There's something about the movements of migratory animals that tugs at our emotions: we welcome their arrival on our shores and lament them leaving.
Matthew Parris - better known for his observation of the wildlife that prowls the lobbies of the House of Commons - explores the lives of five of nature's nomads and looks into their place in our culture.On dark spring evenings you can often see shadowy figures lurking on the banks of the River Wye near the Welsh border village of Llandogo.
They're the elvermen who, for generations have waited in anticipation of the tiny eels which make the two year journey from the Sargasso Sea to our rivers.
And if the elvermen have their way, the next stop is a frying pan.
This is one species that Matthew both meets - and eats!.
|01||02||The Manx Shearwater||20031012|
On summer nights the cliffs of Skomer Island off Pembrokeshire echo to the cacophony of an eerie coughing, caterwauling sound.
Once said to be the voices of demons, the sound in fact belongs to a pigeon-sized black-and-white seabird.
Matthew meets an extraordinary migrant, the oldest of which has in its long life flown the equivalent of to the moon and back ten times.
The Painted Ladies, Clouded Yellows and Red Admirals we see in our gardens are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of individuals that began a multi-generational journey in southern Europe and north Africa. This year has been a particularly good one for migrants, but as Matthew discovers it still falls a long way short of the day the skies over Calais grew dark with butterflies.
|01||04||The Basking Shark||20031026|
How can you lose a shoal of sharks, each one of them as long as a bus? It's one of the last great mysteries of migration: where do the basking sharks that cruise along our coasts in the summer go in the winter? For centuries they've been an object of both fear and curiosity, hunted for the precious oil contained in their livers. But nowadays they're pursued by naturalists keen to solve the migratory puzzle of one the world's biggest fish.
|01||05 LAST||The Barnacle Goose||20031102|
The 12th century cleric Giraldus Cambrensis was convinced that they sprang fully-formed from sea-shells and claimed to have seen it with his own eyes. We may smile now, but in fact it's only relatively recently that the barnacle goose's migratory route from the Arctic Circle to Scotland has been fully established. And when they do arrive in their Hebridean wintering grounds on Islay the reception is mixed, to say the least.