Best of Natural History Radio

Best of Natural History Radio

The BBC Natural History Unit produces a wide range of programmes that aim to immerse a listener in the wonder, surprise and importance that nature has to offer.

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    Weekly
  • Episodes available:
    Indefinitely help

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Recent episodes (10)

  • Nature: Bigfoot - Not a Bear - 18 March 13

    Tue, 18 Mar 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    A "Nature" with a bit of a difference. Instead of looking at rare species and conservation measures, this week's programme focuses on perhaps the most elusive (if not non-existent) creature of all – Bigfoot, the supposed ape like or hominid creature that people believe lives in the North West of the United States. With reports of sightings of strange man-like beasts that go back as far as 1920 if not stretching back into the 18th century, and the 1967 film shot at Bluff Creek in California, there's as much interest in finding evidence of Bigfoot today as there's ever been amongst those convinced of its existence. But rebuffs of misidentification, assumption and hoaxes abound. Invited to the annual Beachfoot Camp 2013, BBC journalist Matthew Hill hears of Bigfoot encounters from people who've had experiences across decades and heads out with Bigfoot researchers with the latest technology in their quest to be the ones to capture that one piece of vital indisputable evidence.

    Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Nature: The Midland Brown Snake - Dead or Alive - 11 Mar 14

    Tue, 11 Mar 14

    Duration:
    29 mins

    The Midland Brown Snake found in the eastern United States, like many snake species migrates between winter hibernation areas and summer habitat in the Spring and Autumn. In many areas, even including the more rural areas, this means having to cross roads. To this small harmless snake the length of a pencil, a tarmacadamed road surface which holds the heat seems the ideal spot to pause to raise the body temperature on that journey but is also the cause of its demise. Its size and colouration means it is effectively invisible to passing traffic. While the Midland Brown Snake is not under conservation concern, the number of snakes being killed each year is high and some populations are endemic to specific areas. Howard Stableford joins a research team in an Eastern Illinois state park to find out how they are monitoring this beautiful snake, whether dead or alive, and how their information may help other populations of this snake or other reptiles at threat from roads.

    Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Nature: James and the Giant Atlas Cedars - 04 March 14

    Tue, 4 Mar 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    In August 2013, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reclassified the Atlas Cedar from 'least concern' to 'endangered species'. Drought as well as local pressures from grazing, logging and pests are threatening the survival of Morocco's endemic forests of Atlas Cedars. Professional tree climber James Aldred is passionate about trees and tree climbing. It's not so much the technical challenges of climbing that James enjoys but the opportunity to explore the character, structure and ecology of the tree. James travels to Morocco to explore these ancient forests and reflect on the challenges facing them. He also finds a suitable tree to climb and sleep in overnight. From his tree top hammock, he watches a spider abseiling on its silken thread and hears owls calling through the darkness. He wakes before sunrise and climbs to the top of the tree to look out across this vast ancient forest in the early morning light. It’s an unforgettable experience.

    Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Living World - Crossbills - 02 March 14

    Sun, 2 Mar 14

    Duration:
    22 mins

    Crossbills are finches with large heads and bright colours: the males are red and the females are olive green. What makes them so unusual is that the tips of their beaks are crossed over; allowing them to rip into pine cones and extract the seeds. Different species of crossbills have different sized bills, which have evolved in association with the species of cones they eat. The Common Crossbill is found across the UK all year round and its numbers have been boosted by the planting of commercial conifers such as pine and larch. A real prize for birdwatchers is the larger and much rarer Parrot Crossbill, which has a very deep bill and can tackle the biggest and thickest cones. Presenter Trai Anfield and ornithologist Ian Newton, who has studied the movements of crossbills, take the rare opportunity to track down this flock, which probably irrupted from the breeding forests in Scandinavia.

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  • Nature: Bewitched by Dragonflies - 25 Feb 14

    Tue, 25 Feb 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    In 1985, a dragonfly landed on Ruary Mackenzie Dodds. Up until this time, he had never had much interest in insects, but so astonished and bewitched was he by "this beautiful" insect which had landed on his shirt, that he decided to find out more about dragonflies and in time that led to the founding of The Dragonfly Project to enthuse and educate people about dragonflies. In August 2013, Ruary 'handed over the baton' of the Dragonfly Project to The British Dragonfly Society who will continue this work alongside their own work to conserve dragonflies and their wetland habitats, but Ruary's eagerness to share his enthusiasm for these insects continues "I don't know what it is about dragonflies ... they absolutely electrify me ... I get so excited when I see them in the air". In this programme, Ruary searches for dragonflies and their larvae amongst the reeds and watery places of Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire and offers a fascinating insight into their lives. Producer Sarah Blunt

    Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Living World - A Starling Eruption - 23 Feb 14

    Sun, 23 Feb 14

    Duration:
    23 mins

    Each year the reedbeds of the Somerset Levels become the winter home for hundreds of thousands of starlings. Making their way from across the UK and Europe these birds have found a safe haven to roost with plenty of food nearby. The famous evening murmuration, fantastic formations of huge flocks of starlings coming in to roost, brings hundreds of visitors to the levels each winter. But far fewer people see the spectacle of the dawn eruption when the starlings take off en masse to start their day foraging in the surrounding fields. Simon Clarke of Natural England talks Trai Anfield through the spectacle on Shapwick Heath. When it is all over and three quarters of a million starlings have departed for the day, thoughts turn to the reedbed and the effect the presence of so many birds has on their winter roost site and the animals they share it with.

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  • Nature: In search of Humpback whales - 18 Feb 14

    Tue, 18 Feb 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    Every year between January and April, Humpback whales from all around the North Atlantic Ocean gather in an area called Silver Bank 100km north of the Dominican Republic to breed. After calving, the whales migrate north from these lower latitudes to their high latitude, summer feeding grounds. In June, wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson travelled to Husavik on the north coast of Iceland where he joined a whale watching trip to look for Humpback whales on their feeding grounds – and perhaps even see some of the same animals which he had recorded on their breeding grounds earlier in the year. Producer Sarah Blunt

    Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Living World - Long-tailed Tits: The Winter Flock - 16 Feb 14

    Sun, 16 Feb 14

    Duration:
    22 mins

    Seeing a flock of black and white striped, powder puff pink flanked long-tailed tits bouncing through the grey and brown winter landscape is a cheering sight. Scruffy and bandit faced they are often heard before they are seen with piping calls to keep the flock together. Charging around in family groups these diminutive birds will spend the coldest winter nights roosting together, lined up along a branch jostling for the best position. Naturalist John Walters takes Chris Sperring to the southern fringes of Dartmoor to introduce him to one particular family group.

    Download 10MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Nature: Arctic terns at 66 Degrees North - 11 Feb 14

    Tue, 11 Feb 14

    Duration:
    28 mins

    In the second of three programmes recorded in Iceland, wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson goes in search of Arctic Terns, which travel here from Antarctica to breed; the longest regular migration of any animal. Chris takes a 3 hour ferry journey from the mainland to the island of Grimsey which lies on the Arctic Circle to record some of these remarkable migrants. Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the number of breeding colonies which have failed in Iceland in the past decade and Chris hears about the reasons why and what steps need to be taken to help the situation. Producer Sarah Blunt

    Download 13MB (right click & "save target as / link as")

  • Living World - Lepidopteran Winter - 09 Feb 14

    Sun, 9 Feb 14

    Duration:
    22 mins

    Each year Britain's butterflies and moths attempt to make it through the cold, dark and often wet winter months. Some species will spend the winter as eggs, others as caterpillars or pupae but some get a head start on the spring flowers by spending the winter as adults. Being at their largest and most conspicuous in a time of hunger for many insectivorous predators, is a risky strategy for butterflies. Richard Fox of butterfly conservation explains how Lepidoptera pass the winter months and takes presenter Chris Sperring to a winter hideaway for a group of adult peacock butterflies, which have some surprising strategies to keep predators at bay.

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