Last Watched

"War"  Sort by

The Mastery of Flight

   1998    Nature
The second programme deals with the mechanics of flight. Getting into the air is by far the most exhausting of a bird's activities, and Sir Attenborough observes shearwaters in Japan that have taken to climbing trees to give them a good jumping-off point. The albatross is so large that it can only launch itself after a run-up to create a flow of air over its wings. A combination of aerodynamics and upward air currents (or thermals), together with the act of flapping or gliding is what keeps a bird aloft. Landing requires less energy but a greater degree of skill, particularly for a big bird, such as a swan. Weight is kept to a minimum by having a beak made of keratin instead of bone, a light frame, and a coat of feathers, which is maintained fastidiously. The peregrine falcon holds the record for being fastest in the air, diving at speeds of over 300 km/h. Conversely, the barn owl owes its predatory success to flying slowly, while the kestrel spots its quarry by hovering. However, the true specialists in this regard are the hummingbirds, whose wings beat at the rate of 25 times a second. The habits of migratory birds are explored. After stocking up with food during the brief summer of the north, such species will set off on huge journeys southwards. Some, such as snow geese, travel continuously, using both the stars and the sun for navigation. They are contrasted with hawks and vultures, which glide overland on warm air, and therefore have to stop overnight.
Series: The Life of Birds

The Insatiable Appetite

   1998    Nature
The next instalment focuses on dietary needs and how different species have evolved beaks to suit their individual requirements. The latter come in a multitude of forms. Blue tits and goldfinches have beaks akin to tweezers, with which to extract seeds, while the hawfinch's razor-like bill can deal with a cherry-stone. However, the crossbill is the only finch that can twist its mandibles in opposite directions. Jays store acorns for winter by burying them in the ground, whereas woodpeckers can keep up to 60,000 of them in one tree trunk. Sap is also desirable, and there are a variety of methods used to obtain it. The hoatzin is the only specialised leaf-eater, and accordingly has a digestive system more akin to that of cattle. Plants recruit birds to aid pollination, and offer nectar as a reward. Hummingbirds eat little else, and the sword-bill's beak is the longest of any bird in relation to its body. Insects are also highly prized, and Galapagos finches are shown to possess some ingenuity as they not only strip bark, but also use 'tools' to reach their prey. Crows are hailed as being among the most intelligent birds, and one is shown using a twig to spear a grub within a fallen log. The robin is an opportunist, and Sir Attenborough observes one seizing morsels as he digs a patch of earth. In South America, a cattle tyrant sits atop an obliging capybara and uses its vantage point to spot passing food that may be dislodged by its grazing partner.
Series: The Life of Birds

Age of Empire

   2012    History
Andrew Marr tells the story of the first empires which laid the foundations for the modern world. From the Assyrians to Alexander the Great, conquerors rampaged across the Middle East and vicious wars were fought all the way from China to the Mediterranean. But this time of chaos and destruction also brought enormous progress and inspired human development. In the Middle East, the Phoenicians invented the alphabet, and one of the most powerful ideas in world history emerged: the belief in just one God. In India, the Buddha offered a radical alternative to empire building - a way of living that had no place for violence or hierarchy and was open to everyone. Great thinkers from Socrates to Confucius proposed new ideas about how to rule more wisely and live in a better society. And in Greece, democracy was born - the greatest political experiment of all. But within just a few years, its future would be under threat from invasion by an empire in the east...
Series: History of the World

The Big Freeze

   1993    Nature
As almost all animal inhabitants of Antarctica are forced to migrate north, the sea underneath the frozen ice still provides a home to many specially adapted fish whose cells are protected from freezing through an 'antifreeze' liquid. Many of them feed on the faeces of other animals. The most notable larger animal that does not migrate north is perhaps the Weddell Seal, which can be found as close as 1300 kilometres to the pole. Groups of seals tear holes into the ice to dive for food and come up to breathe. The females come back to the ice to give birth. This episode also describes primitive plant life such as lichen, which can still be found on the continent in winter, even in the extremely dry and permanently frozen valleys conditions under which dead animals can lie frozen for many centuries without decomposing. It details the life of the Emperor Penguin, 'the only birds to lay their eggs directly on ice'. While other animals retreat, Emperors migrate not just to the ice, but into the Antarctic continent. The females lay eggs which are incubated by the males under the harshest conditions on Earth (huddling closely together for warmth), while the females return to the sea.
Series: Life in the Freezer

Secretive Creatures

   2015    Nature
Take another walk on the wild side with our favourite pets. Extraordinary photography reveals their hidden senses and secret communication skills. Dogs take a car trip through Paris, using their legendary sense of smell to show us a very different city. A hamster uses his remarkable senses to stage a great escape and then deploys more navigational talents to find his way home. Cats become intoxicated on the scent of a plant and suffer the consequences. A budgie shows his hidden charms to his mate as, under UV light, his crown and cheeks positively glow. Goldfish reveal secret senses that can detect the slightest water movement. A guinea pig gives birth and the newborns receive surprising care from their father. In South America, where guinea pigs have lived with people for 7,000 years, they express the true meaning of their entertaining calls. When we groom a horse we speak their language, but horses use ears to communicate in ways that we are rarely aware of. In Japan cats show their secret messages and in Peru dogs reveal the hidden signs that allow them to communicate across a city. Packed with extraordinary facts and wild behaviour - you'll never look at your pet in the same way again
Series: Pets: Wild at Heart
Planet Earth II
Planet Earth II

   2016    Nature
Inside the Medieval Mind
Inside the Medieval Mind

   2008    History
Space Race
Space Race

   2005    Technology
How to Stay Young
How to Stay Young

   2016    Medicine
The Sound and the Fury
The Sound and the Fury

   2013    Art
Breakthrough
Breakthrough

   2015    Medicine
Life In Cold Blood
Life In Cold Blood

   2008    Nature
Dark Net
Dark Net

   2016    Technology