The Caribbean has been shaped by millions of years of unstoppable volcanic forces and ferocious hurricanes, creating a network of 7,000 islands, each one more unique than the next. From islets only a few miles long to landmasses with towering peaks, the habitats of this tropical paradise range from lush rainforests hiding untold species to multi-coloured coral reefs teeming with marine life. The fauna of the Caribbean has had to adapt to an island existence, becoming either generalists or specialists…creatures as old as the dinosaurs nest on its beaches, opportunistic scavengers patrol its skies, iridescent dynamos forage in its forests and wandering ocean leviathans give birth in its warm waters.
Vultures are the birds that many people love to hate, but cameraman and naturalist Charlie Hamilton James sees them as beautiful and intelligent creatures that deserve respect. He believes that to appreciate them, people just need to spend time with them and he headed to East Africa to do exactly that. His journey exposes not only a softer, more caring side to these maligned birds but also a much bigger story, one that leaves vultures needing many more admirers.
Once a mountain kingdom of ancient palaces and emperors, Korea in the 21st century is largely known for its modern cities and decades of conflict. Tensions between North and South may be what defines it to outsiders but beyond the battle scars there is another side to Korea. In the south are large pockets of untouched wilderness where extraordinary animals flourish and Koreans continue to practice age-old traditions in tandem with the seasons and with nature. It is in these connections, rather than in division, that we see the true Korea. At the southernmost tip of the peninsular we follow a pod of bottlenose dolphins through the volcanic islands of Jeju. They click at each other as they encounter a human in their midst, but the dolphins know this diver well - they have shared the ocean with the Haenyeo, or sea women, for thousands of years. We travel onwards to the isolated island of Marado, where three generations of sea women are preparing for a dive. Today is the start of the conch season, and they work hard whatever the weather to maximise their catch. In the grounds of an ancient palace on the mainland, a raccoon dog family takes advantage of a rare event. Just once every five years, hundreds of cicadas emerge from below ground providing an easy feast for the raccoon dogs who voraciously fill their bellies. Those that escape their jaws make for the safety of the trees, where they metamorphosise into their flying form. On the mud flats of Suncheon Bay we find a habitat that is neither land nor sea. Only recently has the ecological value of mudflats been recognised. A staggering 50 per cent of the earth's oxygen is produced by phytoplankton - microscopic algae that are found here in great abundance. That is why the mudflats are known locally as the lungs of the earth. Plankton is far from the only life here - the mud of the bay is rich in nutrients and supports one of the most diverse ecosystems on the peninsula. We follow the story of a young mudskipper who has emerged for his first mating season. His journey to find love is paved with obstacles.
2018 • Nature
In the northeast corner of Botswana, the rainy season is months away. The sausage tree offers a beguiling oasis for wildlife--from birds and insects, to much larger mammals like elephants--all reeling from the dry conditions. Then, as the rains descend, brilliant red flowers bloom and entice parrots, squirrels, and sunbirds to help with pollination. Summer allows the sausage tree to live up to its name, delivering massive, sausage-shaped fruit, a nutritious feast and a cornerstone of life in this exotic ecosystem.
Steve Backshall explores the connections and relationship that we have with insects and other arthropods. In Kenya, huge armies of driver ants give houses a five-star clean-up, and in China, we discover how silkworm caterpillars have shaped our culture and distribution. While locusts devastate crops in Africa, bees and beetles across the world provide a key link in our food chains. Many of us perceive these animals merely as creepy crawlies and nothing more than a nuisance, but as Steve reveals, we couldn't live without them.
The Comb-crested Jacanas are unique birds that use their long toes to walk delicately across lotus leaves and catch underwater prey. This episode, filmed between the rainy season and dry season in Kakadu, follows a father bird raising his chicks through their dramatic and difficult first year.