Simply the Best Documentaries

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Jupiter the Giant Planet
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy 3
Touching the Void
Unexplained Mysteries
What Happened Before The Big Bang
Rome is Burning
Harmony of the Worlds
Einsteins Nightmare
Project Nim
Urban Jungles
Cooked: Water
The Universe: 7 Wonders of the Solar System
The Insatiable Appetite
Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life
Are We All Bigots
The Birth of Israel
Art Rock
Flight of the Butterflies
The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth
Secrets of the Space Probes
A Passage to India
What is Life
1945 The Savage Peace
Chased by Sea Monsters 3of3
Is Anybody Out There
The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin
The Captains
The Farthest
Precision the Measure of All Things
Fracking The New Energy Rush
Amazing Ocean
Blood Of The Vikings: The Sea Road
The Day the Dinosaurs Died
In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great: Son of God

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Conquest of the Skies The first to flight
Conquest of the Skies The first to flight 2015

David Attenborough embarks on an extraordinary journey to unravel one of nature s most gripping stories the evolution of flying animals. The power of flight is one of the greatest miracles of nature. Over one hundred billion creatures soar through the air today - from nectar-drinking hummingbirds, to armoured airborne beetles; from bats hunting in the black of night, to bizarre winged lizards. The film travels back in time to unravel the astonishing 300-million-year story of how these animals first appeared, and then evolved into the huge variety of aeronauts that fill our skies today. Only now, using the latest scientific analysis, can he reveal the hidden mechanics behind their gravity-defying skills. Ground-breaking 3D cameras, high speed filming and stunning CGI bring the viewer closer than ever to this astounding aerial world.

Category:Nature  Duration:51:54      Series: Conquest of the Skies

Life: Birds
Life: Birds 2009

Birds owe their global success to feathers - something no other animal has. They allow birds to do extraordinary things. For the first time, a slow-motion camera captures the unique flight of the marvellous spatuletail hummingbird as he flashes long, iridescent tail feathers in the gloomy undergrowth. Aerial photography takes us into the sky with an Ethiopian lammergeier dropping bones to smash them into edible-sized bits. Thousands of pink flamingoes promenade in one of nature's greatest spectacles. The sage grouse rubs his feathers against his chest in a comic display to make popping noises that attract females. The Vogelkop bowerbird makes up for his dull colour by building an intricate structure and decorating it with colourful beetles and snails.

Category:Nature  Duration:59:00   Series: Life

The Mastery of Flight
The Mastery of Flight 1998

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.

Category:Nature  Duration:50:00   Series: The Life of Birds

The Insatiable Appetite
The Insatiable Appetite 1998

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.

Category:Nature  Duration:50:00   Series: The Life of Birds

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