Birdman of salisbury plain...
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s John craven dressed as a giant grassland vertebrate! as anita pulls on her beekeeping best for this week’s show, John’s heading a few miles south on a rather different mission.
the presenter’s task is to get up close and personal with the great bustards of Salisbury Plain – by wearing a bird outfit.
‘Great bustards used to be native to this country, but they were hunted to extinction in the 1830s,’ says John, talking about the creatures, which at up to 1m tall are the heaviest
flight-capable birds in the world.
thanks to a reintroduction effort by local eco-fans, however, bustards have been making a remarkable comeback.
‘there are now 50 of them in the wild, which is a viable population,’ says John. ‘and more are joining every year.’ Great! But why the suit?
‘It’s meant to dehumanise you. they’ve just hatched 28 chicks, which are about to be released into the wild, so I went to feed them. the suit means they don’t recognise you as a human being and they won’t become too familiar. So if they see a human wandering across the plains, they won’t go up to it.’
Viewers may recall that John first visited the project in 2009 and got a beating for his troubles.
‘a large male called fergus bit me and I yelled out,’ says John. ‘I think there will be a clip of that.’ Did fergus have another go? ‘I kept my distance this time,’ laughs John. ‘they are incredible creatures. But they do have a very strong peck!’