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Winterwatch 2014 Episode 2: The Best Bits

Michaela Strachen, Chris Packham and Martin Hughes-Games present this years Winterwatch, taking a look at some of the best winter wildlife that the UK has to offer. Based in the stunning and wildlife rich Cairgorn Mountains in the Scottish Highlands they find an array of wildlife from roosting golden eagles to hares hunkering down in the snow to keep warm. Many of our customers are huge wildlife fans, as are we, so here’s some of the best bits for the second episode of 2014’s Winterwatch on BBC Two. The Winterwatch carcass-cam finds a Golden Eagle that’s roosting in a tree just above a pile of carrion. Both a safe and tasty spot to set up home for a while. Chris Packham muses that the rotting carcass would be a “welcome breakfast” just on the eagles doorstep. They also film a Common Buzzard plucking at a deer carcass. It’s common during the winter months to find a lot of carrion from sick and old deer and other animals that haven’t survived the winter. It’s an easy meal for these birds of prey as the freezing temperatures preserve the meat for longer.

Out In The Caledonian Forest

Martin is out in the Caledonian Forest, in the drenching evening rain, which is home to the only native pine tree – Scots Pines. Wind passes through their needles so they’re less likely to be damaged in winter storms and the needles waxy coating prevents water loss during freezing temperatures when liquid water is scarce. Martin sets a small tunnel up which leaves footprint marks when an animal runs through it. The tiny dots on the sheet may seem hard to decipher at first glance, however, there’s a key to recognising differnt animals’ prints. Four little finger points on the front and five on the back tending to group into grids of three are voles or mice. Shrews are much, much smaller with five toes on the front and back.

The Rodentorium

Winterwatch also set up a Rodentorium with a camera filming inside as small mammals come and go. One of the camera men waited patiently and quietly as he recorded footage of a mouse which comes into the Rodentorium 66 times to collect the food inside. He then takes the foot outside, one at a time, and stashes it for a later date. After the 66th trip the mouse changes tactics and begins to destroy the lining of the Rodentorium to turn it into his new home. He carefully builds a nest right in front of the camera and next to the food.

On The Waterbank

Using a night vision camera the team catch some footage of a mountain hare making his rounds at night foraging for food. Like many other prey animals, these hares go out at night to avoid being spotted by predators. The timid hare spots the cameraman as he approaches the water bank and makes a quick dash exit leaving a little present in its wake! Another animal that the Winterwatch team’s cameras catch is an Otter foraging on the waterbank. You can watch close up as the otter (of unknown sex) turns over foliage and chews on a few tasty treats that he finds.

Otter on a riverbank
Image from BBC iPlayer Website

Great Tits and Milk Bottle Tops

Great Tit Training for Food
Image from the BBC’s iPlayer website

This episode of Winterwatch takes a look at the well known and well studied Great Tit. Commonly found in peoples gardens and often found nesting in bird boxes. Martin heads to Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire, home to a huge population of the birds. He talks to expert Dr Lucy Aplin about the phenomenon of Great Tits finding their way through milk bottle tops on people’s door steps, which began in the 1920s in the southern town of Swaythling. Tits are fantastic problem solvers, which became apparent at this time when this technique “spread like wildlife” across the country. Dr Aplin says we still don’t know if this phenomena spread from one innovation or “multiple sites of innovation”. Her research looks at training great tits in the wild to adapt and use new techniques to access food. A very interesting watch to see how these clever little birds adapt so quickly. As is the way when trying to catch wildlife on camera the team come up empty handed a few times, but when they do come up trumps they catch some wonderful footage. As always this series gives us a wonderful insight into the natural world around us and gives some clever ways for us to keep an eye on what’s going on in our own back garden. For example, if you’ve got snow where you are then the Winterwatch website has a chart you can download to see which footprints in the snow belong to which animal. From tiny shrews to foxes and wild rabbits. Do you want to have a Winterwatch of your own which you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home? We have a range of cameras and equipment which fit the bill and it’s not as expensive as you may think. Here’s a few examples.

  • Our camouflaged trail cameras are ideal for recording larger wildlife making their route through the local woods or your garden. They are easily attached to a tree or post and can be placed inside a metal box to make sure no one can steal it. These range from £160 and £300 pounds depending on the quality of footage and additional extras you are looking for. 
  • Bird box cameras are now a cheap and fun way to see what’s going on inside the bird box in your garden. It’s a tiny camera which can be easily placed inside the box and can wirelessly send the footage back to your TV or computer. These bird box camera kits start from as little as £44. They’re easy to set up too, even for those who are not very technically minded.

If you have any questions about these or any of our other products then get in touch. call 0117 325 2470 or email Do you have some footage of your local wildlife you’d like to share? We’d love to see it and share it with our readers.  

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