Saturday, 14 February 2015

Borneo's Love Birds - The World's Tiniest Raptor - Black Thighed Falconet #EarthOnLocation

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A pair of 'Love Birds' - the black thighed falconet.

This is the worlds smallest bird of prey, the size of a sparrow. We filmed it for the very first time for the BBC series 'Wonders of The Monsoon'.

The black-thighed falconet is incredibly difficult to find amongst dense rainforest, and so it has been rarely studied.  Fortunately I was able to find a scientist who after many years of work had located a nest, by working with her we were able to get a high vantage point and into a position to film three chicks as the adults brought back food for them. 

The adults are pair bonded, and work together to feed their young. I'd often see them preening each other or taking a minute to 'snuggle' between visits to the nest. A third falconet, presumably an offspring from last year was also helping to feed the chicks. They raid other species nests to steal chicks, sometimes bringing back prey as big as themselves.

What we captured for the first time is how they also specialise in hunting butterflies. South East Asia is one of the richest places in the world for butterflies many of which are toxic, the falconet is believed to be picky about which ones they catch - only selecting the edible and tastiest ones. 

For the first few weeks it’s believed that butterflies are preferred by the chicks as they are softer and easier to eat but eventually they’ll switch to eating other birds and lizards. We saw them bringing back as many as 10 butterflies an hour – sometimes one of the chicks would throw one out of the nest, as if it was protesting against a particular flavour.

One of the conditions of being able to film this elusive species is that we agreed to keep the location, and the name of the scientist secret, for fears that the nest could be targeted by poachers.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Super Cute Animals - Adorable Snoring Hummingbird

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Sunday 15th February 6pm BBC One 

 Here's just a tiny bit of cute to get you all squishy - a snoring hummingbird. 

 Warning some viewers heads might explode.

Cameraman and presenter Gordon Buchanan with baby Fennec Fox (BBC)

Gordon Buchanan has dedicated his life to filming wildlife. He wants to understand why we have such a strong emotional response to these particular species. Why a baby panda makes us go all gooey or why a squeaking frog got over 11 million internet hits. Travelling to meet these super cute animals, he reveals the surprising science behind each of the animals we love so much, starting with one of the most iconic animals on the planet, the giant panda. The panda's beautiful markings set it apart, but it's that big round oversized head that makes it so unusual. Although we find the teddy bear look incredibly appealing, for the panda, the size of its head tells the story of millions of years of evolution and survival.

Gordon also meets the fennec fox, with big ears that look sweet but are actually crucial to the fennec's survival out in the Sahara. He travels to Kenya to meet young elephants learning how to perfect their trunk skills and discovers the surprising secret behind a penguin's comic waddle. He hangs out with Eli, a five-year-old chimpanzee whose giggle can give us new information about our own evolution, and discovers just why snoring can help a tiny hummingbird conserve enough energy to make it through the night.

For more cuteness se the Super Cute webpage

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Alaska, Earth's Frozen Kingdom... but don't worry, there's no singing princesses or talking snowmen

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Tonight BBC2 8pm

Alaska is huge - by far the biggest US state, and still one of the wildest places on earth. It has deep forests and vast mountain ranges, and a third of it sits above the Arctic Circle. The whole state goes through some of the most extreme seasonal changes: where temperatures can reach in to the 90°s F in summer and can plummet to -80°F in the winter.

Yet plenty survives here, and it is home to some of the hardiest animals on the planet. Each one has its own quirky way of getting through the challenges of the seasons. Above all, this is a land of great characters. Find out more on the BBC webpage.
Alaska is the latest BBC wildlife trilogy showcasing one of the most iconic wildernesses on the planet. Narrated by Dougray Scott, this three-part series takes in a year in Alaska, revealing the stories of pioneering Alaskans, both animal and human, as they battle the elements and reap the benefits of nature’s seasonal gold rush.

Cute and Awe for a cold Wednesday night...

Here's a few highlights from episode One 'Spring'. Each spring Alaska faces the greatest transformation on earth. Temperatures soar and as the sun’s rays hit the snow and ice, water, light and warmth return. Alaska’s transition to spring may look magical, but for those animals emerging from a winter’s sleep it’s a time of intense competition. 

(Image: BBC) Bear cubs scrambling high up in a tree just after they have emerged from hibernation

(Image: BBC) Mendenhall glacier cave. From inside the Mendenhall glacier, meltwater gathers speed, as the heat rises in Alaska

(Image: BBC) A sea otter mother and her young pup floating in Prince William Sound, Alaska

(Image: BBC) A humpback whale breaches in Prince William Sound, Alaska; spring has arrived

In the first episode viewers find a mother sea otter nursing her fluff-ball baby through the early, chilly days of spring; black bear cubs emerge from their den to find themselves faced with a daunting climb from a tree. It’s 'get up and go' for an Arctic ground squirrel, who has just a few hours to find his mate before rivals muscle in. Stealthy 50-ton sperm whales steal fish from the end of fishermen’s lines, as everything rushes to make the most of the great spring bounty.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Giant otter and the plastic bottle on #WorldWetlandsDay #Brazil

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On World Wetlands Day spare a thought for the Giant Otter of the Pantanal

February 2nd each year is World Wetlands Day. This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2nd February 1971. Read more here.

As I followed a group of giant otters in the Pantanal wetland of Brazil they came across a plastic bottle floating in the water. Otters are highly social animals and together they seemed to enjoy playing with this unusual item.

The Pantanal is a mostly pristine wilderness that stretches 195,000 square kilometres over Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. Some areas have been shaped by humans over the past few centuries, but here in the remotest heart of the wetland I was hundreds of miles from any significant human population. This single plastic bottle was a cold reminder of how we impact every corner of this planet.

The giant otter is considered to be one of the most endangered mammals in the tropics, habitat loss and degradation are now a major threat, but historically hunting has resulted in the most significant demise. In the 1960s up to 3000 pelts a year were harvested from otters in the Amazon alone (source). Since the 1940s the giant otter has dissapeared from 80% of its range and in 2006 a IUCN report suggested that there were less than 5,000 remaining in the wild (IUCN). They are almost completely absent in southern Brazil, but fortunately in the Pantanal a decrease in hunting has led to healthy recolonization with more than 1,000 otters thriving in these pristine waters.