Spring marks the start of an epic race for life where timing is everything; trees explode with blossom and mornings fill with the magical chorus of birdsong. Long-tailed tits frantically build nests whilst, in our oceans, seahorses sway to a graceful courtship dance.
As we celebrate Easter, a stoat mother hunts the young rabbits to feed her own playful young. As spring becomes summer, guillemot chicks leap from their cliffs to begin life at sea, and this year's young prepare for life alone.
Filming a seahorse giving birth
One of the most magical stories of the Spring episode was about an animal that most people might not even recognise as being British: the spiny seahorse. These incredible creatures are almost unique as the male, not the female, carries the eggs and gives birth to the young. They are hard to film; not only are they shy and secretive but the seagrass beds they live in are increasingly threatened in the UK.
The team already had footage of sea horses filmed at Studland Bay in Dorset but they wanted to capture the moment when the male gave birth. To film this in detail would require specialist lenses and controlled conditions, which, although theoretically possible in the wild, would be a potential risk to an already endangered population.
To meet the challenge of filming this rare behaviour the team joined forces with the Sea Life Centre, in Weymouth, Dorset. The Sea Life Centre had the facilities and expertise as well as a captive breeding programme underway.
The crew set up a filming tank that mimicked, as closely as possible, the natural sea grass habitat where they had already been filmed just a few miles away. A pair were introduced to their new home and after a period of settling in, they hit it off, the male was soon pregnant.
Filming him giving birth was not so straightforward. Cameraman Matt Thompson spent days watching a pregnant male seahorse doing not very much apart from looking more and more uncomfortable. ‘It just made me glad to be a mammal’, Matt said. When the male’s labour started, Matt was on hand to capture the moment.
BBC Nature: How to work with wildlife
|Series Producer||James Brickell|
|Executive Producer||Mike Gunton|