Episode 1 Winterwatch

Episode 1

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


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


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


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


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


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


Winterwatch! Hello, and welcome to Winterwatch


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


beautiful sunshine, beautiful sunrises and sunsets but it has been


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


turning. Now the right is over. The leaves


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


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


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


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


habitats creates a unique microclimate full of species, all


seeking refuge during the cold winter months.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


place is brilliant for waders like woodcock but also for lovely


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


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


out. I've headed over the water to the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


is this place so special for avocets?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


see them swimming, that's exciting! Brilliant.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


feeding together in a big aggregation which is like social


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


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


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


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


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


you. That is a great bit of research but


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


either sweeping invertebrates down towards them, or when they are


moving on their feet are exposing the invertebrates and then sweeping


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


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


activity. It is energetically expensive behaviour so they would


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


species, the Eurasian curlew. Oystercatchers have an


internationally important population in Poole harbour every winter so


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


oil goes into the microscopic structure of their feathers, into


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


that determines the location of their winter roost or wherever they


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


stunning winter visitor that has found a fantastic resource right in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


good place to see the birds in action.


Missal thrush are often territorial and will defend berry patches


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


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


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


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


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


an eruption. This is a crazy place to have a


wildlife first, but these are my first waxwings.


These exotic little birds can stay in their Scandinavian and Russian


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


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


onwards. Providing us with a rare winter treat.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


berries available through the winter. The contrast of this busy


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


waxwings. Foggy on frosty, what are the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


there. The buzzard is certainly finding some rich pickings.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


joy with that. No. So she tries a different


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


these foxes they are quintessentially beautiful and


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


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


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


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


spectacles. Michaela? Yes. Can I ask you a


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


The closer statistical correlation with Starling movement in the flock


like this is not in another biological phenomenon but in


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


get that wavelike movement that sweeps throughout the flock. There


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


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


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


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


albeit brief and stand about particle physics and phase


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


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


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


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


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


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


around. But what there are many more of our


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


hope of stopping this crucial decline of this magical bird.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


generations of otters. Their lives are short and intense,


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


intimacy that only family members share.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the joy of the natural world for themselves.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


fanciful imagination of old countrymen in the 18th century.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


warbler, and using not only binoculars but this is very


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


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


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




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