Bird­man of sal­is­bury plain...

TV Times - - Wild Summer Special -

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!’

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