These are some of the dramatic — and never-before-captured — scenes in Sir David Attenborough’s latest nature series.
But the 96-year-old broadcasting legend is not in some far-flung corner of the world — he is back home giving our very own British Isles the “Africa treatment”.
The result is Wild Isles, starting tomorrow night — which could be Sir David’s last big TV series.
Amazingly, eight decades after making his TV debut, this series is his first look at nature in his home country.
And he shows no signs of slowing down in the five-parter.
While filming on Skomer Island, off the Welsh coast, he has to lie in the mud for hours to observe puffins.
Producer Chris Howard told The Sun: “We were concerned that he wasn’t going to be warm enough, with the temperatures in single digits.
“But Sir David was stubborn and didn’t want to look massive on camera so when we tried to give him more layers he waved us away saying, ‘Don’t be silly, I’ll be fine’.”
The resulting scene is just one of many that demonstrate how nature is just as fascinating in our own lands.
Every year nearly 40,000 puffins return to the colony off the Pembrokeshire coast to mate, using the same burrows to each raise one chick, known as a puffling.
But their fight for food has become increasingly hard, with overfishing and climate change depleting the supply of sand eels.
And the ever-present threat of herring gulls — twice their size — makes the task even harder.
In the programme we watch as the larger bird grapples with a puffin in mid-air.
The voiceover by Sir David says of the puffins: “Their broad bills allow them to carry remarkably large numbers of sand eels but their catch is always temptingly visible.
“But the greatest threat to puffins on this island comes from a smaller gull, the black-headed gull.
“They are not strong enough to grab a puffin in the air — they have to use another technique.
“They try to snatch the sand eels right out of a puffin’s beak.”
As the puffin clings to its catch, a flock of gulls swarm the tiny bird, savagely swiping with their beaks to try to wrestle the eels away.
It scuttles across the mud, desperately trying to reach the safety of a burrow.
It’s a heart-in-mouth moment as the puffin scoots into the nest, with inches to spare.
“Made it!” Sir David exclaims.
In another segment, Sir David shows his mettle by climbing to the highest point of the island to witness a Manx shearwater chick take flight.
A medic was on standby as he made the trek up 68 steep steps for the long wait to capture footage, which is rarely seen, as it happens in the pitch black on a moonless night.
Series producer Alastair Fothergill said: “David just hasn’t changed. He has a boyish enthusiasm for nature.”
Sir David’s commitment is clear as he opens the new series standing atop the Old Harry Rocks formation in Dorset.
He says: “I’ve been lucky enough to travel to every part of the globe and gaze upon some of its most beautiful and dramatic sights.
“I can assure you that nature in these islands, if you know where to look, can be just as dramatic and spectacular as anything I’ve seen elsewhere.”
Filmed in 145 locations over the course of three years and using the latest technology, the series looks at how our woodland, grassland, freshwater and ocean habitats support wildlife of all kinds,
Another amazing moment depicts the remarkable pollination process of the lords-and-ladies plant.
As Sir David explains: “Perhaps the most complicated pollination technique of all is surprisingly used by a common woodland plant.”
Filmed in Bristol, the plant heats up to release a foul-smelling scent that is irresistible to flies and tricks them into entering its flower, where they become trapped inside.
The plant then showers each fly with pollen, and lets it escape to pol-linate other lords-and-ladies plants.
The Wild Isles team had to make tiny windows in the flowers to film the structures within, then use thermal cameras to film the images.
Camerawoman Katie Mayhew said: “At their hottest they really did smell — you could even feel the heat by touch.
“It’s a fascinating sequence that allows us a unique glimpse into the natural world.”
But there is also a strong environmental message behind Wild Isles.
Back on Skomer, Sir David remarks that the colony is one of very few not in decline.
He says: “Skomer is an exception. It’s a clear example of just how fragile and fragmented our nature is.
“Though rich in places, Britain is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
“Never has there been a more important time to invest in our own wildlife, to try to set an example for the rest of the world and restore our once wild isles for future generations.”
- Wild Isles begins tomorrow at 7pm on BBC One.