a sample from this lagoon contains an average of

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270 creatures, compared to just 40 elsewhere around the harbour.

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This is exceptional. This is really special mud. It's also quite hard to

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sieve. During her studies Catherine repeated this process up to 45 times

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a day, and sure enough, with perseverance, we strike invertebrate

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gold. Here you see, there's a worm here.

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That little thing there? That is avocet food? Yes, one of the

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avocet's favourites. There's loads of them. It's teaming. Cool, you can

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see them swimming, that's exciting! Brilliant.

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Now we have a whole trade avocet food. We have rag worms and Mike

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shrimps. Yes, little Mike shrimps. How many mud shrimps and rag ones

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that they need? About 200 calories a day. We believe those tiny little

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mud shrimp, they need 350,000 of those data Phil that energetic

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requirements. Let me get my head around that, 350,000? Yes, quite a

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lot. That's why you see them feeding quite frequently when they are

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sweeping their bill across the mud. What about the worms? They are

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bigger and have higher calorific content so they may be need six or

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7000 of those a day to fill the energetic requirements. I thought

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you would say 60 or something because they are quite big. Six or

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7000? Yes. It seems almost impossible avocet can get enough

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calories from vertebrates on that -- invertebrates on the Rome, and

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Catherine's research has revealed they are supplementing their diet. I

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managed to get some fecal samples, and I saw all the things you would

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expect from the rag worms and the legs of the trophy but I also found

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little fish bones. In all the samples. Avocet eating fish? Indeed.

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They were making up their calorific requirements with fish. Have you

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ever seen it? I have, I've got some brilliant videos of avocet is

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picking up fish out of the water. They tend to do it when they are

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feeding together in a big aggregation which is like social

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foraging. They might be herding the fish. This happens a lot on the

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lagoon. It's really lovely to see. Are many fish per day? Maybe 200,

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250, still quite a few. That's loads. Yes but a lot easier than

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6000 rag worms. I'm not surprised that when ever you see in avocet, it

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is feeding. It's hard work being avocet! It is. Good research. Thank

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you. That is a great bit of research but

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350,000 per day! I know they are tiny little shrimp things. I did

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some maths and that is 14,583 per hour, or 243.1 per minute. That

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seems like a massive amount, every minute, they have got to catch how

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many, 250? 243.1. But when they are sifting in the water, they can take

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three or four in each sweep of the bill if they are feeding in an area

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where the shrimp are very dense but nevertheless, it is a big ask for

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this bird to get through the winter, feeding on such small things with

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such low calorific value. As Catherine said, she has seen them

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take fish and she knows from her research that they do. It is very

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rarely documented. It would be more efficient because they would only

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have to do 200-250 but we wanted to see if we could capture any fishing

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behaviour on the weapons come here. We sent the cameraman out and this

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is what they saw. They did not see any of the avocet eating fish but

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what do you reckon? Is that the herding behaviour Catherine said

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they do before they fish? I think this is fascinating behaviour but

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not herding. The animals are moving together against the tide, which is

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either sweeping invertebrates down towards them, or when they are

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moving on their feet are exposing the invertebrates and then sweeping

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the silt away. When I have seen herding behaviour in other species,

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like brown pelican, which do it frequently, there's a lot more

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activity. It is energetically expensive behaviour so they would

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probably only do it if there was a high density of prey in any given

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area. But avocet to do it. We have seen it. If you have seen doing it

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and you have a photograph of them doing it, we would love to see it.

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Riether and the cameramen are still out there so if they catch the

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avocet eating fish, will show you. We have another live camera, which

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we are calling wader cam. Let's go there now. It is very foggy tonight

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so the images are not great quality but I can see some weeding, and a

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bird in the centre of your screen with a black bottom which looks like

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a widgeon. And I can hear one whistling as well. And the foreheads

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are a dead giveaway. Not many waders in the Merc at the moment but

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throughout the course of the week, we have seen a great abundance of

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them down in the harbour. This vast expanse, when the tide... Isaac

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expands a bit posh, there! When the tide goes in an outcome this expanse

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is a great place for birds to come and forage. This is the recognisable

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species, the Eurasian curlew. Oystercatchers have an

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internationally important population in Poole harbour every winter so

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plenty of those juicy, those striking pale, pied waders.

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Spoonbill is as well, of course, we will bring you those through the

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week, not strictly a wader but using its bill in various ways to get food

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from the water, like the avocet. I love spoonbill, it is easy to spot.

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The spoon bill, not tricky. We will be looking at waders in more detail

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as the days go by. But tonight's star is this one that we will take a

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closer look at, the redshank, and medium-sized wader, very distinctive

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with its red legs and bill, although it's in the mud so it looks rather

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brown at the moment. This is what they have to do a lot, feeding. They

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use their eyesight in the daytime to pick and probe for food from the mud

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shallows. Look, this one has got a marine worm, probably a lugworm but

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look at what it does, it walks over to some clean water and washes it

:19:54.:20:01.

off before gobbling it down. That is quite interesting. You wouldn't

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expect it would mind eating all of the mud as well. It obviously has do

:20:06.:20:09.

it a lot of them. But look at what it does now. -- to eat a lot of

:20:10.:20:15.

them. You can see how big the mud is, all over its legs and it puts in

:20:16.:20:19.

its bill and then it puts its whole head in the mud. What is

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interesting, is you can see the mud all over the bill but there isn't

:20:26.:20:29.

any on its head. And the feathers, look, it does it again, brings up

:20:30.:20:34.

its head and its feathers are completely clean. How does it do

:20:35.:20:38.

that? There are a couple of methods it uses to do that. If we can slow

:20:39.:20:43.

the picture down and take another look, the quality is not that

:20:44.:20:46.

brilliant but you can see what is going on, the head goes in. In

:20:47.:20:49.

shallow water or liquid like this mud, there is a thin layer of air

:20:50.:20:53.

which forms over the surface of the bird's body and as a consequence,

:20:54.:20:58.

the liquid, the water never comes in contact with the feathers. But if

:20:59.:21:03.

birds dive deeper, or it has poured with rain for a long time, they rely

:21:04.:21:09.

upon the oil that they get from their preen gland which is situated

:21:10.:21:13.

just above the base of their tail. They take the oil out of it and

:21:14.:21:17.

spread it all over their feathers. But what is important is that the

:21:18.:21:21.

oil goes into the microscopic structure of their feathers, into

:21:22.:21:27.

the barbs and Bob yours. So with the bird gets wet, it does not get into

:21:28.:21:31.

the microstructure. And then when it emerges from the water or shakes

:21:32.:21:37.

itself, the water is expelled from the feathers, rather than needing to

:21:38.:21:40.

evaporate. If you think about it, you go out in the rain and get

:21:41.:21:44.

soaking wet, when you hang your coat up to dry, you have do put it near a

:21:45.:21:47.

heat source to evaporate the water. The bird does not need to do that.

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This oil, viz aliphatic, Mono West, waxy oil it gets from its sebaceous

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gland... I hope you are taking notes! That repels the water and

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that is how it stays dry. I could do with a pair of jeans like that

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because I've got mud all the back of jeans. I want to see you stroking a

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sebaceous gland and then rubbing it down the back of your trousers. I

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will practice that tonight! It is food that has attracted the waders

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to the wetlands at this time of year. For most animals, it is food

:22:20.:22:24.

that determines the location of their winter roost or wherever they

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go. Just a couple of weeks ago, Gillian Burke went in search of a

:22:29.:22:33.

stunning winter visitor that has found a fantastic resource right in

:22:34.:22:35.

the middle of Sheffield. Winter is a really tough time to

:22:36.:22:58.

birds, there are hardly any insects around and generally not a lot to it

:22:59.:23:03.

but there is another option. At this time of year, this is the good

:23:04.:23:10.

stuff. Jewel-like and succulent, berries are a brilliant, energy rich

:23:11.:23:14.

option, and this winter, they are in particularly strong supply thanks to

:23:15.:23:16.

last you's wet spring and warm summer. Lots of different species,

:23:17.:23:25.

resident and migrant alike, take advantage of this feast and because

:23:26.:23:29.

we are a nation of gardeners, our cities and towns are a surprisingly

:23:30.:23:32.

good place to see the birds in action.

:23:33.:23:40.

Missal thrush are often territorial and will defend berry patches

:23:41.:23:47.

against rivals. Whilst Redwing are gregarious, and generally happy to

:23:48.:23:52.

share. Blackbirds have the widest berry diet of any species, eating up

:23:53.:23:58.

to 33 different types of berries. But there's one bird I've never seen

:23:59.:24:02.

before, that migrates here in winter, especially for the berries.

:24:03.:24:06.

They usually come in very small numbers but this year, there's been

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an eruption. This is a crazy place to have a

:24:09.:24:33.

wildlife first, but these are my first waxwings.

:24:34.:24:40.

These exotic little birds can stay in their Scandinavian and Russian

:24:41.:24:46.

breeding grounds all winter, if the berry crop is large enough. But when

:24:47.:24:53.

it isn't, they head south, arriving on our east coast from November

:24:54.:24:57.

onwards. Providing us with a rare winter treat.

:24:58.:25:03.

What's amazing is that they are really having to battle away today

:25:04.:25:22.

in the wind. As they come in, they slightly overshoot the tops of the

:25:23.:25:25.

trees and then let the wind just kind of guide them to alight on the

:25:26.:25:29.

tips of the branches. It is really precise work. It's amazing to watch.

:25:30.:25:35.

You can see they have these striking yellow bars and wings, and the

:25:36.:25:44.

little red tips, where they get their name, the waxwings, they are

:25:45.:25:49.

actually the shaft of each further, they project beyond the feather, and

:25:50.:25:54.

they look like sealing wax which is where they get their name, the royal

:25:55.:25:59.

seal of the waxwing. It is absolutely beautiful. And to see how

:26:00.:26:06.

agile they are when they feed, it's not easy, today, it is so windy. The

:26:07.:26:13.

thing about waxwings is, unlike any of the other birds, they are the

:26:14.:26:16.

only ones that can survive the whole winter on a diet of just fruit.

:26:17.:26:20.

While the other birds will start to decline, they will start to lose

:26:21.:26:26.

weight, waxwings actually thrive. Waxwings will eat a whole variety of

:26:27.:26:30.

different berries, but it's the Rowan crop that is key to their

:26:31.:26:34.

numbers. Andrew Burns are so well loved, that in northern Europe, they

:26:35.:26:40.

are known as bird berries. And it is easy to see why. Individual waxwings

:26:41.:26:47.

have been seen to eat up to 1000 berries per day, sometimes tripling

:26:48.:26:49.

their body weight in the process, and stripping the trees bear. What's

:26:50.:26:57.

amazing about these birds is that they have even adapted to this

:26:58.:27:01.

special diet. They have a wider gate than any of the other birds we have

:27:02.:27:05.

seen. And that means they can really specialise on a huge variety of the

:27:06.:27:08.

berries available through the winter. The contrast of this busy

:27:09.:27:18.

road, this urban environment, and these exquisitely beautiful birds,

:27:19.:27:25.

it is, to me, just such a wonderful treat. And a surprise!

:27:26.:27:33.

Fantastic, aren't they? Beautiful. I've always wanted to photograph

:27:34.:27:39.

them, I've got a fantasy in my mind of a whole bunch of waxwings in the

:27:40.:27:43.

snow with their red feathers, it could be beautiful. Better get your

:27:44.:27:46.

camera out because it has been a good year for waxwings are lots of

:27:47.:27:50.

people have it enjoyed them and taking photos. Let's look. They are

:27:51.:27:54.

beautiful to photograph, look at that with the rowan berries and that

:27:55.:27:57.

lovely background. This is a group of them in the sunset, thanks to

:27:58.:28:02.

Mandy for that. It almost looks like it is drawing that berry up in the

:28:03.:28:07.

air and catching it in its mouth. Midair, isn't it? This one is

:28:08.:28:10.

interesting because you can see the rings on the bird. If you see a

:28:11.:28:17.

waxwings with the rings, then the Grampian ringing group would like to

:28:18.:28:20.

know about it. They are doing in nationwide study and they want your

:28:21.:28:23.

reports. It's really important that if you see a ringed one, let them

:28:24.:28:26.

though and the details are on the website. Although waxwings come here

:28:27.:28:35.

in the winter, they're not a typical long-distance migrant because that

:28:36.:28:37.

would imply they did it every winter but they don't, they are rocked from

:28:38.:28:41.

time to time and they come from Scandinavia to the UK. It is

:28:42.:28:44.

commonly thought that is because the berry crop that they are so

:28:45.:28:49.

dependent on as they are there. But they still have to get here so I

:28:50.:28:52.

wonder of the recent weather has given them a helping hand? I don't

:28:53.:28:56.

know what the answer is but I know a man who will, the one and only Nick

:28:57.:28:58.

Miller from the BBC Weather Centre. It was a cold start to winter across

:28:59.:29:09.

some parts of Scandinavia, headwinds haven't been that strong, because it

:29:10.:29:12.

hasn't been that stormy so far this winter. I want to show you a picture

:29:13.:29:16.

from the end of November. This is starfish, washed ashore by storm

:29:17.:29:24.

Angus. Since then relatively few storms compare with last winter.

:29:25.:29:30.

High-pressure, settled conditions, fog like we've seen today and hard

:29:31.:29:34.

frost. And if you're lucky, some sunny days. Winter so far for us is

:29:35.:29:38.

only briefly been stormy. December was thrown out, January has been

:29:39.:29:44.

colder with some snow and frost at times and drier than average. With

:29:45.:29:51.

cold and drier weather that will be present again this week. More winds

:29:52.:29:57.

later in the week. Wind chill becomes more of a factor. For you in

:29:58.:30:04.

Arne, some fog again tomorrow. Wind chill is that wind picks up. It is a

:30:05.:30:09.

fact for you, Arne today has been colder than some spots in

:30:10.:30:14.

Scandinavia. Gothenberg, Stockholm for example. So much for the

:30:15.:30:15.

waxwings. Foggy on frosty, what are the

:30:16.:30:28.

chances Martin will feel woodcock here? Listen, if you don't try, you

:30:29.:30:38.

never get. I admire his tenacity. We can spy on him because we have a

:30:39.:30:41.

live camera on him, there they are wandering round in the dark. They

:30:42.:30:45.

have to be really quiet, to have any chance of seeing a woodcock? Listen.

:30:46.:30:53.

That's the water sound Luke is playing, to drown out the sound of

:30:54.:30:58.

their footsteps. I suppose if it's frosty... Is it frosty out there?

:30:59.:31:01.

That would be quite noisy, their footsteps would be noisy. You don't

:31:02.:31:06.

think their chances are high? I think they have a chance, they are

:31:07.:31:09.

out there, the woodcock are out there, one might fly in their pocket

:31:10.:31:12.

by accident possible and is out there is one of our live cameras. We

:31:13.:31:17.

can go live to one of those carcass cameras. This is the one in the

:31:18.:31:21.

woodland. I have to tell you, there has been a fox sniffing around. It

:31:22.:31:25.

is live TV and you cannot trust the wildlife these days so he's not

:31:26.:31:30.

there at the moment. We've had a lot of birds, a huge variety of birds.

:31:31.:31:34.

Let's see what we've seen... A robin. Not maybe a bird you would

:31:35.:31:40.

expect to see on a carcass, but remember it is omnivorous, so it

:31:41.:31:43.

will take advantage of any food it can get at this time of year.

:31:44.:31:47.

Also, as we saw at the beginning of the programme, buzzards, we've had a

:31:48.:31:52.

few buzzards on the carrion. You would expect them to be taking

:31:53.:31:57.

advantage. That is a very good meal for any animal. You can see by that

:31:58.:32:02.

carcass that a lot of animals have already taken advantage. It's almost

:32:03.:32:08.

there. The buzzard is certainly finding some rich pickings.

:32:09.:32:12.

Beautiful bird, isn't it? Stunning. Stunning. You can see, that's been

:32:13.:32:19.

out about a week I think, and already it's nearly bare. There's a

:32:20.:32:26.

lot out there that's angry at this time of year and it's not moving, it

:32:27.:32:29.

their everyday so when they find it, they keep going back and back to it.

:32:30.:32:33.

You expect to see carrion feeding birds on a carcass like that and

:32:34.:32:38.

carrion feeding mammals on it as well, like the fox. There has been a

:32:39.:32:40.

lot of fox activity. This looks like a female that's come

:32:41.:32:51.

back to finish off what is left of the meat on the leg of the deer

:32:52.:32:58.

here. She is trying to use her incisors at the front of her jaw to

:32:59.:33:03.

nibble off the last little bit. She doesn't seem to be getting a lot of

:33:04.:33:05.

joy with that. No. So she tries a different

:33:06.:33:16.

technique here. She starts to strip the skin off and expose a bit more

:33:17.:33:19.

of the muscle that's left on the bottom of that limit. -- of that

:33:20.:33:29.

limb. The robin skips by, staying out of reach, waiting its turn. Look

:33:30.:33:34.

at that, she's got a big chunk there. Just listen to the sound.

:33:35.:33:39.

Look at that. She's using some specialised teeth on the side of her

:33:40.:33:45.

jaw, tissue year that meat off the carcass. See the way she's turning

:33:46.:33:52.

her head sideways? Then if she fancies a bit of roughage... She

:33:53.:34:05.

tugs at the fur. She wants some skin to go with it. There is a nice

:34:06.:34:10.

chunk. Sits down and smacks her mouth. I get told off by my mum for

:34:11.:34:16.

that. Amazing to see such natural behaviour, isn't it? It is, amazing.

:34:17.:34:23.

Look, I have a fox skull here. I can show you this and show you the

:34:24.:34:27.

teeth. This is the typical Fox skull we see. These are the long canine

:34:28.:34:31.

teeth, these are not for cutting meat at all, these are for grabbing

:34:32.:34:36.

prey. When it comes to cutting meat, if I put this bit of card in here,

:34:37.:34:39.

we can look at this particular teeth here. This is what we used to call

:34:40.:34:45.

the, sealed his, they're now called the sectorial teeth. They are a

:34:46.:34:49.

group of premolars in the bottom and top jaw. If I get that improperly...

:34:50.:34:59.

Turn it head on like this, you might be able to see, like that, look at

:35:00.:35:05.

the side of the tooth here. What happens is, these little cusps give

:35:06.:35:10.

it the grip and then as it closes the jaw tightly, the meat is sheared

:35:11.:35:14.

by those teeth, as it slides down the sharp insides of those

:35:15.:35:19.

premolars. On the top is a muscle that comes over and connects to this

:35:20.:35:24.

part of the jaw, and because it's close to these teeth, you get

:35:25.:35:29.

maximum power there. That's how the fox and other carnivals manage to

:35:30.:35:34.

get their food off of the bone. A few other groups are mammals have

:35:35.:35:39.

these teeth. People are amazed to see the skull of a fox because they

:35:40.:35:42.

think that would be bigger but that is the average male fox skull? Yes.

:35:43.:35:49.

These animals only way between 5-8 kg, about the weight of an small

:35:50.:35:54.

dog. At this time of the year they have a lot of further and look a lot

:35:55.:36:00.

bigger. It's not just one fox we've been watching. Let's show you the

:36:01.:36:04.

one we have been showing you. You can see it has a very silver back.

:36:05.:36:10.

We think this is a female. It's a gorgeous, healthy looking fox. Look

:36:11.:36:16.

at this one. It's clearly a different individual. This is a

:36:17.:36:23.

male, much stockier and quite striking. Almost looks a bit like a

:36:24.:36:31.

Racu, doesn't it? Very darkly marked underneath, very unusual. So we have

:36:32.:36:38.

a silverback and a Racu unlike fox. We know we have two individuals and

:36:39.:36:42.

we think we have more. It is something we will be looking at in

:36:43.:36:45.

the next few days. Sometimes when you see animals as individuals like

:36:46.:36:48.

these foxes they are quintessentially beautiful and

:36:49.:36:52.

satisfying to get a great view. On other occasions it's great to see

:36:53.:36:55.

them en masse, and you get a feeling of real involvement with that

:36:56.:37:00.

species. The other day Michaela and I went a few miles away from here to

:37:01.:37:06.

Poole Harbour to Studland to see one of nature's greatest wildlife

:37:07.:37:07.

spectacles. Michaela? Yes. Can I ask you a

:37:08.:37:21.

personal question? You can. When did you last murmarate? I don't know,

:37:22.:37:31.

how many deep need to murmarate Chris Wratt I'm wondering how many

:37:32.:37:37.

starlings are here and if it can be justified as being called a

:37:38.:37:43.

murmaration. The locals reckon 10,000 birds come in this

:37:44.:37:47.

murmaration. They all come together and swell and swell and that's when

:37:48.:37:52.

we'll get that fantastic spectacle. There are more people birds in the

:37:53.:38:00.

sky. Quite a lot of murmarating going on in the bushes. Here we go,

:38:01.:38:04.

here we go. The first few are coming in quite close. They are all joining

:38:05.:38:11.

in now, the smaller groups, can you see them coming? What amazes me is

:38:12.:38:16.

how quickly that's happened, how quickly they've all come together

:38:17.:38:21.

like that. That's fantastic! There has to be at least 10,000. No, I

:38:22.:38:29.

don't think it is 10,000, but that's a murmaration.

:38:30.:38:34.

No one really knows exactly why they do it. What's your theory? Is it to

:38:35.:38:42.

warm up before they roost? Is it just a safety in numbers think, a

:38:43.:38:47.

mixture of the two? Also, they are communicating to each other. When

:38:48.:38:54.

they go to roost we know there is a hierarchy of who is where in the

:38:55.:38:57.

roost. We know when they go foraging the next day, the birds that have

:38:58.:39:01.

foraged better the previous day takes those birds. It's Stephanie

:39:02.:39:05.

about communicating. It is right over our heads! Listen, listen.

:39:06.:39:12.

I love the way they make these fantastic shapes, they swirl and

:39:13.:39:31.

then go back in to a ball and then back out it goes again. What do you

:39:32.:39:38.

reckon? I haven't thought... I will try and estimate... Are you going to

:39:39.:39:41.

count? I will try to estimate. I reckon maybe 3000. I'd say at

:39:42.:39:48.

least 5000. Listened to that. And they're all

:39:49.:40:59.

dropping down, look. It's like someone's pulled the plug out.

:41:00.:41:08.

That was just amazing, Chris. I've never seen one like that before, all

:41:09.:41:13.

of that swirling, couldn't have been better. For the price of a car park

:41:14.:41:18.

ticket. That's good value, couldn't ask for anything more. Just cake.

:41:19.:41:23.

You have to admit, that was enough for a murmaration. Yes.

:41:24.:41:29.

We could go on about the starlings but we're going to go live to our

:41:30.:41:33.

woodland pond camera now. Because somewhere there... Just gone. Let's

:41:34.:41:42.

just give it a second. There was a fox there seconds ago. But he or she

:41:43.:41:48.

has skulked off into the grass. What a shame. Honestly, Fox's! Going back

:41:49.:41:56.

to our starlings, that was an incredibly memorable experience. Not

:41:57.:42:00.

only the beauty of the murmaration, but the sky behind, it was a

:42:01.:42:05.

glorious sunset. In fact, it was so amazing we went back two days later

:42:06.:42:09.

to watch. It's a real privilege to see here here in Studland because

:42:10.:42:12.

they haven't had a murmaration like that for 30 years. The last time

:42:13.:42:18.

people enjoyed that spectacle was 1986-87. Chris, you watched them. I

:42:19.:42:23.

tried to watch individual ones when we were looking. You just wonder,

:42:24.:42:28.

how do they do it? It's not a choreographed ballet, so how do they

:42:29.:42:32.

know when to switch on turn and make those amazing patterns? Until

:42:33.:42:36.

recently it's been difficult to look at that, but with modern technology

:42:37.:42:40.

mathematicians have looked into and this is what they have found out.

:42:41.:42:44.

The closer statistical correlation with Starling movement in the flock

:42:45.:42:48.

like this is not in another biological phenomenon but in

:42:49.:42:52.

particle physics, particularly the physics of magnetism. What we are

:42:53.:42:58.

looking at here is a transition change, the fluid movement of the

:42:59.:43:01.

starlings is like a phase transition. They are on the cusp of

:43:02.:43:07.

changing from one state to another. So it's a bit like a snowflake,

:43:08.:43:12.

which is static on a hillside and then one snowflake can turn and

:43:13.:43:16.

instigate an avalanche. That's what happens in the flocks of starlings.

:43:17.:43:20.

One bird can affect the whole flock and the whole flock can affect one

:43:21.:43:26.

bird. What's interesting is under analysis, each starlings can

:43:27.:43:29.

influence the movement of seven other starlings around it, not the

:43:30.:43:35.

whole flock. But a bird only a few starlings away is then influencing

:43:36.:43:39.

the next seven starlings and the next seven starlings. That's why you

:43:40.:43:43.

get that wavelike movement that sweeps throughout the flock. There

:43:44.:43:47.

is no flop leader, that's one very important thing worth saying. That

:43:48.:43:51.

whole flock is in itself driving most beautiful movements. It reminds

:43:52.:43:57.

me of one of those 1970s lava lamps, a bit moves on it all follows makes

:43:58.:44:01.

different and interesting shaped. I've just given an explanation,

:44:02.:44:05.

albeit brief and stand about particle physics and phase

:44:06.:44:08.

transition and you've lowered it to a gadget from the nineteen

:44:09.:44:13.

seventies. I can get my head around that, a lava lamp! What is important

:44:14.:44:17.

to remember is we see them in those vast numbers, 15,000 of the match

:44:18.:44:21.

Studland, but the numbers have declined. In fact, 30 years ago

:44:22.:44:26.

there was 100000 and that is pretty typical of around the country.

:44:27.:44:29.

Although it's still incredibly impressive, there's not as many

:44:30.:44:30.

around. But what there are many more of our

:44:31.:44:38.

people going to look at the starlings. In the past, we

:44:39.:44:41.

persecuted them, gassed them, there were flocks of millions of these

:44:42.:44:46.

birds. In 1972, the only accurately counted flock in the UK numbered 1

:44:47.:44:50.

million birds but what was great was the other night when we went there,

:44:51.:44:54.

there were 300 people, and the second time, it was closer to 1000

:44:55.:44:58.

so people's attitudes to wildlife have radically changed and now they

:44:59.:45:02.

see this as something truly special and worth seeing. And now we have

:45:03.:45:08.

shown it, there will probably be 2000! I'm going down there with a

:45:09.:45:12.

little cafe I will be opening up, cups of coffee, ?10.5. You can see

:45:13.:45:20.

murmurations all over the country, like Brighton and Aberystwyth peer,

:45:21.:45:23.

and all the information is on the website. I strongly recommend you do

:45:24.:45:28.

it because it is a memorable spectacle to go and see.

:45:29.:45:34.

Astonishing. As is the Woodcock, but has Martin caught one yet?

:45:35.:45:41.

Well, Chris, no, not really. In fact, this is my third consecutive

:45:42.:45:46.

night out with Luke and I've come to realise it is a much more subtle and

:45:47.:45:50.

difficult art form that I had other guests. Tonight is not a great night

:45:51.:45:55.

for it, really. No, it is flat, and being foggy does not help. We had a

:45:56.:46:00.

moment of extreme excitement about ten minutes ago. Yes, but it was cow

:46:01.:46:06.

poo. But it was shaped like a Woodcock. It's really difficult. We

:46:07.:46:11.

only have Luke's torch to look around but there is the thermal

:46:12.:46:15.

camera and while we have been out and about over the last two nights,

:46:16.:46:21.

it turns out the Woodcock have been leading us a bit of a runaround.

:46:22.:46:47.

Did you realise we were surrounded by them? No, that's the first time

:46:48.:46:54.

I've seen that. We had no idea. It just shows how skilful a business it

:46:55.:46:58.

is. Thank you for taking us out so we have not had much luck tonight,

:46:59.:47:02.

have we? But let's have a look at what happened last night. We went

:47:03.:47:09.

out and we managed to find one bird. We hoped it would just sit

:47:10.:47:13.

absolutely still and of course, you can see it at the bottom of the

:47:14.:47:16.

screen, moving around the whole time. Good Luke possibly get his net

:47:17.:47:21.

carefully over the bird? It is a woodcock. Here we go. He got it!

:47:22.:47:27.

He's very careful to get the woodcock in the centre of the net so

:47:28.:47:30.

he does not hit it with the sides. The bird was absolutely fine. We

:47:31.:47:37.

actually caught the woodcock last night, about three fields away in

:47:38.:47:43.

that direction. A long way away from where Luke had setup is kind of

:47:44.:47:47.

processing area. So we rushed back with the bird and then Luke got down

:47:48.:47:55.

to measuring and collecting data. Now, this is the first time I have

:47:56.:47:59.

been able to get a close look at a woodcock. Look at that long, probing

:48:00.:48:08.

bill. There's the gleaming eyes and the beautiful, rustic colours. Of

:48:09.:48:12.

course, we are here because we want to gather data about this

:48:13.:48:17.

critical... This bird's numbers are critically declining so Luke is

:48:18.:48:21.

putting on the ring and I am acting as scribe, writing it down. Look at

:48:22.:48:29.

the colours. Exquisite. Its eyes have got almost 360 degrees vision.

:48:30.:48:33.

As it turns its head, it can almost see 360 degrees. A wonderful bird. I

:48:34.:48:40.

never dreamt I would get that close to it. What we had to do then was

:48:41.:48:45.

released the bird. But you can't just release it in the bright light

:48:46.:48:49.

that we had used to do all the ringing and everything. So you turn

:48:50.:48:53.

off all the lights and you only use an infrared lamp. It was completely

:48:54.:48:57.

invisible to the woodcock. And then it was our turn to see if we can let

:48:58.:48:59.

it go. OK. Here we go. Got him. Have you?

:49:00.:49:05.

Fantastic. Very good. OK. It's quite exciting in complete

:49:06.:49:31.

darkness, isn't it? It's amazing. I've no idea what he has doing now

:49:32.:49:35.

because it is pitch black. I can't see anything! He's just down there.

:49:36.:49:43.

He seems totally calm. He is rustling the grass a bit behind him.

:49:44.:49:50.

Brilliant! Doesn't get better than that. Fantastic! Absolutely

:49:51.:50:01.

brilliant. I never thought we would actually catch one in a million

:50:02.:50:06.

years. The ringing data, that kind of data, has shown an amazing

:50:07.:50:11.

result. This is from the British trust for ornithology and they have

:50:12.:50:16.

been tracking the birds, these are ringing returns. Some of the

:50:17.:50:20.

woodcock of flying as far as Russia, which is a round-trip of around 6000

:50:21.:50:26.

kilometres. The one we had last night, we think was probably old

:50:27.:50:32.

enough to have that trip twice. That is 12,000, 13,000 kilometres but the

:50:33.:50:36.

bird has flown. It is vitally important we get more data in the

:50:37.:50:40.

hope of stopping this crucial decline of this magical bird.

:50:41.:50:43.

Anyway, we have got camera people all around here at RSPB Arne but

:50:44.:50:49.

camera men and women up and down the country sending us in reports. John

:50:50.:50:53.

Aitchison has been filming otters off the West Coast of Scotland.

:50:54.:51:12.

It's 20 years since I saw my first otter here. I've been watching them

:51:13.:51:19.

ever since, following their ups and downs, generation after generation.

:51:20.:51:25.

In that time, my own family have grown up, sharing the shore with the

:51:26.:51:31.

otters. After so many years, we know them really well. My son Rohan

:51:32.:51:39.

especially. At 16, he's already an expert at working where they might

:51:40.:51:45.

be. He knows the shapes of the boulders and the weed that can hide

:51:46.:51:49.

them, the sounds and the behaviour of birds and I have shown him where

:51:50.:51:55.

the otters are. But sharing their lives is far from easy, above all in

:51:56.:51:57.

the winter. -- showing their lives. This is a mother and her cub. I saw

:51:58.:52:10.

my first mother otter just here are with her own cubs, on this same

:52:11.:52:14.

piece of sure, before Rowan was born. -- offshore. They grow up much

:52:15.:52:24.

faster than us, and in his lifetime, there might already have been eight

:52:25.:52:25.

generations of otters. Their lives are short and intense,

:52:26.:52:39.

but as the years speed bike, I find the otters more and more inspiring.

:52:40.:52:44.

They are so full of energy, and more than any other animal I know, they

:52:45.:52:52.

seize the day. This young one is a bit less than a year old. She still

:52:53.:52:56.

has a lot to learn from her mum. Not only what to eat, but how and where

:52:57.:52:59.

to catch it. She needs to eat a fifth of her own

:53:00.:53:11.

weight in fish every day. And until now, her mother has called them for

:53:12.:53:16.

her. But now she must learn to do it for herself. -- has caught them. Her

:53:17.:53:18.

life depends on it. Passing on what you have learned to

:53:19.:53:28.

the next generation is something that we share with the otters.

:53:29.:53:35.

Helping your family to grow up. And just like us, the most special

:53:36.:53:39.

moments are bound up with the trust and it is Missy -- trust and

:53:40.:53:44.

intimacy that only family members share.

:53:45.:53:51.

The cub must think she will be more comfortable if she sleeps on top of

:53:52.:53:54.

her mother. Above the rising tide. Therein separable, or at least the

:53:55.:54:08.

cub sees it that way. -- they are inseparable. But soon, the closeness

:54:09.:54:12.

will have two end, whether she feels ready or not. And this is why.

:54:13.:54:23.

It's the cub's father, and he has plans of his own. He usually lives

:54:24.:54:30.

alone, further down the coast, but this winter, he's decided to stay

:54:31.:54:34.

here, near his mate and their daughter. He can tell there's change

:54:35.:54:40.

in the air. The mother's caught a flatfish and

:54:41.:54:46.

as usual, the cub expects to eat it. But this time, her mother says no.

:54:47.:55:01.

The cub can tell that something is different between them. But she has

:55:02.:55:03.

no idea what it means. The mail has brought his catch

:55:04.:55:16.

ashore, too. Flatfish are hard to deal with in the water. But the

:55:17.:55:21.

others have seen him, and his chances of having a quiet meal are

:55:22.:55:27.

slim. I've never seen this before. The mother seems to want his fish

:55:28.:55:32.

and he's not keen to give it up. But maybe there's more to it than that.

:55:33.:55:40.

She is certainly pleased to see him. The cub's not so sure, and she is

:55:41.:55:45.

right to be wary. It is pretty clear that her mother's keen to start

:55:46.:55:49.

another family and once there are new cards on the way, the daughter

:55:50.:55:54.

will have to leave. The territory can't support them all. If she can't

:55:55.:55:59.

fend for herself, she will starve. It is evening now and the mother has

:56:00.:56:06.

slipped away. From where Rowan is, he can see she has gone to meet her

:56:07.:56:14.

mate. She's always been playful, but this is the first time she has

:56:15.:56:16.

excluded the cub from her games. Making the break is never easy and

:56:17.:56:29.

I'm sure when the time comes, that every parent hopes they have done

:56:30.:56:33.

all they can, that their offspring have learned enough and they are

:56:34.:56:34.

ready to go. And when my own children head off,

:56:35.:56:43.

one of the things that will make me proud is that they have discovered

:56:44.:56:46.

the joy of the natural world for themselves.

:56:47.:56:53.

Isn't it lovely when you can pass on your passions to your children? I

:56:54.:56:59.

mean, I'd try to pass on my passion for dance to my son, tried to get

:57:00.:57:04.

him in a tutu but he wasn't interested! Fortunately, he likes

:57:05.:57:10.

wildlife. My stepdaughter is at university doing zoology! You passed

:57:11.:57:16.

it on, well done! Lovely. Chris, I have a question for you. Can you see

:57:17.:57:21.

that? People talk about woodcock carrying their chicks in their leg.

:57:22.:57:26.

What do you reckon? Is it true? Over the years, I've learned to never

:57:27.:57:29.

underestimate the ingenuity of nature. But also, never to trust the

:57:30.:57:35.

fanciful imagination of old countrymen in the 18th century.

:57:36.:57:38.

Having said that, I have an open mind. We have seen a weasel on top

:57:39.:57:43.

of a woodpecker. Surely at some stage, if it happens, someone will

:57:44.:57:47.

photograph it? My chickens do that when they come off the nest, the

:57:48.:57:50.

chicks fall out under their wings, easy mistake to make. That is we

:57:51.:57:56.

have got time for. Tomorrow, we have got a bird feeding experiment that

:57:57.:58:00.

you can try at home. We are going to try to identify other foxes here. We

:58:01.:58:04.

have seen two tonight but there are many more to see. I will find out

:58:05.:58:11.

more one of -- about one of RSPB Arne's iconic birds, the Dartford

:58:12.:58:14.

warbler, and using not only binoculars but this is very

:58:15.:58:18.

important piece of equipment, a sonic toothbrush, a pink one at

:58:19.:58:23.

that. So find out why I need one of these tomorrow. We will see you

:58:24.:58:28.

then. 8pm, BBC Two. I think I will use this to clean my teeth now.

:58:29.:58:30.

Goodbye.

:58:31.:58:32.

Winterwatch returns to RSPB Arne in Dorset to check in with the latest in the world of British wildlife. Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games present, looking back at the news since Autumnwatch and exploring how the cold months have affected the animals of the UK.